Friday, February 22, 2008

Texan of the Year 2007

Every year The Dallas Morning News names its "Texan of the Year." Usually the editorial board selects some notable or news making individual.

This year's choice was a shocker.

2007 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year: The Illegal Immigrant.

The feature article accompanying the announcement is definitely worth reading. Here's just a bit of it to whet your appetite for more:

He is at the heart of a great culture war in Texas – and the nation, credited with bringing us prosperity and blamed for abusing our resources. How should we deal with this stranger among us?

He breaks the law by his very presence. He hustles to do hard work many Americans won't, at least not at the low wages he accepts. The American consumer economy depends on him. America as we have known it for generations may not survive him. . . .

We can't seem to live with him and his family, and if we can live without him, nobody's figured out how. . . .

Given the public mood, there seems to be little middle ground in debate over illegal immigrants. Spectacular fights over their presence broke out across Texas this year, adding to the national pressure cooker as only Texas can.

To their champions, illegal immigrants are decent, hardworking people who, like generations of European immigrants before them, just want to do better for their families and who contribute to America's prosperity. They must endure hatred and abuse by those of us who want the benefits of cheap labor but not the presence of illegal immigrants.

Especially here in Texas, his strong back and willing heart help form the cornerstone of our daily lives, in ways that many of us do not, or will not, see. The illegal immigrant is the waiter serving margaritas at our restaurant table, the cook preparing our enchiladas. He works grueling hours at a meatpacking plant, carving up carcasses of cattle for our barbecue (he also picks the lettuce for our burgers). He builds our houses and cuts our grass. She cleans our homes and takes care of our children.

Yet to those who want them sent home, illegal immigrants are essentially lawbreakers who violate the nation's borders. They use public resources – schools, hospitals – to which they aren't entitled and expect to be served in a foreign language. They're rapidly changing Texas neighborhoods, cities and culture, and not always for the better. Those who object get tagged as racists.

Whatever and whoever else the illegal immigrant is, everybody has felt the tidal wave of his presence. According to an analysis of government data by the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, Texas' immigrant population has jumped a whopping 32.7 percent since 2000, a period in which immigration to the United States has exceeded, in sheer numbers, all previous historical eras. Half the immigrants in the state – 7 percent of all Texans – are estimated to be here illegally.

Though many would agree that the status quo cannot be sustained – more illegal immigrants arrive each year than legal ones, a sure sign that the system is a joke – neither Texas nor the nation seemed nearer in 2007 to resolving this complex crisis. We can't deport 12 million people who already live here, but we can't leave our back door open indefinitely. Compromise comes hard because the issue is tangled up with the most basic aspects of everyday life, down to the core of what it means to be American. . . .

Read the entire essay at: http://www.

Yesterday, I attended a very useful conference sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women--Greater Dallas Section.

It was most instructive to hear a wide range of public officials and leaders, including Mayor Tom Leppert, County Commissioner Maurine Dickey, DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and D Magazine publisher Wick Allison--a group covering a fairly wide political spectrum--all agree that our nation needs comprehensive immigration reform.

All called for the provision of a clear track to citizenship for undocumented persons currently living in the country.

All were critical of local government bodies and law enforcement taking on this issue without clear public policy support from the federal government.

At last, voices of reason!

Several of these leaders also denounced the silly idea of building a fence. I loved Mr. Allison's line harkening back to what Ronald Reagan once said about the Berlin Wall, "Mr. Bush don't build that wall!"

Clearly, most Americans favor reform that provides current immigrants an authorized way to stay in the U. S.--on the order of about 2 to 1. Politicizing the issue has only served to bring out extreme spokespersons, as has been the case in our nation's past.

Dr. Hinajosa made a compelling argument for developing an education track for immigrant youth to be trained as public school teachers who could then fill the hundreds of positions needing bi-lingual instructors.

I've always wondered why we Anglos didn't insist that our schools teach everyone Spanish. Students working on two languages together might actually help one another and build a stronger America. And, in the process, they would eliminate the need for Spanish classes in college. Everyone could study French, Chinese, Russian, Farsi or Classical Greek!

Why are we so afraid?

Why so faithless about our neighbors?



Anonymous said...

This article is well written. As it said, no one has the answer to the problem at hand that is fair to all parties. However, whatever that answer may be it must be a solutiont that expresses the 2nd greatest command "love our neighbor as ourself" is that solution is to be endorsed and supported by the Christian community - which makes for a very big challenge.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where the discussion should end, but I know where it should start:

"Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt." Exodus 22:21

Now there's a pretty straightforward principal we can apply today.

Chris said...

The reason we are afraid is that we are being INVADED. At the gym today not a single person around me, in that particular moment, spoke English.

We were promised a fence last year. As you can see from the debate last night, neither Hillary or Obama has the slightest interest in building one. The money has not even been appropriated.

Mexico certainly controls her borders, why is it different for us? I believe we can get all the workers we need by legal means.

I treasure my heritage and want to keep it for my children and grandchildren and all those who come down the pike. I hate to dial 1 for English, to see all the labels in the store in Spanish. If that makes me a racist so be it.

Larry James said...

Chris, I suppose it is good at last for you to face the facts about yourself and what your "heritage" has produced in your heart. There is a way that is so much larger, grander and better. . . it is the way of common humanity. I pray you move on to discover that, for your own sake and that of your children and grandchildren. The folks you found so repugnant in the gym are just like you in terms of their dreams and desires. Though, I dare say, they are likely more open and welcoming than you.

Chris said...

Larry, perhaps you might consider not putting words in my mouth. I did not say they were repugnant, they are probably very nice people.

Anonymous said...


"...My heritage..." ???

Are you refering to the land, the country, the dwelling place in which you were born and raised? Those are all choices you had no control of to begin with.

It never has been yours, mine, or any other persons. It is God's who gives to us as a blessing but not so that we can keep the blessing all to ourselves.


Chris said...

"The American Indian found out what can happen when you don't control immigration"---unknown

Anonymous said...


Since you post on this site, I assume you have some interest in matters of faith. Does the verse quoted (Ex 22:21) have any meaning to you? Could you really imagine Jesus as a border guard or working on a border fence?

There is a word for what you express in you post: xenophobia - fear of foreigners. Like all phobias, it is at its root irrational.

Daniel Gray said...

"The American Indian found out what can happen when you don't control immigration"---unknown

Chris -- actually the American Indian found out how callous and selfish the U.S. people can be when they're wrapped up in their own "heritage".

Irish Catholics discovered this too. So did the Chinese, Japanese, blacks, Latinos, and countless other groups.

I think I've had enough of treasuring my "heritage."

Anonymous said...


Your quote about the American Indian completely undermines your argument. This US soil we walk on was theirs but was taken from them by our European ancestors as they left their own land in search of a new life.

When this world learns that everything belongs to God and we are simply called to be good stewards of the garden then this world will be a place of shalom. Until then, we will continue to operate as children claiming rights to what is ours, fighting to protect those rights, rather than sharing so that others may live as we live.


Chris said...

There is an article in Human Events last year which I think sheds light on the verse in Exodus.


Immigration reform in the Bible-Human Events

It explains how ancient Judea delt with strangers. There was a two step process that they had to go through to be considered a citizen.
There was no amnesty.

Also note that the children of Israel were INVITED into Egypt.

Anonymous said...

The verse is about how Israel should treat foreigners in its midst, not about how the Egyptians treated them. So your comment is beside the point. But ... we do effectively "invite" latinos with jobs that we need done that we don't want to do.

Anonymous said...


I read the article. It's pretty good. I do not have any real qualms about what it suggests: treating aliens decently and providing a path to citizenship that involves a committment to America and its values. Sounds good!

Kim said...

I appreciate Larry's work so much and the opportunity for dialogue that he's created here. I have to share a brief story from a friend, Margarita, who came here "unauthorized" years ago from Guatemala and is now a citizen of the US. When asked about why "aliens" don't speak English, she explains that she worked all day and after work she spent time with her family, not on herself learning English. Why do we make our language an idol? We cannot be the hypocrites that Jesus denounced, claiming to be for family values, yet insisting that families be sacrificed for our comfort. I've solved the problem; I learned Spanish.