For the past days I have been troubled and continue to struggle internally with law 1070. As a Latina and as someone who believes in equality, I am deeply concerned about the impact Arizona's new immigration law will have on hard-working Latino families.
So, I decided to fly to Phoenix yesterday and see the situation first hand. I went to raise awareness about its dangerous consequences and offer my support to the Latino community and to those who defend human rights.
I'm not a citizen of the United States, but I've always been an admirer and defender of its principles. To the rest of the world, the United States represents the dream of a better life based on justice and freedom for everyone -- no matter the color of your skin. This law goes against those values and against the principles of every American I know.
I love America, and what America inspires in all of us. The knowledge that there were countries like America where opportunities exist and where everything is possible with, as President Roosevelt once said, "a bit of courage, hard work, self mastery and intelligent effort" inspired me, and so many millions of others, to try to succeed.
I don't want to see this law tarnish what this country stands for. If it goes into effect in the next few months, it will not only hurt thousands of hard working Latino families in Arizona, it will also hurt the spirits of the entire Latino community -- each of the 45 million Latinos who live and work in the U.S. and who help make this a better nation.
I can't help but wonder what the thousands of Hispanic soldiers who are overseas risking their lives serving this country might feel when they hear that a cousin or even their own mother or father have been detained in the street or arrested for not carrying documentation.
Are they supposed to hang their uniforms or keep on fighting?
This law not only hurts the whole state of Arizona but the fundamental core values of America, the fabric of society itself. The true victory of a democratic nation is when its people can walk the streets without fear. I'm sure if the founding fathers were witnesses today they would oppose Governor Brewer and urge this nation to protect the constitution they fought so hard to build.
Can anyone call a law that singles out all Latinos because of the color of their skin and leaves them vulnerable to abuse legal and constitutional?
Other states have already begun working on similarly unjust and unequal laws. If these laws are allowed to stand, they will deprive people of protection from the government and access to vital services like state hospitals, food and child care programs. It will divert police resources away from keeping families safe and it will hurt the businesses and communities that depend on Latinos.
Yesterday, I met with Latina women who have been victims of domestic violence. With tears in their eyes, they asked me what they were supposed to do to defend themselves or their children from their abusers now that the state has turned its back on them. Under the new law, they will be unable to go to a shelter or call the police to report the harm inflicted on them and their families for fear of being harassed or arrested.
America's greatness has been forged by the dreams of its immigrants. If it is progress and growth we want, we can't afford to crush those dreams. This law won't bring safety or protect America; it will cause chaos. It won't create unity; it will create division. It won't bring about progress; it will set us back.
It's understandable that in times of economic crisis fear and confusion take over -- people look for someone to blame -- but let's not forget what Latinos have given to this country and the workforce that they signify. Latino immigrants, with and without papers, have generated wealth and economic growth in the United States for generations.
It is a misconception that Latino immigrants take away employment opportunities. On the contrary, we help generate them. In part, it is the tireless work of Latino laborers that has prevented many American companies from leaving the country and moving manufacturing to markets like China. The sweat of these workers creates economic growth and more opportunities for all.
Some of the darkest moments in human history -- persecution of Jewish people, segregation in the American South and ethnic cleansing around the world -- began just like this, with governments singling out groups of people and discriminating against them. It is this kind of discrimination that Lincoln, Kennedy and Martin Luther King fought against. Let's not undo their work.
Yesterday during our meeting in Arizona, Holocaust expert Dr. Michael Berenbaum said:
"We don't live in Nazi Germany and we won't provided that America remains faithful to what makes us the United States of America. It is precisely in times of economic dislocation when a country should return to its fundamental principles."
When I see leaders like Mayor Gordon and others who have decided to stand against this law, to defend human dignity and civil rights, it makes me believe in the America Dr. Berenbaum talks about, the America I've always loved.
Before I left Arizona I also met with some of the hard-working families whose dreams are being threatened. Families that will be torn apart by this law:
- Parents whose son is fighting for the U.S. as an Army medic in Iraq who may not be here when he returns
- A young girl -- a U.S. citizen -- who may be left alone because her parents are taken from her
- A student with perfect grades whose dream of college is now in doubt.
I stand beside these, and all American families who believe in basic fairness and human rights.
Those of us who are singers are not knowledgeable enough to talk about the intricacies of the law. But I do know that a constitution exists to defend the rights of all people living in a nation, with or without documents. I do know that the United States Constitution is the envy of many free societies around the world.
Millions of people have fought and died for these rights, most importantly the Americans who created them. I sincerely hope that this law is not the beginning of a new wave of discrimination that undermines the freedoms they fought for.
To Mayor Gordon, President Obama and all the other leaders who have stepped forward to condemn this unjust law, thank you for your leadership and your commitment to America's founding principles.
To the Latino community and all other Americans who oppose this law, please know that I will be with you. Let's keep our spirits up, stay united and protect one another, now more than ever. We've got to join forces and struggle until Congress and the Supreme Court find a just, humanitarian solution to the issue of undocumented immigrants in this country.
To the members of Congress and policy makers, I ask Republicans and Democrats alike to come together and protect the spirit of America.
If there is no problem allowing Latino immigrants to clean our cities, watch over our cars, build our homes, manufacture our products, add to our culture, or drive new business and innovation, then there must be the courage to normalize their situation.
I hope America can find that courage, if only for the sake of the human condition: because we are all equal before God and before the law. Let's hope America lives up to the example and message of equality and freedom that this great country has shared with the rest of the world.
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