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November 16, 2007 02:25 AM UTC

The Facts of Immigration and Racism

  • 8 Comments
  • by: JO

A handful of Trancredoites on this site would like us to believe that his campaign against immigrants  (now conflated with fear of foreign terrorists) isn’t fueled at its core by racism. One reader of ColoradoPols has advised me to check out the FACTS instead of “throwing around” the term racism. Fine. Here are the facts:

Trancredoite sentiment: “I want our immigration laws enforced.” And why is that? Why has this suddenly become more important than Iraq, health care, peak oil, deficits beyond sight, and the environment? Are there some hidden “facts” that demonstrate that so-called illegal immigrants violate any meaningful laws (against robbery and assault, for example) any more often, per capita, than any random group of native-born Americans? (Incidentally the 9/11 hijackers were NOT illegal immigrants; they had visas!)than Iraq, health care, global environment?

Then there are the facts of the history of immigration laws that Tancredoites find of such over-whelming importance. FACT: “Immigration laws” came into effect in the first place only after a large influx of southern Europeans (mostly Italians) and Russians (mostly Jews) began arriving in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Maybe a distant relative of Tom Tancredo was among them. They were not Protestants and some seemed a bit swarthy. The prospect of a changing American ethnic landscape was the motivating factor behind passage of new laws that for the first time included national quotas. The quotas were set based on immigration patterns before the influx of Italians and Russians. The quotas were later revised downward in order to admit even fewer immigrants from countries outside northern/western Europe. Shame on your junior high school teacher if you didn’t learn about this ugly FACT after hearing Emma Lazarus’s poem, which preceded these laws by about 30 years.

Oh, sorry. Correction. The first immigration restrictions were enacted in the 19th century. They applied only to Chinese immigrants. (The limitations later became a complete ban that wasn’t lifted until WWII, when it became embarrassing to be seen to be barring immigrants from our Asian wartime ally China.) Europeans: welcome without restrictions; Asians: barred. Not racism?

America’s immigration laws were expressions of racism from the get-go. I “throw that word around,” in the phrase of one reader of this site, because it is the fact, much as some may not like hearing it, just as I suspect some readers might not like hearing the FACT that far-right-wing GOP  leaders have exploited racism as part of the party’s “Southern strategy” (“capture the Southern white bigot vote”) instituted by Nixon and carried forward by Reagan, Atwater, DeLay, and Rove–and now, on his own absurdist tangent, Tancredo.

Let’s hear it for strictly law-abiding, freedom-loving, all-white American Rednecks! Not a racist among them.

Comments

8 thoughts on “The Facts of Immigration and Racism

  1. Point 1: A nation can pass laws you deem racist if it wishes.

    Point 2: Which leads to, “So what?”

    BTW, you are wrong about the history of immigration laws.  The founding fathers fully expected that immigrants would be like them and their cultures: Western European and Protestant.  They most emphatically did NOT see the U.S. as a melting pot or refuge for people of all colors and points of origin.

    There was almost no immigration to this country for half a century after founding.  Since then we have enacted various laws and changed them from time to time.  The racism you so decry when the spigot was turned off in 1924 and 1926 (IIRC)was the perogative of the American people and Congress. This may come as a revelation, but Americans do not have to just let everyone in here (although it is increasingly that way.) To close the gate is not some great moral deficiency.  In fact, if an open gate has negative effects, it would be immoral to NOT close it. We have no obligation to suffer the effects of massive immigration, such as we are now experiencing again.

    The result of that immigration restriction you so decry helped create a strong middle class.  It allowed workers to not have to compete with the latest arrivals.  Labor is a commodity and oversupply results in lower wages.  The great economist Ricardo pointed this out 200 years ago.

    The restrictions gave America time to absorb the immigrants who had come, and their children.  Time to assimilate and become Americans. 

    You throw the word “racist” around like bees let loose in a closed room.  You expect reactions, even if people hold views nowhere close to racist. 

    My definition of racist is a disdain for people of another or specific racial or ethnic group.  Everyone is included if they are of that group.  I can love and respect every person regardless of their DNA or home place.  But that doesn’t mean I want them all here.  That does not make me a racist.  (BTW, many of those poor and downtrodden see our laws and people as patsies for their ends.)

    BTW, Lazarus’ poem was not part of the original statue. So what if it preceded the new laws? Jeez! Is that supposed to have a rational conclusion?  It is a beautiful sentiment but a poor basis for policy and law.  Ditto for once was.  We no longer have vast acreage to settle, steel mills asking for strong backs.

    As I said on your other post (two on immigration so far, none on any other topic IIRC) I don’t pretend to know the mind or heart of TT. Maybe he is racist in the narrow sense of the word.  I don’t know.

    He probably eats pizza.  So do I.  That doesn’t mean I am he  But if they overlap at some points, so be it. I probably overlap a few with Jesus, too, I would guess.

    I would suggest less rant of accusation and emotion and throw in some facts, you know, data.  Economics, diseases, crime, etc. But then, they are not on your side.

    1. But I also disagree with you on this issue.  I’m not sure what I believe (I am of a mixed mind about immigration, but I want it all to be legal, and I want to stop the H-1B abuse).

      I also believe that when you throw in “disease” as coming from immigration (which is just incorrect) I am troubled.

      1. But, I must respectfully submit that on the disease issue you are incorrect.  TB, after decades of surrender, is back.  More than half of all cases come from foreign sources.

        Illegal immigrants account for 65% of communicable diseases according to the CDC.  Since they are a small percentage of the population, that would indicate that they are significantly more likely to be a vector.

        Each year some 300 new cases of leprosy are identified in the United States. The vast majority of these patients are immigrants who acquired the disease in their home countries. [MSN Encarta]

        Here’s the overview article I got those details from:  http://www.vdare.com

    2. Every time immigration is dicussed, it goes back to one side saying the other is racist and the other denying it. The simple fact is that there ARE a number of racist that are hiding behind the anti-immigration movement. Look at the return of KKK chapters and comments on anti-immigration blogs/forums. They are there.

      This does not mean that everyone in the anti-immigrant crowd is racist. BUT, the ones that are not should be condemning the racist among them, and in general, I don’t see that happening. Instead, people like Frosty Wooldridge (one of the bigger names in Colorado’s anti-immigrant mob), can say stuff like “Mexicans are corrupt, it is just in them,” and still get repeated airtime.

      What we need is to focus on solutions. Sure, the driver’s license issue is a major issue. But would that even be discussed if Congress and the President had done their jobs? If a bill was passed earlier this year, this would not be a topic of discussion.

      You say you want to focus on real data, but you provide none. The stats show that the economy IS benefiting from having immigrants here. That is why over 500 economist signed the Independent Institute’s Open Letter on Immigration. A recent audit of the jails in Chicago showed that immigrants are not any more likely to be criminals. Sheriff Robinson in Arapahoe County said that undocumented immigrants do commit crime, but it isn’t at a significantly higher rate and that the media is partially responsible for the perception that they do.  We can quote different stats about diseases, but if we had a bill that had been passed, we would be in the process of identifying health concerns of immigrants.

      I do not think we should talk about solutions to the symptoms when we should be talking about a solution to the cause.

    3. First, to be clear, it is possible that parsingreality is not, personally, a racist. As Danny the Red pointed out, this argument is about the Tancredo campaign.

      Second, although parsingreality says I’m wrong about immigration laws, he fails to cite any exceptions. He could have mentioned the controversy in the 1790s over immigrants’ voting rights–how long it should take for an immigrant to achieve the right to vote, which was a Federalist effort to stay in power–but he didn’t, and in any case that wasn’t an issue of immigration, it was about voting rights.

      Fact is, the exclusion of Chinese was the first effort to restrict immigration, and it was very clearly racist.

      Fact is, there was opposition in the 1840s to Irish and German immigrants (the Know Nothings) on the basis of their Catholic religion, but no federal legislation resulted, much less walls on the borders.

      Fact is that parsingreality claims I’m wrong about immigration laws, and claims to know what Founding Fathers imagined for the future, without pointing to any specifics (because there are none).

      Fact is that whether parsingreality buys into it or not, the national mythology, as symbolized by the Lazarus poem, has long been that American is the great melting-pot, the land of opportunity, a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

      Fact is that even in the act of denying racism, parsingreality in effect confirms its existence by failing to provide any factual refutation of my post. Unpleasant as it may seem to many, racism has a long and wretched history in what is now the United States, dating to the arrival of the first slaves in 1619 and extending to GOP of Nixon and Reagan and down (far down) to the Tancredo tv commercial of this very month.

      As parsingreality notes in his first point, if a nation wants to pass racist laws, it can do so (and has done so). What it cannot do at the same time is to declare that it is not a racist society, much less hold itself out to the world as a beacon of freedom and equality.

      As for “diseases,” etc. among immigrants. If this is so, it is not a problem of immigration; it’s an issue of immunization. IF immigrants have a significant incidence of, say, tuberculosis, then the solution is to provide immunization. Forcing them into an underground economy can only make this problem worse.

      As for not needing an influx of workers in steel mills: The fact of immigration is its own refutation of this point! I’m under the impression that many, if not most, immigrants from Mexico are in service jobs, which is the growth area of the U.S. economy. If there weren’t jobs going begging, the immigrants wouldn’t be coming. Low wages are not an issue of immigration; minimum wages are set by federal law, and if employers violate these laws, we need improved enforcement for everyone’s benefit. Effective labor unions is the proven solution to raising wages for all, thus creating a broad middle class by including hourly workers. Forcing immigrants underground undercuts both of these solutions (not unintentionally, I think). Immigrants come to the U.S. to work so they can send money home to support their families.

      Parsingrealilty started off by saying: If we want to be racist, we have a right to be. That’s hardly a denial of the basic racism of the immigration debate.

      As for whether or not Tom Tancredo eats pizza, I have to ask: what on earth does that have to do with anything? I ask because including this line in parsingreality’s post signifies to me a certain underlying lack of clear thinking, but maybe I just didn’t get the point. On the other hand, African Americans have always eaten the same food as whites; it’s just that in the bad old days (good old days to some) they had to go ’round to the back door to get take-out instead of sitting at the lunch counter. They weren’t living in a racist society? Oops, there are those pesky bees (aka facts) set loose in the room again!(Nice metaphor, though, for being stung by the facts. And for that, many thanks.)

      Damn the logic, full speed ahead Rednecks!

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