SALINA, Kan. - For a fleeting moment Albuquerque, NM, resident Antonio Diaz Chacon was a hero. Upon witnessing the forcible abduction of a six year-old girl he jumped in his pickup truck and chased the kidnapper until the suspect crashed his vehicle into a light pole. When the individual took off on foot Diaz Chacon reached into the van, grabbed the little girl and whisked her to safety.
For his heroism Mr. Diaz Chacon was honored in a special ceremony by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, who recognized his bravery with the presentation of a special plaque hailing his effort in foiling the kidnapping.
But shortly thereafter it was revealed, and the young man admitted, that he is an illegal immigrant. Suddenly, he is the focal point of a renewed debate over immigration policy in our country. And many are quick to demonize immigrants. Examples abound.
During last year's primary for the open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas Republicans Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt engaged in an ugly ad war, each trying to show that they were the most hostile to illegal immigrants.
I recall being told last year by the Mayor of a western Kansas town on I-70 that all Mexicans immigrants are deadbeats, drug dealers and welfare cheats, and that every one of them should be deported.
And then there's Kris Kobach, who is trying to build an entire career based on pandering to the worst of prejudices. Kobach is proud of his work as author of Arizona Law 1070, which basically legalizes racial profiling. Arousing the hatred of many towards dark-skinned immigrants clearly sells in the political arena these days, as Kobach rode the fictitious issue of voter fraud to election as Kansas Secretary of State, the state's chief election officer.
Harsh attitudes toward immigrants are, unfortunately, not limited to our country. They're a world-wide phenomenon. A handful of North Koreans manage each year to escape to the South. There they are met with condescension, betrayed by their strange accent, and by the fact that the average North Korean is four inches shorter than the average South Korean, presumably because of malnutrition in the North.
When tensions have risen between Georgia and Russia in recent years Vladimir Putin has been quick to deport thousands of Georgians from Russian territory and criticize them for taking jobs from ordinary Russians.
Many pregnant Paraguayan and Bolivian women immigrate to Buenos Aires each year. They do so because of the free and superior healthcare they can obtain in the Argentinian capital. Argentinians, mostly Caucasians of Spanish and Italian descent, tend to look down on these darker skinned immigrants, regarding them as members of inferior Indian cultures.
In the past decade millions of north Africans have left their homes for the greater economic and political freedoms afforded them in Europe. Sadly, many are
made to feel unwelcome by their European brethren.
And China refuses to make significant efforts to reign in the rogue regime of Kim Jung-Il in North Korea, reportedly fearful of a wave of undernourished refugees flooding over its borders.
Back at home some are openly critical of the Albuquerque Mayor's office for honoring Diaz Chacon. The situation certainly puts recent attempts by the political right in our country to demonize such individuals in a new light. In the words of the young man himself, "It's not like I'm guilty of murder or something."
Hopefully the resulting national discussion will lead many away from the view, pushed by ultra-conservatives, that undocumented immigrants are, first and foremost, hardcore criminals.