Comment: Great Wall of Arizona

09:36, July 30, 2010      

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Luis Vega is a Spanish language training provider in Los Angeles who holds a Bachelors of Arts(Journalism/Television Production),Columbia College, Los Angeles, California.

By Luis Vega

Although the United States of America is a nation of immigrants like all other countries in the world, it does not treat all immigrants equally. There have been periods in its history when certain groups appear to be penalized over others. Such is the case with the controversial Arizona state law S.B. 1070, which is set to be implemented on July 29. It will have an especially negative impact on the Latino community much like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that kept Chinese immigrants out of the country for decades despite their contribution to building California.

Like Latinos today, in 1860, the Chinese were the largest immigrant group in California and the law that started in the state eventually found national support. But just as the legendary Great Wall of China was not completely successful in stopping nomadic regional tribes from entering mainland China, Arizona's state law S.B. 1070 in 2010 will not stop Latino immigrants from continuing to migrate north seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families.

Ancient cultures have had a fascination for building walls and making laws to keep outsiders excluded for thousands of years. The Romans, the Egyptians and the Chinese have done so. But it happened during periods when societies still were at lower stages of development, and even then the plans failed. History has taught us that commerce, cultural exchange and migration enrich societies.

This is especially true for countries like the United States, which were built on the sacrifice and hard work of generations of immigrants from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Most Arizonans, 65 percent, support the law as is. It makes the failure to carry legal immigration documents a crime and gives police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

The law on paper sounds like a reasonable attempt to protect the border and control migration. Yet the problem lies in the fact that, like the Chinese Exclusion Act, foreign or immigrant status would apply to a vast group of people simply based on their ethnicity. If you look Latino in Arizona you can be questioned just as in 1882 if you were Chinese, you were denied entry.

The life of the immigrant has never been easy. This reality has been constant throughout different geographical regions and times. But modern times in modern countries have raised the bar and our expectations as we have learned what affects one ethnic underclass eventually can have a negative effect on others in a domino effect of insensitivity, intolerance and xenophobia.

It would be a mistake to legally build the metaphorical "Great Wall of Arizona" in the assumption a state law can stop a federal problem. It cannot. But it succeeded in raising the problem of uncontrollable illegal migration in the southern border of the United States to the top of the national agenda, while allowing a global audience to witness how our country creates its laws.

This article is a People's Daily Online exclusive.

The article represents the author's views only. It does not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.


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