Screening of Ken Burns documentary “Prohibition” and Forum Discussion

 On Tuesday, One America was invited to a forum discussion of Ken Burns’s new documentary Prohibition. They first showed an excerpt from the end of the film then followed with a panel discussion about how the government tries to legislate people’s appetite. The part I found most interesting about the discussion was when the question was raised about how to change norms.  Mr. Burns responded that it is only when people start having conversations about the current issues will we see a progressive change in cultural norms.

The topic of prohibition and the events that occurred during that era are uncannily comparable to the events going on today with immigration.  Many of the measures that were taken to enforce prohibition laws are similar to the steps being taken today to make sure strict immigration laws are enforced.  The roots of each one of these movements spawn from the desire to create a certain type of America by removing those elements that do not fit into the stereotype.  The goal of prohibition was to ban the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol.  At the time there were growing concerns that alcohol leads to the destruction of families and marriages, political corruption, immoral behavior, and various other acts that were not in line with idea of what it means to be a good American.   We can see similar reasoning today for why stricter immigration laws should be passed.  Common reasons include that undocumented immigrants are taking jobs from American citizens; they do not pay taxes; they are uneducated and unskilled.  All of these are not true, but claims like these are what the media use to fuel anti-immigrant sentiment. The development of Secure Communities is one of the harsher forms of immigration control that is slowly spreading across the U.S. Not only does it encourage police officers to racial profile, but it also encourages the people within the community to racial profile as well.

To avoid making the same mistakes made in the past, the true problems of the immigration system must be brought to light.  Many people do not truly know the circumstances of many undocumented residents and migrant workers, and some cases they do not care to know.  But if we raise awareness, educate people, and have conversations about the basic rights that undocumented people have, we can gain more support. Our nation needs to understand that being an American is not only based on legal status. It is also based on the ability to treat other human beings with dignity, respect, and acknowledgment of the rights they have.

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