Is anyone old enough to remember the expression: "Go Back to Africa?" Can anyone remember when the lynchings of Blacks, Asians and the hunting down of American Indians and Mexicans were commonplace? Does anyone remember when Jews ÔÇô during the time of the Holocaust ÔÇô were
turned away at this nation's borders? How about the Chinese Exclusion Act? Can anyone remember when the Irish, German and Italians were not welcome here?
This country has had a long and sordid history of xenophobia and scapegoat politics, which brings us to the current immigration debate. Prior to it, I had not been aware that illegal aliens were the number one threat to the security of the most powerful nation on earth and the cause of the majority of the nation's many problems.
It's amazing how we are all easily manipulated and corralled. All we seem to need is for someone to whip up the frenzy to permit the immoral discrimination and segregation of human beings and to permit the mass incarceration of Japanese American citizens or to conduct an Operation Wetback to send Mexican American citizens "back to where they came from." Not too long ago, it was George Wallace. Yesterday it was Pat Buchanan. Today it is the Three Amigos: CNN's Lou Dobbs, and Republican presidential hopefuls Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter.
And it is amazing the lengths that people who have been formerly targeted by demagogues will go to to prove their Americanism. They seemingly scream the loudest when a new group has been targeted. One can hear the catharsis ÔÇô an incredible sigh of relief ÔÇô when they are able to point a finger at another group.
This time around, illegal aliens are the target. They can't fight back or vote or even protest in public. And technically, they don't have a face. All the vitriol can be hurled against them without feeling guilty ÔÇô just don't say the word Mexican and you can't be accused of being a bigot. Besides, you have nothing against brown people, as long as they're legal, educated, employed (just as long as the job is not too good) and can speak English.
Perhaps this exam will help us to determine the actual answer as to who is the cause of this nation's problems. Who is responsible for U.S. policies that permit:
ÔÇó the spending of more than $500 billion to wage an illegal and immoral war?
ÔÇó torture and the violation of the Geneva War Conventions?
ÔÇó the elimination of Habeas Corpus?
ÔÇó the illegal wiretapping of its own citizens?
ÔÇó war profiteering by Haliburton and mercenary armies (Blackwater) to flourish?
ÔÇó the dismantling of affirmative action and the nation's civil rights laws?
ÔÇó a tax system that favors the super-rich?
Here are the choices: a) illegal aliens b) Arabs & Moslems c) Blacks d) Mexicans e) Jews f) Gays & Lesbians g) liberals h) abortion-seeking women i) American Indians
While all these groups have been intermittent favorites throughout this nation's history, today, it seems that most Americans would choose option "a." (This option has been a favorite since the 1700s).
This means that if the United States puts up a 2,000-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and if the 12 million nannies, busboys, gardeners and maids were deported, the Iraqi war ÔÇô which is expected to skyrocket in costs to another $1.5 trillion ÔÇô would immediately come to a halt. If deported, the nation's skyrocketing gasoline prices would begin to immediately reverse. In fact, the nation's dropout crisis would also end overnight, enabling those who are remanded to the worst jobs in society to instead compete for the nation's best jobs.
Once these 12 million law-breakers are deported, no doubt this administration would direct the EPA, the USDA, the FDA, the Federal Trade Commission and the Labor Department to begin to enforce its consumer protection and food, drug and worker safety laws. (Why enforce them now when illegal aliens are making a mockery of our nation's laws?)
While it's true that illegal aliens are overworked, overexploited, highly overtaxed ÔÇô and generally without human rights ÔÇô we all know that if deported, Congress would pass Universal Health Care overnight. While it's also true that illegal aliens have for decades been pouring billions of dollars into Social Security and into Unemployment Insurance and Medicare, knowing full well they will never see a red cent ÔÇô their precipitous departure, along with their windfall tax revenues ÔÇô would also no doubt bring about their immediate solvency.
If these 12 million varmints (as John McCain refers to them) were deported, it would solve the U.S. prison crisis overnight. A recent study, by the Washington-based Immigration Policy Center, has found that immigrants are much less likely to be imprisoned than U.S. born residents of the same ethnicity. Another study, by the Public Policy Institute of California, has shown that immigrants are more likely to push up wages than depress them. Regardless, the departure of 12 million would no doubt make space for our own home-grown criminals, and it would also no doubt compel U.S. corporations to immediately institute a living wage for all workers. Right?
Truthfully, the primary party responsible for all of the above problems is the Bush-Cheney administration. All else is diversion, distraction and division. The urge to blame illegal aliens or anyone else for the nation's problems is but the result of the administration's politics of fear, hate and blame. They've unleashed that dynamic and now, Americans have come to believe that their rights, livelihood and happiness are dependant upon the denigration and dehumanization of their fellow human beings.
Perhaps the demagoguery is limited to a loud and rancorous minority of Republican ideologues; we do know that a majority of U.S. citizens support a path to legalization for this nation's undocumented immigrants and oppose a new bracero program. Neither do they want to continue to divide up human beings into legal and illegal categories. It doesn't have to be this way; a simple transnational labor agreement can change all this, though the drawback is that workers and their families would not lose their human rights, dignity or citizenship in the process. Who would we then blame for the nation's problems?
(c) Column of the Americas 2007
Rodriguez can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com and at 608-238-3161 or
PO BOX 5093, Madison, WI 53705. The column is archived at: