Thoughts On Illegal Immigration

From Firedoglake, Part 2 of a three part series on the illegal immigration issue caught my eye this morning. This has only recently (in the last two years or so) become somewhat of a hot button issue in Louisiana, as we saw a large influx of Hispanic workers move into the New Orleans and Southwest Louisiana areas after Katrina and Rita. I was shocked at how vitriolic the reception here seemed - almost immediately I started hearing under-the-breath comments about "the Mexicans" invading our state, not paying taxes, taking all the jobs, etc. etc. ad nauseum. It shocked me I guess because compared to lots of places in the South, I think we have a historical tendency to be more welcoming and appreciative of other cultures. In retrospect, however, I guess that is just naivete on my part. Racism has always been alive and well here.

Although not many people will admit it, however, these Hispanic workers have practically rebuilt many of the areas in Louisiana that were devastated by the storms. I lived in Slidell during Katrina, and I am an eyewitness to the fact that in the weeks following the storm, there simply was no available labor to put roofs back on those businesses and homes. No one, that is, but the Mexican workers who came here looking for honest work, who were willing to toil long, long hours in the heat, humidity and mosquitos when lots of places didn't even have power or working plumbing. Every day for months and months I saw crews building, hauling, working their asses off when most of us were still numb from shock. Yes, it's true we all pulled together and saw one another through those hard times. But without that Mexican labor, half of Slidell would probably still be struggling to find a workforce to rebuild.

They contribute to the economy when they pay sales taxes, and when they buy goods that stimulate business. Crime in this area has not risen as a result of their presence, but we have had a new and interesting influx of culture and tradition, the very things that have, over the generations of immigration to Louisiana, added to our allure as one of the most unique places in the world. They deserve a chance, just as most of our ancestors received, to work legally to become citizens, to pay taxes, and contribute to the community without the constant fear they will be deported. They deserve the chance to be what we all are - Americans.

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