I made the mistake of driving with a friend through downtown Phoenix last Tuesday afternoon.
There I was, the “designated white guy”, surrounded by hundreds of cars filled with Mexican flag-waving Latino youths. Street traffic was moving slower than the DREAM Act through Congress.
What should’ve been less than a 10-minute trip turned into over 45 minutes, as these young activists made a slow crawl toward the State Capitol in protest of federal House Bill 4437, which would make it a felony to be in the United States illegally.
I’m all for peaceful organized protest. I believe addressing the illegal immigration issue is long overdue. Hell, I don’t even care if you know how to speak English but if you’re going to live in this country then you damn well better learn how to drive!
You don’t stop in the center lane to let your friends out of the car so they can run over to, and climb into, another vehicle that’s a half block away. You don’t get out of the car and stand in the middle of the next lane, blocking traffic, so you can talk on your cell phone for several minutes. And the only time there should be over a dozen people packed into the back of a pick-up truck is if they’re hidden under the floorboards and you’re taking them across some country’s border illegally.
The police were of no help. Standing on the sidewalk while calling over your radio, “There’s a situation on 5th Ave, we need back-up!” is not help when nobody can get near 5th Ave because of Latino high-school students playing in traffic and gumming up the street with vehicles going every which way – all going as slowly as possible on the rare occasion the driver doesn’t decide to stop completely even when there’s several car lengths of space ahead. So, instead, a few police cars parked blocks away and the officers spent their time videotaping the scene and calling over the radio – probably calling for more back-up because, after all, you can never shoot enough video, now can you? It almost made one nostalgic for the good ole days of fire hoses and rabid dogs, when the line was firmly drawn and both police and protesters knew their place.
Up until now, I really hadn’t taken a position on the whole illegal immigration issue. Now I’m leaning towards deportation, just as long as we don’t let those deported drive themselves back across the border. An exodus by car would take several years, there would be numerous traffic accidents, and nobody would get in or out of either country for the foreseeable future.
I’m sure all my French-Canadian friends, many of whom have been living quietly but illegally in the U.S. for decades, would be mighty disappointed in my attitude. Habiter et apprendre! Habiter et apprendre!