When I hear the word "raid" these days, the first thing I think of us the war in Iraq. Something like, "US Forces Raid Shi'ite Stronghold of Sadr City." I have images of American forces going home by home, banging down the doors, threatening anyone they find and taking away the supposed evil-doers.
But then sometimes I hear the word "raid" mentioned in my own backyard and the frightening thing is, the scenario isn't all that different.
Recently, federal agents backed by our precious tax dollars, banged down the doors of poultry plants in New York, Texas, Florida, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia, threatening anyone they could find, dragging away parents without notifying their families and, all told, arresting more than 300 undocumented immigrants.
Their crime? Leaving their homes and everything they've ever known in search of opportunity for their families and crossing the treacherous desert boarder between the US and Mexico or overstaying their visas in order to work long hours for low pay at a poultry processing plant where, according to an expose from the Charlotte Observer worker protections are lax and severe injuries are common. The Charlotte Observer series is littered with stories and images of workers crippled by their duties, and stories of management cutting corners not only on safety but on appropriate medical treatments when problems do arise.
Remind me who the evil-doers are?
From the SWAT team raids on immigrants to the para-military Minutemen staking out the US-Mexico border, we're turning our nation into a war zone in violation of every decent principle on which our nation was founded. Many Americans are not immigrants -- Natives who were already here, those who were forced here. But many of us, including most of today's anti-immigrant voices I'm afraid, are the descendants of generations who sought America's shores as a refuge from religious intolerance or famine, who saw in our stars and stripes the twinkle of possibility that tomorrow might be better than today. The American dream may be the most powerful promise in the world. It is plainly un-American to hoard it for ourselves and deny it to those who seek it as our ancestors once did.
In the community called America, everyone is included. In the community called America, we treat everyone with dignity and respect. In the community called America, we are all striving to build a better America together. Last time I checked, we were proud to stand together for this vision, rather than breaking down doors and breaking apart families for daring to share the same hopes and dreams. Raids against immigrants are demeaning to the America I know, our moral character and community values. It's time we end these stupid and violent raids for good.
Sally Kohn is the Director of the Movement Vision Lab at the Center for Community Change. You can sign the pledge for fair and just immigration reform at www.BuildingAmericaTogether.org