[Marxism] The Great Immigration Panic
mikedf at amnh.org
Wed Jun 4 09:56:06 MDT 2008
The New York Times
June 3, 2008
The Great Immigration Panic
Someday, the country will recognize the true cost of its war on illegal
immigration. We dont mean dollars, though those are being squandered by the
billions. The true cost is to the national identity: the sense of who we are
and what we value. It will hit us once the enforcement fever breaks, when we
look at what has been done and no longer recognize the country that did it.
A nation of immigrants is holding another nation of immigrants in bondage,
exploiting its labor while ignoring its suffering, condemning its
lawlessness while sealing off a path to living lawfully. The evidence is
all around that something pragmatic and welcoming at the American core has
been eclipsed, or is slipping away.
An escalating campaign of raids in homes and workplaces has spread
indiscriminate terror among millions of people who pose no threat. After the
largest raid ever last month at a meatpacking plant in Iowa hundreds
were swiftly force-fed through the legal system and sent to prison.
Civil-rights lawyers complained, futilely, that workers had been steamrolled
into giving up their rights, treated more as a presumptive criminal gang
than as potentially exploited workers who deserved a fair hearing. The
company that harnessed their desperation, like so many others, has faced
Immigrants in detention languish without lawyers and decent medical care
even when they are mortally ill. Lawmakers are struggling to impose
standards and oversight on a system deficient in both. Counties and towns
with spare jail cells are lining up for federal contracts as prosecutions
fill the system to bursting. Unbothered by the sight of blameless children
in prison scrubs, the government plans to build up to three new family
detention centers. Police all over are checking papers, empowered by
politicians itching to enlist in the federal crusade.
This is not about forcing people to go home and come back the right way.
Ellis Island is closed. Legal paths are clogged or do not exist. Some
backlogs are so long that they are measured in decades or generations. A
bill to fix the system died a year ago this month. The current strategy,
dreamed up by restrictionists and embraced by Republicans and some
Democrats, is to force millions into fear and poverty.
There are few national figures standing firm against restrictionism. Senator
Edward Kennedy has bravely done so for four decades, but his Senate
colleagues who are running for president seem by comparison to be in
hiding. John McCain supported sensible reform, but whenever he mentions
it, his party starts braying and he leaves the room. Hillary Rodham
Clinton has lost her voice on this issue more than once. Barack Obama,
gliding above the ugliness, might someday test his vision of a new
politics against restrictionist hatred, but he has not yet done so. The
American publics moderation on immigration reform, confirmed in poll
after poll, begs the candidates to confront the issue with courage and a
plan. But they have been vague and discreet when they should be forceful
The restrictionist message is brutally simple that illegal immigrants
deserve no rights, mercy or hope. It refuses to recognize that illegality is
not an identity; it is a status that can be mended by making reparations and
resuming a lawful life. Unless the nation contains its enforcement
compulsion, illegal immigrants will remain forever Them and never Us,
subject to whatever abusive regimes the powers of the moment may devise.
Every time this country has singled out a group of newly arrived immigrants
for unjust punishment, the shame has echoed through history. Think of the
Chinese and Irish, Catholics and Americans of Japanese ancestry. Children
someday will study the Great Immigration Panic of the early 2000s, which
harmed countless lives, wasted billions of dollars and mocked the nations
most deeply held values.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
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