With all the problems facing our country, politicians see Mexicans, gays and birds as our greatest threats. Sure, millions of people are breaking the law to find work in the US but is this really hurting our country?

People in the border states claim that illegal aliens are overwhelming their schools, social services and jails. They cry about these people overburdening their emergency rooms. But aren’t millions of Americans without health insurance already draining our health care providers?

I don’t see Mexicans, legal or illegal, as a threat to our way of life. Many of these immigrants are thrifty and hard working and have two-parent families. When I visit the Latino neighborhoods in Chicago, I don’t feel scared. Maybe it’s the aroma of clean laundry that reassures me.

There’s no way Mexicans are a burden to our society the way the famine Irish were. They were dirt poor, uneducated and unskilled. They did work that was considered too dangerous for slaves. They did have two advantages over Mexicans, though, in the eyes of the nativists: they were white and they spoke English. It’s a sore point for some Americans that many Mexican immigrants don’t speak our lingo. Not me. I look at it as a chance to learn another language, like the Europeans do.

Mexican immigrants have enriched our culture in so many ways. They’ve brought their cuisine, customs and music. Sure, their TV soap operas are second rate but they’re catching up to us.

Without Mexican immigrants, legal or illegal, the economy of Forest Park would flounder. Our financial viability is partly based on an army of restaurant workers, landscapers and cemetery workers: jobs that have not been eagerly sought by Americans.

We wrote a story years ago on Mexican-Americans in Forest Park. We learned that many came from the same small village in Zacatecas. We learned that they worked hard and sent money home. We also found that many would not give their last names.

The politicians offer solutions to the immigration problem. Their first mantra is “secure the border.” Good luck. In the course of human history, walls have a very poor track record, starting with the one in China. They say they can round up the illegals. I make my living locating hard to find people, including Mexicans who are here illegally. It’s not easy to track down someone who uses different names, Social Security numbers and addresses. Our immigration department is already so overwhelmed; it took me two years to get an answer to an inquiry. As for the border state complainers, I’m rooting for the immigrants. We stole those states from Mexico in 1847 and they are peacefully resettling them.

Finally, why do we need another issue to divide our country? We had peaceful co-existence with illegals, until the politicians started screaming. As many Forest Park homeowners have learned: sometimes fixing something that’s broken only makes it worse.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.