Good discussionsPublished 11:07am Friday, April 19, 2013
It is good to see so many Austin residents recently speak out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, and we commend local advocates for getting involved in the process.
Local residents have grappled with immigration-related issues for the past 10 years, as more residents from places like Mexico, Vietnam, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Burma come to the area every day. In that time, there has been an unspoken undercurrent of misunderstanding and prejudice for new residents who may not share the same traditions longtime residents hold dear.
It’s not so long ago that undercurrent manifested as anti-immigration protests led by former resident Samuel Johnson, a one-time National Socialist Movement member who was sentenced to 15 years in prison last year on charges relating to a planned attack on the Mexican Consulate in St. Paul.
Yet local residents have also seen a lot of positive discussion on immigration and diversity, with events like the Taste of Nations and organizations like the Welcome Center of Austin and the Austin Human Rights Commission getting people from different backgrounds to meet each other and discuss issues like what it means to be a refugee in a foreign country.
Yet immigration is and always has been a federal issue, immune to local whims and laws. Many in our community know or have met someone who is or was an undocumented resident. Your neighbor, regardless of skin color, could have come to the U.S. illegally for a reason they felt was worth the risk of being arrested and deported. They are part of a group of more than 11 million people here illegally, and like it or not, they make up a significant portion of the U.S.
That’s why community leaders spoke to federal legislators about immigration reform. That’s why college students shared their stories and the stories of people they know with state legislators who are debating whether to give undocumented students the right to in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. Whatever your opinion is on immigration, it is an issue legislators must deal with, as it has local consequences.
As such, it is important Austin residents continue to speak out, and share their stories and views with our leaders to enact a significant change to an obtuse system that ignores the reality of our national demographic makeup. This issue affects everyone in tangible ways, through personal connections and economic impacts. It is fitting, therefore, that Austin residents make their views heard, in order to enact federal changes which could have a significant local impact.