Response to Racialicious Post

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I wrote this in a comment section of a Racialicious post that really seemed to pose some honest questions about the nativist viewpoint.  I really spent some time on it so I thought I'd publish it here:

It's good to see a very rational discussion of migration taking place. There's a group of us pro-migrant bloggers that do a lot of work on this issue. At some point you just get tired of hearing the same points over and over again. Sure everyone has different reasons for believing Hae's viewpoints, but so many of the concepts that people with "anti-illegal immigrant" views have are so flawed.
For instance, this whole concept of legal/illegal immigration. It's a completely manufactured one that has just cropped up this century. Before 20th century, there was no such thing as being legal/illegal. You came to the U.S. as an immigrant and that was that. There's a reason "illegal" migrants exist today. It's been completely manufactured and functions to create a class of people that is easily exploitable and easily scapegoated.

It sounds to me like Hae mentioned some version of a "get in line" argument. There is no line. U.S. immigration law is a mess and there is no one line that anyone can get in the back of. Just to get an idea of how complicated U.S. immigration law is, check out this reason.org chart, which is a vastly simplified version of how it works. If you check it carefully, you'll notice that if you are an unskilled worker with no family in the U.S., there is just no legal way for you to get in the U.S. Again, there is no line for most of the unauthorized migrants that are in the U.S. today.

A lot of nativists argue that they don't want that sort of person in the U.S., but does that jibe with U.S. values and the U.S.'s history of immigration. We all know the Emma Lazarus poem, "Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

These misconceptions go on and on. A big part of what we try to do in the pro-migrant sanctuarysphere is educated people, but the truth is most of the people pushing these flawed concepts are not interested in logic.

The U.S. migration debate is not a debate about policy, it's a culture war. It's a debate about what fundamental question of what it means to be an "American." Certainly, not everyone who is against "illegal immigration" is racist, but when was it ever any good to define whether or not a person was a racist? What we have to define is whether an action, or a policy position, is racist or nativist.

The bottom line is that people who put out arguments like the ones above, are in effect, taking a racist/nativist position. Perhaps it's not always effective to call it that, but if it weren't true, than why is it that every "anti-illegal immigration" organization that is quoted in the papers, is against legal immigration too, and often has ties to racism and white supremacy.

Sure someone like Hae is not connected to these groups, but is she calling out the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or the Center for Immigration Studies, for the hate they spew off of positions like hers?

I mean the most reasonable policy proposal of people in the "anti-illegal immigration" camp right now is something they call "attrition through enforcement". They know they can't deport 12 million people, so instead they decided to best solution is to make millions of unauthorized migrants so miserable that they leave on their own.

By separating their families, by putting them in detention centers, by deputizing local police to enforce federal immigration law, they hope to make unauthorized migrants so terrified that places they've fled from look like paradise. That is in effect, what is happening now. If you're not sickened by it and standing against it, and you're not nativist or racist, then I don't know where your sense of justice is.

All most unauthorized migrants want to do is work hard and get ahead. That doesn't mean that the U.S. has to have open borders. It just means that borders have to stop being the primary guarantor of rights in the world. Allowing the arbitrary lines people are born into to define their existence is the greatest source of inequality in the world today.

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5 Comments

Dave Bennion said:

Great response, Kyle. Judging by some of the other comments in that thread, I think the message is starting to get out.

Thank you for this, kyle. It's one of the best pieces I've ever read that clarifies what this debate is about.

I think too many people try to view this in the abstract, the notion of "cutting in line," who "plays by the rules," when there is no line and the rules are broken.

Until the discussion can begin from that realization, there will be no progress.

Tina said:

Kyle brings up 2 key points:
1. That a lot of the points of debate over immigration are based on misconceptions. Like that there is a line, that borders define rights, that immigrants are a drain on the U.S. economy, etc.
2. That “illegal” is a modern fabrication. Status in the US is transitory: someone can come legally and fall out of status, or someone can enter without documents and change their status over time. U.S. Immigration laws are so complex that there is not one universal distinction between legal or illegal. “Illegal” has been used all too often in these debates as if it were a permanent character trait - and that is where the thinly veiled racism comes in, because people speak of illegals as if they are a separate class of human being.

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

Thanks for the kind words everyone. I hope that the post does someone some good. I feel like we raise these points over and over again.

RicTresa said:

It seems to me that America is full of a bunch of people who think they are better than others because they make more money or the color of ones skin. I just can't believe that this kind of thinking is still going on into the 21st Century when we have many more things to worry about, (like Republicans robbing us blind.)

I don't really know much, first hand, about the immigration issue, (I'm learning.. or trying to.) I do know plenty about racism however and ignorant people, (having lived 56 years so far.) I think that all the BS stories one hears about the problems with immigrants started life in some ignorant person's mind.

I'm not sure how to fix this other than just getting to know each other, (immigrants and Americans.) Then and only then will people begin to understand one another. I think if people really understood how damn hard it is for these folks to make the journey here, (all the scary crap they go through, all the hardship) people's minds might change and compassion would rule the day.

Maybe I'm dreaming, but I hope not.

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on October 30, 2008 5:12 AM.

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