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When Did Immigrants Become the Enemy?

When Did Immigrants Become the Enemy?
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Written by Andrew Lam

SAN FRANCISCO—Recently, in front a packed crowd at Duke University, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice regretted the failure of passing the comprehensive immigration reform act and the shift in Americans’ attitude toward immigrants.

Accepting and welcoming immigrants “has been at the core of our strength,” she said. “I don’t know when immigrants became the enemy.”

These days it is refreshing, if rare, to hear someone of Rice’s stature to speak on behalf of immigrants. Over the last few years the public discourse has been shrill and, if anything, media coverage seems to stoke anxiety to an unprecedented level.

Instead of a larger narrative on immigration—from culture to economics, from identity to history— what we have now is a public mindset of us versus them, and an overall anti immigrant climate that is both troubling and morally reprehensible.

America’s Difficult Love Story

Yet I often see the story of immigration in America as a kind of difficult love story.

Take the scandal involving Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona. Running for Congress, the sheriff is tough on undocumented immigration–but he had a secret: a love affair with Jose Orozco, an immigrant whose legal status remains in question.

The romance went sour, alas, and the immigrant lover alleged that the sheriff threatened to deport him if he came out with their story. Babeu vehemently denied the deportation threat. Orozco promptly filed a lawsuit.

What struck me most about this story is the contradictory nature of the relationship and how emblematic it is to the larger American narrative. We want and benefit from immigrants’ cheap labor, but we don’t want to acknowledge our relationship with them. We need them; we don’t want to be associated with them.

Meg Whitman, the billionaire who ran for governor in California in 2010, wanted to “hold employers accountable for hiring only documented workers.” But she didn’t include herself.

The year before Whitman’s campaign, she’d fired Nicky Diaz Santillan, who in a spectacular press conference revealed that she was undocumented. She had been taking care of the Whitman’s household for nearly a decade.

When Santillan reportedly asked Whitman for help finding an immigration attorney after she was fired, Whitman allegedly told her, “You don’t know me and I don’t know you.”

In the war on terrorism, the immigrant is often the scapegoat. He becomes a kind of insurance policy against the effects of recession. By blaming him, the pressure valve is regulated in time of crisis. The master narrative regarding immigration seems to require those it vilifies to obey the rule of silence. Their tongues are often kept in check through the threat of imprisonment and deportation.

God forbid if they become articulate, organize, participate in union politics and demand better wages and fair treatment. God forbid if they hold a press conference or get together to make an updated movie version of The Help.

Immigrants: Canaries in the Coal Mine

Yet, in the context of a free and open society, the immigrant is often the canary in the coalmine. The horror stories from detention centers are just too many:

*Pregnant women shackled to a hospital bed while giving birth

*Inmates shackled and paraded in pink underwear on the streets of Arizona, a scene reminiscent of Abu Ghraib

*Rape incidents uninvestigated

*Healthcare dangerously lacking in immigrant detention facilities where the suicide levels are alarming

*Deportees forced to take psychotropic drugs so they act docile in their long journey back to their countries of origin

Human-rights abuse by law enforcement in America’s Southwest is so notorious that organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are ringing alarm bells for the lack of accountability. This terrible treatment reflects a legal system that’s gone so badly wrong that America’s very humanity is now put in question.

“You don’t know me and I don’t know you.”

Perhaps we don’t want to know about the tragedy and psychological and economic impact on tens of thousands of American-born children whose parents have been taken away by the authorities. But it is a fact that we are in the process of creating a whole generation of Americans who are becoming permanent outsiders, a vast second class of citizens.

When a society hides behind the apparatus of draconian policies, allowing the authorities almost unchecked power to detain and deport, the only logical outcome is injustice and cruelty.

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89 comments

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10:47PM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

"When did immigrants become the enemy?" Um, since forever.
Here's a quote from Benjamin Franklin in 1753 - he was appalled by the increasing number of German immigrants. The song never changes, does it?
"For I remember when they modestly declined intermeddling in our Elections, but now they come in droves, and carry all before them, except in one or two Counties; Few of their children in the Country learn English; they import many Books from Germany; and of the six printing houses in the Province, two are entirely German, two half German half English, and but two entirely English; They have one German News-paper, and one half German. Advertisements intended to be general are now printed in Dutch and English; the Signs in our Streets have inscriptions in both languages, and in some places only German: They begin of late to make all their Bonds nad other legal Writings in their own Language, which (though I think it ought not to be) are allowed good in our Courts, where the German Business so encreases that there is continual need of Interpreters; and I suppose in a few years they will be also necessary in the Assembly, to tell one half of our Legislators what the other half say; In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our language, and even our Government will become precarious."

8:08PM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

Kathy P, it's not a freaking felony to be in the country without the proper papers, it's a misdemeanor.

What kind of horrible person would want them "punished severely"? Oh right, that would be you.

2:33PM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

if they come here from any country legally, then it is all good. If they come here illegally they need to be punished severely. It just isn't legal, and it IS hurting us

12:59PM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

A heads-up for Condi. “Accepting and welcoming immigrants “has been at the core of our strength,” she said. “I don’t know when immigrants became the enemy.” News flash. Then was then and now is now. Immigrants were helpful to crush the native peoples and rape the pristine , basically untouched land. Now even total idiots should be able to see that the resources are nearly used up. Excess population has caused the poisoning of air, water and soil and water, the forests are nearly gone, the seas are polluted and only a pitiful few sea creatures continue to exist. IT IS NOW UNSUSTAINABLE and additional population, legal or illegal, will only hasten destruction. Act as though you were a university graduate, Condi.




12:13PM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

@ Grant F..”The latest trend in blaming non-whites for not only the economic troubles of the US, but the destruction of the environment and causing global warming just reeks of racism.” Funny, the trend I see on these pages is blaming whites for all problems and blaming any that want to keep their racial identity. People that “say stuff like, we have to keep white people in the majority here,” annoy Deborah H. Old white men shouldn’t have political power ? How about old black men ? How about one like Charles Taylor offering a choice between “short sleeves or long sleeves”.? Or Ayatollah Khomeni ? I really don’t understand why so many white people are so willing to hand their country over to any non-whites, [even those whose stated intent is to force a religious dictatorship], and make their children a racial minority in their own country. Black Africans say that Africa is for the black people. Okay, no argument. Who is Europe for ? Also for black or any non-whites ? Now that is racist. Sue J tells us that ”It is a fact that the US will lose a white majority “- Sure, if we really insist on it, and abandon our own people. No other group has done this. I agree with Rose L that “White supremacy is not the motive. To survive is the motive” I am not ready for the alternative. @ Grant F..”The latest trend in blaming non-whites for not only the economic troubles of the US, but the destruction of the environment and

12:10PM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

@ Keevin S.. “Who among us is truly a native born legal?” Glad to help with yourf language deficiencies. That would be anyone born in the United States in accordance with the law, unfortunately including anchor babies. I, for example, am a native born legal. I suggest on line dictionaries if you have further questions.



10:47AM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

There is a very distinct line between the immigrants who migrated to western countries to start a new life, be a proud countryman and make a contribution to their new home. They were grateful for the opportunity and did not expect handouts or special treatment or believe they were elitist and the western countries should change to accommodate them.
Now we have a huge influx, both legal and illegal of migrants who customs and belief systems are totally inappropriate to western countries. People who refuse to integrate and want to dominate and change our great countries into the 7th century barbaric countries they "supposedly" fled from. Who believe in a worldwide totalitarian political ideology that is in conflict with western values and democracy, who by numbers will change our constitutions and kill off the christians and white race in order to take over. These people are being supported by the self hating far left socialists who want to establish anarchy and chaos in order to fulfill their own communist one world government. It can only lead to the destruction of life on this planet as we know it and if people do not wake up now it will be too late. We are being taken from within and people are appeasing this anti-christ rather than be accused of being racist.

10:46AM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

There is a very distinct line between the immigrants who migrated to western countries to start a new life, be a proud countryman and make a contribution to their new home. They were grateful for the opportunity and did not expect handouts or special treatment or believe they were elitist and the western countries should change to accommodate them.
Now we have a huge influx, both legal and illegal of migrants who customs and belief systems are totally inappropriate to western countries. People who refuse to integrate and want to dominate and change our great countries into the 7th century barbaric countries they "supposedly" fled from. Who believe in a worldwide totalitarian political ideology that is in conflict with western values and democracy, who by numbers will change our constitutions and kill off the christians and white race in order to take over. These people are being supported by the self hating far left socialists who want to establish anarchy and chaos in order to fulfill their own communist one world government. It can only lead to the destruction of life on this planet as we know it and if people do not wake up now it will be too late. We are being taken from within and people are appeasing this anti-christ rather than be accused of being racist.

10:46AM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

There is a very distinct line between the immigrants who migrated to western countries to start a new life, be a proud countryman and make a contribution to their new home. They were grateful for the opportunity and did not expect handouts or special treatment or believe they were elitist and the western countries should change to accommodate them.
Now we have a huge influx, both legal and illegal of migrants who customs and belief systems are totally inappropriate to western countries. People who refuse to integrate and want to dominate and change our great countries into the 7th century barbaric countries they "supposedly" fled from. Who believe in a worldwide totalitarian political ideology that is in conflict with western values and democracy, who by numbers will change our constitutions and kill off the christians and white race in order to take over. These people are being supported by the self hating far left socialists who want to establish anarchy and chaos in order to fulfill their own communist one world government. It can only lead to the destruction of life on this planet as we know it and if people do not wake up now it will be too late. We are being taken from within and people are appeasing this anti-christ rather than be accused of being racist.

10:46AM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

There is a very distinct line between the immigrants who migrated to western countries to start a new life, be a proud countryman and make a contribution to their new home. They were grateful for the opportunity and did not expect handouts or special treatment or believe they were elitist and the western countries should change to accommodate them.
Now we have a huge influx, both legal and illegal of migrants who customs and belief systems are totally inappropriate to western countries. People who refuse to integrate and want to dominate and change our great countries into the 7th century barbaric countries they "supposedly" fled from. Who believe in a worldwide totalitarian political ideology that is in conflict with western values and democracy, who by numbers will change our constitutions and kill off the christians and white race in order to take over. These people are being supported by the self hating far left socialists who want to establish anarchy and chaos in order to fulfill their own communist one world government. It can only lead to the destruction of life on this planet as we know it and if people do not wake up now it will be too late. We are being taken from within and people are appeasing this anti-christ rather than be accused of being racist.

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