Wednesday, December 05, 2007

HB 1804 must die!

Mr. Shane Jett, the Republican Representative from Oklahoma's District 27, has considered proposing legislation that would help to curtail the effects of our recent immigration law, HB 1804, on the Oklahoma economy. You can read about it here.

Though his legislation does not go far enough, it's a start. It doesn't address the moral issues, but only the economic issues. I suspect that's the best that can be done immediately -- address people's wallets. HB 1804 itself was enacted out of fear that "they" (meaning the undocumented immigrants) were taking money out of "our" (meaning those of us whose families got here earlier, whether legally or illegally) pockets. In other words, it was pure selfishness.

But, I support what Mr. Jett is trying to do. Hopefully, this will be only a first step toward getting HB 1804 off of the books. Here is most of the text of a letter I have sent to Mr. Jett. It explains my feelings about HB 1804 as clearly as I know how.

Dear Mr. Jett:

I appreciate very much your effort to compose a bill that will enable a guest worker program, and I want to encourage you to do so as quickly as possible. For a variety of reasons I see HB 1804 as immoral, bigoted and racist. It is an embarrassment to the state of Oklahoma. Thank you for your compassion to our neighbors who are less fortunate than many of us and who are doing their best to make a better life for their families.

Let me tell you about a Hispanic young lady who was in one of my classes this semester. This young lady is very intelligent, and aspires to go to law school. I have no doubt she has the ability to do so. She certainly has the drive, and was an outstanding student. But in mid-October, she didn’t show up in class for 2 weeks. I knew she had been planning on doing a mission trip with her church to Peru, so at first I didn’t think much about it. But absence was very atypical for her, so in the second week I began to be concerned. I emailed her, but she didn’t answer. Finally, at the end of the month, she appeared in my office nearly in tears because she had to drop most of her classes. She told me the whole story: her father had been arrested for having hired undocumented immigrants in his business. Though she and her family are all citizens, they tried to help others move here and establish themselves. The INS had been going door to door in her neighborhood checking for undocumented immigrants. Some of her father’s employees had been arrested; others had been forced into hiding. This young lady had had to take over her father’s business and try to keep it running (her family’s only income) while her father was in jail, and she had to keep it running with a skeleton staff. Quite a task for a 19 year old!

Mr. Jett, this is a Christian family. These are solid citizens. Yet this young lady had to see her father treated like a common criminal because he had extended Christian charity to people less fortunate than himself as they tried to improve their own lives. She also had to drop out of school in order to run her family’s business. So her own career is in jeopardy at this point!

You are right that HB 1804 makes no sense economically. It also makes no sense morally, and I believe we need to have it overturned as quickly as possible. The way it has been implemented, with the INS going door to door in south Oklahoma City, is reminiscent of how the Nazis treated the Jews in the WWII era! It seems to me that those who pushed for it and who support it have forgotten why it was their own families immigrated to this nation. They have also neglected to ask themselves to what length they might go to establish a decent life for their own families. I know that I would be willing to break an immigration law if it would mean a better life for my children and grandchildren. Those who try to argue that these undocumented immigrants are simply criminals because they have broken a law have failed in their moral reasoning to understand the situation. The vast majority of these folks are not people who are simply living as outlaws in order to avoid working for a living! Their “crimes” cannot be understood on the same level as, for instance, drug dealers, murderers or thieves. A more parallel case might be breaking speed laws in order to get your child to a hospital in an emergency!

I don't know that we can get that law thrown out, but I want our legislature to know how I feel about it. And I believe this is an unjust law, and that means it is a good candidate for civil disobedience.

1 comment:

Rachel O said...

This is wonderfully put. Thank you.