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The importance of citizenship

About two weeks ago, the Pew Research Center released the results from a survey that showed a majority of Asian Americans and Hispanics felt that legal permanent residency was more important than a pathway to citizenship in debates over immigration reform. And it makes sense, too. With the rise of deportations during the Obama administration, the fear that you or a loved one could be forced to leave this country is pervasive. Just being able to live and work freely without fear of deportation would be enough. And it also opens some room for negotiation if pro immigration groups were willing to give up a pathway to citizenship in reform talks. But in a piece for The Boston Globe, Maria Sachetti profiles a small rural town in Washington where non citizens are the majority and the problems of effectively governing a city where most of the adult residents can’t vote. Mattawa, Washington was once a sleepy town on the banks of the Columbia River but since the late 90s its population has tripled due to the increase in corporate farming in the surrounding area. The town is now home to over 4,000 people, mostly Latinos who migrated here from Central America to work on the numerous apple farms. Some have legal status and many are undocumented but none of them are represented in their local government. The town faces many serious issues, ranging from education to the budget to teen pregnancy. However, the local government finds it difficult to get support from the state because politicians don’t want to waste time and money on a town where no one can vote. The result is an underfunded yet growing city that can’t make ends meet. The story of Mattawa and the many towns like it around the country demonstrate the importance of citizenship in our communities.

Maria Sacchetti. "Immigration puts small town on cultural divide". The Boston Globe. January 5, 2014.