MEXICO CITY - Remember the road we have traveled for a decade since September 11, 2001. It's important.
The now-departed humorist Art Buchwald wrote that when President John F. Kennedy was killed, nearly 40 years earlier, his friend columnist Mary McGrory told Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who later become senator from New York, "We'll never laugh again."
Moynihan replied, "Mary, we'll laugh again, but we'll never be young again." Buchwald, a week after 9/11 attack wrote, "That is the way I felt last Tuesday."
At the time of the attack, the Bush administration was determining, with the Fox administration in Mexico, what form immigration reform would take. Secretary of State Colin Powell was personally involved. A lot of progress was made toward a conceptual understanding about the United States' need for seasonal and occasional supplementary workers and Mexico's temporary demographic bulge.
Opponents tried to convince public opinion that immigration reform was rewarding really, really, really bad behavior by people in search of every kind of city and rural job who skipped the formalities of U.S. entry to counteract family hunger or lack of opportunity and poverty in Mexico.
Among the 3,213 who perished in the World Trade Center that day in September were a number, perhaps as many as 75, invisible dead: the undocumented, unidentified workers. We would hardly know about them but for NYC's Asociacion Tepeyac, which tried to respond to families abroad about missing relatives.
As part of our justified national defense, unprecedented security measures were taken following the attacks, including all ports of entry and borders closed.
And there began accelerated myth making when fools rushed in.
Demented campaigns began alleging terrorist bands were coming in from the southern border. In fact, popular language made the previously "unauthorized" entrants into "illegal aliens" to reflect the paranoiac moment. It conveyed the notion of poachers, trespassers, criminal elements, the unneeded and unwanted, the incomprehensible problem-riddled hoards with, now, terrorist tendencies.
The stereotyping sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? But it's true.
In 2009, 14 family members of World Trade Center immigrant victims, overstayed their visas by one year for fear that they might not be allowed back in the country if they left, while they pursued claims and waited the outcome of a congressional bill and a pending Homeland Security "parole."
Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King, an opponent of special consideration, said, "Why should these families be treated any different than the families of illegal immigrants who die in accidents or by natural causes while in the United States?"
Why? Because it was an unnatural event. Because families are victims, too. The attack was on all of us, unless demons define 9/11 in a demented way.
The Minute Man movement -- with the help of Lou Dobbs and others -- painted a picture as fake as the sinking of the Maine, the attack on the Pueblo and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They trafficked in public angst about terrorist invaders, purveyors of crime, job-nappers. They encouraged pathetic paramilitary action. They were the forerunners of the Tea Party who politicized the mood, adding a simplistic Constitution, religion, and economics to the mix.
Those who fell for the ploy have been punked.
But they are not the only ones. For instance, Wisconsin dairy producers, facing a labor crisis, have turned to foreign workers to fill the labor gap. "AgJOBS," a pending bill in Congress would legalize undocumented workers who pay fines and taxes and have no criminal history to become eligible for seasonal agricultural visas.
A congressional aide debated "securing the border" in relation to this measure, according to attorney Eric Straub in a blog. A farmer interrupted: "You know, you guys need to just get together and finally decide what it means, because at the end of day, I still have to milk my cows."
The "secure the border" ruse is part of the answer when fools rushed in to define what 9/11 meant.
Because all of us were victimized by the 9/11 attacks, now, a decade later, we need to take back the story, the narrative as some commentators like calling it, and end fear-based lies, stop using the commemoration to demean the humanity of decent people and stop using 9/11 to reward the fools and the paranoids.
And when immigration in North America in reformed, it should be called part of the national restoration following 9/11 so that we can laugh again, even though we won't forget.
Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org