Natural Disaster Exposes Unbalanced Policy

As I posted last week, immigrants are proving vital in the efforts to rebuild Texas after Hurricane Ike. On Thursday, the Houston Chronicle ran a story discussing the need for immigrant labor in the storm’s aftermath.

The need for labor and the simultaneous crackdown on undocumented immigrants is creating a type of catch-22 in Texas.

But this tug and pull of the labor force highlights an uneasy dilemma: The region needs the muscle of undocumented immigrants, but simultaneously is a cog in a broader crackdown of illegal immigrants at worksites.

I think that the example of Texas is a microcosm of what is occuring across the nation. We have always been a country that is built by the contributions of immigrants, but we have lost sight of that in recent years. The contributions immigrants bring to our country, our economy and our culture have been lost amidst the nativist rhetoric that blames immigrants for everything from Global Warming to the recent Economic Collapse. No, really.

“There’s just no mechanism in place right now to provide those important laborers work authorization,” said Leigh Ganchan, a Houston immigration attorney with Haynes and Boone. “It’s a shame that employers can’t tap into a whole segment of society that’s willing and capable to provide those services. Our nation is more vulnerable than it would like to admit, I think. Vulnerable, meaning we need people to help us rebuild our infrastructure after major disasters like this.”

During this pivotal election time, we should be demanding that both candidates address the issue of immigration in a head-on and direct manner. Instead, the campaigns have remained frustratingly hesitant to discuss the topic (though at least Obama responded to the Sanctuary’s survey – for more on this click here). The only true attention they have given Comprehensive Immigration Reform was recent attack ads that show politics at their worst.

It is time for a real discussion about all of the issues facing the nation – not the least of which is immigration reform. Just ask the folks in Texas.

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