Thursday, September 11, 2008

Aurora Tragedy: Avoiding Misplaced Blame

Last Thursday in Aurora, two women and an infant child were killed in a horrendous and tragic car crash. When something so unimaginable occurs, our entire community is thrust into mourning.

However, in the aftermath of this terrible event, the discussion has turned fully from the tragedy itself into what Tom McGhee of The Denver Post is fairly calling "the car crash blame game." Rather than allowing a family and community to mourn the heartbreaking loss of three people's lives, the public discussion has turned to anti-immigrant hatred and bigotry.

This heartbreaking incident has ignited a painfully myopic and divisive discussion. One individual with a history of grave traffic violations is being used to leverage terror and rage at an entire community. It is fair to be outraged at the driver's recklessness. It is an illogical leap to tie this to his immigration status.

Study after study shows that immigrants in every ethnic group in the United States commit crimes at lower rates than do native born citizens. Yet one person's egregious behavior is being discussed as somehow derivative of the manner in which he entered this country. More offensively, criminality is projected onto the millions of hard-working folks who come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their children. 

The tragedy in Aurora should not be a platform for discussing our broken immigration system, but we can clearly agree that it is broken.

Had the federal government enacted policy reform to resolve the legal status of the millions of folks who are unable to regulate their immigration status under current law, the immigration status of those arrested for crimes would be a non-issue. In the absence of such reform, the current vitriol against immigrants as a whole unjustly divides us at a moment when we should be united to support the families of the victims.

In this moment of great sorrow, let's not lower ourselves to misguided assumptions. The intolerable and premature loss of three lives is a reason to pull together in mutual caring, not give into the politics of blame.