Monday, June 25, 2007

Soldier Field as a Lesson in Immigration

I was at Soldier Field Sunday to watch the US play Mexico in the Gold Cup Final. It was a great game, and my kids enjoyed themselves, though I do not think are exactly certain what was going on. But as I sat there I actually had a quick thought about the immigration controversy.

Pessimists would note that most of the crowd in Chicago was rooting for Mexico and wearing green. But I also noted Hispanic fans rooting for the US (and by the end yelling things in Spanish at the Mexican fans). I also saw a lot of people with BOTH US/Mexican jersey's or flags or face paint. There also were families where the parents were dressed in green and the kids in red and blue.

What this really says is that the concerns about lack of assimilation are overstated. Yes, it will be difficult. And unlike past waves of immigration, the source of the immigrants is close by and most come from one particular country (i.e. Mexico). Yet the impulse to assimilate is also very strong. And unlike past waves of immigration, the Mexican subculture has always been a part of US culture. There has always been intermarriage and cross culture contacts.

If the current immigration bill is accepted, it will also allow for Mexicans to work here and more easily go home when they wish -- right now, it is so difficult to go home that once an illegal gets to the United States, they stay until caught or dead.

Sitting in Soldier Field may have made me think about how difficult these questions are. One problem with the immigration debate is how quickly insults are thrown. Is you support the bill, you are accuse of supporting amnesty or throwing away American sovereignty. If you oppose the bill, you are a racist. But it is not that easy. It is about parents and children who may end up with very different world views -- a mother who puts up an icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe while her daughter puts up the latest boy band. America is a synthesis and that synthesis takes time, but it will come.

And as usual, we beat Mexico 2-1.

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