All of this happened the week that the Senate is debating immigration reform. It is by no means a certainty that our federal legislators will approve a clunky bill that pleases no one but that it is an acceptable compromise for many. The issue of creating a path to citizenship for 11.1 million undocumented immigrants continues to be very volatile for most Republicans and even for some Democrats.
The New Yorker reported this week that even New York’s liberal senator Charles Schumer, one of the members of the Gang of Eight who spearheaded the bill along with Sen. John McCain, has taken to use the word “illegal” when referring to undocumented immigrants as a strategy.
He said he studied the 2007 immigration-reform bill and concluded that one of the reasons that bill had failed was because then Sen. Ted Kennedy kept using the words “undocumented workers.” Conservatives thought Kennedy did not think the immigrants were “illegal,” after all. Schumer learned a lesson. “I made a decision: I would have to keep saying ‘illegal immigrants,’ ’’ he told the magazine.
The thing is if the bill passes, at some point soon there will be millions of new citizens in the United States — not all of them Hispanics, of course, but a sizable chunk will be. They’ll remember who helped them and who didn’t when they are facing the voting booth.
If the bill doesn’t pass, concerned citizens will remember, as well, just as they did last November. Either way, it would be good for all to realize that our children are watching and learning.
What we say, matters. What we do, even more.
Passing this bill will be one way to show Americans — young and old — that Hispanic newcomers are no longer a “problem” that needs to be legislated away. They will be, like everybody else, simply Americans.