Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Immigration "Problem"

The NY Times editorial board today:
The relentlessly harsh Republican campaign against immigrants has always hidden a streak of racialist extremism. Now after several high-water years, the Republican tide has gone out, leaving exposed the nativism of fringe right-wingers clinging to what they hope will be a wedge issue.
Uh huh. We've been doing posts here for some time arguing that, once you clear away the fog of the various kinds of weak arguments advanced by anti-immigration folks, you're left with very little other than racism. That tends to be the case worldwide - Bosnians and Serbs, Koreans and Japanese, French and Algerians, humans and cylons. There's nothing new there. But it is a pervasive reaction perhaps especially because immigrants - unknown strangers who are a different color than "us," have strange religious and cultural practices, and speak incomprehensible languages - are such an easy, painless target for provincialists who view moral responsibility and empathy as things that fall away once the other people are out of sight (and I think this has much more profound implications than dealing with the "other").

At best, arguments regarding immigration are debates about differential treatment and the nature of citizenship, the nature of the state and nationality, and the future of human socio-political organization in the face of transnational problems of all sorts. But the anti-immigrant positions in the US boil down to racism. That's the reality.

You could take a look at any of Barba's many posts written from the militarizing borderlands of Texas/Mexico (search blog: "immigration"). But I want to direct to you one in particular. Barba:
Talking and writing about migrants has become tricky: what leads people to feel angry about immigrants in America -- for as long as we have had what is presently characterized as a “national debate” (nothing about popular and popularly-accessible discourse about immigration can really be called a “debate,” can it?) -- what seems to anger people, or to scare them, about migrants is difference. Am I wrong about this? People make all kinds of claims that sound logical: immigrants take jobs from Americans, they are a strain on health care and educational systems, they drive like crazy lunatics. The closest people will come to articulating their fear of the less-than-white Other from the South is to claim that their value systems are incompatible with American democracy, that folks capable of making two-thousand-mile continental journeys -- trips totally unimaginable, I think, for most Americans, in their sordidness and difficulty and even in their natural and human landscapes -- sustained by little more than faith in the Virgin cannot possibly be expected to understand the rich heritage of civil democracy in our country, cannot really be expected to “contribute.” Setting aside the degree to which the majority of Americans themselves fail to “contribute” (and ignoring the absurd reality that we congratulate one another for casting votes and behave as though this constitutes contribution), this concern strikes me as most worth discussion. Even (especially?) if it amounts to little more than veiled fear: it could only help all of us to talk a little more plainly about what it means to be a citizen, to take that discussion beyond simplistic claims in which taxes buy things like “education” for people like “our children.” I admit that imagining that our putative debate could ever become a discussion is crazy optimism.
And Helmut, who insists on wanting to know the real nature of the so-called "immigration problem" as a problem:
I've been thinking about why immigration is such an important subject especially for conservatives. Living in DC one doesn't get a good sense of what drives the concern. I was in Texas last May, however, and asked about the immigration issue. It's a more salient issue there and has been as long as I can remember.

Running through and rejecting the standard arguments and claims (taking away American jobs, not paying taxes, being a drain on the healthcare system, etc.), which we know don't hold up, I would find that the Texas conservatives I talked to ended up mostly saying something vague along the lines of this: "well, we are here legally; and they ought to be here legally too." Of course, a response could then be to ask why amnesty - legalizing undocumented immigrants already in the US - isn't an option if legal status is the foundational concern. This then gets the whole cycle through the other claims/arguments going again. I wondered aloud, perhaps unfortunately even if in Socratic fashion, if racism isn't at the heart of the issue. Of course, few people are going to overtly argue that.
Well, apparently, now they are, notes the Times editorial:
Last week at the National Press Club in Washington, a group seeking to speak for the future of the Republican Party declared that its November defeats in Congressional races stemmed not from having been too hard on foreigners, but too soft.

The group, the American Cause, released a report arguing that anti-immigration absolutism was still the solution for the party’s deep electoral woes, actual voting results notwithstanding. Rather than “pander to pro-amnesty Hispanics and swing voters,” as President Bush and Karl Rove once tried to do, the report’s author, Marcus Epstein, urged Republicans to double down on their efforts to run on schemes to seal the border and drive immigrants out...

What was perhaps more notable than the report itself was the team that delivered it. It included Bay Buchanan, former adviser to Representative Tom Tancredo and sister of Pat, who founded the American Cause and wrote “State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America.” She was joined by James Pinkerton, an essayist and Fox News contributor who, as an aide to the first President Bush, took credit for the racist Willie Horton ads run against Michael Dukakis.

So far, so foul. But even more telling was the presence of Peter Brimelow, a former Forbes editor and founder of, an extremist anti-immigration Web site. It is named for Virginia Dare, the first white baby born in the English colonies, which tells you most of what you need to know. The site is worth a visit. There you can read Mr. Brimelow’s and Mr. Buchanan’s musings about racial dilution and the perils facing white people, and gems like this from Mr. Epstein:

“Diversity can be good in moderation — if what is being brought in is desirable. Most Americans don’t mind a little ethnic food, some Asian math whizzes, or a few Mariachi dancers — as long as these trends do not overwhelm the dominant culture.”

The Times concludes with the generic proposal that we ought to be more vigilant about racism, especially in times of economic downturn. That's right. But I think we can go further and say that the "immigrant problem" is nothing other than the problem of racism in the US (and elsewhere, of course). That's the pernicious ongoing problem.

The question becomes whether, in the case of the US, the right manages to turn the American reality of diversity into a fantasy of white Christian ownership of the nation. Such a nation would set up landmark and selective historical moments, imbued with nationalistic oogedy-boogedy magic, as the sole truth of the nation; not the profound strain of experimentalism and pluralism in its thought and spirit, in the deepest thoughts of the founding fathers in their best moments, in its philosophical lineage and evolution, and in the very best of its culture. I mean, really, what has a white supremacist done for any of us lately?


troutsky said...

I don't question that racism is a prevalent aspect of right wing xenophobia but I know plenty of black conservatives who simply do not wish to share. They see a juicy pie being split into too many slices. So a good word is greed. Our social compact is in tatters thanks to generations of market,each against all, ideology.

MT said...

Racism seems to overlap somehow with feelings about "conspiracies" and about conspirators/spies/moles who move among us or within our government. Both "race" and "conspiracy" are prejudicial terms as well. On the other hand, is it wrong to view a evangelical religious member of a world wide religion as a conspiracist? I don't think so. But then we all have our causes. The point is where and how we abnegate to get along in our society. About people from other societies I think we doubt they'll know, and that they'll be partial and set in their own ways. It's nothing to kill over, but it's not nothing either (take the head scarves in France). Telling people there's nothing to fear may cost more hearts and minds than it wins.

Anonymous said...


Nuevo Plan de Aztlan

WHEREAS, We the Chicanas y Chicanos of the United States of America honor our Native American heritage with all our hearts and minds;

WHEREAS, We the Chicanas y Chicanos of the United States of America honor the sacred call of our Native American ancestors for peace and justice throughout our Americas; and

WHEREAS, We the Chicanas y Chicanos of the United States of America recognize La Raza has been struggling with a new wave of racial harassment, discrimination and persecution in our Americas since September 11, 2001.

NOW THEREFORE, We the Chicanos y Chicanos of the United States of America resolve as follows:


This resolution may be cited as Nuevo Plan de Aztlan.


Nuevo Plan de Aztlan is based on the following terms:

a) Americanas y Americanos

Americanas y Americanos are ALL AMERICANS regardless of our races, colors, languages, cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, religions or creeds.

b) Aztlan

The concept of Aztlan is derived from the Nahua history of the Mexicas before their southern migration from Norte America into Centro Mexico during the 11th Century. Aztlan today is Indigenas of Mexican-American and(or) Mexican descent who consider ourselves Chicanas y Chicanos regardless of where we were born, live or die.

c) Carnalismo

Carnalismo is the love and compassion Chicanas y Chicanos have for each other as carnalas y carnales (sisters and brothers). Carnalismo is what unites and strengthens Chicanas y Chicanos as we work together for peace and justice.

d) Chicanas y Chicanos

Chicanas y Chicanos are Indigenas of Mexican-American and(or) Mexican descent who consider ourselves Chicanas y Chicanos based on our Native American heritage.

e) El Movimiento

El Movimiento is the Chicana y Chicano Movement for peace and justice. El Movimiento is comprised of numerous academic, athletic, artistic, business, commercial, cultural, educational, political, recreational, social, spiritual, wholistic and other Chicana y Chicano organizations and individuals working for peace and justice throughout Aztlan, our Americas and the world.

f) Heritage

Our Native American heritage includes our ancestral lands and freedoms; and all the histories, cultures, traditions and mores of our Native American ancestors.

g) Indigenas

Often called Native Americans or American Indians, Indigenas are all the indigenous peoples of our Americas including those of mixed-race heritage like La Raza.

h) La Causa

La Causa is for peace and justice, the eternal cause of Chicanas y Chicanos who recognize there can be no true peace without true justice, i.e., the abolition of poverty, racism, sexism and all other injusticias in our Americas.

i) La Raza

Chicanas y Chicanos can be Black, White, Brown, Red, Yellow and(or) any other “skin color” like the rest of La Raza and the human race. The concept of La Raza was derived from a 1925 essay published by Jose Vasconcelos, a Mexican educator who called the millions of mixed-race Indigenas with Latin-American and(or) Latin-European ancestors La Raza Cosmica.

La Raza is comprised of every race, color, nationality, ethnicity, culture, language, religion and creed in the world. This rich diversity is the unifying power, force and strength of Chicanas y Chicanos, and of all La Raza as we grow to know, understand and honor our great heritage.

j) Latinas y Latinos

Latinas y Latinos of our Americas are Indigenas with a Latin-American and(or) Latin-European heritage. Millions of Latinas y Latinos also have African, Asian and other Non-Latino ancestors.

k) Racism

·Racial categories are crude labels based on parentage, genetics and(or) physical traits, not religious or scientific proof of one’s superior or inferior nature like racists believe.

·Racism is the belief one or more “races” are inherently “superior” to one or more other races. [Example: Many Americans believe “White people” are inherently superior to “Non-White people” and that “Black people” are inherently inferior to all other people.]

·Racism includes the belief “mixed-race” people like La Raza are inferior to those with birth parents of the same race. “Race-mixing” is still condemned by racists today. · Indigenas were considered savages (less-than-human) when Europeans first invaded and occupied our Americas. "Christianized" and(or) otherwise assimilated Indigenas are still considered inferior by today’s racists.

·Racists are not just poor or poorly educated citizens, there are wealthy and highly educated racists throughout government and society who strive to protect and preserve their privileged status via institutional, industrial and commercial racism. Racists are not just White, either; there are Brown, Black, Red, Asian and other racists, too.

·The racist imposition of the colonial English language on Indigenas continues to cause horrendous problems for Chicanas y Chicanos in education, employment and virtually all other aspects of life in the U.S. Laws, rules and regulations are selectively enforced by local, state and federal institutions against La Raza, as English is used as a weapon to deprive Chicanas y Chicanos of liberty, equality and justice throughout our lives.

·Private industry (“free enterprise”) also causes havoc for Chicanas y Chicanos by perpetuating racist stereotypes and beliefs about La Raza for profit and gain. [Example: Mass media and the “entertainment” industries commercialize racist stereotypes and beliefs about Latinas y Latinos throughout the world, while pretending to be “spreading freedom and democracy” alongside the Pentagon.]

l) Terrorist(s)

A terrorist or terrorists are human beings who use unwarranted violence and(or) the threat of violence to kill, rob, rape, torture, imprison or otherwise impose their will over other human beings.


Nuevo Plan de Aztlan addresses the alarming attacks orchestrated against Indigenas throughout Norte America since September 11, 2001 (9/11). U.S. officials are using La Raza as a scapegoat or smokescreen to distract or divert attention away from their heinous war crimes in the Middle East.

According to their domestic propaganda, the “real problem” and therefore actual enemy or threat to national security is Mexicans and other Indigenas “invading” Norte America, not the Pentagon killing, torturing, maiming, imprisoning and destroying other indigenous peoples' lives in faraway lands.

Thousands of racist media, vigilante, “homeland security” and other hostile actions have been executed against Indigenas since 9/11, as tens of thousands of these indigent men, women and children have been rounded up and herded out of Norte America like cattle.


Indigenas have suffered centuries of injusticias including genocide, rape, torture, mayhem, kidnapping, slavery, peonage, poverty, homelessness and groundless imprisonment at the hands of the original European invaders and occupiers of our Americas.

The offspring of these European terrorists expect Chicanas y Chicanos to ignore or forget this true account of their ancestors’ horrendous atrocities, as if these abominations against our Native American ancestors never occurred or mattered.

As English imperialism via the U.S. government seeks to conquer the entire world, La Raza is increasingly faced with discriminatory law enforcement, housing, education, employment, healthcare, mass media, entertainment and other racist industrial, commercial and institutional policies and practices, especially since 9/11.

The offspring of the European terrorists who originally stole our ancestral lands are guilty of receiving this stolen property. Receiving stolen property is no less a crime than stealing it. These aliens remain in denial as they continue to exploit, oppress and otherwise deprive us of our ancestral lands and freedoms from generation-to-generation much like their terrorist ancestors did against our ancestors for the past few centuries.

U.S. racists are now working to outlaw MEChA and other Movimiento organizations being blamed for “too many Mexicans” and other Indigenas in Norte America today. Local, state and federal government agencies have also made it extremely difficult for the Partido de La Raza Unida to rise politically against this institutionalized harassment, discrimination and persecution in any significant way.

These same racists oppose Chicana y Chicano Studies, affirmative action, financial aid, bilingual and multicultural education, ethnic studies, fair housing, equal employment opportunities and all other ways and means of attempting to create level playing fields for La Raza, as if the U.S. only belongs to Anglo-Americans and everyone else is a second-class citizen at best.


The 21st Century campaign against Mexicans in the also aimed at Chicanas y Chicanos since we are all familia. Chicanas y Chicanos have a natural, inherent or innate relationship with Mexicanas y Mexicanos because of our common Native American heritage that is everlasting.Other Indigenas throughout our Americas are suffering from these racist attacks too.

We are all being treated as a threat or potential threat to national security by the racist U.S. government at the local, state, federal and international level.


a) We the Chicanas y Chicanos of the United States of America must reach beyond nationalism to establish and(or) coalesce with parallel movements of other Indigenas united around our multilingual, multiracial and multicultural heritage throughout our Americas and on outlying islands.

b) El Movimiento’s mass communication, organization and mobilization initiatives call for Chicanas y Chicanos to join forces with all La Raza against our common exploiters and oppressors because we cannot be free unless and until all La Raza is free.

c) Economic justice cannot be achieved without social and political justice. La Raza must join together as an international union of Indigenas to work for this justicia as opposed to permitting the racists to continue to exploit and oppress La Raza via commercial, industrial and institutional racism from generation-to-generation.

d) This indigenous union must ensure liberty, equality and justice for all Americanas y Americanos so We can all live, work and travel freely in peace and justice throughout our Americas for so long as the rivers flow.

e) The first priority of our new union is to abolish poverty, racism and sexism throughout our Americas.

f) This union must ensure all workers in our Americas receive good jobs and compensation so that all Americanas y Americanos can have nice homes in safe and secure neighborhoods and communities. People unable to work will also have nice homes in these safe and secure neighborhoods and communities because no one will live in poverty or homelessness in our Americas except by her or his own choosing.

g) We the Chicanas y Chicanos of the United States of America must ensure our children learn about our indigenous ancestors, at home and in all the schools, colleges and universities of our Americas so they and future generations will know, understand and honor our Native American heritage.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, We the Chicanas y Chicanos of the United States of America will live our daily lives in accordance with Nuevo Plan de Aztlan to the best of our abilities.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, We the Chicanas y Chicanos of the United States of America will encourage Chicana y Chicano organizations everywhere to review, adopt and incorporate Nuevo Plan de Aztlan into their own missions, goals and objectives so all Indigenas can stand united against the new wave of racial harassment, discrimination and persecution La Raza faces in the 21st Century.

Copyright 2008 Internet Mecha. Nuevo Plan de Aztlan may be reproduced, republished and disseminated freely.