During the Republican debates before the last presidential election, Governor Rick Perry defended the fact that Texas provides in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants by accusing his critics of being heartless, or in his words, “I don’t think you have a heart!”
Governor Perry’s words echo in my mind every time I hear or see one of the ubiquitous campaign commercials for the forthcoming primary election. I am referring to the fact that the commercials invariably contain a demeaning reference to immigrants seeking a better life in America.
Promises to “defend our borders”, “oppose amnesty” make it sound like our nation must be defended from an invasion by a mob of hardened criminals determined to undermine our way of life, instead of men and women desperate to find a way to support a family and provide a better future.
This is nothing new. One does not have to look very far back in our history to find similar treatment of Irish and German immigrants who were depicted as drunken thugs determined to mongrelize America and destroy the culture envisioned by the founding fathers.
Similar charges were made against immigrants from southern and Eastern European immigrants who came a generation later resulting in the enactment of draconian immigration laws that proclaimed loudly “don’t send me your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free for I have quenched my lamp and slammed the golden door.”
Of course it must be said that the campaign commercials also mercilessly attack other candidates implying that anyone who does not share a particular political ideology cannot possibly be of good will and probably is guilty of some nefarious scheme.
These commercials do not address the important issues facing our state and country. Like those draconian immigration laws, they show no compassion or respect for human dignity. My reaction to them causes me to paraphrase Governor Perry’s response to his detractors and ask, “Have we no heart?”