What price diversity?

Posted on 22 Jul 2010 at 1:42pm

Arizona law highlights the level of fear, anger surrounding immigration. But can we survive without the diversity immigrants bring?

Diane Holbert Special Contributor

The immigration debate is a sign of how difficult it is for us to live in diversity. The Arizona government recently ruled that city police forces must ask for proper documentation of citizenship if they have reason to believe that those they are stopping or arresting have no papers for being in that state legally.

The federal government and several Arizona city police forces have sued the state over the law.

So what is Arizona afraid of?

Some say a limited amount of space, others say a limited amount of resources/jobs, and others claim that continuing to keep the status quo will bring in more crime.

Yet many people think this Arizona rule is racist. I believe it may be all four reasons, but today I am most concerned about profiling, discrimination, racism — essentially, the fear of diversity.

The U.S. is currently attempting the greatest experiment in diversity in the history of the world. We’re asking an enormous amount of ourselves to live in such diversity.

Our country is growing rich, not poor, in diversity: Hindus and Muslims, gays and straights, Protestants and Catholics, Russians and Vietnamese.

The list shows our wealth as a nation.

I have a friend who hired an undocumented worker several years ago. For “Pedro,” being hired by my friend meant he could send money to his family back in Mexico on a regular basis. He also knew that the longer he stayed to work with my friend, the higher was his risk of being caught.

It has now been four years since he has seen his family. He knows that if he returns home, he will probably never be able to come back to the place where he is making a steady wage.

Pedro is a reliable man who works diligently.

My heart says to welcome the stranger, like Pedro, and to be unafraid of what he brings to us. I welcome diversity and its wealth.
But my head says that it’s important to be a nation of order. So, what to do? How do we live in profound diversity?

There needs to be a clear pathway to citizenship for all people who are willing to contribute to our society. We need to be able to tax all workers to broaden the base of our infrastructure. Increased attempts to police the border will be no more successful than “The War on Drugs.”

We must honor and respect all persons among us and offer channels to become partners with us.

The way we deal with the question of immigration will say a great deal about our commitment to diversity or our rejection of it.

Diana Holbert is senior pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.

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