Please allow the editorial staff of the Reno News & Review to throw a wet towel on the race-baiting that’s going on in this country as a result of the current immigration debate by offering a bit of perspective with a couple of historic quotes.
The first is from the Declaration of Independence, a document written by a man who was born on these shores but didn’t receive “American citizenship” by virtue of the location of his birth or even until midlife.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Nowhere in the Declaration does it say that people born on this soil are morally, spiritually or intrinsically superior or entitled to better treatment than other human beings—no matter where they are born or the color of their skin.
So, while we’re having this contentious debate, can we leave the racial overtones at home? Illegal immigrants are of all tones of skin. The fact that most come from south of the border is simply a matter of proximity and financial desperation. Another thing to recognize is that our country is ruled by laws as created and defined by human beings.
Law is fluid, and it should be the majority of Americans who decide where the lines are drawn. It will certainly be the majority of Americans who decide the tenor of the debate about what the new immigration law will be. Humans made the laws that decide how a person can become a citizen of this country. These laws can be as tight or lax as members of the club decide to make them.
We’ll leave it to readers to search for other ironies within the context of this quote and who wrote it, particularly in relation to the idea that people would journey to this country desirous of working here.
The other quote is just as recognizable. It’s from the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
There is no aspect of speech more fundamental than language. We’ve had many opportunities to create a national language in the United States. We have never done so. Still, it is true that the majority of us are English speakers. While everyone recognizes that social, financial and governmental convenience encourage learning English, there is no mandate to force a language on anyone.
The right to speak any language is enshrined in our Constitution, so when, during this debate over immigration, the claim is made that people should “speak English or get out,” it’s discrimination, anti-American and shouldn’t be tolerated.
Racism has no part in this immigration debate. In the end, everyone wants the same thing: to care for themselves and their families to the best of their abilities.