By Kevin Rudden Staff Reporter/Columnist
September 23, 2011
It took a lot of guts for two Ecuadorean diplomats to come into Milford this month. To say the least, the atmosphere was hostile.
More than two dozen police officers were on hand to maintain order, and more than 10 times that number gathered in Upper Town Hall to mutter under their breaths and glare at Beatriz Almeida Stein, Consul Ad-Honorem in Boston, and Pablo Calle, a New York-based official with Ecuador's National Department for Migrant Affairs. In the front row of spectators, a large sign facing her urged Stein to go back home – to Needham, where she lives.
And, when Calle tried to have a frank discussion about immigration issues, he was – at one point – shouted down and even booed by a boorish crowd.
So, why would the diplomats come?
For one thing, they offered personal condolences to the family of Matthew Denice. For another, they acknowledged – in person – that there is a problem with illegal immigrants from their country coming to Milford and offered to work toward a solution. And, if you listened to Calle, he came to explain another country's view of the United States' immigration policies.
Americans are so U.S.-centric that we often ignore the world at large around us. So I, for one, found it interesting to learn that Ecuador has its own problems with illegal immigration – from Haiti, Cuba, Peru and Venezuela. Also interesting was learning that Ecuador is trying to solve our illegal immigration problem by creating reasons for its citizens to stay in their country.
So what was gained by their visit? It will not bring Matt Denice back. It will not solve the illegal immigration problem overnight. And, a cynical person might say the two diplomats merely were playing to their own constituencies – their bosses back home in Ecuador and their countrymen here in America.
One of the habits advocated by Steven Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is "Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood." What I noticed is that the two diplomats listened. If nothing else, that's a good start.