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Archives. Cynthia Tucker, "Living proof of immigration’s marvelousness", The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 13 mai 2006.

Le débat américain sur l’immigration n’a pas davantage commencé avec la présidence Trump qu’avec la présidence Obama, comme le montre le texte ci-après publié en 2006 par Cynthia Tucker. Avec neuf autres éditoriaux signés par elle en 2006 dans The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ce texte valut à son auteur le prix Pulitzer du journalisme (catégorie « commentaire »).

"Life is beautiful, the world is marvelous, and I love everyone !!!!!!"

My 7-year-old niece — seven-and-a-half, she insists — e-mailed me that message a few weeks back, a reflection of the boundless enthusiasm only a small child can muster.

At the time, I hardly shared her cheeriness. Listening as the rhetoric surrounding immigration grew coarser --- with unmistakable signals of an unwholesome nativism, if not outright racism, seeping in from the fringes --- I worried that her future wouldn’t be as bright as I had hoped. You see, my niece, Maria Irene Vazquez, is a multiethnic child, a "black-xican," as I call her. My sister is married to a man who was born in Mexico.

My e-mail box had been crammed with messages describing illegal workers from south of the border as "criminals" who bring down property values in respectable neighborhoods, grifters who exploit social services that rightfully belong to taxpaying citizens and gatecrashers who refuse to learn our language or customs. One of my e-mail correspondents includes the word "wetback" every time he writes me on immigration. Others sprinkle enough uses of they and them and those people in their missives to remind me of the rhetoric used by white Southerners who resisted desegregation in the 1960s. I wondered if Irene’s multiethnic heritage would only expose her to multiple demeaning stereotypes.

There are clearly legitimate worries about the burdens of illegal immigration. Communities with a huge influx of newcomers have struggled to accommodate schoolchildren who speak little English, to provide health care to uninsured pregnant women and to enforce housing codes in areas where undocumented workers crowd together in tight quarters.

But those legitimate concerns can be drowned out by the bigoted messages of xenophobes such as D.A. King, a Cobb County man who has emerged as one of the loudest local critics of illegal immigrants. Though he insists he supports legal immigration, he rails against cultural change.

A frequent contributor to a right-wing, invective-filled Web site called, King once wrote in a column, after attending a rally supporting illegal immigrants as a "counterprotester" : "I got the sense that I had left the country of my birth and been transported to some Mexican village, completely taken over by an angry, barely-restrained mob. . . . My first act on a safe return home was to take a shower."

King could easily be speaking that dismissively of Irene’s family ; her paternal heritage includes a history of illegal labor and immigration rules flexed and bent, if not shattered. Her grandfather entered this country on a tourist visa in 1983 but stayed on after the visa expired and worked in construction.

Though his English is less-than-fluent, he is now an American citizen. He works hard ; he loves baseball ; he frequents Home Depot. What could be more American ?

Repeating the pattern of earlier immigrants --- Irish, Italian, Polish, Chinese and others --- his children and grandchildren have taken to this country and adopted its values. One grown son is a high-school-educated construction worker. A grown daughter --- a mother with three children, one in college --- is a teacher’s assistant who hopes eventually to complete her own college degree. Another son, my brother-in-law, Jose, graduated summa cum laude in engineering from the University of Houston, later earning a doctorate. He is the newly minted CEO of a small naval architecture consulting firm in New Orleans.

Little Irene, meanwhile, is much like any other indulged child of the American middle class. She attends a trendy private school ; she competes in chess tournaments and takes gymnastics classes ; she has Crocs, a portable DVD player and a passport. Call me biased, but I don’t get the impression she and her paternal kin are ruining the country.

As it turns out, neither do most other Americans. A newly released New York Times/CBS poll shows that most of my fellow citizens reject the exclusionary rhetoric of the D.A. Kings, along with the harsh sanctions proposed by hardline Republicans in the U.S. House, who would make illegal border crossings a felony. Sixty-one percent of poll respondents said illegal immigrants who have been in the United States at least two years should be given the chance to apply for legal status ; 66 percent oppose building a fence along the southern border.

I was heartened by those views. Irene may yet grow up in a world that embraces her mixed heritage, that encourages her bilingualism, that endorses her unique contributions to America --- a world as marvelous as she believes it to be.

© 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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