Thousands of innocent dependents of undocumented immigrants are hurting today due to recent measures by Indiana government officials. Frustrated by the inaction of the federal government to stem the tide of illegal immigration to Indiana, state authorities have taken matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, as many as 40,000 innocent children are suffering in the shadows from these poorly conceived schemes. Crusaders against “illegals” may callously dismiss concerns for these voiceless victims, saying that all the blame belongs to their parents and guardians for bringing these children here in the first place. However, a dispassionate look at this situation reveals that our government should also be held responsible for this suffering.
Look the Other Way
For more than twenty years, we have allowed thousands of immigrants to come and live in our state. We received them with Hoosier hospitality, and they eagerly became a part of the fabric of our communities, building our houses, caring for our lawns, serving in our restaurants, and paying income taxes. They married and established families.
The way we have responded communicated that we accepted them and affirmed their decision to integrate into our communities and lives. We required minimum paperwork for them to get a driver’s license and to work in our factories, banks, and other businesses. Over the years, they have severed ties with their countries of origin and have held on to their dream of becoming American citizens, while their paperwork has piled up in our immigration offices. Their children, a growing number who are American born citizens, became friends with our children and many have excelled in our schools.
Use a Big Stick
Then a year ago, frustrated by the failure of the federal government to enact immigration reform in the face of a growing tide of immigrants, Indiana officials decided to take matters into their own hands. Hoosier hospitality morphed into Hoosier hostility. Legislators hotly debated a bill authored by Senator Mike Delph (Carmel), designed to run many immigrant workers out of the state. Then in the late winter (early 2008) the Bureau of Motor Vehicles suspended as many as 55,000 drivers’ licenses based on more stringent requirements. More recently, raids have been carried out on businesses that hire Hispanic workers, and drivers have been stopped to check for licenses in areas with a greater Hispanic presence. Meanwhile, Delph promises to continue to push his punitive proposal in the upcoming legislative session.
Unfortunately, these heavy handed strategies target all undocumented immigrants without differentiating between those whom we’ve allowed to put down roots among us from the flood of more recent arrivals. The more frequent stereotype of “illegals” portrays them as newly-arrived single young men standing in groups on street corners or running in gangs. We see them on the evening news being led out of factories in handcuffs or clandestinely crammed in the back of trucks and trailers.
But these images do not give us the complete picture of all those who are affected. Countless families who have lived among us for years have been driven into the shadows over the past year because of the ineptitude of our immigration system and these big stick measures of our state government. For many of them, returning to their homeland is no longer a viable option. With nowhere else to go and shrinking job opportunities, parents struggle to provide for their families and hesitate to seek help when problems arise. Far too often, hard working mothers and fathers are arrested and deported for no other reason than that they no longer have their documents in order. Families are torn apart. As a result, thousands of their children and innocent dependents are suffering.