In the lead article of Tuesday’s News-Graphic, both of our elected state representatives – Sen. Damon Thayer and Rep. Ryan Quarles — expressed support for the anti-immigration Senate Bill 6.
As their constituent I am embarrassed and ashamed.
SB6 is “feel-good” legislation, allegedly about law enforcement, but in fact it weakens civil society. It will encourage racial profiling by police, and even legal residents will risk harassment if their appearance suggests a certain ethnic background. Immigrants will avoid encounters with the police, making it difficult for police to develop relationships in the community and solve real crimes.
SB6 is costly, too. It will crush our already overburdened prison system. The Legislative Research Commission estimates the net cost of SB6 to state government as $40 million a year.
This figure doesn’t even incorporate the broader economic impact of SB6.
A report by the Perryman group indicates that 1.3 percent of Kentucky workers are undocumented; if all of them were removed from Kentucky, the state would lose $1.7 billion in economic activity, and 12,000 jobs for legal residents.
You could say goodbye to farming and much of the Kentucky horse industry.
Some of the bill’s provisions are downright evil. One article, aimed not at professional smugglers but at folks like you and me, would make it a crime to transport an undocumented person—never mind the reason why.
If you drive an undocumented child to school, you are breaking the law.
If she lies bleeding by the road and you drive her to the emergency room, you are breaking the law.
The state will impound your vehicle, too.
What kind of a government makes human decency a crime?
Supporters of SB6 are on record saying that they hope to create a hostile climate, so that illegal immigrants will leave the state. I hope, for their sake, that “they know not what they do.”
They must not know that illegal immigrants work at jobs we now imagine to be beneath us.
That the taxes they pay fund services they usually can’t access.
That when they use a fake Social Security number they fund our retirement — not theirs.
They must not know what drives people to enter this country illegally. That there are only 65,000 visas this year for unskilled laborers, when U.S. agriculture needs 2 million of them. That heading North has nothing to do with striking it rich, or living on U.S. welfare.
That instead the North American Free Trade Act devastated subsistence-farmers in Mexico, pushing them North to labor on the very farms that destroyed their livelihood.
That now they are fleeing the drug war in Mexico, a conflict funded indirectly by our drug habit.
They must know nothing of the hell people endure to get to those jobs we don’t want, nothing of the long and dangerous trek through the Sonoran Desert, under the thumb of armed “coyote” guides who rob you blind and rape your daughters.
But I know: I have been to that desert, walked its migrant trials, sat by creekbeds and under mesquite-thickets where the injured and lost have laid themselves down to die.
I also know that in Kentucky we are better than SB6.
That when a fellow is down we don’t kick him, nor do we stand over him, asking, “Who is my neighbor?”
That instead we ask ourselves: “What can we do, to be neighbor to him?”
And that we do that thing. Which is, in this case, to vote against SB6.
Homer White is a professor of mathematics at Georgetown College and a member of No More Deaths, a humanitarian group working on immigration issues.