Monday, April 03, 2006

Ghosts of the past push immigration debate

The Pinnacle, a local weekly in my section of California, carried an OpEd by John Yewell this weekend. Yewell reminded us of the emotional seeds that fuel part of the immigration debate.
Hordes of gold seekers armed with the doctrine of Manifest Destiny broke up the great ranchos and murdered the Indians, leading to feelings of disenfranchisement among Mexican Americans and of entitlement among Anglos. To this day nationalists harbor lingering suspicions that Mexicans might try to take it all back. To the more paranoid, that is exactly what is going on now. There's even an expression for it: The Reconquista.

That paranoia found a perfect dance partner in the war on terror. Leaders of the Minuteman Project and others insinuate that al Qaeda members are crossing the Sonoran desert, making immigrants a kind of fifth column, the border a front line and the Mexican government culpable.

All the talk about tougher border control may have increased the flow of immigrants trying to get here before the gates slam shut, but there's no evidence of a specific national security threat. No matter. When war is perpetual and the enemy invisible, the fearful see hostile ghosts everywhere.
Fears of The Reconquista fuel the anti-immigration supporters. Some, like Frosty Wooldridge, even try to turn this into an environmentatl issue where all of those immigrants will ruin the environment for those who are already here.

The anti-immigration movement in Congress is led by Tom Tancredo (R. CO). Tancredo seem to specialize in a rhetoric of fear, focusing only on the bad and never on the economic function fulfilled by undocumented workers. Even then, Tancredo's web site is not without with error, taking as a source unreliable new commentary when reliable information is available from the Cener for Disease Control. The case in point concerns the ability to test the blood supply for the parasite that causes Chagas' Diseas. In fact, the last time the FDA looked at this (2002) the statement was correct, but there have been new tests developed since then. So Tancredo is giving us old information to support his anti-immigration agenda.

Even worse, is the focuse on crime. Tancredo focuses on facts, but brings forward stories of murder and rape. Other anti-immigration groups like the Americans For Legal Immigraction Political Action Committee routinely use stories of the most sensational crimes to help them raise funds.

John Yewell identified the basic racist trends behind much anti-immigration actions. Tancredo's rhetoric shows that this goes to the higher levels of government, where he is supported by imflamatory groups like ALI-PAC. We must get beyond this if we are ever going to have a humanitarian resolution of the current problems.

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