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ImmigrationCultureWarThis piece was originally published in Colorlines in September 2012.

Like many others, I've worked for years to get Americans to think expansively and compassionately about immigration. In a decade dominated by the push for what's been dubbed "comprehensive immigration reform," I've argued that immigrants drive economic growth, pay taxes, add value to the culture, and don't take jobs from native-born people. Although I wasn't thrilled with the enforcement elements of the policy—that fence, beefing up the Border Patrol, growing detention and deportation—it seemed amazing that Congress was even considering changing the status of as many as 12 million undocumented people. Most of the immigrant rights movement focused on winning that policy, and for a time, it really seemed possible.

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Originally published by ColorLines.

It could be terrorism, but we don’t yet know. It could be someone who has a beef with Sikhs. It’s too early to talk about gun control. These statements ran in a continuous loop through my head yesterday, even when I wasn’t watching coverage of the mass shooting at an active gurdwara in a suburb of Milwaukee. Throughout the day, the hollowness in my solar plexus signaled grief and the tightness in my throat signaled panic, and I felt deep, deep resistance to the notion of saying anything about it. What is there to say that isn’t a cliché?

Details are going to emerge in the coming days, but I already know what they’ll amount to. A white man, in his 40’s, nursing resentment over 9/11 for more than a decade, planned for a long time to kill some “enemies.” The guns will turn out to be legally acquired, or if not, so accessible as to make the law meaningless. The man will turn out to be mad. In the debate, people will argue that the cause is racism…no, it’s gun control…no, it’s mental health. It is impossible for us to navigate the deadly tangle of all three.

The Sikh community has been thrown into high visibility under the saddest possible circumstances. Sikhs are generally of Indian origin, practicing a monotheistic religion in temples called gurdwaras since the 16th century. Sikhism is not a sect of Hinduism or Islam. Sikhs grow their hair as a signal of their devotion to God.* The religion emphasizes unity and peace among all people.

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