On a routine Sunday not so very long ago, I was running errands in my neighborhood when a Suburban ran a solid red light and slammed into me. The force of the jolt spun my Nissan around 180 degrees.
My heart skipped a beat; my brain stalled like it was in some sort of dream sequence. Once the car came to rest, I took a deep breath and mentally prepared myself to face the inevitable aftermath.
The driver of the Suburban was a young, illegal immigrant from Mexico. He had no driver's license, no auto insurance, no documentation of any kind and the vehicle was not even his. By the time I exited my car to survey the scene, about 30 Latinos had already descended upon the accident scene. I, however, found myself shaken and alone. As I looked around the chaos and confusion, I realized, most assuredly, that I had become a foreigner in my own land.
In the weeks that followed, my mother, a Spanish language teacher, inundated me with articles and literature highlighting the positive influences of Latinos in the United States. "Not to worry", I assured her. I did not blame the Latino population for what happened to me; I blamed the system.
I love the diversity of living in a big city, of living in California, of living in the United States, but countries have borders for a reason. America's borders are stretching to their outer limits - much like our waistlines.
I do not know the answers to the big questions in the immigration debate, but what I do know is that illegal immigration hurts everyone. Illegal immigrants risk their lives every day trying to get into our borders.
Many find out that it's not much easier here than it was in the country they left. The ones that make it, don't ever want to be discovered, lest they be deported. One broken rule leads to other broken rules, and pretty soon, you have the guy that hit me.
With so many people trying to cross over into the United States illegally, I often think about the issues that bring a U.S. citizen to emigrate from this country. It does not take much of my imagination. I've dabbled with the idea myself.
As a young U.S. citizen, when I try to get basic health care, I'm turned away because I don't have health insurance. In California, emergency rooms cannot afford to stay open and even the "free" clinics are booked due to citizens and illegal immigrants competing for the same resources.
When I look to other countries, I see their governments abiding by a more egalitarian perspective. Citizens have access to the basic health care and the government mandates several weeks of paid vacation. While the Europeans and those in other nations around the world engage in intelligent and leisurely conversation, we Americans cash in our quality of life in exchange for things that don't matter much. Americans toil away and routinely give up what vacation time we do have for fear of falling behind. We're so focused on getting ahead and achieving some mythical level of success that we don't even have time to know about life beyond our own borders, much less experience it through travel. We work harder and harder - at the expense of our families and our children.
In the coming years, America has a lot of fixing to do. We can compete against each other, but how long can we compete against ourselves? To illegal immigrants and U.S. citizens alike, I ask you: Is this really living?
In these times of the Iraq War, when America's reputation around the world is at an all-time low, many Americans seemingly feel alienated by their own government.
Clearly, our government needs to focus more on the issues we face here, within our own borders. Our leaders also need to understand how their policies and political decisions affect the future of the United States on an international scale.
WORLD - AN EDGE IN MY VOICE
Copyright © 2010 KLiedle
California Borders - The American Experience
Copyright © 2010 KLiedle
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