Wednesday, July 13, 2005

With No Argument, Shout Racism

With No Argument, Shout Racism
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
July 13, 2005

When losing an argument or debate, fall back on the old standard: cry racism to goad one's opponent into sheepishly backing off and accepting the "politically correct" stance. This tried and true tactic is actually tired and false where the Town of Herndon is concerned regarding the Planning Commission meeting it held Monday evening, July 11, attended by greater than 250 people to voice opinions about a potential day laborer site – a site supporters expect to be funded by citizen tax dollars.

To suggest racism is a wholly disingenuous argument. It is not racist to want safe streets, particularly when some of those streets are clogged with day laborers making passersby uncomfortable or even afraid for their safety. This is specifically so in front of the Alabama Drive 7-Eleven where day laborers congregate day after day. This less than kosher scenario has been playing out for more than four years. Parenthetically, some of these same day laborers live in neighborhoods where their residences are teeming with an abundance of people violating numerous zoning laws – but that’s another subject for another column.

It is not racist to want new immigrants to the United States to learn English – the language spoken by the majority of citizens. Knowledge of English will improve relations between cultural, ethnic and racial groups. Knowledge of English will help immigrants learn the laws of the United States and thus reduce conflicts with law enforcement – most of whom have greater challenges on the job when dealing with people for who English is not their first language.

In many cases public drunkenness has been an all too frequent problem for many from countries whose cultures do not object to drinking alcohol in public. This is a prime example of a lack of English creating deeper problems for the people not familiar with the laws in this country.

Local law enforcement is handcuffed as they are not permitted to arrest loiterers on private property without permission from the owner. Local law enforcement is unable to arrest those loitering on public property unless they are blocking the streets or sidewalks or inciting others to violence.

Worse yet, local law enforcement has their hands tied by the Federal Government and are not permitted to enforce Federal Immigration Law. Local law enforcement should be able to serve as agents of the federal authorities in order to reduce the numbers of illegal aliens from filtering over our borders, settling into communities across this nation, living lives under the radar screen in constant fear all the while milking and bilking the system for all its worth.

Most of all, it is neither racist nor xenophobic to expect that people immigrating to the United States would do so legally. That is the crux of this entire debate. Were all immigrants here legally, there would be little reason for a day laborer site. Greater than 50 percent of the laborers are in the United States illegally. Most day laborers do backbreaking work for little financial reward, but to whom can they complain, as many are in this country illegally. Sure they are exploited in some cases, as their supporters aver, but by being here illegally, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Whenever I am confronted by supporters of open borders, the ”blame America first” crowd, or my liberal co-religionists reminding me that we were immigrants once, it is painfully clear to me that they do not get it. They do not see the bigger picture and the dangers we currently face in this era of Islamo-fascist-terrorism. This is not the 1890s, nor any time through the 1920s when quotas were imposed upon immigrants from particular countries. During the period circa 1890-1920 when foreigners wished to emigrate to the United States – as millions of Jews and Catholics from Greece, Italy, Hungary, Poland and Russia did – they did so legally – standing in line – literally so, at Ellis Island.

If potential émigrés failed a health exam for TB or any myriad diseases, they were put on boats and sent back to their country of origin. Newcomers to the United States oftentimes were required to show proof of sponsorship and promise of employment, otherwise, they too could be returned to their country of origin. Were there shouts of racism and xenophobia? Hardly.

Truth be told, what shouts there were, could barely be understood as they were in Yiddish, Greek, Italian, Russian, Polish or some other Slavic or southern or eastern European language. The difference between the 1890s and the 1990s was the desire of new immigrants to learn English, get jobs and become American citizens – many volunteering for military service before the ink dried on their citizenship papers. No welfare could be applied for. No English as a Second Language existed in the classrooms.

Today illegal immigrants are receiving welfare benefits they are not entitled to; health care they are not entitled to; placements in schools for their children they are not entitled to and should anyone object or tell these people they are breaking the law, the objectors are shouted down and called racists and xenophobes. Tax dollars are being spent at the expense of citizen and legal immigrant benefits and rights.

Not one dime of public money – the tax dollars of those of us here as citizens or legal immigrants – should be spent encouraging illegal behavior to not only continue but to flourish. Those residents of Herndon, Sterling and other nearby communities are neither racist nor xenophobic. These are hardworking people who want smaller government, strong national defense, safe schools for their children, safe streets, and good, law abiding neighbors.
This is a simple matter of common sense, which assuredly is far from common these days. Anyone who has snuck into the United States illegally is a lawbreaker. To defend their being here or to encourage more people to break the laws of the United States by proposing the use of tax dollars to help those people who have arrived here illegally is a case of aiding and abetting.

This is simple enough that even the mayor of Herndon, Michael O’ Reilly, a practicing attorney, should not be confused. He was recently quoted saying “There’s probably no other issue facing local governments that is more complicated than day laborer sites. It’s very complex and it brings out a lot of emotion in people.”

This issue should be neither “complicated” nor “complex,” as O’ Reilly stated. First weed out the people here illegally and return them to their country of origin – never to be permitted reentry as they are lawbreakers. Then, and only then, can the proposal of a day laborer site, one that includes English classes and citizenship classes, be considered. Until that time, the proposed $170,000 to be utilized for such a project should be used to hire more teachers and reduce the already burgeoning class sizes in our schools.

Mayor O’ Reilly further stated “I know this issue gives people a platform to scream and shout and show a lot of hatred, and that’s unfortunate.”

What is truly unfortunate is that people feel the need to scream and shout – not at those here illegally – but at their elected officials. Officials sworn to uphold the law, which by caving into fear of being labeled a racist or xenophobe, have caused them to behave in an unlawful manner by aiding and abetting those who have already committed criminal acts by their mere presence in this country.

As for the “hatred” the mayor speaks of, that is just another label put upon those people who expect the law to be obeyed by everyone – not just those who arrived at Plymouth Rock or Ellis Island, but even by the new wave of immigrants. They are not hated, but their lawbreaking ways are. There are plenty of people from South Korea, Peru, Ghana and myriad other nations who have stood in the proverbial line, waited their turn and are hard working legal immigrants.

Having lived in Sterling and worked in Herndon for several years and having many friends there, Herndon is not the place to hang the racist and xenophobia labels. They, as most Americans simply want all residents to play by the rules. Herndon is simply a microcosm of the larger illegal alien issue plaguing this great nation as a whole. It is an issue that must be dealt with honestly and not by calling people racist and xenophobic for wanting those who wish to make the United States their home do so by following the law of the land – this land.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria, VA.