Earlier today, the Maryland Highway Safety Act of 2013–which would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a special class of driver’s license–passed the House of Delegates 82-56. I was a proud supporter of the measure: Our nation was founded by immigrants who came here in search of opportunity, and this bill continues our proud history of providing hope to the less fortunate. But what I was far from proud of was the choice some of my colleagues made in utilizing the politics of fear in an attempt to encourage others to join the opposition.
Immigration is part of the fuel for our economy: There are millions of undocumented immigrants providing services upon which our society relies. Indeed, we are stronger because of our diversity, not in spite of it. Some of my colleagues feel differently. And that is OK. They are here to represent their constituents, and opposing views are necessary for a healthy democracy. But what is not OK, what is downright deplorable, is reverting to jingoistic rhetoric that seeks to divide rather than unite. Referring to immigrants as “those people”–inferring that they are somehow inherently inferior–is a tactic that might have been acceptable to some a century ago, but has no place in today’s world. We are better than that. And, thankfully, our laws will now reflect that fact more accurately.
In the long arc of history all of our ancestors came here recently. I will proudly welcome with open arms any new Marylanders who may come as a result of these progressive changes. And I will know that we will continue to thrive, both economically and socially, if we legislate in a manner that acknowledges these realities.