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A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
“You’d better watch out, because there are cops all over the road,” has long brought a smile to my face.
“Do you think I’m prone to driving recklessly or doing something illegal?”
“Well, no. But they’ll get you.”
No, they won’t.
They aren’t looking for me. I don’t break the law.
They are here to protect us from those who would do us harm. By that I mean people who do drive recklessly, who use the highways and byways to further their criminal endeavors and who put us all in danger when they try to evade capture.
There was a time when a sheriff’s deputy would park his Crown Victoria behind a billboard at the edge of town to wait for the occasional lunatic racing or tossing a beer bottle from the window of a souped-up Monte Carlo.
For the most part, those days are gone. The dangers to the traveling public and to our peaceful neighborhoods now come from further afield and require a heavier law enforcement presence to control.
Having said that, I take issue with the description of South Texas border regions as being “a high-threat area,” even though this newspaper did publish an article last week using those words in reference to the governor’s deployment of additional Highway Patrol troopers and other resources to our part of the state.
A blanket term for the region during a crisis of pressure on the border is, in my opinion, grossly misleading.
I agree that there are dangers on today’s highways that we didn’t know before, such as drivers smuggling immigrants and drugs, and I agree that pursuits and bail-outs have occurred in unprecedented numbers, as have incidents of serious harm to travelers. It is for these cases that we have extra law enforcement.
I do not agree, however, with the notion that the very presence of undocumented immigrants poses an immediate threat to our wellbeing, our safety and the peace of our communities.
In fact, I find the recent spray of hyperbole and generalizations xenophobic and ignorant.
I agree that there is a criminal element hidden among the many who come to the United States. There always has been.
Between the huddled masses who push their way into this country as refugees from desperately awful conditions are likely to be some looking to benefit from criminal opportunities. This is, after all, arguably the wealthiest country on Earth with the greatest opportunity for profiteering and – let’s be honest – history’s greatest appetite for narcotics.
We must learn to differentiate between those who are genuinely hungry, who genuinely need shelter and who might one day genuinely benefit our vast and diversified economy, and those who have come dressed in sheep’s clothing, looking to profit through plunder and poison.
There was a time when America welcomed me just as it welcomed many of your forefathers. We may not have swum across rivers or clung to the underbellies of train carriages, but we presented ourselves at the border nonetheless and asked to be allowed a place at table. Eventually, we became productive members of society and part of the great melting pot of cultures that constitutes the United States.
Yes, there are law enforcement officers all over the border region. Yes, they are looking for people who shouldn’t be here. Yes, they will ultimately have to differentiate between those with wicked intent and those who need help.
This isn’t the time to resist the added security, just as it isn’t the time to refuse help to those who truly need it.
I don’t believe we live in a high-threat area, but we do live in a time of caution and watchfulness. Perhaps we always have.
Let us therefore be glad that “there are cops all over the road,” but let us also never forget that somewhere out there tonight is a hungry child who believes we may deliver him from evil.