There are times, these days, when I feel like the boy who cried “wolf” when I talk about the rampant hysteria against undocumented immigrants that has gripped this country. No one’s listening. But it’s not because anyone has raised any false alarms.
No on seems to think anything is wrong when an Arizona sheriff takes a posse of 200 officers and camps out on busy street corners just to catch undocumented immigrants.
They don’t see anything outrageous with a town outlawing renting to undocumented immigrants.
No one seems troubled that a good deed like giving a ride to a neighbor to the store or hospital or anywhere else could constitute a felony act if that neighbor happened to be undocumented.
A yawn is barely mustered when it’s discovered that legal Hispanic citizens are “mistakenly” picked up and deported to a country they’re not even familiar with.
And, well, making it a law that says English is the official language just to drive home the point that people are fed up with hearing “Press 1 for Spanish” is extreme. It seems the entire concept of customer service is lost on these critics who should take up their argument with the marketing department at those companies who implement a bilingual option, rather than create meaningless, mean-spirited legislation which will only serve to remind historians of this dark period in our country’s history.
A week doesn’t go by that some new legislation isn’t introduced somewhere targeting undocumented immigrants. The latest state that is jumping on this bandwagon and making undocumented immigrants the scapegoats of this failing economy, not to mention Congress, is the tiny state of Rhode Island.
According to a 2006 US Census study, eleven percent of the state’s population is categorized as “Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin.” Yet, for some reason, Rhode Islanders feel under “siege” by Spanish-speaking undocumented immigrants, according to the governor.
Governor Don Carcieri issued an executive order last month requiring state agencies and companies that do business with the state to verify the legal status of employees. Also, the state police, prison and parole officials are now ordered to aggressively find and deport undocumented immigrants.
Why this sudden panic attack?
It seems Rhode Island has a $550 million budget deficit and the governor, under pressure to reduce it, sees a link between the short-fall and the number of undocumented immigrants in his state.
There’s only one small problem: state officials don’t even know how many undocumented immigrants there actually are.
And if you don’t know how many reside in the state, then you can’t know how much they impact the local economy.
Two service areas that always are highlighted as being abused by undocumented immigrants are healthcare and welfare. Yet, an analysis of Rhode Island’s healthcare found that while the state does provide millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidized free healthcare to those who cannot afford it, no one knows how much is actually used by undocumented immigrants.
However if the undocumented immigrants in Rhode Island follow the findings found in national studies of the healthcare practices of non-legal immigrants, the likelihood that healthcare is being abused by this demographic is highly unlikely. A 2007 study found that undocumented Latinos reported less use of healthcare services than native-born Latinos. The same goes for applying for welfare benefits.
Welfare data analyzed by researchers at the Urban Institute found that “less than 1 percent of households headed by undocumented immigrants receive cash assistance for needy families, compared to 5 percent of households headed by native-born U.S. citizens.”
It makes sense. Why would anyone who is living in the country illegally draw unwanted attention to themselves by applying for benefits they know they aren’t entitled to, not to mention, would send red flags to law enforcement?
They wouldn’t. Yet try and convince those who are stricken with the paranoia that Mexico is trying to resettle the country for their own expansionist agenda and it makes sense that such nonsense has been adopted as the gospel truth.
The only way this hysteria is going to come under control is if more people, both Latino and non-Latino, of political prominence stand up against it.
In Rhode Island, the chairman of the state’s Hispanic Republican Assembly, David Quiroa, broke his ties with the state Republican Party to protest the Governor’s actions.
“Everyone was cheering Governor Carcieri like we were getting rid of aliens from Mars who are infected with this weird disease,” Quiroa said. “So that lack of humanity is what really did it for me.”
How much longer will it be before it gets to the rest of us?