Community groups and businesses tackle immigration issues
by Catherine J. Rourke
First published in January, 2006
“Befriend the immigrant, for you yourselves were once immigrants.” Deuteronomy 10:17-19
We drive by them every morning in West Sedona, gathered along the fence at Windsong Trailer Park in the hope of earning a few hours’ pay. We see them carpooling to their jobs in construction or as hotel housekeepers, janitors and landscapers. We pass them in supermarket aisles and at the gas pumps as they pour their earnings back into the local economy.
We don’t hear their voices at city council meetings nor in letters to the editors of local newspapers. They are a silent workforce majority whose labor fuels the engines of tourism and spins the economic wheels of the Verde Valley.
They are new patriots in our midst, striving to assimilate themselves into the American way of life and trying to live like a gringo in Sedona. They are our hard-working, life-loving, undocumented immigrant workers from Mexico.
They are not merely “illegals;” they are human beings with wants and dreams. Yet their need to flee Mexico’s social and economic oppression led to more than 1 million border arrests last year and Gov. Janet Napolitano declaring a state of emergency in Arizona.
Illegal immigration has become the scourge of 21st century America, and Arizona hovers in the forefront of the raging battlefield.
Immigration by the numbers
An estimated 34 million immigrants now reside in the U.S., about one-third of them illegally, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. More than 60 percent of these 12 million illegals are Mexicans. More than half a million undocumented immigrants reside in Arizona, ranking it as one of the states with the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation.
According to Harvard economists, Mexicans represent the single largest group of U.S. immigrants, an historically unprecedented number larger than any other immigrant influx in the past century. Among men, about 1 in 20 U.S. workers is now a Mexican immigrant, and that number is even higher in border states such as Arizona and California.
More than 82 percent of Hispanics in Arizona are of Mexican origin, and 44 percent of these are immigrants. Of these, 61 percent are undocumented, and the number of illegal immigrants in Yavapai County still remains as undocumented as their citizenship – or lack thereof.
Harvey Grady, president of the Cultural Diversity Council, stated in his report “The Changing Face of Arizona” that between 1990 and 2000, the Hispanic population grew 137 percent in Yavapai County and 179 percent in the Verde Valley. By 2000, one in four Arizonans was Hispanic and within the next 40 years, Hispanics will represent the largest population group in Arizona.
Sedona and the surrounding Verde Valley's Hispanic population more than doubled in the past decade, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. Yet statistics on undocumented workers in the Verde Valley remain as undocumented as the immigrants themselves.
Since the vast majority of Mexican workers lack a high school diploma (63 percent for men, 57 percent for women), they inevitably land low-wage jobs such as laborers, farm workers, janitors, resort maintenance and food service personnel. In 2000, their average wages were 41 percent lower than that of the average American worker, providing businesses across the nation with a cheap labor force.
A study by the Pew Hispanic Center found that inflation-adjusted weekly earnings for all Hispanics (foreign and American-born) dropped by 2.2 percent in 2003 and 2.6 percent in 2004.
Similarly, the more poor immigrants, the harder it will be for schools to improve the skills of their children. The schools will be overwhelmed; the same goes for social services.
In 2001 Mexican immigrants had an estimated $3.86 billion in purchasing power and their estimated tax contribution in Arizona was approximately $356 million in 2001. They spent approximately $1.5 billion in mortgages and rent that year in Arizona. And illegal immigrants reportedly contribute $7 billion per year into the Social Security fund.
A recent story in The New York Times reported that more than 75 percent of the nation’s day laborers are illegal immigrants, most from Mexico and employed by homeowners and construction contractors. More than half said that employers had cheated them out of their fair wages. The study also found that these immigrant laborers faced an incredibly high incidence of wage violations and dangerous conditions.
“This is a labor market that thrives on cheap wages and the fact that most of these workers are undocumented and extremely vulnerable,” the report stated. “Employers know that and take advantage of them.”
According to the Southwest Center for Economic Integrity, a Tucson organization that fosters economic justice by promoting greater understanding of economic policies and practices, the day-labor industry is rife with “exploitative and unfair practices” that target immigrants and the working poor. Locally, more than half of the city’s day laborers are employed by individuals rather than companies for landscaping and construction work. In 2004, Arizonans voted in favor of a law that prohibits municipalities from offering services to illegal aliens.
A heated debate
There are many myths and realities about immigration and the debate over it is heating up across America and especially in Arizona, where tensions are soaring over day labor centers, vigilante groups and border crossings resulting in increasing deaths, especially among women and children.
In 2005 Congress enacted a law designed to prevent aliens from getting state drivers’ licenses while a group known as the “Minutemen” drew nationwide attention for its volunteer patrols of the Mexican border. Now both federal and state legislators are drafting proposals that deal with illegal immigration and pose a labor threat to businesses and local economies that have come to rely on it for its workforce.
On the national level, Congress is considering two immigration reform proposals. The Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (HR2330), jointly introduced by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), is a comprehensive bill that addresses all aspects of immigration reform. It is enthusiastically supported by many social justice and interfaith organizations as the most realistic solution for local communities.
The other significant bill, the Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act (S1438), introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.), is known as the “Report and Deport” bill because it offers no worker protections, no citizenship pathways for undocumented residents or guest workers and would keep families divided. According to many immigrant advocacy groups, the Cornyn bill would perpetuate worker exploitation and drive undocumented immigrants already working and living in local communities further underground because they would never come out of the shadows and register with the government only to be fined and deported.
Proposed bills in the House include the Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act (HR2092), which is similar to HR 2330 except for a lack of increasing employer sanctions and no new guest worker component, and the Real Guest Act (HR 3333), which echoes the Cornyn bill’s harsh “report and deport” position.
Americans for Border and Economic Security is a new coalition initiated by the Bush administration with the support of Wal-Mart, Micrososoft Corp., large food service and hospitality chains, special interest groups and industries that employ low-wage immigrant workers. It costs anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 to join this coalition that is feverishly shaping public opinion by promoting enforcement policies such as guest worker programs and increased security along the 1,951-mile Mexican border.
And finally, in a gesture of total hypocrisy, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently declared “Close the borders!” in full Terminator fashion, voting for anti-immigration legislation after he himself went through the immigration process to live the American dream.
Governor Napolitano has proposed a four-part, $100 million plan to crack down on illegal immigration, with measures to strengthen border security, establish a guest worker program, reform Mexico’s economic system to end the flow of illegal migration and impose substantial fines on employers who intentionally hire illegal immigrants.
The state Legislature began its opening session with a slew of intimidating immigration-related bills akin to a Gestapo field manual that include HCR2037, which would build a barricade fence along Arizona’s 385-mile southern border at the cost of $1 million per mile.
The Berlin Wall, like London Bridge, has seemingly found its way to the Grand Canyon State and a new Cold War looms ahead as immigration issues threaten to tear the nation into its greatest schism since the Civil War while launching the greatest witch hunt of individuals since the 1600s.
Among the sordid pile of 30-plus proposed bills: HB2003, which calls for $6 million to pay for a dirt road along the border; HB2578, which appropriates $50 million for border radar; HB2298, which would organize the Minutemen into an official volunteer patrol organization; HB2582, which authorizes $50 million for the investigation, detention and removal of aliens; SB1157, which makes being here a crime of trespassing and a class 6 felony for the first time; SB 1216, which subjects employers to fines up to $5,000 for hiring undocumented employees; SB 1158, which awards $75 million for law-enforcement agency grants; HB2577, which can revoke a business license and allows for a bounty if one reports an undocumented person; and SB 1159, which allocates $40 million to build two prisons on the border to house illegal aliens instead of sending them back home.
Add all those millions and one can only question if they couldn’t be put to better use. How about social reform programs across the border, such as maquiladora reformation, instead of constructing prisons, roads and walls on pristine desert land? How about readdressing the host of agreements that has trashed the economic well-being of workers across the globe?
And then there’s the great granddaddy, HB2073, a one-stop-shop bill that allows police to question one’s immigration status and prohibits undocumented people from renting homes or getting workman’s compensation, among a host of other provisions.
What kind of society are we creating with so many brutal bills? One that criminalizes hard-working immigrants and drives them further underground? One that criminalizes employers for filling unskilled jobs that educated Americans shun? Perhaps we would do better to bid the words: “You shall have one law for him who is native born among the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwells among them (Numbers 15:29).”
Some legislators, including Georgia Sen. Sam Zamarripa (D-Atlanta), feel that such laws should be decided on the federal level. “I would no more try to solve the problem of illegal immigration by using the state legislature than I would declare war on Mexico,” Zamarripa said. “Let’s give U.S. Congress six months to figure this out.”
Arizona Sen. John McCain and Congressmen Jake Flake and Jim Kolbe, with support of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and some labor unions, are supporters of the controversial guest worker program backed by President Bush as a legal way for undocumented immigrants to remain in the country. But other unions, such as the AFL-CIO, and political leaders, such as Scottsdale Congressman J.D. Hayworth, worry that such a program would displace jobs for Americans in favor of cheap immigrant labor.
“We must not surrender to the illegal invasion of our country," Hayworth said. "A guest worker plan is unfair to American workers and would lead to a permanent underclass of workers separated from the rest of America by language, culture and income."
The human side of immigration
The Cultural Diversity Council of the Verde Valley (www.verdeconnections.com) recently hosted a presentation “The Human Side of Immigration” with immigration attorney Emilia Banuelas and co-sponsored by Cornucopia Community Advocates, the Sedona-Verde Valley League of Women Voters, Yavapai College, Sustainable Arizona and the Latin American Center of Northern Arizona.
Designed to help the community value the contributions made by diverse groups to the economic, social and spiritual strength of the region, the council conducted the event to unravel the controversy of uncontrolled immigration and to discuss alternative solutions.
Banuelas outlined how current laws punish immigrants, such as the deportation of parents who have to leave behind their children born in the United States, and how $1,000 fees for green cards prevent many from entering the country legally.
“We’re dealing with a process that worked 30 years ago but doesn’t work now,” she said, citing the 1996 immigration reform laws that have made life nearly impossible for untold numbers of illegal immigrants fleeing social and economic strife in Mexico. “The laws that enabled immigrants to obtain green cards and apply for citizenship have changed and are no longer so. According to Banuelas, these laws bred “non-compassionate judges” who thereby slammed the door on countless immigrants becoming legal U.S. citizens.
“Our immigration laws are broken and need to be fixed,” she declared. “The system is literally destroying lives.”
Banuelas spent more than two hours deciphering the complex maze of immigration laws and fees that have made life a virtual nightmare for undocumented workers in the U.S. “People desperately want to work,” she said. “They are doing what they can to survive in an impossible situation.”
This impossible situation, she said, leads to an increase in identity thefts, hit-and-run accidents, drug problems and overcrowded jails. It burdens hospitals, schools and every social service of society.
“No one wants to simply open the borders up to everyone and building a huge fence across the border manned with armed guards isn’t the answer,” she said. “We just want fair and just laws. It really scares me; I’ve never seen Americans so filed with hatred. They only seem to hear about the crime but never about the good contributions to the economy and community that Mexican immigrants are making. Go to any hotel, restaurant or construction site in Arizona and you’ll find it exploding with undocumented workers.”
Banuelos emphasized that Mexicans are flocking to the U.S. not just for work and better opportunities, but because of what’s happening to Mexico’s social and economic culture. While so many manufacturing jobs are outsourced to Mexico, thanks to the trade agreements passed in the 1990s, workers are fleeing the maquiladoras’ abysmal pay and working conditions. This combined with tough immigration laws and exorbitant document fees create illegal immigrants, broken families and dire economic need.
“The truth needs to be told about this process,” she said. “Legislative proposals are merely Band-Aids that fail to address the real problem, which is government power and corporate greed. You would be amazed at how many educated, successful business people remain undocumented in this country.
According to Banuelos, what’s needed is more people speaking up about the problems and more debate, as well as major social reform in Mexico itself. Further compounding the workforce problem is the pressure for a higher education among Americans that results in a condescending disdain for blue collar jobs.
“Many employers tell us that they can’t find employees willing to do a job that Mexican immigrants are only too happy to jump on,” she said. “In American society today, you’re nothing without a college degree. That leaves very few willing to sweep floors for low wages.”
While undocumented immigrants take jobs that nobody else wants, they stand accused of depriving Americans of work and of lowering wage standards for the rest of the workforce.
Ongoing community efforts
Local businesses and community groups share the concerns of political and interfaith leaders and are providing resources and opportunities for Spanish-speaking immigrants to empower themselves.
Former advocacy attorney Tomas Bialet, publisher of El Latino, runs the Latin American Center of Northern Arizona (928-649-2588) in Cottonwood. It serves the Hispanic community by offering language, computer and citizenship classes, as well as counseling and other services.
Efforts are also underway to get the Hispanic population more involved in local leadership. The Hispanic Focus Group meets regularly at the Sedona Public Library (928-282-7714), where literacy, ESL and computer training classes are open to all Hispanics, whether they are documented citizens or not. Here they can discuss their issues and share resources in a safe environment.
“Any concerns about data being shared with immigration officials or services being denied are not an issue here,” said David Keeber, the library’s former executive director. “This is a private library that doesn’t report to government agencies. We are continually exploring and identifying services relevant to the Hispanic community in an effort to serve their needs.”
Business and worker concerns
Despite their efforts to offer better wages and benefits, some local employers claim they still cannot find enough workers for their operation. Sedona’s lack of affordable housing also translates into a high turnover in its workforce; many come here enjoy a better quality of life but few can hang on long enough to survive in the face of wages that average $6 to $8 per hour while the median home price averages $464,000.
According to the Arizona Dept. of Commerce Governor’s Council on Workforce Policy, the median hourly wage in Yavapai County remains the lowest of all the state’s rural counties other than Yuma and La Paz. At the same time, the education level of the average worker, who surprisingly possesses a bachelor’s degree or better, far surpasses most in the entire state.
Some economists attribute these alarming statistics to the influx of the cheap labor workforce of illegal immigrants from Mexico. The result is that Arizona’s tourism-based, low-wage workforce is quickly becoming a predominantly green-card one comprised of non-English speaking workers struggling to deliver proper customer service without the necessary language skills.
In turn, stagnant wages are creating unrest among workers in Arizona, where the median household income continues to decline each year. More than 74 percent of the state’s workers earning less than $7/hour are adults over age 20. And while Arizona’s poverty rate remains in the top quarter of the nation – its gas prices continue to soar above the rest of the nation’s.
A November 2005 headline in the Arizona Republic summed up the situation: “Arizona stagnant in well-being.” Many Arizonans blame it on immigration’s cheap labor lowering wages.
This could explain why a poll featured in the The Phoenix Business Journal found that 80 percent of the state’s registered voters support fines and sanctions against employers who unlawfully hire illegal immigrants. Still, this leaves many wondering: Who’s going to work in Sedona’s resort laundries and dig its construction ditches?
Char Beltran, former president/CEO of the Sedona-Oak Creek Chamber of Commerce, attended a meeting at the Governor’s office with state tourism leaders and chamber of commerce representatives to convey business concerns, especially from those impacted by tourism, regarding its stance on immigration reform. The chamber is also gathering feedback from its Tourism Bureau members regarding what components of the proposed immigration reform legislation they feel will have a positive or negative impact on Sedona so Beltran can present them to the governor and her chief of staff.
“The Chamber of Commerce understands the complexity and sensitivity of this issue,” Beltran said. “We hope the business community and the lawmakers in Arizona work together to find answers to difficult questions we are all facing regarding immigration.”
The Year of Social Justice
Former Sedona mayor Susan Solomon addressed members of the St. John Vianney Catholic Church congregation who gathered for a special presentation by Tricia Hoyt, director of the Office of Peace and Justice of the Diocese of Phoenix. Titled “The Key Message of Jesus: Social Justice,” its purpose was to encourage parishioners to identify ways they can put the Gospel into action during the church’s Year of Social Justice.
Outlining local city efforts to address social issues such as affordable housing and immigration, Solomon said, “Undocumented workers make up so much of our workforce but we don’t, as a city, have the legislative direction to change things because of the laws concerning these workers. We’re looking into ways to address it and the council always needs to be educated about these issues.”
Hoyt highlighted Catholic social teachings that embrace community solidarity, noting that immigration issues pose particular challenges for Arizonans. “We must find a way to use these teachings to acknowledge the invisible people in our communities such as the illegal alien or the silent busboy,” she said. “When we encounter Christ in that person and can learn to give them a voice and listen to them, that is when transformation begins.”
Hoyt used inspiring scripture passages to call for a closer look at the systems that cause impoverishment and shared updates on Catholic legislative advocacy efforts, as well as resources for local community organizing. “We must listen, really listen, to the stories from those living it,” she urged.
Martina Saucedo, director of the Hispanic Ministry at St. John Vianney Catholic Church (928-282-7545), has initiated that process with the formation of a leadership group to integrate the Hispanic community into the parish family. These ongoing efforts include a Spanish-language Mass on Sundays at 6 p.m., ESL classes, and a new outreach group to provide resources for undocumented immigrants and the Hispanic community, in general.
“We don’t feel welcome here, no matter where we go,” said Saucedo, who came to Sedona 18 years ago from Mexico. “Everybody sees us as different in every way and we don’t feel comfortable, even in a doctor’s office.” The greatest need, she said, is for more programs, education and resources, such as computer training, health care access and child care information.
“Every day I go by the day laborers at Windsong, all lined up with the hope of earning just a few hours pay,” Saucedo said. “It makes me cry to see them.”
The Arizona Interfaith Network consists of 150 member congregations, schools, unions, nonprofits and education associations “joined together to strengthen family and community in solidarity with others across lines of race, class and religion.” Instead of advocating for an open border, it pursues comprehensive, federal immigration reform that will allow families “to immigrate legally, safely and wholly as a family unit, to take on jobs that the United States needs them for.”
As local co-chair of the Northern Arizona Interfaith Council, an affiliate of AIN, as well as a member of the city’s Housing Commission, Sedona resident Linda Martinez states that immigration remains among her organizations’ top priorities because it embraces workforce and housing issues. She and other NAIC leaders, along with several local businesses, recently met with five state senators at the state capitol to discuss the local economic realities of immigration reform.
“We work together using spiritual-based principles for immigration reform,” said Martinez, who manages Shrader & Martinez Construction with her husband Ron. “As a result of this meeting, we learned that our legislators have limited information about the unintended economic consequences of the proposed anti-immigration bills.”
Martinez also noted that many local construction companies struggle to staff their crews. “We’re not raising our kids to be tradespeople anymore,” she said. “Everyone wants a college degree so the jobs fall to immigrant workers.”
Martinez said that the top concerns for local immigrants, with or without papers, include being accepted as members of the community and becoming legal citizens, as well as finding affordable housing, health care and child care.
“There’s a misconception about what immigrants take and contribute to the economy and their value to American enterprise,” she said. “But they are the invisible backbone of our tourist economy. We need a leader, and Arizona needs to step up and show the nation how to resolve the immigration issue.”
Martinez is a member of the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and has led Arizona’s participation in the New American Opportunity Campaign (www.cirnow.org)., which seeks to secure Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation on the national level. The organization posts such legislative updates, as well as immigration reform resource materials, on its Web site at www.arizonainterfaith.org/reform.
AIN is conducting Institutes of Public Life on immigration reform across the state in order to build understanding about the need for comprehensive immigration reform and in order to create a broad middle ground of support in Arizona.
AIN led Arizona’s participation in the New American Opportunity Campaign, seeking to secure Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation at the national level.
Dying to get in
Since the immigration law reform of the 1990s, more than 3,000 migrants have lost their lives crossing the border. Last year Border Patrol nabbed 577,418 illegals and intercepted 1.2 million people at the border and there were 411 deaths.
The mass exodus of Mexicans from their homeland and the ensuing debacle at the border, right down to immigration problems in local communities like Sedona, can all be traced back to U.S. foreign policy and trade agreements, such as NAFTA and CAFTA, which result in economic plight for workers worldwide.
Pete Dimas, author of Progress and a Mexican American Community's Struggle for Existence, wrote: "Immigrants have provided the cheap labor on which this whole part of the country has depended." And the demand for unskilled labor, he said, is likely to continue.
According to statistics from the Department of Labor, 13 of the 20 occupations in Arizona that will experience the highest growth from through 2012 employ unskilled workers. “Many of these jobs in food service or construction are now spurned by the native-born and are filled by illegal immigrants,” Dimas wrote. “The supply of unskilled labor looking northward is likely, if anything, to mount.”
Perhaps what Arizona needs is a realistic approach to immigration reform, one that paves the road to earned citizenship, family unification, labor protections for all workers and human rights for all individuals. Unfortunately, capitalism doesn’t fit into that equation.
Also stepping up with a faith-based platform on immigration and workplace reform for Arizona is Interfaith Worker Justice, a Chicago-based organization that recently opened a new chapter in Phoenix. A delegation of IWJ representatives has attempted to meet with management of Chas Roberts, a Phoenix construction firm allegedly abusing its largely Mexican immigrant workforce. Together with the company’s workers, IWJ delivered a powerful message that exploitation, such as reports of unpaid hours, unsafe conditions, verbal abuse, wrongful termination for voicing workplace concerns and denial of drinking water on the job, simply will not be tolerated.
Strangers no longer
In 2003, U.S. and Mexican bishops gathered in conference to address emigration issues. They drafted a document called “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope,” which not only offered reflections on Catholic social teachings about immigrant rights, but also addressed public policy responses and the root causes of migration.
The Church has consistently singled out economic inequality between nations as a global disorder that must be addressed. Within the United States-Mexico relationship, we have witnessed the application of economic policies that do not adequately take into account the welfare of individual proprietors who struggle to survive. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has harmed small businesses in Mexico, especially in the rural sector. Both nations should reconsider the impact of economic and trade agreements on persons who work hard at making a living through individual enterprises.”
Furthermore, the bishops concluded:
“Migration is a call to transform national and international social, economic, and political structures so that they may provide the conditions required for the development for all, without exclusion and discrimination against any person in any circumstance… the Church is the place where illegal immigrants are also recognized and accepted as brothers and sisters. It is the task of the various Dioceses actively to ensure that these people, who are obliged to live outside the safety net of civil society, may find a sense of brotherhood in the Christian community. Solidarity means taking responsibility for those in trouble. We call for legislatures of our two countries to effect a conscientious revision of the immigration laws and to establish a binational system that accepts migration flows, guaranteeing the dignity and human rights of the migrant. We encourage the media to support and promote a genuine attitude of welcoming toward migrants and immigrants.”
Although it represents a needed call to social justice, it unfortunately fails to spell out any suggestion of how such moral reform might occur. It presumes that governments, corporations, legislators, law enforcement personnel, and other agencies will demonstrate compassion and exercise a moral responsibility whose blatant absence caused the problem in the first place.
Evidently, the vices of capitalism and government corruption have taken hold in a society where morality has been replaced with rampant greed and excessive consumption, in both America as well as Mexico. Trade agreements continue to trash workers rights and their economic well-being. The plight of today’s Mexican immigrants, as with the overall demise of human and workers rights, is but one of the multitudinous reflections of the ongoing degradation of our civilization in the 20th century, along with health care, senior issues, women’s status, racial bigotry and the host of unresolved human travesties for which both political and spiritual leaders are at a loss to begin the vast mending process.
A new balance
“Economists and political leaders from both Mexico and the U.S. need to address Mexico’s socioeconomic problems, said Dr. Louis Getoff, a Sedona psychotherapist who attended the immigration and social justice presentations. “We should be looking at ways to help the Mexican people earn as good or as better a wage in their homeland as we are paying them here.”
The immigrants’ path through the desert invariably leads to low wages, not just for themselves but to lower wages for many American workers. Guest worker programs are marked by ruthless control of employees and punishment for defending their workplace rights. Forced separation of families, along with proposed detention and deportment policies, are no less callous than the Nazi procedures we now condemn. We scorn our old ways yet repeat them mercilessly and heartlessly in preparation for some future shameful show on the History Channel.
A complete overhaul of human society will only begin in the soul, and that spiritual revolution is going to unfortunately require great chaos and human suffering before positive transformation can evolve. History has already taught us that; perhaps we can only resolve immigration issues by turning back to Page 1 of human history and studying lessons that should have been already learned a long time ago.
In his book The Spirit of Community: Rights, Responsibilities and the Communitarian Agenda, author Amitai Etzioni calls for “the reawakening to a new balance” between our rights as individuals and our social responsibilities. He urges individuals to make small sacrifices in order to create large benefits for all. “America needs to move from me to we,” he writes.
Perhaps therein lies the spiritual start of a new social revolution, one that will recognize the human rights of all people. Until then, immigrants will simply remain “dying” to get in. Until then, they will be denied one of the most vital human rights – the right to community.
Due to issues of fear and language barriers, undocumented workers shied away from being interviewed for this article. When one was asked what they would say to the local community if they had a voice, one answered: “We’re human beings too. We don’t understand why we are treated so bad. We’re all equal in the eyes of God.”
Border Alliance for Human Rights - www.borderaction.org/ - 520-623-4944
American Civil Liberties Union - Immigrant Rights Project - www.aclu.org/ImmigrantsRights
Catherine Rourke is a public service journalist who writes investigative reports about socioeconomic, health care and work-life balance issues.
Editor's Note: The first publication of this story in 2005 ignited debate across the city among community groups and organizations, from the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and interfaith groups to the Sedona City Council, and fueled subsequent reports in other local papers following suit on the subject. The initial story also prompted an outpouring of letters from across the state.
COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE
Quite the comprehensive article and one long overdue in the local media! Well done and thanks for having the vision to get the ball rolling in our lethargic press and city council to tackle this ugly issue. No one wants to deal with it and yet everyone wants an undocumented Mexican to do the dirty work for next to nothing, then render them less than human as you so masterfully point out in your story. This is just the beginning of an outright civil war that is brewing across Arizona and Sedona is certainly the epicenter with all our resorts and tourism-based businesses.
My family emigrated here from Europe in the earlier part of the last century, so I can certainly relate to the quotation at the beginning of the article. Isn't that what this whole issue boils down to? The hatred must end.
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