According to whitehouse.gov, President Obama’s proposal for immigration reform gives undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship, is designed to stop businesses from exploiting the system by knowingly hiring undocumented workers, provides visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses in America, and strengthens the nation’s ability to remove criminals and apprehend and prosecute threats to national security. The proposed reforms have sparked debates and disagreements not only in the U.S but also in the CNMI.
Saipan resident Maise B. Tenorio believes that racism play a role in immigration reform and she asked this of Alabama 10th Circuit Judge Helen Shores Lee during the judge’s presentation on MLK Day on Monday. Tenorio asked Lee whether or not she thinks racism plays a role in how the issue is being discussed nationally.
“To be quite honest, I think it does,” Lee replied. “It is very subtle, very subtle but I think it does.”
Lee noted that the United States was built by immigrants that migrated here many years ago.
“We don’t seem to embrace diversity from different cultures. I don’t know if we don’t understand it or don’t want to upset the status quo or what it is. But we don’t embrace diversity,” she added.
Lee added that she feels that the U.S is becoming more diverse and there is, in her personal opinion, “a mean-spirited atmosphere that prevails.”
Tenorio agreed with Lee’s response. She said, “A lot of it is backlash in terms of the fact we have an African-American president.”
Tenorio explained how she think that people feel like they are losing control and “have to do what they have to do to keep their power”—in this case removing the immigrants.
“I think people feel like they have to choose between supporting immigrants or the indigenous,” she said. “But we don’t have to choose. We can love our Commonwealth and our people at the same time and fight for the rights of everyone.”