There's no touchier subject in my city right now than law enforcement's handling of illegal immigrants. The mayor, county sheriff, chief of police, officers, and citizens have widely opinionated and territorial views. A panel of "experts" was recently created to come up with a new policy on how city police officers are to handle the immigration status of those we interact with.
I went to pick up my kids from school today saw a little boy I knew walking out of the school. His name is Ednick and was in my daughter's kindergarten class last year. When I met him he only spoke a few words of English and sat terrified among his classmates. Luckily, a few other students were bilingual and helped translate the teacher's instructions. Ednick was incredibly friendly and had a desire to learn like no other kid in the class. When I came to school in my police uniform a few times, he was mesmerized. When I talked to him, I could see genuine respect and admiration in his eyes. From that day on he always greeted me and would even tell other kids around him proudly, "He's a police!" By the end of that year Ednick was one of the top readers in the class and was well on his way to living the American dream.
As I approached him today, he smiled and opened his arms for the customary hug and knuckle-up greeting. "Hi, Ednick. How are you today?", I asked. "I'm good", he answered. I knew he usually met his grandmother at the school entrance and walked home with her.
"Waiting for your grandma?", I ask.
"No.", he replied sadly. "The police come to my house and take her away to Mexico."
He looked at me sadly and I wondered if he held me accountable in some way. I don't know the circumstances of his gramma's deportation or which law enforcement agency was involved. To a 7 year old, however, all 'police' are the same. I didn't know what to say except, "I'm sorry." How do you explain federal immigration laws to a kid who just saw his gramma hauled away?
It's obviously against the law to enter our country unlawfully (hence the term "Illegal Immigrant") but I have an unsettling feeling when I think about the tougher new deportation standards. I'm not saying it's okay to ignore the laws of this country. In fact, I took an oath to uphold them and have every intention of doing so. But have you ever tried to look at it from their perspective?
What would you do if you were born in an impoverished town with no means of obtaining reliable work, education, or a respectable standard of living? What if you had children, parents, a spouse, siblings, or other family that relied on you for support? Would you risk your life, crossing a desert or paying a human smuggler to transport you to a better place? Although unlawful, I can picture myself doing whatever was necessary to support my family.One of my fellow officers and personal friend Nick was killed by an illegal immigrant last September. Articles and commentary about his death were sure to relate illegal aliens with soaring crime rates. In my city, illegal alien bashing is a popular bandwagon to jump on. But why didn't the media speak this way about the Officer Cortez murderer. I didn't hear anything in the news about his citizenship (he was a Hispanic U.S. citizen). Why weren't American born Hispanics lambasted for being felons? Why is it certain groups are targeted and vilified when a member of the group commits crime when other times, the perpetrator's background is ignored?
It reminds me of Michael Moore's film 'Bowling for Columbine' about the teenagers that killed fellow high school students in Colorado. The media was quick to blame the rock group Marilyn Manson since this was the music the killers were listening to. Moore points out the killers were also involved in a bowling class in high school. He asked why the media wasn't targeting bowlers for their inclination to become murderers.
The solution to illegal immigration is not an easy one. They're not all bad people. Many times these 'illegals' have rushed to help me push a disabled car out of the roadway in the blazing heat (no 'regular' citizen has ever helped me do this). I've seen generosity, compassion, honesty, and plain old goodness from them.
I don't know what everyone else thinks about when they encounter an illegal immigrant but hre's what I think about:
(7 year-old Ednick) "Mister, tell the other police not to take my gramma away."