Before We Bicker on Immigration, Let’s agree On Definitions

mexican_american_commentaryBy Victor Landa, NewsTaco

If we’re going to get anywhere in this looming immigration debate, we’ve got to start in the same room, using words we all understand. I don’t mean this in a figurative sense, I mean it literally.

There is enough political pressure from both political parties to do immigration reform this year; maybe even have it done and sitting on the President’s desk by the Summer.

Say what you will about the Republican Party’s motivation for seeing this thing through (self preservation is the mother of all motives), we haven’t been this close to sorting through the nuance-thicket since, well, ever. So there is reason for optimism, albeit with a pinch of reservation that the extremes of political ideology can somehow hijack the process and derail the reform momentum.

But in order for this thing to work to the satisfaction of all sides, and in order for the process to work smoothly and efficiently, several things must be agreed to beforehand. Definitions are stubborn things. Everyone involved in the debate – from people on Capitol Hill, to people in the media and the folks sitting round your kitchen table or work break room –  should use the same words and ideas to mean the same things. I’m not talking about a glossary of terms, I’m talking about political hot points, expressed in phrases, that set us off and keep us apart.

Take for instance “border security.” It’s a sticking point for conservatives and a prerequisite for any discussion from the right. It sounds easy enough, but when two intelligent people from opposite sides of the political dial clash on the issue they find they have distinct pictures in their heads about the meaning of the word. Who gets to decide when the border is secure, so we can all move along with our conversation? We need to agree about what border security looks like before we move on.

And what about the famous “line” that the undocumented are supposed to get at the end of?  If we’re going to talk about the line and where people should be in it (no cut’s allowed),  we should then also talk about how that line is not working. The line is broken. So lets fix the line that we want people to stand in. If we let people with $1 million cut to the front of the line, we shouldn’t criticize, vilify or criminalize those who rather than complain, ignore the line.

The “learn English” thing? Here’s my take: give it as a political freebee, a  goodwill token in the pot. I don’t know of any immigrant, documented or not, who doesn’t want to learn English. It’s a given. Churches and non-profits that offer English classes have long waiting lists; Inglés Sin Barreras is a virtual gold mine on Spanish TV. This is one of those places where the left can cede the ground because there really isn’t much to cede. If the right wants to make English a sticking point, go for it, immigrants will learn English anyway. We’ll define it as a win-win. As the law now stands, you have to be 55 years of age or older to get an English competency waiver. So there’s really no change. This is one of those things where you agree to avoid the necios.

And then there’s the bucket. That big bucket that holds everything and everyone tagged as Latino, Hispanic, illegal alien, undocumented worker, immigrant, uneducated, and welfare dependent. It’s part of the great American immigration gauntlet for the largest and newest wave of immigrants to be vilified by others. And that’s what’s been happening to Latinos for several generations. But, look here: if the GOP is coming to the immigration reform table, it’s because of the people in the bucket. There’s power in the bucket. The ironic thing is that Latinos didn’t put themselves in it. It’s just another generalized, stereotyped definition. So if the GOP wants Latinos to play on their side, they’re going to have to unpack their definitions, shake them out, and throw away the bucket.

Believe me, this is going to be a difficult process. But, if we just agree to these four things before we begin the bickering, we can get it done quickly and everyone will be happier than not. Then again, define happy.

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

U.S. citizen detained overnight by ICE – they thought he was undocumented

Victor Landa July 6, 2017

By Victor Landa, NewsTaco (1.5 minute read)  This is startling news. Up until last night at a dinner conversation I believed that the idea that an American citizen would be […]

DIECIOCHO Podcast: Texas Rep. Rafael Anchia – Trump, Gerrymandering and Money

NewsTaco June 8, 2017

By Victor Landa, NewsTaco (1 minute read, 34 minute listen)  It’s safe to say that the just-ended Texas legislative session was the most acrimonious in memory. We can talk for […]

Ted Cruz gets an earful in McAllen for July 4

Victor Landa July 5, 2017

*I’m posting this because it was mostly Latinos, organizing, protesting, making their voices heard. Everyone needs to know that Latinos in deep South Texas are standing up. VL By Patrick […]

Vietnam War veteran fears he could be deported

Victor Landa July 7, 2017

*This Vietnam veteran, born in Mexico, was awarded two Purple Hearts and given U.S. citizenship after his service. He’s misplaced his documents and after paying $345 the government wants more […]

The moment Florida cops pull over an Afro-Latina and find she’s the State Attorney

Victor Landa July 13, 2017

By Victor Landa, NewsTaco Patrol cops in  Orlando, Florida, stopped a white sedan recently becasue they ran the tags and didn’t get a return, plus, the tint on the windows […]

Henry Cisneros: Why Can’t Americans See Latinos Are Country’s ‘Saving Grace’?

Victor Landa July 7, 2017

*Good question. I think it’s because we’re not the ones telling our story. We need to fight for our narrative. VL By Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News (1.5 minute read)  SAN […]

A Proposed New Tax, Mainly On Latinos, To Pay For Trump’s Border Wall

NewsTaco May 31, 2017

*This happened yesterday, while the rest of us were mesmerized by the Peckinpahesque implosion of the Trump administration, congress was moving a piece of legislation that would fund the Trumpian […]

Remembering Gus Garcia, Mexican-American Civil Rights Pioneer

Victor Landa July 27, 2017

By Raul A. Reyes, NBC News (7.5 minute read)   In his heyday, Gus Garcia cut a dashing figure in Texas legal and social circles. He was a key member […]