Sunday, March 30, 2008

Slavery of the 21st century

One of the most important characteristics of a working democracy is TOLERANCE towards the oppressed, the disadvantaged, all types of minorities... In this political season we hear a lot of debate about illegal immigrants. Some of the debate is reminiscent of the Civil Rights Era-- what rights and privileges should a group get...

The story is dark and sad. Forceful refuge and migration into a country symbolized by the Statue of Liberty and to a great dismay finding oneself shackled into poverty and slavery. This is a new type of slavery-- the slavery of the 21st century. Some say, they voluntarily came to this country. Well, when you cannot find means for providing basic needs--food and shelter-- for your family, your migration is not voluntary, and is by force. Why is this slavery? Illegal immigrants do the most humiliating type of work for the most humiliating amount of money. They live deprived of dignity, self-respect, self-appreciation, getting by one day at a time... They get the worst treatment. Of course, nobody is lynching them nor is there KKK running to eliminate them. But they are hanging on the very margins of this society, always perceived to be 'outsiders,' 'aliens' and temporary providers of cheap labor. The path towards legalization as the only hope, they live their lives without even realizing what is life.

I have lived around these people all my life in the United States. I know the story. When I hear the debates about illegal immigration among those in the Ivy Tower, I simply wonder whether they realize that they are talking about the very fundamentals of a democracy. If tolerance of minorities has become a meaningless concept, then perhaps empathy and compassion could turn into a useful substitute.

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