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Who are we? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Erika Schmidt Russell   
Wednesday, September 26, 2012 8:12 PM

So, what are our priorities in Dearborn County, Indiana, and the United States?

Apparently, making sure we can keep people in jail indefinitely with unreasonable bond amounts or having weekend hours to bond people out is more important that our roads or other needs.

Dozens and dozens of people were rounded up Monday on allegations of corrupt business practices - lying about revenues and paying less sales tax to the state - and using other people’s Social Security numbers at the Acapulco Mexican Restaurants. They are people who “pose a flight risk.”

Your Dearborn County neighbor who has a job and does something dangerously stupid like drunk driving on a Friday night does not pose a flight risk and should not be sitting in jail all weekend.

So here we are, loads of people rounded up and jailed. If the owners had not allegedly cheated the state out of its tax revenue we wouldn’t be dealing with it or the other problem of alleged illegal immigrants and bogus Social Security numbers.

Meanwhile, sources have said there are 16 people crowded into one “drunk tank,” 13 people in the other “drunk tank” and 30 people being housed in one of the Dearborn County Law Enforcement Center recreation rooms, with buckets as toilets.

Other prisoners meanwhile are sitting in cells for committing the same crime as other people, yet they do not have the money or connections to merit pre-trial diversions or probation-only sentences.

The problem is not illegal immigrants or “crime” or “drugs.” The problem is us. What do we as U.S. citizens want?

Do we want a Constitution we only trot out when it is convenient and affirms our beliefs? We like to say people are innocent until proven guilty, but we often forget everyone has a right to legal representation, even if the person is “caught in the act.”

Do we want to have opportunity for all or just people with the right skin color, religion, or politics?

In the 1850s there were signs that said No Irish. There was prejudice against Catholics well into this century. There was great anti-German sentiment during both World Wars, although interestingly enough the Germans were not rounded up into internment camps - only the Japanese were.

Our immigration laws originated in the 20th Century, and were and are biased against darker-skinned people/non-Protestant majority countries.

We live in a much different world than the 1920s. Now we not only complain about “them” taking Americans’ jobs, we also complain about jobs being shipped overseas or south of the border.

We are in a time of great leveling. We learned - finally, maybe - that we are part of a global economy.

We’ve learned that there are people who hate us. But we have not yet opened our eyes to the realities of the economy or to the reasons we are hated.

As Dearborn Countians, Hoosiers, Americans we see people who risk their lives to come here to work.

And then they live in the shadows around us. But not completely in the shadows.

How many times have you seen your waiter from Acapulco shopping at Walmart? How many people said “oh poor Adolfo,” when they saw his picture in our paper? We know their faces, and even their names but we don’t want to acknowledge the truth.

The world we live in is much different now than it was 30 years ago. We must open our eyes to that.

We must stand up for and export our values of justice for all - not justice if you know the right people or have enough money.

We must export and encourage organized labor. We must band together and encourage others to band together.

We must re-write our immigration laws and encourage other countries to do the same. Those laws help keep that waiter from Acapulco’s silent, help keep the landscaper working longer hours, help keep a factory worker from reporting an injury or unsafe conditions.

Those very laws we think protect us actually hurt us. Because of the very shadow existence so many illegal immigrants live, crimes can go unreported until the person who committed the crime against the “illegal” commits a crime against a “legal” resident/citizen.

So, what are our priorities? Jails for illegals, a young person addicted to heroin after he was treated for a sports injury or pulled tooth? Fighting about freedom of religion and individualism, but only when it lines up with one narrow set of beliefs?

So instead of calling them flight risks and keeping them jailed with high bonds or no bond, let the low level people go.

They can skip bond etc., and the county/state can keep the money. The county/state will be saved the expense of prosecution and housing them in the jail.

So maybe, instead of spending money on a jail and inmates we could spend money on improving our roads and bridges.

Or maybe spend money on parks or other infrastructure improvements, making Dearborn County a more  attractive place for people to live and businesses to locate.

Go ahead tell me how wrong I am. I can take it. My ancestors are Irishmen and Germans. Some were even, gasp, Catholic. Nobody liked them either, and yet I’m still here.

Erika Schmidt Russell is editor of The Journal-Press and The Dearborn County Register.