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Immigration rhetoric exploits fear

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, October 12, 2006

We write to express our deep concerns about two recent commercials produced by Rep. Chris Chocola and his opponent Joe Donnelly, each concerning immigration. In both commercials, the candidates attack one another with accusations of being an advocate for illegal immigrants. The clear implication of the ads is that to take a humane view to immigration in the United States, and to treat those most affected by the issue with appropriate human dignity, is to commit the gravest of errors. In our view, both candidates are exploiting fear and prejudice, and in so doing, are failing to address the legitimate political, social and moral issues at stake in the current immigration debate.

The images are stark: the commercial’s written accusations sit alongside heroic-looking images of the border patrol, and a stereotypical photo of a group of Hispanic-looking people lined up against a wall. There is no mistaking the message: to be a friend to immigrants is to be an enemy to the good citizens of the United States. Each candidate will be “tougher” than the last on illegal immigration. To both candidates, we say that the strategy here does not escape the thoughtful and careful voters of this district; even in these times when national security and pride take center stage in the political debate, we will vote with our consciences informed by fact, and we will not be swayed by appeals to our fears. Attempts to stir up certain segments of the electorate who view immigrants as both an economic threat by displacing American workers, and as a threat to national security, are nothing new; many of our ancestors were targeted by the propaganda of anti-Irish movements prior to the Civil War and the anti-Italian movement following the First World War. Most of us mourn the sad chapter in American history in which we interned both Japanese immigrants and American citizens of Japanese descent in the name of national security.

We are a country of immigrants, and we need not fear immigration. We do need leadership that presents a thoughtful solution to the current state of immigration law in this country, but one that does so while acknowledging the dignity of immigrants and the significant positive contributions that the immigrant community makes to our nation and indeed to our own cities and towns. We need facts, not fear, and we need to know that the leaders we elect are committed to the same careful, considered approach that we are. I encourage both candidates to give the voters of this district the respect that we deserve; we deserve more than shameless rhetoric that plays on our weakest impulses.

Jack Coombes


off campus

Michael Durham

Law School alumnus

class of 2001

Jennifer Ihns

Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic

Rodolfo Monterrosa, Jr.

Law School alumnus

class of 2001

Oct. 9