The Arizona Fear Factor in Philadelphia
As you walk anywhere in the greater Philadelphia community, you can almost smell and taste the fear. It's a new smell and taste for Philadelphians since we are largely an optimistic city, a city that has made its peace with being the forgotten city, the city located right smack in the middle of our glitzier sister cities, New York and D.C. Philadelphians firmly believe that we are better than our larger neighboring cities for we, the city of brotherly love, know how to treat our friends, our
As you walk anywhere in the greater Philadelphia community, you can almost smell and taste the fear. It's a new smell and taste for Philadelphians since we are largely an optimistic city, a city that has made its peace with being the forgotten city, the city located right smack in the middle of our glitzier sister cities, New York and D.C. Philadelphians firmly believe that we are better than our larger neighboring cities for we, the city of brotherly love, know how to treat our friends, our neighbors and our visitors.
As Americans we cling to the firm belief that no matter how poorly thought out some of the actions by our federal and local governments have been the government, our government, is here to protect and take care of us, with malice towards none. For this reason, most of us sleep relatively well at night, knowing that if a law turns out to be wrong, we, as Americans, using our legislative and judicial systems, will ultimately have it overturned or righted. After all, this is America.
Post Arizona SB1070 and the copycat racial profiling and anti-immigrant bills that are springing up all over the country, including the ugly one recently introduced by one of our very own Pennsylvania legislators, a restful sleep is no longer possible. Indeed, our local Philadelphia ancestors are probably turning over in their graves, angry, upset and stunned over how the very first cradle of liberty in the U.S., led by a local cheese steak restaurateur and a crafty politician from Hazelton (who quickly figured out that espousing hatred directed towards Hispanics would be the road towards winning a seat in Congress) could turn its back on its Quaker history of tolerance.
Our ancestors would be particularly appalled to learn of Carolina's great fears and nightmares. Carolina is a U.S. citizen by birth. She is the mother of Jesus, the most adorable, smiley 11 month old U.S, citizen who absolutely loves the world. Jesus' father, Salvador, is Mexican. He has been in the U.S. illegally for over 15 years and would very much like to marry Carolina, the love of his life. This is especially important to him as Carolina is now pregnant with the couple's second child. However, both Carolina and Salvador are paralyzed with fear and don't know if they can—should—marry.
Each and every time Salvador strolls his son through the streets of Philadelphia, both he and Carolina are terrified that ICE will, without cause, stop them, ask for immigration documents, take them both into custody and then, without notifying Carolina, deport them both to Mexico (despite Jesus' U.S. citizen status). After all, they tell us, the Pennsylvania legislators and recent police and ICE activities have sent a strong message to the communities of color in our city: if you look and sound "different" you are a target for removal from the U.S.
Although it is carefully explained to Carolina and Salvador that the Constitution of the United States prevents such illegal actions they are not convinced and remain fearful. Carolina confesses that every night she and Salvador are sleepless; every morning that he leaves for work she fears that it will be the last time she sees him.
We all agree that illegal immigration is not good for any country. However, the reality is that here in the U.S. we have well over 11 million illegally present foreign nationals, many like Salvador, living peacefully but very fearfully among us. As we fight in our courts and our Congress for a redefined immigration policy, let us not bring that fight to the streets and into the home of Carolina, Salvador and others like them. Instead of stating: What part of illegal don't you understand, let us get rid of the fear factor in our city and state by asking the question: What part of human do you not understand?