Immigration is an “issue.”


Immigration is an “issue.” I know this because politicians and pundits have continually repeated it. It’s always listed as one of the primary issues of the Presidential campaign. What are the candidates’ positions on immigration, inquiring minds want to know?

Excuse me, I mean illegal immigration. Yeah, that’s it. That’s the issue.

I can’t remember exactly when this became an issue. At some point, a bunch of people got together and decided to make it one. When the Republicans tried to pass a “tough” bill in 2006, there were huge demonstrations across the country against them. Against the Republicans, I mean. Oops, that’s not the response we expected.

All this can be kind of puzzling, because when I talk to people about politics, they never mention immigration as one of their concerns. They talk about the war, the destruction of the environment, the scary financial situation, the corruption. (Did I mention the war?) But nobody I know seems worried about illegal immigration.

It must be the crowd of people I hang out with. They’re probably too educated.

If you study the politics of Europe for any length of time (say, for an hour) you’ll notice that neo-fascist groups always start out by attacking immigrants. It stands to reason that a hate movement will target “outsider” groups in order to attract frustrated, ignorant people, expressing their powerlessness by raging against someone even more powerless than they are. It’s an extension of the old antisemitic template. There’s an insidious minority threatening your job and your family. Attack!

The immigration “issue” operates the same way in America, except that it’s not confined to fringe rightist groups—it’s the mainstream. Whenever things start to go sour for the elites—a war not turning out as planned, large-scale theft sending the economy into a spiral, etc.—immigration suddenly pops up again as an issue. While Mr. and Mrs. Average White American are getting royally screwed, the people who own the country start gesticulating towards Mexico. Those brown people are causing this! And then Mr. and Mrs. A.W.M., who are patriots and wouldn’t be caught dead protesting the war or questioning the wisdom of corporations, get all hot and bothered over illegal immigration and end up voting for the yelling, pointing, bloviating, anti-immigrant candidate.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. I’m not sure it’s working that well this time. People are still more worried about the war and the economy for some reason. And the Latino voters are getting pissed off. If you were wondering why Bush’s immigration proposals were moderate compared to the frothing of the rightists (“moderate” meaning in the current political lexicon “slightly less insane”), I can tell you it was not because Bush could give a tiny fraction of a damn about immigrants (or anything but his pathetic self and his rich handlers’ checkbooks), but simply because Karl Rove wanted to claim a chunk of the Latino vote. The nativists, however, are ruled more by their hate than their desire to win elections. They would have none of Rove’s Machiavellian strategy, and the result is that the Republicans are facing the probable loss of the Latino vote, a devastating blow which, if there’s any hope in this world, will flush them down the electoral toilet.

In the meantime, contemplate the wholly artificial nature of immigration as an “issue.” The media talks about it, therefore it’s an issue. If people hear about it often enough, they start to believe that it must be an issue. The losers who listen to AM radio are told (ordered) to consider it an issue by the usual gang of insane demagogues, so of course they believe it. Lou Dobbs yammers about it every night, and I guess that’s good enough for me. Let’s build a fucking wall around our country!


The war, however, is not an issue. The war is a PR problem. People need to be convinced that the “surge” is working, and that everything’s ok. That’s the only “issue.” You see how this works? It’s really quite simple. Whatever actually affects the mass of ordinary working people in this country, whatever political, social, and economic conditions have a real impact on our lives—that is not the “issue.” The “issue” is whatever stream of empty, pretentious, distracting bullshit happens to emerge from the political-media cesspool, drowning all of our actual concerns in its putrid, miasmic, mind-deadening slop.

~ by cdash on February 21, 2008.

12 Responses to “Immigration is an “issue.””

  1. there is no doubt that the immigration issue is a diversion. and sadly a good one — probably half the people against immigration are direct descendants of immigrants themselves..

    this is just another of the right wing jingoistic USA USA rah rah kill them before they kill us talking points. and yes you are right — rove wanted this as a way to get votes, it is that simple.

  2. All good and valid points I believe. However, I also think Bush is ‘soft’ on immigration because the business community hires illegal immigrants and want to be able to continue to do so. The immigrants are hard workers after all and don’t demand as much money or benefits as other American workers do. Those republicans are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to this issue because they want it both ways: to have the average American frothing at the mouth and blaming immigrants for all our problems AND to be able to hire cheap labor that allows a business to cook their books if they wish.

  3. Dash, this may be your best post yet.

    All I have to say is, I wholeheartedly agree. This “issue” was created in a Hollywood studio. Completely fabricated.

    But don’t let the loonies hear you saying that or they might accuse you of being a supporter of “tur.”

  4. fairlane,

    so sorry to take so long, but jonetown is now on skippy’s blogroll.

  5. I feel torn on this topic, probably b/c I don’t live in a border state or have a job that’s likely to be threatened. If I go with my gut, it’s tempting to simplify the issue by saying anyone who opposes illegal immigration is racist and ignorant. But that’s exactly what I hear George W. Bush saying as his CEO buddies cash in, exploiting hardworking Mexicans. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 7+ years, it’s to be skeptical of everything GWB does and says. Along those lines, Liberality alludes to an important point: immigration is one of the few issues that pits GWB’s racist, flag-waving hillbillies against GWB’s corporate war financiers.

  6. I never hear this issue come up as a concern either. But then again, I’m not on the frontlines with The Minutemen and their Superpatriots fighting off The Inexorable Invasion of The Job-Stealing Swartho-Bots.

    And the will of the corporates will win every time. They’ve done wonders in framing the issue so that they themselves never get the blame, but an ineffectual congress. So, direct your hatred there, rednecks.

  7. Great Post. You hit the nail on the head. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Bull’s eye. Right on. Spot on. Uhhh. So, do you get that I agree? This is the manufactured issue of the Right to distract from the real issues of our economy. The rich geting richer, the poor increasing their numbers, and the middle class disappearing. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, just blame the Mexican trying to feed his family.

    While I wish that jobs picking fruit in California were Union, and American citizens could live on the wages, the economic structure of our country will not allow it. It’s all bent toward making more money for the investors, and what’s the only risk-lite, guaranteed way to do that? Cut costs! Outsource! Layoff! Hire immigrants!!

    Until growth is less important than stability, the laborer will always be the most at risk member of society.

    This is why I don’t understand the backlash in recent years toward organized labor. Without collective barganing, we are serfs to the robber-barons. Yes there is corruption in Unions, but lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    If our government really cared about the plight of Mexican immigrants, we would focus our efforts on Mexico improving conditions for workers there so that they would not feel it necessary to emigrate for work to the States.

    No… the stock market needs their sweat and blood to grease it’s unholy wheels…

  8. The Klanservatives have taken ver the Republiklan Party, so naturally racism has become a central theme of today’s right wing. Anyone who wants to win has to don the white sheet and fire up a cross, metaphorically (so far literally isn’t required, but may be soon.)

  9. Connecticut is pretty far from the Mexican border yet we have a relatively high number of illegal immigrants. Ours aren’t Mexican, but rather Ecuadorean and Brazilian.

    Cowboy The Cat brings up good points. I can’t agree more regarding growth vs stability. Washington, Wall Street, and the MSM are all growth, growth, growth. It’s not sustainable and we don’t realize that soon something’s gonna break.

    Everyone is in a pinch to drive down costs. It’s the side effect of our Wal-Mart society. It doesn’t matter if it’s an agricorp trading on the NYSE or a small farmer trying to stay ahead of foreclosure. Immigrants (legal or not) are willing to work for far less than what most Americans can handle because poverty in America is better than poverty in Central or South America (and, until recently, Eastern Europe too).

    My ancestors immigrated here from Europe in the late 1800’s so I try to be as fair minded as possible.

    I’m trying to find hard numbers about what fiscal toll illegal immigration is having on our healthcare system. If anyone knows, please point me in the right direction.

    Why can’t we have something like Ellis Island again? One checkpoint where everyone comes in and is checked out and registered. I wouldn’t mind hearing a debate about that.

    I worry that would be terrorists will slip in through the border like what was attempted during the Millenium Plot.

    I have a friend whose family immigrated here legally from Ecuador. He lives in NJ and is now a US citizen. He would tell me what his family went through (i.e. his mother forced to return to Ecuador for long periods of time). But they always followed the rules. Should those that didn’t follow the law get a pass?

    I think what was left out of the post and the comments (or I just missed it) is the fear of strangers. White bread America fears having their culture overrun by foreigners. The Chinese, Irish and Italians had to put up with that a century ago. But just as China absorbed its invaders, America assimilates its immigrants and their uniqueness becomes part of the mix. From what I’ve read, the 1st generation holds onto its culture, afraid of losing its identity in this foreign land. But 2nd and 3rd generations just want to be like everyone else (speak English, embrace American culture). They don’t want to be “foreigners.” They want to be citizens. Right now, we’re stuck in the 1st generation and there’s a fear, that because there are so many, that their descendants won’t assimilate but form a separatist nation from within. I don’t agree with it but I think I understand it.

    But to support the “subsequent generations want to blend in” case, here’s an example: my friend, mentioned above, admitted to me that after several years of living here he no longer thinks in Spanish. His thoughts are in English. If that isn’t assimilation, I don’t know what is.

  10. I believe that immigrants, legal or illegal, who have settled in this country, established homes for their families, have a clean record, and have shown their intent to be good citizens should be given fast-track access to citizenship. They should not be uprooted and returned to their original homes and suffer the loss of opportunities to improve their way of life.

    Have we become so xenophobic and calloused that we could treat these people so inhumanely? We are a nation of immigrants, many of whom have contributed immeasurably to our culture–just as many of those who are illegally here today will do.

    We have immigration laws, have been in place for decades but have not been enforced. Is that a reason to treat those individuals who managed to circumvent an unenforced law as criminals.

    The laws need to be enforced. Illegal entry must be stopped, but we should recognize that many immigrants who are considered illegal will make good tax-paying citizens, seek education opportunities, raise families, and contribute to our society.

    The research I have done in writing my soon to be published novel, “The Immigrant” has been an eye-opener for me. I invite other readers to do the same. It might change your view of the immigraton “issue.”


  11. Awesome, Dash. I agree with Fairlane, this is your magnum opus.

    I support everything you’ve written and I’ll on some stuff. Please feel free to use it in support of your argument with or without attribution.

    I was a 2nd generation American from a European immigrant family. I grew up in a diverse neighborhood in lower Manhattan which broke down about 1/3 Jewish, 1/3 Puerto Rican and 1/3 “White Ethnic.” As a result, I learned how to speak, read and PRONOUNCE Spanish from childhood.

    I have since emigrated to a Spanish-speaking country.

    Here’s stuff everybody needs to know. There is no immigration PROBLEM in the United States right now. There are some very restrictive LAWS that have been put in place regarding ALL immigrants since 9/11/01. Thus, there are more ILLEGAL immigrants than there were before 9/11.

    As Dashiell has noted, the “immigration” debate has been framed between two equally awful poles: indentured-servitude with a little adminsitrative punishment on one side, the “liberal” (Bush, McCain, Rove, Biden) side AND pure ethnic-cleansing with maximum punishment where possible.

    “Amnesty” is now a dirty word. It is, however, a necessary concept because of the shrinkage in the birth rate and the aging of the US population. I know how Americans are with regard to people who aren’t “American,” because I could see it on my TV every day. My skin is White, but I never saw any of “my kind” as heroes or romantic leads or anything like that. We are always the shrink or the homosexual or the comic relief or the nerd or the financier or the beatnik or whatever. We had Kirk Douglas and have Michael Douglas and Ryan Gosling and that’s fucking it! Still. And we Jews are pretty assimilated. We still don’t have a Denzel Washington, he firm of grip and steely of eye. And we make the fucking shows for crying out loud! How sick is that!

    So, I well understand how uncomfortable Latinos are in the USA.

    But there’s shit going on in Latin America that White and Black America do not understand. There is no groundswell of Argentinians, Chileans, Ecuadoreans, Venezuelans or Panamanians risking life and limb to emigrate to the USA. Hardly. Those economies, governments and qualities of life are SUPERIOR to that which they can get in the USA.

    And so long as the USA keeps fighting in the Middle East, the price of oil will keep going up. This helps Venezuela and Ecuador a whole lot. You know who else it helps? You get one guess. MEXICO. What does that portend? We’ll given that Mexico is a major player in the world crude market and PEMEX is a very, very significant company, the MEP will continue to appreciate against the USD. There will come an inflection point at which it will not be worthwhile for Mexicans to come to the United States because regardless of their salaries, their wealth and puchasing power will be greater if they stay put.

    You might even find MEXICO putting up a wall to keep US immigrants out. Since I’ve lived in Panama, the US immigration rules have tightened substantially. The same is true of the other wealthier nations of South America. If you want to move here you got to show what you can do for your new host country.

    Hell yeah, 9/11 “changed everything.” The response to it put the US on a steep downward trajectory. If it were me as President Of The United States, I’d be looking for more Latin immigrants not fewer.

  12. Very well written and very accurate article.
    The world needs more articles like this.
    For those people who think that immigration is a real issue; ask yourself why the political rhetoric on stopping illegal immigration never includes any mention of what it will cost… answer… too much.

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