Proyecto Visión 21

How dangerous is mixing immigration with race and religion?

sometimes even irrational. But during the last few weeks two “new” elements have been thrown into the mix, race and religion, creating an even more difficult environment for any conversation about immigration.

Last week, the representative of a group of Mexican citizens now living in Utah sent a letter to President Felipe Calderon asking him to stop issuing visas to missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), because several legislators of that faith in Utah and in Arizona sponsor anti-immigrant laws.

The letter, a five-page document, only received an acknowledgment of receipt by the Mexican government. Among the lists of reason to cancel the visas for Mormons, the writers of the letter listed the fact that most Mexicans (and most Latinos) are Catholic and mix-race, while most Mormons are White.

The discussion, then, shifted from the legal aspects of the proposed anti-immigration bills to a request to a diplomatic retaliation with similar measures based on the differences of race and religion, as a way to solve the difficult situation a group of foreign residents face in Utah.

I sympathize and understand the desire of stopping the implementation of bills inspire don the SB1070 law enacted by Arizona last year. I think the constitutionality of that law has not been established. At the same time, I think it is at best unwise and at worst dangerous to use immigration arguments based mostly on race and religion.

In fact, those arguments have been use by previous American administrations precisely to implement anti-immigrant measures. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 is a good example. The act was repealed in 1943, due to World War II.

We should also mention the manner Irish and Italian immigrants were treated during the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century just because they were Catholic. Remember the debate about the loyalties of President Kennedy?

And after 2001, the followers of one of the great religions of the world, Islam, unfortunately become suspects because the follow that faith and they dress in a certain way. There are numerous stories in the media proving that point.

I am not Catholic, Mormon, or Muslim, neither am I Mexican, Italian, or Arab. I am just concern that the response to untenable nativist attitudes is questionable nativist attitudes, because we are at risk of interrupting all dialogue and escalating the conflict.

I understand and share the need to unmask the hypocrisy of those who proclaim the follow and certain faith, but then they don’t show in their lives the love and compassion preached by that faith. But we need to be honest and acknowledge hypocrisy is not confined to only one religion. The proverbial “bad apples” can be found inside any religion.

It is already difficult enough to talk just about immigration. If we now add race and religion, the dialogue will be almost impossible.

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