Osama, Obama and Undocumented Immigrants

Osama, Obama and Undocumented Immigrants

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Since the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 the world has changed radically. The images of the tragedy of the suicide attack on New York’s twin towers, the hijacked commercial aircrafts packed with passengers, and the subsequent collapse of the buildings, were transmitted to all parts of the world.

We watched as a plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington. Cameras recorded the pulverized remains of another plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field, after passengers rioted and prevented the terrorists from carrying out their attack.

That Tuesday was one of my days off from Univision Online, but I went to work anyway, filled with adrenaline.

What struck me most that day was watching people jump from the burning skyscrapers. I remembered the hundreds of times, in the late ‘80s, when I used to change trains at the underground station at the World Trade Center to take the Path train bound for New Jersey, where my love lived.

What I never imagined was that the terrorist attacks planned by Osama bin Laden would end up hurting undocumented immigrants in the United States, and lead to a collapse of the immigration talks between U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Less than a week before the attacks, the American and Mexican leaders had exchanged views on the subject and, as a result of his experience as governor of Texas, Bush’s international agenda had been focused on our southern neighbor.

But the world's most wanted terrorist, who was killed on May 1 by U.S. special forces in Pakistan, changed everything.

After Sept. 11, the country erupted in an anti-immigrant atmosphere in which undocumented immigrants became the scapegoats for every problem, fueling the invasion theory that has been skillfully exploited by immigration restrictionists.

It's hard to make people with anti-immigrant views understand that on that fatal Tuesday, Latinos and undocumented immigrants were among those killed in the suicide attacks by members of Al Qaeda.

Statistics from the New York City Department of Health concluded that about 10 percent of the 3,000 people killed by the fanatical followers of bin Laden were Hispanic, among them Mexicans, Colombians, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, Cubans, Hondurans, Venezuelans, Salvadorans, Argentines and Spaniards.

The Tepeyac Association, a community group based in Manhattan, documented 100 cases of undocumented immigrants who died that day, including cooks, cleaners and other service providers.

It is almost impossible to make it clear to intolerant people that the authors of the Sept. 11 tragedy entered the country with legal visas that were stamped in U.S. consulates abroad, and that among their victims were thousands of Latinos who participated in the clean-up of Ground Zero and experienced trouble breathing as a result of exposure to the toxins.

More than 2,000 of them, 70 percent of them undocumented, sought help at the Tepeyac Association.

That’s why it is morally wrong that on the anniversary of Sept. 11 several years ago, Vernon Robinson, the former councilmen from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, led a protest against "illegals" in front of the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh. And that former state Senator Fern Shubert, during his unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2004, used footage of the attack on the twin towers when talking about the issue of granting driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Now that President Barack Obama has reaffirmed his position, disproved the conspiracy theories about his birthplace, and achieved his goal in eliminating bin Laden, it is time for him to grant justice to the undocumented immigrants who have sacrificed for this country.

For now, in order to begin to fulfill his promises, he could use his executive powers to stop deportations.