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Exploitation of a Tragedy

By Katherine Fennelly, Professor at the Humphrey H. Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, IHRC Affiliate

A tragic traffic accident this week has provided yet another opportunity for an outpouring of anger directed toward undocumented immigrants.

No one can be unmoved by the deaths of several children after a twenty-three year old woman apparently ran a stop sign and crashed into a school bus in Cottonwood, Minnesota. However, it is chilling to see the speed with which the tragedy has been exploited as an opportunity to rant against all undocumented immigrants, and—in some cases—against all immigrants. A colleague in south Central Minnesota sent out a plaintive email today decrying the media frenzy and the many loud demands to “send them all home?. What is the relevance, he asks, of her ethnicity or her immigration status? Ironically, the relevance of the case lies not in the characteristics of the driver, but in current legislation that denies drivers licenses (and thus opportunities for driver education and automobile insurance) to undocumented residents.