When in November, 2010 the citizens of Arizona passed SB 1070 by an overwhelming majority in a state wide referendum, there were many who proclaimed it a turning point in the nation’s consciousness about illegal immigration. After all, a measure which sought to crack down on rampant border crossings by forcing suspected illegal aliens to confirm their status, would seem a natural reaction for any polity seeking to reinforce key concepts of citizenship.
And indeed the expectation that States would finally take action in the spirit of SB 1070 was quickly reinforced with over 20 states vowing, in one way or another, to follow Arizona’s lead. Most particularly, initiatives sprung forth in Utah, Indiana, Kentucky and Georgia. The anti-illegal immigrant sentiment had gained momentum from a sense among ordinary citizens that their own taxes are being used to support those whose loyalties do not attach to this country and who saw the federal government as helpless in preventing the crime and dependency that has come with the flood of Central Americans streaming across our borders.
Yet the measures introduced by many of the conservatives who swept to power in state wide elections in 2010 are failing. They have come up against not so much Federal opposition ( SB 1070 is headed for review in the U.S. Supreme Court in the next few months) but against businesses, police and community activists who have banded together in an odd coalition to stymie reform of a broken system.
Why, one might ask, has Georgia’s House Bill 87, which seeks to crack down on illegal immigration and has squeaked through the state House of Representatives, failed to win the endorsement of the same Republican governor who promised his support for exactly such a measure during the 2010 election? Why has Utah watered down its own anti-illegal immigration law which now only requires immigration checks of people arrested for felonies and serious misdemeanors and has passed a ” guest worker” ID program which looks suspiciously to many like amnesty?
The answer is that Americans, wherever, they live, have grown too comfortable and complacent with the cheap labor that comes from the ready supply from an illegal immigrant work force. After decades of delegating the menial urban tasks of our society - including house cleaning, gardening and handiwork- to outsiders and our rural jobs such as harvesting, many Americans, including our small business owners, have forgotten that if the bedrock of our labor force is not American but foreign, we run the risk of future civil unrest which might one day rival the slave revolts of Rome or the current welfare dilemmas of Europe where huge populations of Muslim illegal immigrants demand the same rights of housing, health and education as their legal compatriots.
The problem is not simply America’s but one growing without control in almost every Western country. White guilt at the the range of luxury we enjoy combines with greed and complacency to set up a terrifying problem for future generations. It is a mark of potential societal collapse when a country’s citizens fail to attach any value to their own concept and view of that citizenship.
The failure of our political leadership at all levels of government in this country to stand behind a distinctive form of American identity poses as one of our most disquieting internal problems. Let’s pray for candidates in the 2012 elections who offer a clear sighted view of the immigration problems we have created for ourselves and a firm grasp of the draconian measures, such as the people of Arizona were forced to adopt, that now need to be taken to address them.