Recently, immigration enforcement in East Tennessee generated headlines. The scenes were tragic and heart-wrenching as families were being torn apart.
Unfortunately, instead of encouraging legal immigration to this country to prevent these scenes from playing out again in the future, progressive special interest groups used the immigration raids as an opportunity to defend and justify illegal immigration.
This is incredibly sad and speaks volumes about just how far we have gotten from the time when virtually everyone agreed that those seeking to come to this country should come to this country the right way. After all, we are a nation of immigrants, but also a nation of laws.
Of course, we can certainly change our immigration laws to make them even more generous, but it must be done through the legislative bodies to ensure that the American people have had a chance to weigh in on the process.
The current immigration system has certainly changed since my family moved to this country from Cuba seeking political asylum in the 1960’s. I’m grateful that my parents made that difficult choice to come to this country. I can only imagine how agonizing the decision-making process was for them, as they weighed the risks of leaving everything behind, including their families and loved ones, to flee and start again from scratch.
Today, all parents are familiar at some level with weighing the costs of our choices and how they will affect the entire family. We pray for wisdom and do our best. We ask ourselves whether taking a new job makes sense and if it’s worthwhile to move our entire family if it means transferring our children to a new school. We wonder if it is worth the risk of starting a new business, or making a certain investment, or even returning to school if it means that we may be able to get a new, better-paying job.
Outside the United States, parents are weighing decisions too. In Latin America, there are some who are deciding whether it is worth risking their children’s lives to immigrate to this country illegally. They must be asking themselves if it is worth taking their young children on a treacherous journey through Mexico, and then coming to grips with the real possibility of breaking up the family if they are detained in the United States for disregarding our nation’s laws.
Sadly, many parents in Latin America are saying yes, it is worth the risk and the possible consequences that come from this decision.
While some choose to ignore this reality, Latinos for Tennessee will continue to affirm the positive benefits of immigration, but we are also going to underscore the importance of the rule of law. Both are indispensable to the character of our nation.
It’s worth noting that many other countries don’t have the same respect for the rule of law that we do here in the United States. Ours is the world’s oldest constitution; in contrast, Latin American countries have had a difficult time maintaining constitutions, creating fertile ground for dictatorships and autocracies. We have the responsibility to communicate why the rule of law is crucial to our democracy and to our identity as the land of freedom and opportunity.
Part of this means that parents need to take responsibility for their actions. This includes Latin American families thinking about moving to the United States illegally.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Congress does not have a responsibility to enact meaningful immigration reform. Unfortunately, Democrats in Congress haven’t shown signs of wanting to cooperate with Republicans to craft meaningful and permanent immigration reforms that both respect the rule of law and affirm legal immigration.
In my role as the Executive Director of Latinos for Tennessee, I see how critical it is to discuss and explain and communicate the principles that make our nation exceptional. Our group will continue to affirm and promote faith, family, freedom and fiscal responsibility to our growing Latino community in Tennessee.
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Raul Lopez is executive director for Latinos for Tennessee, an organization committed to promoting faith, family, freedom and fiscal responsibility to the Latino community living in Tennessee.