"How many years have we Americans turned our face like this and let the flood come in? Have we seen that?" Diana Salazar, president of the Latino Association of Charleston, asked those who attended a press conference last week addressing the illegal immigration bill currently making its way through the Statehouse. "Now, we're being hypocritical."
Salazar makes a good point. Through sheer neglect, our federal government has turned our southern border into a welcome mat for illegal aliens who have understandably taken advantage of the economic opportunities in the United States.
Imagine inviting a guest into your home and then chastising him for accepting the invitation. This strange scenario is basically what the United States has presented to illegal immigrants by offering a hush-hush, open-door policy to millions of people who should have never been here in the first place.
"But they broke the law!" illegal immigration opponents are quick to point out. True. But the same can be said of those who consistently drive 10 miles over the speed limit. Why drive 55 or 65 mph when you can get home faster by breaking the law with no repercussions? The law is only as effective as its enforcement.
In the case of illegal immigration, why worry about proper documentation when you can make money quicker by breaking the law with no repercussions? Does asking foreigners to show respect for laws our president doesn't even take seriously make much sense?
Opponents of illegal immigration may be looking for someone to blame, but the fact of the matter is we have no one to blame but ourselves. Salazar's comments demonstrate that quite clearly. By supporting national leaders — whether Democrats like Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and Barack Obama or Republicans like George W. Bush, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain — we have given our elected officials a free pass, even as they refuse to perform their constitutional duty to protect our borders. As with our insane foreign policy, there is no excuse for supporting leaders who are either dead wrong or who completely ignore our most crucial national issues — and often promise to make them worse.
For illegal aliens who are used to operating in the United States with zero consequence, the rise of state and local ordinances to combat illegal immigration — whether by denying aliens social services or by punishing employers who hire them — must seem like a sudden and disruptive turn of events. Salazar asks, not without reason, "Why now?"
Because the problem has reached critical mass. The moment the economic, cultural, and political ramifications of illegal immigration became problems the average American could no longer escape, a popular consensus was reached that leaders have finally begun to respond to.
Local and state leaders have become the first to seriously address the problem because they are the closest to their constituents and their concerns. Even though border enforcement is undoubtedly a federal responsibility, Washington, D.C., is a cocoon of indifference, where politicians can more easily ignore the will of the people because they are further removed from them.
In the 1990s, Republicans like Pat Buchanan were called "alarmists" or worse by their own party for insisting that mass illegal immigration would mean trouble down the road. Now everyone is sounding the alarm; even liberal Republicans presidential candidates like John McCain and Mike Huckabee insist that they will make securing our border their first priority.
There is no doubt a rising anti-illegal immigrant sentiment that will continue to rise as the problem becomes worse. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the solutions could have been easier — and less heated — because the problem was less severe.
That time has passed.
Expect the antagonistic, competing interests of American nationalism and Mexican/Hispanic nationalism to produce not only more angry critics like Ms. Salazar, who wonder why the rules are changing, but also more angry Americans, who are increasingly waking up to the fact that their country is changing and they're not ready to say "adios" just yet.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.