Forget the hateful spin and pass real immigration reform

Here’s a quick parable my dad used to tell me when I was a kid:
Two men were having an argument. Their tempers rose quickly. Both men felt passionately about their positions. Suddenly, one man struck the other and knocked him to the floor. “Who won the fight?” asked the boy.

“The fallen man,” said his dad. “Whenever you resort to violence and strike a man, you have lost the fight to bring your opponent to your point of view.”

Sorry to have to be the one to point this out, but recent letters on immigration come from a bunch of what we’ll call “The Marchingorders.”

Among their claims: that gas prices and rental housing rates are high because of illegal immigrants; that immigrants all drive cars and therefore drive up the demand, and thus the cost, of gasoline; that landlords charge more than the norm because immigrants will fill up the houses with more than a single family; and that illegal immigrants don’t contribute to our local economy because they send all their money back to Mexico.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Memo to Cheney, Rove, and the cloned “Marchingorders” around the nation: You cannot have it both ways. Either illegal immigrants buy up all the goods or they send their money back home. Either they double up on house-pooling and carpooling, or they use more gas and housing than the norm.

The truth is there is no relationship whatsoever between immigrants and the cost of gas and housing. Housing is expensive in Gainesville because Gainesville is a beautiful and desirable place to live. There is a shortage of affordable housing, to be sure. But the housing shortage existed well before immigration became a crisis.

And gasoline prices? Please. Did you ever notice how the price of gas goes down just before an election? Do you think all the immigrants go on vacation on the first Tuesday in November? Many market factors affect gas prices. One major factor may just be the waging of war in oil-producing areas of the world under false pretenses.

Political leaders need to know that the electorate wants real change for real issues. Immigration is a real issue for discussion. But it is not the only issue we face in Gainesville or around the world. We need to solve pressing problems like the environmental crisis, housing shortage, taxes, water, jobs, education and justice. These are real issues to be debated intelligently and by people committed to bringing out the truth.

This is not the time for the “O’Reilly-Limbaugh-Hannity Game Show,” where you try and link your opponents to “flower-stompers” and “puppy-kickers.” Remember when Rush Limbaugh said the Virginia Tech shooter was probably a liberal because he railed against the rich kids at his school? Ridiculous.

For decades, the Bull Connors of the Jim Crow world stopped debating and struck their fellow man down with fire hoses and lynching ropes. In so doing, they lost the fight to persuade their ideological opponents to their racist points of view. Soon the world turned against the irrational haters who only wanted to destroy America’s enduring love of freedom and justice.

The modern haters’ version is “spin-doctor faking it” until the “truth” is whatever the “talk show Nazis” tell you to think.

Many of the recent “Marchingorders” letters pander to the lowest common denominator: Fear.
But this is a dangerous game that can end with a deadly, hooded, night-time call to arms. A call to violence. A call to kill the truth.

Stop trying to hurt your opponents with mendacious blows. It will only backfire on you.
Instead, propose some helpful suggestions. Here are just a few ideas that don’t involve beating down your brothers and sisters:

Pass comprehensive immigration reform that makes sense immediately. Make immigrants apply for Georgia driver’s licenses and car insurance, then use the fees to build a high-speed train from Gainesville to Atlanta to Athens and back.

Relax some zoning restrictions at the city limits so that developers can build affordable multifamily housing, then use the tax revenues from the additional housing to lower property taxes for the rest of us.

Eliminate under-the-table wages and withholding exemptions for all workers; then use the increased revenue to provide income tax relief and build more schools and hospitals for all.
Please submit any other helpful ideas (other than “round ’em up and throw ’em out”) to your state senator and representatives. God Bless.

Arturo Corso is a Gainesville attorney.

Contact Us