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Community CommentaryOpinion

Time to speak up against the demonization of immigrants

We moved to Solana Beach from Maryland in 1969, and my brother and I started 4th grade at Skyline Elementary School when the current four-lane Lomas Santa Fe Drive was the two-lane Skyline Drive.

The bilingual Latino kids that I met for the first time became my friends and Little League teammates. It never occurred to me to wonder whether they were citizens or not.

They were neighbors and friends.

Some of those kids’ families had been here for generations as pillars of the community. Others had been here for a shorter period of time and struggled financially. The truest thing I can say is that they were people like all people — most of them were working hard, living their lives, trying to position their children for a successful future.

I left this area for 15 years, returning to live in Encinitas in 1992. Since that time, I have had, and have today, many colleagues and friends who are Latino.

As has been true with all immigrant communities in America, many of my friends and colleagues who now have college degrees, supervisory positions, and are doing great things, are the children of parents who worked or work still as domestic workers and gardeners and in other service positions.

Today, we live in the context of a Presidential administration that demonizes people who seek to cross our border. These are people who were moved by common human sentiments: fear, need, hope, a will to achieve and a belief that there is a better life.

I believe that people can have legitimate disagreements about questions of immigration.

There is, however, a tremendous degree of hypocrisy when we demonize those crossing the border given the tremendous benefits they bring to our country generally, to our North County region specifically, and given the fact that most of us are children of people who chose to make the same journey and create new lives here.

President Trump chose to characterize many of these seekers as criminals. I would suggest that the criminality lies with a President who separates parents from children and denies his direct culpability, while the majority of his political allies stand in the deep shadows of their own silences.

It seems to me that if you take the position that immigration is a clear and present danger, you deny the very basis of American genesis.

At every turn of the wheel, immigrant populations have been despised and hated before gaining acceptance as essential threads in the American fabric.

If we truly love this country, based not on historical fantasy but on an understanding of its complicated and frequently ugly history; and our ability as citizens to draw upon the best and most humane aspects of ourselves, then this is a moment to stand up and say,  “Enough.”

The failure to do so makes us complicit in policies and pronouncements that reflect the worst in us, damaging the fabric of this country.

This is the time to speak up against “false news” and other untruths, wherever they originate, in favor of our own integrity, and the humanity of those whose only “crime” is seeking a better life in this favored, if imperfect, land that we all share.

Joshua Lazerson is an Encinitas resident