Delaney: Immigration Policy Debate

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(HOST) Recently, commentator Dennis Delaney has been spending some time in New Mexico, and that’s got him thinking about the immigration policy debate.

(DELANEY) In Vermont, our always struggling dairy farmers now rely on some twelve to fifteen hundred immigrant workers. And, so far, we Vermonters have managed to resist the spiraling anti-immigrant frenzy gripping the rest of the country. I think we are wise to do so.

So far 30 states have anti-immigrant bills under consideration. In Alabama, schools must require the disclosure of a child’s legal status, leaving undocumented parents fearful of sending their children to school.

But flip the coin of Hispanic immigration and a very different narrative emerges. Consider this:

Antonio Diaz Chacon lives in a suburb of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He’s 24 years old, married, father of two children, and he earns his living as a car mechanic. One day in early August, Antonio looked out the window of his house and saw a little girl walking down the street. She is six years old and was on her way home from a neighbor’s house. As Antonio watched, a van stopped beside her. A man leapt out, grabbed the little girl, threw her into the vehicle, and sped off in a real life version of every parent’s worst nightmare.

In a split second Antonio raced outside, jumped into his own car, and chased the kidnapper, who was moving off at high speed. Miles down the road the van slammed into a pole, and the kidnapper took off on foot. Antonio picked up the unhurt but terrified child and drove her back to her family. In the sad history of kidnapped children, this was that rarity – a horror story with a happy ending.

Chacon’s rescue of a child who might never have been seen alive again made him a hero. But there is another facet to Antonio’s story that would upset many Americans. Antonio Chacon is undocumented. He crossed the border from his country, Mexico, to ours illegally. Antonio may have been wrong to do so, but once here he performed a service of incalculable value. And, because he is not a criminal, in New Mexico he does not risk arrest and immediate deportation.

Every so often, it is my privilege, as it is now, to spend a semester teaching at New Mexico State University, a campus deep in the heart of our country’s Hispanic southwest. Most of my students are hardworking to a fault. At the university’s Music School, where I am a member of a choral group, by far most of the richly talented musicians and voices are Hispanic. I feel both proud and humble to be among them and I think my country is fortunate that the Hispanic culture, 50 million strong, thrives.

By the way, I think it’s ironic that Antonio Chacon is an auto mechanic, since that’s one job that can’t be outsourced.

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