There is an old saying,"You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar." It seems that the forces behind recent immigration marches, boycotts, etc. are not familiar with or don't believe this old expression.
The current immigration situation is an emotional topic that seriously affects the lives of many people. Since immigration reform will not be settled by attempting to force the U.S. government to bend to the will of minority politicians or organizers, let's put our emotions on the side and take a realistic look at the immigration situation and its possible solutions.
The success of the American Civil Rights movement in the 1960s made the front pages of newspapers by using marches and boycotts to achieve that goal of equal rights for all American citizens. Today's immigration movement is forgetting a key issue. The people marching and boycotting in the 1960s were already legal citizens.
Immigration movement organizers need to understand that the way they are trying to accomplish their goals is no different than a group of Italians or Germans organizing a march while living illegally in Mexico. If this happened the best outcome would be that no one would care or pay attention. The worse thing that could happen is that Mexican citizens would start to resent the illegal Germans and Italians. If I were a betting man, that 50-50 chance is not where I would put my money.
So what can be done to change the current immigration situation? The best way to create change is to change people's perception of immigrants.
Organizers must remember that many U.S. citizens outside of L.A., Miami or New York may have never met a Latino, Haitian, Brazilian or someone from any other immigrant group. Marches or boycotts that DEMAND changes in immigration reform create negative perceptions of the immigrant population. Once people have a negative opinion, it is very difficult to change their feelings.
Before you think that we at Proud to Live in America at www.ptlia.com are cowards and do not support immigration reform, let me say this. Marches and gatherings are an effective way to create change and should continue. The thing that should be changed is the message of the protest. The message should not be that immigrants are here and America must accept them. The message should be that immigrants are Proud To Live In America and love this country for all the opportunities it has given them. If this was the message, people who never had contact with immigrants would be much more sympathetic to immigration reform. Without the sympathy of the American public, the movement for immigration reform cannot be successful.
Political change in the United States happens in a different way than many countries. Military coups, violence or presidents for life are not a part of American history. Immigration representatives and organizers need to remember this. Change will not happen in the United States using the same methods that may have been successful in their native countries.
Many politicians in every country have the same goals: to gain power and stay in their political positions. Threats, harsh words and tough talk may get them in the newspapers and appeal to many people, but will not create the desired outcome of immigration reform.
Politicians and immigration movement organizers need to set their personal goals aside and focus on what is truly best for the people they represent. The public can not allow politics to become "politricks".
Philip Knab is president of http://www.ptlia.com a multi-lingual web site working to improve the lives of Latinos and all immigrants living in the United States. His background is in ESL English Education and the labor industry.