Editorial: Misplaced blame for a broken system

08/08/2013 6:00 AM |
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO  |  Lorenza Leal, 28, and her son, Juan Basurto, 7, at the North Fork Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead last month where she volunteers. Ms. Leal is from Guerrero, Mexico, and speaks an ancient language called Mixteco.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Lorenza Leal, 28, and her son, Juan Basurto, 7, at the North Fork Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead last month where she volunteers. Ms. Leal is from Guerrero, Mexico, and speaks an ancient language called Mixteco.

Hispanic immigrants are often spoken of in broad, general terms and assigned dehumanizing labels.

They’re dismissed as Mexicans, South Americans or “illegals,” among other things, even though it’s well known that immigrants living in Riverhead and elsewhere in the U.S. come from a wide range of South and Central American countries. Many are living here illegally. But many are not.

This week’s story on the Mixteco-speaking people who call the Riverhead area home serves as a real-life example of the stark cultural and ethnic differences that exist in just one country, Mexico, where native people have been living for thousands of years and still live today, using ancient languages for which alphabets have only recently been created.

The struggle and perseverance of the Mixtec people, who also face discrimination in their own country, should be admired. As Lorenza Leal tells the News-Review, she believes it’s important that her American-born children — all U.S. citizens — learn the value of hard work and not take for granted the comforts of life in this country, especially given her own struggles and those of her ancestors.

In other words, strive for success but always remember where you came from.

Sound familiar?

Family-oriented citizens who value individual responsibility and believe in the American Dream should welcome immigrants like Ms. Leal. Yet every day, human beings simply struggling to survive are being scapegoated. They’re vilified and harassed — or worse — all actions that divert attention from the real problem: the lack of a fair and functional immigration system in the United States.

If politicians in Washington could put their ideologies aside, people willing to move here to work could do so while living comfortable lives and contributing to our local economies.

Reform could also make it harder for criminals to find their way here.

Congress should get to work on the immigration issue soon after its return to Capitol Hill in September. Reaching a reasonable solution would be a win-win for the economy and humanity.