Immigrants as scapegoats - a recurrent right-wing tactic

The issue of immigration was brought to the forefront recently by Arizona's discriminatory immigration law SB 1070, which would require police and other public officials to ask all or any "illegal"-looking people (i.e. Latino-looking) to show their IDs. This demonstrates an attitude oriented towards criminalizing immigrants in general and a hostile outlook towards Hispanics in particular.

The anti-immigrant attitude was also evident in Utah a few months ago when a list was published and widely distributed with the names and personal information of 1,300 supposedly undocumented immigrants concerning which some were actually born in the U.S., but happened to have Spanish names. The people that created the list signed it "anonymous", i.e. cowards.

At the same time, many on the right-wing side of American politics are targeting the 14th Amendment, which states "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction there of, are citizens of the United States and of the states where in they reside."  The right-wing has dubbed babies of immigrants as "anchor babies" and, in effect, wishes to criminalize babies!

Understandably, there is a heightened climate of fear that many immigrants experience due to such extreme animosity being directed toward them.

Immigrants have been a perennial scapegoat of the right-wing. Indeed, they make easy targets as they often have little or no political clout and generally cannot fight back through legal means.

Racism, I believe, is one of the fundamental components of the hostility towards immigrants.

(As an aside, I don't really like to use the word "race" or overly emphasize "racism" as a factor, especially as I believe that "race" is a misnomer in that all of us are of the same race, the human race. I use it only because it is in the common vernacular, while often used to point out an imaginary great divide linked to ethnic variance and supposed negative traits that are assigned to people who superficially appear different.)

My interest and activism on behalf of this and similar issues began about 1980 when I lived in California. Then I was involved with the anti-interventionist movement that was against U.S. policies of backing right wing dictatorships, and training militaries and death squads from El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as throughout much of Latin America. I was also active in CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.

At the time, the group was opposed to U.S. operations that supported Salvadoran government leaders and armed forces involved in widespread imprisonment, torture and murder of innocent civilians to prop up a corrupt regime favoring U.S. business interests. Due to the resultant turmoil in their land, many Salvadorans, throughout the 80s and into the 90s, came north as refugees and were helped by the sanctuary movement that sheltered many of these undocumented people.

Movement members understood that, if the refugees were deported to El Salvador, they would likely be found and killed by the Salvadoran government/death squads whose commanders the U.S. funded and trained at the School of the Americas in Georgia. In relation, El Salvador had 75,000 killed and, concurrently, Guatemala had 200,000 civilians killed in the 80s and 90s.

All considered, many refugees, aside from those from El Salvador, came to the U.S. during that period. Yet because of our government's ratification of their nations' brutal regimes, our public officials showed indifference to their story and hostility to their needs at the time.

Later on when Newt Gingrich and the Republicans introduced their Contract with America, many of us rejected its viewpoints. We noted, amongst other unacceptable positions, its ratification of a strong anti-immigrant stance, one that instilled a great deal of anxiety among many immigrants, including my wife who is from Thailand.

Understandably, many immigrants from all parts of the world feared deportation in relation to this ugly contract. So they worked to quickly obtain U.S. nationality and, representing a fairly common mix for that era, there were about 300 new citizens comprised of approximately 70% Latin Americans, 20% Asians, and 10% Europeans and Africans during one of the many citizenship ceremonies that I remember taking place then.

Meanwhile, I, have a positive attitude about immigration and the ethnic mix of our country. I view both as a good occurrence, especially as newcomers and people with diverse cultural backgrounds bring a fresh perspective to many varied issues that concern us all. They also often provide valuable goods and services that vitalize the economy and strengthen community ties.

Brian McAfee is a freelance writer and researcher currently living in Muskegon Heights, Mich.

 

Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.

Comments

  • I was doing some research and came up upon your article I think is very good and that it shows the other side of the coin that many do not like to see or read about. One of the things that I was interested in was the racism that we had to endure during the 80's from the African American community in the neighborhoods and schools, which eventually led to the formation of gangs. Nowadays everyone focuses only on the negative aspects of hispanic communities. The civil rights movement struggle in this country has missed a big chunk of history when it comes to racism and hate crimes towards us. I think is important that its brought to light and let the world know that we are not just about colors and music and art.. that we are human beings which scaped the persecution of war only to land at the clutches of descrimination and racism. This evil should not go undocumented and unheard of it is part of who we are and why it led to the way things are now when everything is blamed on us.
    Thank you.

    Posted by Jose, 01/07/2012 12:15pm (3 years ago)

  • Corporations control jobs and therefore are responsible for things like unemployment and low wages. Why don't teabaggers ever get mad at them?

    Posted by Smarter-than-a-teabagger, 10/09/2010 5:42pm (4 years ago)

  • I am opposed to immigration "reform" (amnesty). This country is overpopulated, and 21 million Americans are out of work.

    Posted by Don, 10/07/2010 8:04pm (4 years ago)

  • Before you Scream and show Ignorance and Hate at least read the Immigration Law regarding Undocumented Immigrants.

    THE UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS ARE PAYING MORE TAXES THAN YOU THINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Eight million Undocumented immigrants pay Social Security, Medicare and income taxes. Denying public services to people who pay their taxes is an affront to America’s bedrock belief in fairness. But many “pull-up-the-drawbridge” politicians want to do just that when it comes to Undocumented immigrants.

    The fact that Undocumented immigrants pay taxes at all will come as news to many Americans. A stunning two thirds of Undocumented immigrants pay Medicare, Social Security and personal income taxes.

    Yet, nativists like Congressman Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., have popularized the notion that illegal aliens are a colossal drain on the nation’s hospitals, schools and welfare programs — consuming services that they don’t pay for.

    In reality, the 1996 welfare reform bill disqualified Undocumented immigrants from nearly all means tested government programs including food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid and Medicare-funded hospitalization.

    The only services that illegals can still get are emergency medical care and K-12 education. Nevertheless, Tancredo and his ilk pushed a bill through the House criminalizing all aid to illegal aliens — even private acts of charity by priests, nurses and social workers.

    Potentially, any soup kitchen that offers so much as a free lunch to an illegal could face up to five years in prison and seizure of assets. The Senate bill that recently collapsed would have tempered these draconian measures against private aid.

    But no one — Democrat or Republican — seems to oppose the idea of withholding public services. Earlier this year, Congress passed a law that requires everyone who gets Medicaid — the government-funded health care program for the poor — to offer proof of U.S. citizenship so we can avoid “theft of these benefits by illegal aliens,” as Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., puts it. But, immigrants aren’t flocking to the United States to mooch off the government.

    According to a study by the Urban Institute, the 1996 welfare reform effort dramatically reduced the use of welfare by undocumented immigrant households, exactly as intended. And another vital thing happened in 1996: the Internal Revenue Service began issuing identification numbers to enable illegal immigrants who don’t have Social Security numbers to file taxes.

    One might have imagined that those fearing deportation or confronting the prospect of paying for their safety net through their own meager wages would take a pass on the IRS’ scheme. Not so. Close to 8 million of the 12 million or so illegal aliens in the country today file personal income taxes using these numbers, contributing billions to federal coffers.

    No doubt they hope that this will one day help them acquire legal status — a plaintive expression of their desire to play by the rules and come out of the shadows. What’s more, aliens who are not self-employed have Social Security and Medicare taxes automatically withheld from their paychecks.

    Since undocumented workers have only fake numbers, they’ll never be able to collect the benefits these taxes are meant to pay for. Last year, the revenues from these fake numbers — that the Social Security administration stashes in the “earnings suspense file” — added up to 10 percent of the Social Security surplus.

    The file is growing, on average, by more than $50 billion a year. Beyond federal taxes, all illegals automatically pay state sales taxes that contribute toward the upkeep of public facilities such as roads that they use, and property taxes through their rent that contribute toward the schooling of their children.

    The non-partisan National Research Council found that when the taxes paid by the children of low-skilled immigrant families — most of whom are illegal — are factored in, they contribute on average $80,000 more to federal coffers than they consume. Yes, many illegal migrants impose a strain on border communities on whose doorstep they first arrive, broke and unemployed.

    To solve this problem equitably, these communities ought to receive the surplus taxes that federal government collects from immigrants. But the real reason border communities are strained is the lack of a guest worker program.

    Such a program would match willing workers with willing employers in advance so that they wouldn’t be stuck for long periods where they disembark while searching for jobs. The cost of undocumented aliens is an issue that immigrant bashers have created to whip up indignation against people they don’t want here in the first place.

    With the Senate having just returned from yet another vacation and promising to revisit the stalled immigration bill, politicians ought to set the record straight: Illegals are not milking the government. If anything, it is the other way around.

    The Undocumented Immigrants pay the exact same amount of taxes like you and me when they buy Things, rent a house, fill up gas, drink a beer or wine, buy appliances, play the states lottery and mega millions .

    Posted by Facts, 10/07/2010 10:09am (4 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments