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Obama: No Human Being is Illegal

No Human Being is Illegal

Sen. Barack Obama's resounding victory is a generational victory. As one friend told me, it is 400 years in the making. In that sense, that explains the tears and the dancing in the streets across the nation and across the suddenly very small world we live in.

In this state of euphoria, we can see that the impact of imperialism and colonialism of some 400 and 500 years ago continues to reverberate. And in the celebrations, it is clear that the world sees a real possibility for change. Part of the change equates with the possibility of abandoning war as the policy of first resort. Part of that change also equates with always putting humans above the needs of multi-billion dollar corporations.

For African Americans, Obama's victory represents reaching that elusive mountaintop. To reach that metaphorical promised land on the other side of the mountain, it won't be easy, but hundreds of years of dehumanization has not been easy either. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamt it, but he didn't quite get there.

As a brown man, that's how I view Obama's victory; not simply as a dream, but as a very long and bloody struggle against dehumanization. Like many, I see this not simply as a victory for African Americans, but as a victory for this nation, waiting to be transformed, and for a world community, waiting for that transformation, waiting for rehumanization.

No one is naïve; the wars will continue, the economic chaos will also linger and dehumanization will still be with us into the foreseeable future. But symbols are important and his victory is greatly symbolic.

While I am celebrating, I also remain hopeful. But more than hope, I still fight for another dream. It is the dream of many; that one day all human beings will be viewed, treated and respected as full human beings. I have to believe that when president-elect Obama is inaugurated, that he will loudly proclaim that there is no such thing as an illegal human being. Such a proclamation would be the most radical advancement in civil and human rights law since the 1964 Civil Rights Act in which the U.S. government codified the ideal that all people are created equal.

But more than proclaim it, just as Obama has the vision to proclaim that within 10 years the United States will no longer be dependent on foreign oil—he should also proclaim that by the end of his first term, there will no longer be such a category of illegal aliens and that all the walls along the Southern border will also be dismantled. All this, while working on trade agreements that place human beings front and center.

In the realm of symbolism, Obama may immediately put an end to the Draconian raids and the immoral police-migra collaborations taking place nationwide. Yet beyond symbolism, proclaiming that "no human being is illegal" would go even further, setting more than a tone, but rather, a clear path of rehumanization and citizenship. On this path, it is not simply the undocumented who would begin to be treated as full human beings, but just as importantly, it might also contribute greatly to the rehumanization of our entire society.

With Obama as president—despite possible trepidations from Democratic leaders in the House and Senate—perhaps the notion of dividing up all human beings into legal and illegal populations can now be placed into the trash bin of history.

To do otherwise would be to continue with eight years of Bush policies. To recoil at the thought of full citizenship—with full human rights for the undocumented—would be to succumb to those whose policies and reactionary ideals were thoroughly repudiated in this historic election. That Latinos overwhelmingly supported Obama by more than a two-to-one margin—and that they provided the crucial votes in many swing states—is beside the point. The point is that to do otherwise would be to continue with the hundreds-of-years-old policies of dehumanization. What is the point is that I have full confidence that Obama will indeed one day declare that there is no such thing as an illegal human being, not because of favors owed or demographics, but because it is the moral thing to do.

Si Se Puede—Yes we can.


Photo of Robert Rodriguez

Roberto Rodriguez (with Patrisia Gonzales) has been writing the Column of the Americas since 1994. The writers offer a unique perspective of the Americas … on topics of general interest as well as highlighting issues that specifically affect the peoples of the continent. This article was written November 5, 2008.

Roberto is a member of the YES! Speakers' Bureau.

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