Nativist Arguments Depend On, Circulate False Information

| | Comments (3)

my-turn-visa-SC50-wide-horizontal.jpg[Image: Choo Youn Kong / AFP-Getty Images]

Sometimes I wonder what people who get riled up about immigration would do if they actually knew how the laws worked, instead of relying on the lies that have been spun into conventional wisdom.

Utah State Rep. Stephen Sandstrom wants Utah to pass a SB1070-style law that would drive undocumented immigrants further into the shadows. He told the LA Times one of the reasons he has become Utah's leading anti-immigrant politician is that it is so hard for immigrants to come through legal channels.

Sandstrom became fluent in Spanish and sponsored one family that wanted to immigrate to the United States. He was shocked at the hurdles they had to surmount. They had to sign a form pledging to refuse all U.S. government benefits for five years. Sandstrom thought of the people here illegally who accessed those benefits. It didn't sit right with him.

There are a couple of inaccuracies repeated in this short paragraph. First, the passage suggests that all it takes to immigrate to the U.S. is a financial sponsor like Sandstrom and a pledge not to access benefits. This is incorrect. It's true that each applicant for permanent residence must locate a U.S. citizen or permanent resident financial sponsor to sign an "affidavit of support," a requirement derived from the long-standing prohibition on accepting immigrants who will become a "public charge." But to apply for permanent residence in the first place, applicants must have an employer or close family member in the U.S. able and willing to file the underlying petition for them.

Most people who want to emigrate to the U.S. can't because they lack such a petitioner. A financial sponsor alone gets you nowhere. Yet most Americans believe that the U.S. takes all who wish to come, as long as they wait in the famous "line." This line is a fantasy. It only exists for the small number of people who have close family members in the U.S. or an employer willing to wade through the red tape and expense of an employment petition. And some of those fortunate enough to be able to wait in the line must wait 10, 15, even 20 years for a visa.

But the other myth that Sandstrom repeats to this reporter is perhaps even more pernicious, the myth that undocumented immigrants are on the dole, stealing money from taxpayers.

In reality, undocumented immigrants are already ineligible for public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, SSI, and housing assistance, even though many pay payroll, property, and sales taxes. If any undocumented immigrants do happen to get benefits for which they're not eligible in the first place, they risk making themselves ineligible for legal status down the road, since receipt of public benefits is used by immigration officials as an indicator for likelihood of being a future "public charge," a ground of inadmissibility.

Does Sandstrom know that the story he tells to reporters to justify his passion for persecuting immigrants isn't true? I would hope that an elected official would take the trouble to learn the specifics of his pet policy issue, but perhaps Sandstrom hasn't done that. Or perhaps he is deceiving the public for political gain.

But back to Sandstrom's main complaint against undocumented immigrants: he wants them to leave because--this is his own argument--it is impossible for most immigrants to come to the U.S. through legal channels.

One of his chief complaints is that predominantly Mexican illegal immigrants crowd out other, legal immigrants -- people like the Venezuelans, Peruvians and other Latin Americans whom he meets on regular return trips to South America and whom he believes are not allowed to legally immigrate because there are too many illegal immigrants here already. "This is not anti-Hispanic in any form," Sandstrom said.

The precise nature of the "crowding out" mechanism is left to the reader's imagination. Does each community have a limit on the percentage of brown faces it can accommodate? Would conservative politicians agree to increase visa numbers to reduce backlogs and lower wait times for family reunification if there were fewer people crossing the border? I haven't heard of any such proposals. Most anti-immigrant politicians like Sandstrom haven't dedicated much energy to smoothing the path of legal immigration. Instead, they've slammed the front door shut and then bemoaned the resulting unauthorized immigration.

Sandstrom's argument only holds up if you don't think about it too hard. It goes something like this:

1. Legal immigration has become increasingly difficult over the past 20 years because of anti-immigrant legislation resulting from a bipartisan backlash against globalization, worsened by a wave of nativism after 9/11.

2. Because it's so hard to immigrate legally, we have a duty to deport any immigrants who fail to meet the strict eligibility requirements designed to screen out most applicants or dissuade them from trying to immigrate at all. After all, we owe it to the people we are hassling and forcing to live separated for years from their loved ones.

Wait ... what?

The fact that Sandstrom is still repeating this argument to reporters makes me wonder how much, or how little, he's been challenged on it at home in Utah. More likely is that the majority white population of Utah (I grew up there) is alarmed at the increasing number of Latinos who've made their home there in the last 15 years. This fear of the new fuels the nativist frenzy that has driven Sandstrom's political career. Nativism doesn't care much for arguments supported by facts and reason, it cares about keeping out those who are different.

Which brings us to the fruits of the efforts of anti-immigrant politicians like Sandstrom who ride the nativist wave: families suffer. Pro-migrant activist Tony Yapias works with the families who are hurting right now in Utah and around the country.

Yapias spends much of his day fielding calls from desperate illegal immigrants. "Tony," they tell him, "my mother in Mexico is sick. What can I do?" Current immigration law, he says, creates millions of tragedies.

Yapias put his head in his hands. "What it does to our families is just devastating," he said.

Has Sandstrom talked to any of these families, families like the ones my brother knows who are barely scraping by, who pay tithing to Sandstrom's church, who mow his lawn and clean his office? Perhaps he would see them if he weren't so intent on keeping them invisible.

digg | | delish


Horace Author Profile Page said:

Let me explain why our immigration policies are the way they are, David, and then you might understand why most Americans will never concur with the DREAM Act or any other amnesty endeavor.

1. We cannot afford to import poverty and ignorance. At one time, all it took for success in this country is the willingness to work hard. When I mean work, I mean real physical labor. One could emigrate from Europe and, with very little in the way of education, make one's way in life in an upwardly mobile way. Today, a high school education will get you very little. Importing illiteracy is no longer consonant with our national goal for a literate society. In fact, no nation has as its policy the importation of poor. It's just bad public policy.

2. All of our social, educational, economic and medical support systems are broke. The costs of medical care for citizen poor who pay nothing for such services have caused huge increases in premiums for those of us who pay for health care insurance. Hospitals take in everyone; it's the law. Hospitals pass these costs on to the insured and their insurance companies, resulting in inflated co-payments and inflated premiums paid by their clients. While citizens have been willing to support current citizen poor, they are reluctant to accept new poor into their society, especially when they've entered the country illicitly. The costs to educate peoples who are the product of failed states puts an enormous tax burden on our citizens. Every dollar used to do this is currently borrowed from China, at the expense of our children, and their children not yet born.

3. It's a fact that almost half of all workers in this country fall into the zero federal income tax bracket. The other half subsidize these zero income tax workers. I can hardly imagine how importing more people that fit into this category would be beneficial to the national treasury.

4. The citizens of this country cannot rationalize why, when an illegal alien enters this country, he has an inherent right to complain that he has a hardship of separation from his family, when his own act has caused it. He knows from the very moment that he crosses the border that he will have difficulty in returning and that, if caught, he will be deported. Except from the poorly governed nations of Latin America, there are no others in the world that would argue that the people of the US don't have the sovereign right to determine the terms of entry for foreigners. Virtually every nation on this planet deports people who violate their immigration laws. You'd be hard pressed to find an international precedence in law to support your views on immigration.

5. I would guess that there are at least one billion foreigners that would like to enter this country at any one time. Because of this, we have the opportunity to pick and choose who would best fit into our society, and would actually contribute to this nation's economic betterment; to further the interests of the people who are already present. Remember, immigration laws are meant to work in the interests of the people of this country, not for others. Millions of peoples south of our border do not even come close to falling into the economic and educational class of being more than just ill educated subsistence wage earners. Just because someone desires to come this country isn't sufficient grounds to permit their entry. And some of the well educated would no doubt be turned away, as we simply do not have room for all.

It' sad that much of the world wallows in poverty; that some people will never be permitted to come here due to unfortunate circumstances of birth, but we cannot sacrifice our well-being for theirs. I feel sorry for you; that you will no doubt continue to tilt at a windmill that will never surrender to your lance.

Horace Author Profile Page said:

One more thing, I find it incongruous that you tout the great potential of educated DREAM Act people because of how exceptional they would be in contributing to society, and at the same time tell us how worthwhile it would be to accept millions of ill educated illegal aliens. Isn't illiteracy as injurious to society as it used to be? These two concepts would seem to conflict with one another. I'm confused. Please enlighten me.

Gregory Author Profile Page said:

"The precise nature of the "crowding out" mechanism is left to the reader's imagination. Does each community have a limit on the percentage of brown faces it can accommodate?"

I find no evidence of racism here. To any objective person, it would appear that he is referring to the fact that our citizens have a national unemployment rate of almost 10 percent. There is no doubt any additions to the number of undocumented workers puts them in competition for jobs with our citizens, be they Asians, Europeans, Latin Americans or African Americans, especially our poor. Statistics show the latter to be the case. I don't know how our Congress, as representing our citizens, coud in good conscience possibly support any kind of amnesty at the expense of the people who elected them. We wouldn't have much of a democracy if Congress elected to represent the interests of anyone but those that elected them. I'm sorry, but I cannot support the DREAM Act or any kind of amnesty at this time. I would feel disloyal to my fellow Americans. I know many people who feel this way.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on January 1, 2011 11:26 PM.

Goodbye to 2010, Looking to a Brighter Future was the previous entry in this blog.

Phantom Conservative DREAM Act a Diversion is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.