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The Racism of Immigration Politics

Updated on July 2, 2018

The Disappearing Majority

As the United States grapples with the morality of an immigration system that allows the destruction of families at the border or in their American homes, it's important to understand what lies at the foundation of our politics on the issue. A narrative was painted years ago and subconscious biases have been reinforced by ongoing rhetoric, labels, and lies that cast a broad stroke on a people whose growing population signals a change in the cultural landscape of this country.

In an analysis of the annual census, William H Frey, of the Brookings Institution, believes that, by the year 2045 the white population in America will be the minority. And by the year 2020 minority youth(black, Hispanic, Asian, etc) under the age of 18 will out number white youth of the same age. For a segment of the US population, this is seen as a direct threat to their very existence. When in fact, it is the direct result of the natural assimilation this same demographic demands in their anti-immigration rhetoric.

During an alt-right gathering on November 20, 2016, celebrating Donald Trump's victory, white-nationalist speaker Richard Spencer said, "America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us."

Spencer represents a small portion of the American population. But this portion is large enough to earn dog-whistle rhetoric from our politicians that a larger segment of the white population has accepted and used to paint an inaccurate picture of what America really is. Otherwise sensible conservatives, repeat loaded phrases like the KKK's "America First" or George Wallace's "Law and Order," when attempting to rationalize social injustices imposed on minority communities.

Rhetorically Speaking

For decades, words like criminal and illegal were attached to the word alien so much, they are now synonymous to immigrants crossing our southern border. Over the past few years the rhetoric has become increasingly vile and damaging, not to mention politically powerful. Donald Trump began his presidential campaign claiming "Mexico is not sending us their best, they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." And for the entirety of his campaign and most of the first year of his presidency, the chant "build the wall" was the rallying cry of his base during rallies.

His voter's position on immigration was clear. It didn't end with the rallies. His rhetoric leading up to and after Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement of the "Zero Tolerance Policy," which led to the separation of children from their parents at the border as a deterrent, included statements referring to immigrants as animals. He followed that up with a presidential tweet stating Democrats "don't care about crime" and want immigrants "to pour into and infest our country," while likening all undocumented immigrants to "MS-13" (June 19, 2018).

Falsely inflating the number of MS-13 caught at the border, and constantly attaching the name to immigrants helped the president justify the need to be "tough on the border." On the other hand, Border Patrol has stated that less than 1% of immigrants detained at the border are potential MS-13 gang members.

The labeling of a group of people dehumanizes them. It allows cruel and inhumane acts to be seen as necessary and acceptable. It makes it more difficult for a disconnected society to empathize with a people that have been made inferior and different. They are described legally as aliens. It is common to refer to human beings as "illegals." All in an effort to provide comfort and safety.

As Richard Spencer stated in Facing the Future as a Minority, "For us, immigration is a proxy for race. In that way immigration can be good or bad: it can be a conquest (as it seems now)...or a European in-gathering. It all depends on the immigrants. And we should open our minds to the possibilities of Mass immigration from the white world."

Pew Research Center estimates that there are approximately 500,000 white undocumented immigrants from Europe living in the United States: Always in fear of deportation, but rarely threatened with it. Like most undocumented-Mexican immigrants they arrived on a visa, and stayed after it expired.

"White Europeans have some significant advantages over undocumented immigrants of color...They are safe from racial profiling, discrimination, and viscous invective that other immigrant groups often experience." (Arvind Dilawar, January 9, 2017 Gothamist.com)

How are these immigrants any different, if not for skin color? We as a country lack a general understanding of the subject. This dehumanization is fueled by dishonesty and lies. Listen to just about any anti-immigrant argument and you will, sooner than later, hear the untruths created by the racist politics behind immigration. Bill Clinton claimed "All Americans...are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants."

Statistically immigrants are more likely to start business and create jobs than US born citizens, and as "Brookings Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown explains in her new Brookings Essay, 'The Wall'...'the impact of immigrant labor on the wages of native-born workers is low...However, undocumented workers often work the unpleasant, back breaking jobs that native-born workers are not willing to do.'" (Brookings Now August 24, 2017, Brennan Hoban)

Lies feeding the Ignorance

Immigrants are believed to be "overrunning our country," or "pouring" over the border, when, in fact apprehensions of people crossing the border is at its lowest level since 1971. While border patrol agents paroling the border is at an all-time high (U.S. border and customs protection, 2017 Border Security Report). According to Pew Research, net migration with Mexico is at a negative since 2009. Meaning more people are moving to Mexico than are arriving from Mexico. The majority of immigrants entering the country from the southern border are people seeking asylum from Central American countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. If there is a country on this planet that has the financial and geographic means to support immigration, it is the United States. That is how this country was built, and, to the dismay of many Americans, how it continues to grow.

The idea that immigrants bring crime is also baseless. It is true that some of the most dangerous cities in the world, like Tijuana and Cd. Juarez, sit on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border. But it is also a fact that some of America's safest cities like San Diego California and El Paso Texas lie on the border those same cities. Using FBI databases, San Diego was found to be the safest of the 20 largest cities in the United States, while Safewise Security awareness Company found El Paso to be the 2nd safest city in the U.S. with a population of 300,000 or more. Additionally, undocumented immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes in America than native born citizens, and "the presence of large numbers of immigrants seems to lower the crime rate." (2015 National Academy of Science Study)

When it comes to drugs being seized at the border, "the most recent statistics from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) show that narcotics seizures have fallen across the entire border with Mexico this year (2016)." Rafael Carranza, writer for The Republic and AZCentral.com reported on February 28th, 2018, that "Border agents and officers confiscated less drugs overall at the US-Mexico border last year." The DEA also stated that almost all drugs confiscated at the border are confiscated at the ports of entry.

Lies like these feed the appetite to attack and fear "the other." The fear that they will overrun our country, take our american jobs, rape our american women, murder our american men. What is an american man, woman or job?

Historically, American leadership has determined what it really means to be American: skin color. We label Black-Americans as African-Americans, Brown Americans as Mexican-american or Asian-American, we even labeled the original Americans as Native-American. What do we call our white citizens? Its not European Americans. We call them Americans.

We want immigrants crossing the southern border to assimilate. Consider what that might mean. There are Spanish speaking American families living in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California whose ancestors never crossed the Mexican border. Their families lived on that land before "the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo" in 1848, when these states became U.S. territories, and some before the United States was a country. There are entire communities, if not cities in the southwest where English is the second language. If assimilation suggests building businesses, paying taxes and contributing to the economy, then there is no argument. Immigrants are doing this. The argument arises when assimilation means becoming the same. Becoming American as it pertains to a politically powerful demographic.

The Center for American Progress, in 2010, reported that Latin American immigrants assimilate just as well, if not quicker than European immigrants did in the past. Immigration politics is not about assimilation. It is not about the law. It is about race, and how politicians have used racial rhetoric, labels and lies to criminalize and dehumanize a people. Now, a chunk of the American population cannot empathize with these people because of the color of their skin.

People are dying in the Arizona desert. Children have been separated from their families when seeking asylum on the border, families are torn apart in American neighborhoods by deportation, and young people are being threatened with deportation to countries they don't know because they were brought to this country without documents as children. This cruelty is only possible if you can't imagine that it could happen to you.

A small segment of our population has dictated the rhetoric of a conversation, that misinforms an electorate, responsible for the mistreatment of millions. The United States of America is a country of immigrants, and may be the country best fit to reap the rewards of an inclusive immigration system. Unfortunately, ignorance breeds the fear, that flames the racism behind too much of our politics.

© 2018 Raul Sierra Jr

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    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      4 months ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      Raul

      Unfortunately you are mistaken.

      -it is a fact that the U.S. is populated by undocumented immigrants from all over the world, not just Central América.

      B:

      I never said that wasn't true. In fact, I said that Mexico encourages them to get to the US border and cross. Illegal not undocumented.

      --------------------------------------------

      -It's also a fact that the majority of people crossing the southern border illegally seek out border agents so they can claim asylum. It is legal in the United States to seek asylum. It is also more Humane and compassionate for a country as strong and rich as this, to want to help these refugees succeed.

      B:

      Not a fact. Right now we are talking about 2000, and how does that stack up to 11 million illegals.

      ------------------------------------

      -Don't assume that all those refuges are awarded asylum. About 75% of central american refugees are denied asylum. And sent back to their countries of origin.

      B:

      Why is that a problem? Couldn't they be taken in by Mexico?

      --------------------------------------------

      -Before 1921, the US borders were practically open. If you landed on Ellis Island before that, the "vetting" process took just a few hours.

      B:

      It was vetting and it was legal.

      Until the end of the nineteenth century, immigration to the United States was under the loose control of the individual states. In 1875, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws regulating immigration were unconstitutional because they were inconsistent with the exclusive power of the U.S. Congress to regulate foreign commerce. This recognition of the exclusive power of Congress over immigration opened the way to immigration policy and therefore to the establishment of procedures and locations for federal control of immigration. The construction of the Ellis Island federal immigration facility during 1891 symbolized the beginning of the modern period in American immigration history.

      During the first decade of the period of federal control of immigration, 1891 to 1900, 350,000 newcomers reached the United States. In the decade after, from 1901 to 1910, this number more than doubled to 800,000 new arrivals. Although the absolute number of foreign-born people was greater at the end of the twentieth century, immigrants made up a larger proportion of the American population during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when 15 percent of Americans were immigrants. Because of continuing immigration, moreover, by 1910 another 15 percent of native-born Americans were children of two immigrant parents and 7 percent of nativeborn Americans had at least one immigrant parent, so that immigrants and children of immigrants made up more than one-third of the U.S. population.

      ------------------

      -Your numbers about incarcerated immigrants are wrong,. The DOJ reported 45,493 of all people in prison are not US born. It's a mix of naturalized citizens, permanent residents, and documented or undocumented immigrants.

      B:

      Incarcerated Illegal Aliens

      Like

      Tweet

      +1

      25%

      According to the Government Accountability Office, the percent of inmates in federal prisons who are in the country illegally. The GAO also found that criminal illegal aliens were arrested an average of 7 times. (Source: GAO)

      ------------------------------

      -undocumented immigrants cannot apply for welfare programs. Your statement is not true. If they happen to be part of the 25 percent that get granted asylum, they are given a social security number, work and pay taxes. They pay into medicare and social security, but may never qualify for those benefits. Legal or not, they also pay sales and property taxes. They very seldom go unemployed.

      B:

      Tom DeLay says most illegal immigrants draw 'welfare benefits,' send children to public schools

      By Dylan Baddour on Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 at 6:30 p.m.

      -----------------------------------------------

      -Finally, when Donald Trump suggested we accept only "qualified" immigrants, he mentioned immigrants from Norway. This, after his comment about $___hole countries. And why we were accepting so many immigrants from those countries. I am almost embarrassed to have to state the obvious difference between Norway and Haiti, Africa and el Salvador.

      B:

      What does this have to do with breaking the immigration laws and invading the US. This is not fair to the immigrants around the world that try to get into the US legally.

      ----------------------------------

      Historically, almost all immigrants fled oppression and poverty when migrating to the States.

      B:

      So what does that have to do with illegal aliens?

      ---------------------------------------------------------

      Might I also refer you back to the article if you would like statistics on the dangers you say they pose as criminals.

      B:

      Yes, why don't you do that. Start with MS13.

      BTW

      By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2017

      Deporting the country’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants would cost nearly $125 billion, but allowing them to remain in the U.S. could cost taxpayers far more, according to a new report being released Thursday by a think tank that wants to see stricter immigration limits.

      Steven A. Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, crunched the numbers and found that the current population of illegal immigrants will drain nearly $750 billion from taxpayers over their lifetimes — amounting to six times the deportation costs.

      “Sometimes people say look, we couldn’t deport everybody because it’s prohibitively expensive,” Mr. Camarota said. “But if your only concern is fiscal cost, it’s pretty clear that letting them stay is a hell of a lot more expensive.”

      The researcher said he doesn’t actually support a mass deportation of all illegal immigrants, but said it’s important to spark a conversation about costs and benefits as President Trump vows to step up removals of illegal immigrants who already in the U.S.

      The crux of Mr. Camarota’s analysis is the nature of illegal immigrants, who are far more likely to be low-skilled, less-educated workers than the native-born population. Though they also don’t have access to some services and benefits reserved for citizens and legal residents, they do get other benefits, such as education.

    • Raul Sierra profile imageAUTHOR

      Raul Sierra Jr 

      4 months ago from El Paso, Texas

      BradmasterOCcal, thanks for reading. I also appreciate the comments.

      Unfortunately you are mistaken.

      -it is a fact that the U.S. is populated by undocumented immigrants from all over the world, not just Central América.

      -It's also a fact that the majority of people crossing the southern border illegally seek out border agents so they can claim asylum. It is legal in the United States to seek asylum. It is also more Humane and compassionate for a country as strong and rich as this, to want to help these refugees succeed.

      -Don't assume that all those refuges are awarded asylum. About 75% of central american refugees are denied asylum. And sent back to their countries of origin.

      -Before 1921, the US borders were practically open. If you landed on Ellis Island before that, the "vetting" process took just a few hours.

      -Your numbers about incarcerated immigrants are wrong,. The DOJ reported 45,493 of all people in prison are not US born. It's a mix of naturalized citizens, permanent residents, and documented or undocumented immigrants.

      -undocumented immigrants cannot apply for welfare programs. Your statement is not true. If they happen to be part of the 25 percent that get granted asylum, they are given a social security number, work and pay taxes. They pay into medicare and social security, but may never qualify for those benefits. Legal or not, they also pay sales and property taxes. They very seldom go unemployed.

      -Finally, when Donald Trump suggested we accept only "qualified" immigrants, he mentioned immigrants from Norway. This, after his comment about $___hole countries. And why we were accepting so many immigrants from those countries. I am almost embarrassed to have to state the obvious difference between Norway and Haiti, Africa and el Salvador.

      Historically, almost all immigrants fled oppression and poverty when migrating to the States.

      Might I also refer you back to the article if you would like statistics on the dangers you say they pose as criminals.

      Thanks again for commenting.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      4 months ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      Raul

      Starting at the top of your article.

      The Disappearing Majority

      As the United States grapples with the morality of an immigration system that allows the destruction of families at the border or in their American homes,

      B:

      The morality of the US immigration system is not being grappled. What is being grappled is the violation of that immigration system. First, the illegal aliens are cutting in front of the immigration. They are doing it illegally while the rest of the worlds immigrants have to come in legally.

      Why should the illegal aliens be more important than those from the rest of the world?

      The immigrants coming in legally are being vetted, and either allowed entry or not. It is expensive for them, and time consuming. Illegal aliens are not vetted, and therefore criminals, drug cartel, child traffickers, and people with diseases get into the country.

      People always mention the immigrants that came into the US in the late 1800s and early 1900s and say that is the America that we don't have today. The fact is that they all came into the US through Ellis Island legally. And after being vetted they were allowed into the country. But unlike the illegal aliens, once in the country the US government gave them no help at all. They had to do it on their own.

      What about the immigration of Mexico? They are the ones that are sending people to the border to illegally cross it. They have a wall on their southern border, and they don't let those neighbors into Mexico. They do have an exception where they allow them to make to the US border in 90 days and leave Mexico via the US or back where they came from.

      The immigrants from around the world that go through the legal process are far more qualified than those coming from Mexico. And that is the Merit system that Trump is talking about.

      Next, the separating of children issue. The prime blame for that should go on the parents that brought them with them, knowing what happens when they get caught. Grappling is because the democrats want these people to be their new voters. And proof of that is they reject any solution that doesn't have a path to citizenship. And citizenship is required to vote.

      As for cheap labor, there is nothing cheap about it. The only cheap labor goes to the people that hire them. The rest of us have to pay almost a hundred billion a year to support them. Free education, Free medical, and welfare. And then those illegal aliens that commit crimes in the country. Until they are arrested and sentenced they can keep committing crimes. The ones that are arrested, and go to court incur major taxpayer expenses. And it continues when they go to jail or prison. There are over 2 million people in US jails and prisons, and the illegal aliens are a substantial population.

      --------------------------------------

      it's important to understand what lies at the foundation of our politics on the issue. A narrative was painted years ago and subconscious biases have been reinforced by ongoing rhetoric, labels, and lies that cast a broad stroke on a people whose growing population signals a change in the cultural landscape of this country.

      B: Yes, it is what happens when a virus invades our bodies. It is not a good thing, and it is the politics of the left.

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