Hey, Murrieta, shame on you.
Yeah, I know. Illegal means illegal. Thanks for clarifying. And your community has its own challenges without detained immigrants arriving by the busload and no clear plan as to what will become of them. That’s all fair comment.
But still, shame on those of you with bulging veins, clenched fists and hot-blooded hatred.
Juxtaposed against the simplistic and ugly “go back home” rhetoric spouted in the streets of Murrieta this week are the horrific realities of some of the human beings – women and children, no less – aboard those buses.
Take a look at today’s L.A. Times story by Tracy Wilkinson and photographer Michael Robinson Chavez about Guatemalan sisters who tried unsuccessfully, by river raft, to come north. Their father and grandfather had been murdered and they were trying to reunite with their mother, who had fled to North Carolina for work. Their country is in a state of terror and chaos, with gangs in charge and savage assaults commonplace, a situation so bad that our worst neighborhoods seem like safe havens by comparison.
What American would not attempt to flee such a situation and find a safer place for his or her children?
And let’s not forget that the influx of immigrants is no accident. The reasons for Central American and Mexican economic and social distress are complex and many, but the United States is a historic partner in the failures of that region of the world. We’ve supported corrupt and oppressive regimes for our own economic gain and we’ve priced foreign farmers out of business by subsidizing American agriculture.
And then there’s the insatiable American hunger for drugs -- one of the more destabilizing forces south of our borders.
Standing in the street screaming at buses is, to a degree, blaming the victims of our own policies and failings. We’ve sent mixed messages on immigration for decades through shamefully hypocritical policy, with conservatives lusting after cheap labor and liberals under-estimating the social costs of the influx. Sensible compromise remains insanely out of reach.
What if we’d redirected billions blown on a failed drug war into schools and job creation to make our own neighborhoods safer and more prosperous? What if we’d invested in stabilizing Latin American governments rather than blowing $1 trillion in an Iraq war debacle that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and created more chaos?
Those are the questions to scream from the top of your lungs if you’re going to take to the streets, rather than shake a fist at busloads of people whose natural driving force is survival. Had I been in their shoes, I’d have been the first one on the river raft.
Steve Lopez is a Times columnist. Read more Steve Lopez columns here.
Follow Steve Lopez on Twitter @LATstevelopez.