In Decatur, in Athens, in Hartselle, people get it: Growth is good.
When the most recent census showed Decatur's population growth was stagnant, while neighboring communities were growing, Decatur residents understood they had a problem.
We understand each resident is not just an employee, but a taxpayer and a consumer. We recognize intuitively what economists tell us, that a growing economy requires more people and diverse talents.
We understand this concept when people come to the Decatur area from Tennessee or Georgia. Our intuitive recognition of the benefits of new residents fails us, however, when those residents are from Mexico.
We don't want to think of ourselves as bigots, so we pile up other reasons for our disdain. We tell ourselves we only resent Latinos who broke the law to enter the United States, yet introspection tells us we probably would do the same to provide opportunity for our children.
Eleven million undocumented immigrants live in our nation. They are contributing to our economy as laborers and as entrepreneurs. They are here by choice.
America, a nation of immigrants, always has struggled with immigrants.
Whether they came from China or Ireland, we resented their presence. They took our jobs, or so we thought, and we were surprised when their presence spurred growth.
The motivation for the bipartisan immigration reform plan announced this week was political. Republicans alienated Hispanic voters in the 2012 elections, and they don't want to make the same mistake again.
Democrats are determined to maintain their dominance among new American voters.
In Alabama the politics play out differently. The state's immigrant population is small and, therefore, not a significant political force. Alabamians have the luxury of stereotyping immigrants because they rarely get to know them.
The predictable result is that our elected officials are pandering to our prejudices. Instead of welcoming immigration reform, they are impeding it.
While politics is driving both sides of the immigration debate, the issue should be driven by morality.
Numerous surveys show most undocumented immigrants are part of Christian families. The majority are here not because they climbed over a fence, but because they remained in the country they love after their visas expired.
For too long, Alabama has been an international symbol of intolerance. Instead of protesting immigration reform, our elected officials should welcome it.
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