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Charlie Vignola: Bordering on madness

Posted: July 22, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 22, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

This past Saturday morning, angry local conservatives gathered on one side of the Valencia Boulevard overpass of Interstate 5 to protest the child immigrants seeking refuge in the United States, and a counter-protest of progressives sympathetic to the plight of these poor kids gathered on the other side of the overpass.

My son and I thought it’d be interesting to head down there and participate in our very first political demonstration to see what these things were like first hand.

On one side of the overpass, people held up signs with Jesus and Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraging empathy and understanding for these children gathering at our borders after making such a dangerous journey. I held up a sign helpfully pointing out, “Superman Was An Illegal Alien.”

On the other side, people held up an altered American flag representing a creepy group known as The Oathkeepers who believe we need to be prepared to overthrow the U.S. government if necessary, the lovable

“Don’t Tread On Me” rattlesnake flag, and a flag with an assault rifle and the words “Come And Take It.”

There was real anger that President Obama was showing any hospitality towards these 52,000 poor kids pooling at our border and fleeing violence and poverty.

Seems like that’s the American way, to help the downtrodden, especially when they show up on your doorstep after a long and dangerous journey. But evidently, many on the right disagreed.

One of the problems is that most conservatives believe President Obama is rolling out the welcome mat for illegal immigrants, even though angry Latino civic leaders refer to him as the “Deporter-In-Chief.”

The truth? As of April 2014, Obama has deported over 2 million illegal immigrants, breaking the former record held by George W. Bush.

Eventually, I got up the nerve to head over to the other side, genuinely curious to talk to some of these people and see what they were thinking.

I was willing to give them the benefit of a doubt, but very quickly they confirmed my worst fears.

They were almost comically livid, claiming to not be Republicans or conservatives, even though they believed Obama should be impeached, that abortion should be illegal, that we should have more guns but no gun registration in case we need to fight the government soon, that global warming is a hoax, and that Benghazi is worse than Watergate.

And they believed that we should just abandon those thousands of helpless kids stranded at our border as a message to the rest of the world to stop sending your “huddled masses” to America, despite a 2008 law signed by George W. Bush — the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act — that clearly states we are legally bound to protect these children.

In talking to some of the protesters further, I came to realize that much of their animosity toward immigration — both legal and illegal — stems from a genuine sense of economic insecurity they feel and the well-founded fear that generates.

And while I’m sympathetic, I just think they’re focusing their rage on the wrong targets.

Don’t be angry at the poor folks who want to come here to scratch out a better life for their families — be angry at the companies that cut jobs and benefits and make their remaining employees do more for less so they can give their top execs raises and bonuses.

Be angry at the businesses and people willing to hire illegal immigrants at their farms, restaurants and car washes, to take care of their kids and cut their lawns.

Be angry at the transnational corporations who do business overseas to exploit slave labor wages and the right to pollute without consequence so they can make bigger profits and skip out on the corporate taxes they should be paying here in America.

Most of all, be angry at Congress for doing the bidding of business lobbyists to foster globalization and lopsided trade agreements that have helped U.S. corporations fatten up their bottom lines at the expense of American jobs and wages.

There are legitimate reasons for hard-working Americans to be furious, but if we waste all that energy being angry at the wrong problems and the wrong people, the landscape will never change and we’ll only have ourselves to blame.

The simple fact is that America loses its moral authority if it just shuts its doors on these poor children collecting at our borders and lets the world see us saying, “Tough luck, kids, find your own way home. America has no room and no desire to help you.”

Rationalize all you want, but that’s not a position that would make Jesus or the Founding Fathers proud of us.

I’m not pro-illegal immigration, but I am pro-compassion, and if a live kid is standing in front of you and desperately needs your help, you don’t get to skip that moral responsibility based on a technicality, misplaced economic fear or rigid political ideology — you help them, period.

Charlie Vignola is a former college Republican turned liberal Democrat. He lives in Fair Oaks Ranch, works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays in The Signal.

 

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