Today in the New York Times, you can read the following editorial. I think they’ve done away with TimesSelect, but if not, let me quote to you the relevant parts:
The federal government’s abandonment of comprehensive reform has been matched by unprecedented crackdowns at the state and local level. Lawmakers this year have introduced more than 1,400 immigration-related bills in all 50 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and enacted 170 of them. Many of the bills severely restrict where immigrants can live and work, and leave them vulnerable to exploitation and fearful of the police. It’s the federal approach of raids and aggression, metastasized across the continent.
The country will have a long time to watch this approach as it fails. The politicians who killed the Senate bill for offering “amnesty” have never offered a workable alternative. Their one big idea is that harsh, unrelenting enforcement at the border, in the workplace and in homes and streets would dry up opportunities for illegal immigrants and eventually cause the human tide to flow backward. That would be true only if life for illegal immigrants in America could be made significantly more miserable than life in, say, rural Guatemala or the slums of Mexico City. That will take a lot of time and a lot of misery to pull that off in a country that has tolerated and profited from illegal labor for generations.
The American people cherish lawfulness but resist cruelty, and have supported reform that includes a reasonable path to earned citizenship. Their leaders have given them immigration reform as pest control. [Emphasis mine.]
Whoo, when the New York Times gets it, they really get it. In order for the strategy of harsh and unrelenting enforcement to work, we have to set out to make life in the U.S. more miserable for people than it is in the places they’re fleeing.
I brought up the Fugitive Slave Act the other day not because I think that illegal aliens and slaves are completely analogous, and not because I think the solution to the immigration problem is to just have another emancipation day and everyone who’s here is safe, like some world-wide game of tag gone wild, but because we Americans need to be shaken out of our complacency.
I know some of you think I’m corny for believing this, but I do believe that we have obligations to the past, that, when old hurts are left unaddressed, we don’t just get to nicely skip past them and pretend like they don’t affect us; it’s going to come back to bite us.
We, as a country, have never sat down and tried to come to terms with what it means that we built this country and ran this country for half its life with the idea that some people weren’t exactly human; that it was okay for us to enslave them and kill them and rape them as we wanted. Yes, we’ve, for the most part, stopped doing those things, but we’ve never, as a country, stood back and asked ourselves ‘Why did we think that was okay in the first place? Is that belief still somehow tied up in our notions of who we are as a people? Is it something just haunting the U.S., waiting to come up again, because we’ve not laid it to rest?’ (See Nezua’s brilliant explanation.)
Fine, fine, America. You rarely do what I want anyway.
We’ve all heard the news, that there’s no more racism and everyone is equal and our problems are all solved.
Or they would be, you know, if only it weren’t for those damn Mexicans. Those illegal aliens. Those ‘hispanics’ who come here and “over populate, take over whole parts of towns and make it so filthy YOU will move.. Go on say you wont, you will get along with our Brown Brother.. hahaha They dont want YOU in there towns.. you Property Value will go to crap, good luck selling, you can get a few Peso’s from your little brown brothers for your now crappy home in your now crappy area. But they and the 20 families that buy it will LOVE it.. Its OVER MAN.. you have been Breed out…” (See here.)
Imagine, if you will, a large raft floating above dirty water. Let us call that water ‘white supremacy’ or ‘white nationalism.’ Most of us claim not to be white supremacies or white nationalists. When someone accuses us of racism, we act mortally wounded. And yet, it’s impossible to deny that white supremacist and white nationalist notions are swirling around the immigration debate like hungry ghosts of an ugly past.
Here’s the thing, America. We do have an ugly streak. We sat back and watched this happen and assured ourselves it was justice until the truth of the matter finally became too ugly to deny and we’re going to sit back and watch this happen, because that’s just what you get for trying to come here (h/t S-town Mike.). We are a country filled with violent hate-groups who act on their urges. We’re haunted by the specter of white supremacy, though we rarely speak of it.
And this idea that we should just make illegal brown people’s lives as miserable as possible?
Even if it serves the agenda of “fixing” the immigration problem.
Sometimes I feel like white supremacy is a small, but deep lake we have to navigate and attempt to stay out of for the sake of our own souls every day, and here we all are, trying to navigate said lake on an old, but relatively stable boat. And every time someone stands up and says “We don’t want Mexicans here because they ruin our neighborhoods” or “They’re not like us and they’re ruining America” or “If the Feds won’t do something about it; we have to make the State preserve our communities,” it’s causing the boat to take on water. And worse, that we’re getting used to having wet feet, so that when someone calls a Mexican a “cockroach,” no one bats an eye. We’re ankle deep in an ancient poison we know is no good for us, and we don’t notice that we’re getting wet.
We need to have an immigration debate. We need to talk about whether our foreign policies are making life harder for people in other countries. We need to ask ourselves why, if the Bush economy is going so well, folks feel like they’re losing much needed jobs to immigrants. We need to know why there’s this popular notion that folks could get here legally, if only they’re willing to play by the rules, when that’s completely untrue. We need to figure out if we can fix the immigration system. And we should deal with the folks who are here humanely and compassionately.
We have to have this debate without letting racists dictate the shape anti-immigration sentiment takes. We already know what happens in this country when we give ourselves over to racism.
We must find a way to treat undocumented Mexican human beings as human beings, not just for their sake, but for ours.
(Also, Nezua brings up a good point here about how the term ‘Hispanic’ is used to mask the indigenous nature of the population we’re talking about, since, if we thought of the folks who are here from Mexico as belonging to the groups who were here pre-Europeans, we might be compelled to realize that we drew our borders straight through their home grounds and that many of the “aliens” from Northern Mexico are less alien to this land than we are. But I couldn’t figure out how to work it in.)