Posted by: Sarah | May 1, 2006

there’s something in the air, must be something in the water…

Answering phones at the capitol has never been at the top of the list for things that I enjoy about interning. Usually, it takes away time from other work that I need to finish and it ends up being two hours of boredom, where we occasionally laugh about the ridiculous things that people call the governor about.

When controversy strikes however, watch out…When people get worked up about something, they have absolutely no problem throwing it all out there at whoever is the first to pick up the phone. Unphased by the multiple calls regarding usual issues such as the price of gasoline, whether the constituent thinks it’s ALL the government’s fault or ALL the oil companies’ fault, and can’t understand why you won’t let them speak directly to the governor to yell at him about this, another issue struck me this morning.

For the first time in the year that I have worked there, I have had a very hard time biting my tongue and not responding to what the person on the other end of the line was telling me. For the first time, I have been so tempted to not even record the call into our database out of pure frustration at the ignorance I was presented with.

Immigration issues have been everywhere lately. They are on everyone’s mind and on the front page of every national paper. We discuss it in class, at the capitol, at work. The debates are heated and the discussions are passionate. The political, economic, and nationalistic arguments vary immensely and are anything but passive. In between taking calls from people who feel very strongly about the proposed legislation on illegal immigration and the position that both state and national lawmakers should take, I spent almost my entire 2 hour shift reading article after article about the issue. NYTimes, BBC World News…I found no shortage of news to keep me reading.

For the second time in the past month, I have walked out of the capitol to (extremely peaceful) protestors gathered around the Square. I came over to Barriques for lunch and saw that our cook – who is Mexican, but has legal working status in the U.S. – had not come into work today. Around the country, immigrants and supporters joined together in a boycott today in attempts to demonstrate the role that this community of 11-12 million people play in the American economy. People argue the economic impact of immigrants very convincingly either way, that their significant role in the economy is harmful or helpful.

What I have a problem with is when people have the guts to call the office of the governor of their state and YELL at me that these people should be treated as FELONS, held to the same standards as CRIMINALS, that they do not deserve BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS because they are stealing jobs and are too stupid to learn ENGLISH.

I had more than one person ask me this morning why Wisconsin was not acting as a leader to deport every single one of these people back to where they came from.

I had one person tell me that he had called several state and national politicians to tell them that he would support the allocation of money for CONCENTRATION CAMPS for these people until the U.S. was able to GET RID OF ALL OF THEM.

I wish I was exaggerating.

If you are so concerned about illegal immigrants *harming* the economy and taking money away from taxpayers, is this really a better alternative for those taxes??

I wanted to ask that person if he had ever lived in such dire economic and social conditions that he felt his only option was to leave his country, fully aware of the risks, in hopes that he could provide his family with a better life?

I wanted to ask that person if he would even be willing to work a minimum-wage paying job that an immigrant may be lucky to get, knowing that he would not even be making a realistic living wage?

I wanted to ask that person if he had ever feared going to his job or sending his children to school in the morning because widespread rumors that officials would be conducting illegal immigrants raids across the country?

I wanted to ask that person if he even realized he was speaking about human beings in the vulgar language he was using?

I wanted to ask that person if he didn’t think that all these immigration issues reflected much larger problems of inequality and lack of development in our world, that people feel they have no option but to flee from?

I wanted to ask him where his grandparents or greatgrandparents had come from…and whether or not he thought he could argue against the U.S. as being a country built on immigration from the beginning?

I am not be any means arguing that illegal immigration is not an issue that needs to be addressed within our country. I just become so frustrated at all the prejudice and ignorance that is spreading around here. Perceptions and attitudes need to change in order to effectively solve any of these problems. Otherwise, the stereotypes become intensified, the differences exacerbated, and people become blinded to the individuals against whom they are throwing out all these accusations….

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