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Tim Myers: A few more headstones and Ryan King wins

Myers' Musings

Posted: July 17, 2010 11:17 p.m.
Updated: July 18, 2010 4:55 a.m.

In Pat Conroy’s semi-autobiographical book and film “Conrack,” the protaganist shouts from a truck in the whitest neighborhood of Buelah, South Carolina, that “a mere 20 more headstones in the graveyard of every city in the nation will resolve the problem of overt racism.”

The Economist makes a softer reference when it states the “calendar solution” to politically divisive issues. Simply put, problems resolve themselves through the calendar when the younger generation (on a majority basis) feels differently than the older generation. Actuarially, the younger generation will always triumph.

I met the calendar solution to the problems of migration this last Sunday at 7 a.m. in the form of Ryan King, a senior at Saugus High School, lifelong Santa Clarita Valley resident and founder of the SCV Alliance for Immigrant Advocacy (SAIA) at the favored meeting place for all: a ubiquitous Starbucks.

Ryan King impressed me in two ways: First, the willingness of a high school student to meet with me at 7 a.m. on a Sunday, a time with which he confessed he bore little familiarity. Second, the fact a teenager could pull his iPod headphones out of his ears long enough to become politically aware, especially on the currently white hot issue of migration.

Ryan King formed the SAIA when he learned something rather shocking. Like many other people who lived their entire life in the SCV, he assumed the problems of migration stood somewhere outside of his direct view, related primarily to the border and perhaps the odd handful of day laborers seen on SCV streets.

He related to me his shock when he learned that friends since grade school, steeped in American culture and effectively claiming English as their primary language, confessed their lack of legal status.

Brought to this country as infants by parents following the magnet of work and opportunity, and fleeing in many cases political and economic violence, these children know little of their nations of origin and would claim the United States as their only home. With the cynical nature of U.S. migration policy that feeds the craving of U.S. business for unskilled and semi-skilled immigrant labor while failing to provide any meaningful method for legal entry into the U.S., their families built some type of semi-regular life providing their children with the opportunities available.

Anti-immigrant folks, often well-meaning in bringing up the very real problems of a non-regular part of the population, tend to view the illegal migrant in the caricature of the drug criminal and/or the day laborer clad in athletic shoes and a baseball cap.

King and his fellow members of SAIA cannot, since they actually know the folks involved, with real compelling stories with whom they formed real friendships.

King knows that right now very little chance of nuanced discussion exists. He attended the immigration “education” session recently sponsored by the city of Santa Clarita and determined quickly that it had little to do with education and everything to do with the posturing of certain shrill anti-migrant folks.

This did not discourage him, since he knows that his own peer group bears a much more reasoned view of the issue and hopes for a comprehensive and just solution.

King and SAIA do not possess a manifesto for an overarching solution, but just want their friends, not complicit in their illegal presence in this country, to obtain some type of regular status so that they can move forward with their lives and make a good contribution to their home country. They hope that a more nuanced discussion can eventually be held once all the screaming stops, probably with the recovery of the broader economy and the lack of another construction boom that will forestall another flood of migrant labor.

In the meantime, they wish to provide awareness of sympathy to the migrant cause to somewhat mute the shrill and frightening words of some.

Some in the blogosphere refer to King’s efforts in the vein of youthful idealism, eventually cured by the coming of age.

Perhaps, but I do not see the passage of years altering the views of the earnest young man that I met on that Sunday morning.

In the meantime, Ryan King and those of like mind realize the turning of the inexorable calendar brings their dreams of justice and equality closer to reality.

    Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Myers’ Musings” appears Sundays in The Signal.


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