Michael: Juan CrowToday most of us look back in horror at the system of legalized political repression and economic exclusion of black Americans that persisted for more than a century after the Civil War. Most cannot not imagine that treating people in such a way could possibly be considered just or right. But many did consider it right. Some privately still do.
Were all those people bad? Obviously not. They were the product of the assumptions of their culture and the prevailing social norms. They were taught from birth that blacks were inferior and undeserving of a better lot. They fervently defended those misguided beliefs and the political fallout from the effort to dismantle Jim Crow is felt still today. Some would, with some justice, claim Jim Crow still hasn’t been completely abolished.
Today new social norms struggle for dominance which hold that people who are in this country illegally seeking employment and betterment of their lives are undeserving of a chance to earn a better lot in life. Some believe immigrants constitute a threat to our national security, our moral fibre, and our way of life, and should be excluded from the American dream under any terms. There are increasing numbers of laws that seek to punish, repress, and exclude these people from the wider society. There are even some who are taking matters into their own hands and forming posses to harass and possibly even kill these people.
At what point does this trend toward legally and culturally demonizing and marginalizing undocumented immigrants constitute a new ‘Juan Crow’ that our descendants will have to struggle to dismantle? Aside from all the rhetoric on both sides of this issue, one simple fact remains: every undocumented immigrant is a human being deserving of basic rights.
Our response to undocumented immigration should be to address the causes of the ongoing tidal wave of migration of the past decade, not to build a racist and insular legal edifice in vain attempt to exclude the newcomers, or to demonize those caught in the tide. How foolish to alienate a growing and vital de facto part of the American community.
At one point our nation’s highest law said that a black man could never be a citizen of this country, either. If facts as immutable as skin color and parentage can be overcome to recognize the human rights of former slaves, how long can a mere legal status of ‘undocumented’ stand between human beings and their natural human rights in nation of free people?