Curt Thompson: Urges Calm and Practicality

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State Sen. Curt Thompson: Urges Calm and Practicality, "stay calm, stay put and get involved"

Found in Mundo HispanicoWritten by Senator Curt ThompsonPosted on 2007-07-11

Originally published in Spanish in Mundo Hispanico on July 5, 2007.

Posted on GALEO on 7/10/07 in English, courtesy of Sen. Curt Thompson. This version is unedited and is slightly different than the print version. The Spanish print version was edited for space.

A lot is being said on all sides as the latest proposal for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level wrecked like a train driven by Wile E Coyote in an old Road Runner cartoon . For many in Georgia it is leading to a lot of questions as it comes when the now infamous SB 529 and SB 38 go into effect this week.

The main questions facing the communities in my district seem to be "what impact will these two state laws have now that it looks like actually solving the immigration mess has fallen victim to politicians playing to the worst in special interest groups", on a more personal level some are even asking "should I move to another state?" and basically "now what?".

Trying to address the first question you have to take a real practical approach to what SB 529 and SB 38 were about. What they weren't about was trying to address our state's issues with immigration. What they were about were opportunist Republican politicians appealing to nativism and racism and nagging economic insecurity. These guys bash immigrants without any real plans for addressing the underlying problem. There were very few provisions of these bills that weren't already federal law and no additional monies for the few new provisions in the bills with any teeth. Additionally some groups are planning lawsuits to determine if some of these laws provisions are even constitutional. So mostly it was about placating the nativist base that the Republicans need to win elections and creating fear in the immigrant communities hoping to scare people into moving.

For those that really believe in these local initiatives to fix the immigration mess I have this question: If the Department of Homeland Security with with its 50 billion plus annual budget can't effectively regulate who enters the US and who works in the US then how are the Doraville and Norcross Police Departments supposed to on their budgets? Any real effort t is likely to bankrupt the state or any of its counties who try to do so effectively - therefore, any action that the state or any of its counties takes is really only a show put on by rightwing politicians as a sop for their base - it's showmanship, not statesmanship. And that is what we have here that passes for debate and problem solving in Georgia.

So at the end of the day I have to say that the impact is more psychological than real. And that's why I'm urging folks to stay calm and stay put and get involved in solving the problem.

Moving that makes no real sense. It's still one country. It's not like going from Venezuela to Costa Rica because you happen to not like Chavez closing a t.v. station or taking an oil field. Basically the immigrant bashing proposals and fights will only follow you. In Europe many Jews moved from the very anti-semetic Russian Empire in the 19th and early 20th century only to find themselves in Germany and Poland in the 1940s. Moving didn't help them one bit. The modern civil rights movement of the African American community in this country knew that lesson. In the 1960s the various southern states tried to block the civil rights movement for African Americans acts ranging from disbanding public schools in Virginia rather than integrate them to turning loose attack dogs and water cannons as happened in Alabama (both far worse than what we're experiencing now). People did not move. They stayed and continued the struggle knowing that moving would only embolden other states to take other extremist measures.

Ultimately many people moved to Georgia because our economy is better than pretty much any other state's. Trust me, I know many people who go visiting other states looking for opportunity because of the political environment here only to come back because there simply aren't the economic opportunities in places like Detroit or Tuscaloosa that Georgia offers for you and your families. Moving simply sends you from the frying pan into the fire. The anti-immigrant nativist, racist types will follow you, but the jobs and the economic engine that is Georgia won't.

I am not saying that there is not cause for concern. With the success of those who'd rather win elections than govern our nation and the right wing phone banking machine that overwhelmed Congress both our U.S. Senators who had initially signed onto the compromise bill, switched and voted to kill it. So in Georgia we still have much to do if we want our voices heard in our nation's capitol. Additionally there's a real fear that this will embolden folks with more racist issues about immigration to act out what has until now largely been hostile rants and photo op stunts put on by a few "militia" types. And indeed there is going to be no quick fix.

But remember, depending on whose history book you read the Civil Rights movement for the African American community took at least a decade to mature. Our efforts to organize our communities and demand a solution to our broken immigration system is in fact way ahead of that. It's just that nothing moves as fast as we'd like. And so just like the African American community that won the desegregation of schools in court only to face states who tried to get around the ruling by disbanding the school systems we have to work on this for the long haul. In the end the saying "your vote is your voice" still holds. Remember only about 40 percent of Latinos who could vote did vote in the last election. If we want change in Georgia and we want our elected leaders to not run scared every time a right wing radio show gives out their telephone number then people in the Latino communities need to get more involved in politics.

And ultimately that's the only way to demand that our elected leaders put away politics and fix this problem. The ultimately there is a comprehensive solution. It may look different from what just came off the tracks but Right is on our side. It will happen but we cannot simply buy the first ticket offered to us. Not every train get's us safely to our destination as we've just seen. Clearly it was not just the right wingers who had concerns. Legitimate concerns about allowing families to reunify and concerns about low paid legal guest workers with no rights would depress wages for all of us when it's already hard to afford health insurance need to be addressed. We cannot just walk away now when we're this close. We have to keep working on addressing the legitimate issues. This is too important for our children to settle for "good enough" we have to get it right.

If we can demand our leaders lead rather than have our leaders play politics.

If we remember that every poll shows that the vast majority of Americans want a comprehensive solution and want their neighbors who work hard and try to play by the rules to be able to come out of the shadows we will know that we aren't alone as we make that demand of our leaders.

If we can use our voices rather than run hoping that our problems won't follow us we canaccomplish a comprehensive solution that all can be proud of.

So to my friends in the fifth State Senate District and elsewhere, I'm basically saying stay calm, stay put and get involved.

Sen. Curt Thompson represents parts of Gwinnett and DeKalb