My hands were shaking.
I fumbled with my phone, almost dropping it in my attempt to send her a text message:
“ARE YOU OKAY?!?!?”
Liz, a close friend of mine who I met while interning on Capitol Hill last summer, was running in the Boston Marathon. I later found out that she crossed the finish line a mere ten minutes before the bombs went off. Little had she known, like hundreds of others that day, that she had been running for her life.
It would be an understatement to say that events of this magnitude have a significant impact on how society operates in the aftermath. Individuals, more often than not, process certain situations differently than they might have before. At least, that’s what happened to me.
I consider myself a person who is not only accepting of others’ cultures and religious beliefs, but who wholeheartedly embraces them and I usually go out of my way to learn more about them.
Yet, as I was walking through one of the buildings on campus today, I noticed a man in the corner with his prayer rug out, observing one of the Muslim prayer times.
Without even thinking about it, an internal alarm went off and I felt my heart beat a little faster than it had been before. It was this reaction that sparked serious reflection on why it was I felt this way and how these feelings of fear are influencing the current debate on immigration.
According to CNN.com, in a letter to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Paul Rand (R-KY) wrote:
“Why did the current system allow two individuals to immigrate to the United States from… an area known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, who then committed acts of terrorism?”
While this could be considered a legitimate question, I have another one:
Why is it that an American-born citizen would go into a school and shoot innocent children?
Some will say that there was no way of preventing the Newtown shooting. Allegations of intelligence community failure aside, the same can be made about Boston Marathon bombings.
The real question is whether or not stereotyping can be justified.
I really don’t think so. If that were the case, we could look back and justify the Japanese American internment camps during WWII. There is no way of knowing what an individual human being might do, regardless of their origin: place of birth or religion.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) stated at the Senate immigration hearing on Monday:
“Last week, opponents of comprehensive immigration reform began to exploit the Boston marathon bombing. I urge restraint in that regard… Let no one be so cruel as to try to use the heinous attacks of these two young men last week to derail the dreams and futures of millions of hard-working people.”
Although certain senators may be using the Boston tragedy as a reason to push for delays, the same is probably not the case for people around the country who are genuinely concerned about who exactly it is that we’re allowing to cross our borders. To these individuals I would say:
We cannot allow fear to skew our perceptions.
Fear should never trump conviction.
Comprehensive immigration reform affects millions. According to the Pew Research Center, 50% of arrivals are from Latin America followed by 27% from Asia. An even smaller percentage comes from countries that are characteristically Muslim.
Yet, even that is beside the point. What happened in Boston was horrific, but taking it out on those who happen to share the suspects’ immigrant identity only causes further divisiveness and tension.
This division is demonstrated by Fox News analyst Bob Beckel who according to POLITICO, stated after the tragedy in Boston that the United States should halt Muslim student visas.
Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are accused of committing this crime, not immigrants or Muslims.
Just because these immigrants unleashed terror doesn’t mean that immigrants are terrorists.
Washington, DC native and self-proclaimed Latina feminist Giuliana Cortese, is a senior at Georgetown University majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and will relocate to Nashville, Tennessee for the next two years as a Teach for America corps member. When she isn’t writing, you can find her on a run, practicing yoga, museum hopping, or “thrifting.” Click here to read more about and connect with Giuliana.
This post is part of the original TWLC series “Anatomy of an Immigration Debate” which analyze the charged political and social context of this debate and the extraordinary demographic changes confirmed by the 2010 U.S. Census that are re-defining and challenging our notion of the body politic as articulated in the motto imprinted on American currency “E pluribus unum”–”Out of Many, One.” Click here to read previous entries.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.
How realistic is it to ask individuals to put prejudice aside in order work toward comprehensive immigration reform?