City Community Services Administrator Kica Matos made few extreme propositions when she addressed the Yale Political Union on this topic last week. She didn’t call to make Spanish a national language; she didn’t want to return California to Mexico. She also didn’t propose a change to the federal immigration law. Those are federal issues.
Matos did argue for the city of New Haven to do its job. As the driving force behind the Elm City ID card — which effectively provides city services to illegal immigrants — she only argued that the city government should help the police fight crime and alleviate severe destitution among fellow residents of our city.
The life of an immigrant is difficult. Those without documentation are constantly mugged, mistreated by employers, and bullied by landlords. As they are paid in cash and are afraid of reporting crimes to the police, they can hardly prevent themselves from functioning as “walking ATMs” to anyone with a weapon.
The New Haven identification card makes life just a little bit easier. The card acts as an ID and a restricted-use debit card and goes hand-in-hand with a general order on the New Haven police not to enforce federal immigration laws. All of these things allow our neighbors to integrate themselves into our society without actually violating federal law.
The far Right would segregate the Hispanic immigrant population. Extreme reactionaries fear that any accommodation will attract more illegal immigrants, as if they would flock from southern Mexico to work as unskilled laborers because they hear they can now get a New Haven library card. I argue that human beings should be treated like human beings and that a city government should deal with its own city’s problems without having to worry about deadlocked national politics.
The Elm City ID card doesn’t prevent the Federal government from dealing with immigration and doesn’t endorse the process of illegally crossing the border. However, as it stands, undocumented immigrants make up almost 10 percent of New Haven’s population. We must stop pretending they don’t exist.
Sam Bagg ’09 is a member of the Independent Party