Ed. Note:The following is an editorial submitted by San Diego State University professor of Political Science Kristen Hill Maher, Ph.D.:
It appears to me that the protestors against the arrival of Central American women and children at Murietta are responding to some issues much larger than this particular situation. In part, I see a lot of anger about the way that immigration is being handled on a Federal level, and particularly with Obama's announcement that he will do what he can through Executive authority instead of waiting for Congress to pass legislation. These migrants arrived right in the midst of that storm.
Another potential aspect of the anger may come from the feelings some people have about how Latino immigration in particular has been shifting national culture and politics. Some people who have long thought about the US as a mostly Anglo country see the shift towards a population where minorities are the new majority. They see more cultural influence by Latinos, and increasingly, political power as well. These kinds of issues get at the heart of what it means to be an American, and issues of national identity can have deep emotional roots.
On the other side, we also see people very angry about a vision of national identity that would relegate Latinos and immigrants to the sidelines, as if they cannot also be real Americans or valuable contributing members to society. In addition, we see some livid emotion among those who have had their lives affected by immigration policies about the ways that they have separated families and violated rights.
At the moment, there is not much common ground between these positions, and both have some a powerful emotional core. It's not surprising that this issue has exploded in ways that lack civility.
At the same time, we can hope that people could not get so wound up in their passions that they fail to pay attention to the realities of these particular migrants and why they have ended up on US shores at this time. It's NOT simply a reaction to immigration policies, or else we would be seeing a wave of migrants from other countries like Nicaragua that also have a history of economic instability and immigration to the US. These particular migrants are displaced by violence in their home countries -- violence that particularly targets children. For every migrant reaching our shores, there is a handful of others who have left home and ended up somewhere else. This reality is sadly missing from much of the emotional critique and reaction.