viernes, septiembre 07, 2007

A tale of two Joses

By Cesar Fernando Zapata

Jose Gutierrez and Jose Carranza are so different one to another, that they could well be from different planets.

U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez was one of the first servicemen who died in combat in Iraq in 2003. He was 22.

Gutierrez enlisted in the Marines because he wanted "to give the United States what the United States gave to him", according to friends and relatives interviewed by Spanish TV network Telemundo KVEA station in Los Angeles. "He came with nothing. This country gave him everything", they added.

Jose Carranza, on the other hand, is the man charged with the Aug. 4 execution-style murders of Terrance Aeriel, 18, Dashon Harvey, 20, and Iofemi Hightower, 20. Aeriel's sister, Natasha Aeriel, 19, was hospitalized with a bullet in her head.

Despite their vastly different lives, Jose Gutierrez and Jose Carranza have one small thing in common, though: Both entered the United States without documents.

In 1997, Gutierrez, born in Guatemala, entered the United States illegally, and was detained by Border Patrol officers. To avoid deportation, Gutierrez claimed he was a minor, and was allowed to remain in the U.S., according to the CBS' "60 Minutes" website.

Gutierrez was eventually adopted by a foster family, got his green card in 1999, and attended a community college in California.

Carranza, on the other hand, was born in Peru. He is 28 and at the time of the Newark killings, he was free on bail for child rape charges.

The senseless attack on these students (all of them African-AmericanS) was the perfect excuse to blame Hispanic immigrants at large, as a community, for a supposed crime wave that affects the country.

It doesn't matter that Carranza was only one of six suspects in the murders: His being an "illegal immigrant" was more than enough to declare every Hispanic immigrant a potential criminal by anti-immigration extremists.

For them the Jose Carranza's kind is the rule for every immigrant, whereas Jose Gutierrez is the exception.

But this is not the case. According to a report the U.S. Department of Defense and the American Law Foundation, more than 60,000 immigrants serve on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

"More than 20 percent of the recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor in U.S. Wars have been immigrants, a total of 716 of the 3,406 Medal of Honor recipients have been immigrants", the report added.

Hispanics (many of them immigrants) also drive the national economy: According to the U.S. Census' 2002 Survey of Business Owners, Hispanics owned 1.6 million nonfarm businesses, employing 1.5 million persons and generating $222.0 billion in revenues.

The number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew 31 percent between 1997 and 2002 — three times the national average for all businesses,— according to the report.

Of course, none of this seems to matter. For the anti-immigration lobby, just for looking (and speaking) like Jose Carranza, every Hispanic is a crime suspect, until proven otherwise.

Or, as former House speaker Newt Gringrich said, undocumented immigrants are as dangerous as terrorists.

“Young Americans in our cities are massacred” by illegal immigrants, wrote Gringrich in a recent column published by conservative newsletter "(this) is a war here at home (...) even more deadly than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan”, he wrote.

We are not excusing Carranza's actions. If he is found guilty —after due process— of all the charges, he should pay for his crimes, and be deported afterwards, like anyone else.

For anti-immigration groups, it doesn't matter if 12 million of undocumented immigrants work hard, pay taxes (yes, even undocumented immigrants pay taxes, whether they want it or not), raise their families and have a productive life: It just takes one bad Jose Carranza to erase all the good Jose Gutierrezes.

If we apply this same logic, then we would believe that terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, "The Unabomber", or serial killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer represent the average White American.

However, we all agree these criminals are the exception, not the rule among Americans.
Unfortunately, this logic seems not to apply to immigrants. For extremists, Carranza is the rule, not the exception among Hispanics.

They forget there are millions of other Joses (or Marias) out there, who also deserve being mentioned.

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