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Sunday, April 16, 2006

More Thoughts about San Luis Potosi and Chicago

This picture was taken at the intersection of Adams and Wells in Chicago on March 18. Over 100,000 folks paraded peacefully past my office. It was the first large demonstration against HR 4437, the severe immigration bill that mandates the construction of a 700 mile wall on our southern border and converts all illegal immigrants into felons (11 million felons, to be deported - that will be an impossible task, but I am sure that our government will flush several billion dollars down the toilet trying to enforce this nutty idea if it becomes law). This law will also punish anyone that helps an illegal immigrant stay in the U.S. - presumably this targets employers, but what about schools? Doctors? Banks? This is incredibly weird and unAmerican, in my view. And this proposed legislation would be utterly unenforceable in a free society.

Many of my fellow Americans seem to be caught up in a nasty mix of insecurity, xenophobia and subtle racism. I understand the insecurity part of the mix - and our national security is compromised by the shadowy world of illegal immigrants. But making these folks more illegal won't help - it will just drive them further underground. As long as Mexico and the US retain their current contrasting economic circumstances, the people will come north.

When I was in San Luis Potosi last week, I was one of the few Caucasians in town. The graciousness of the average Mexican was startling. It was also surprising how many folks accosted me in English, telling me of there time spent in El Norte. I met one happy retired gent in a dive bar who said he spent 34 productive years in the Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago. There appears to be a fairly strong San Luis Potosi/Chicago connection. Many SLP-ians have lived in Chicago or have family there. This one example of how the US and Mexico are connected at the grassroots level. Draconian laws designed to cut these connections won't work. We need laws that allow people to come north and be completely legal, and we have to face the fact that the 11 million folks that are here will not leave.

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