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Demonizing immigration

NPR has just been running a call-in on immigration with two reporters from Ohio who've been doing studies and surveys and debunking myths. The whole thing was encapsulated for me by 'Jim from Charlotte, North Carolina' who didn't want illegal immigrants because NC doesn't want to be driven into bankruptcy and have their healthcare swamped by illegals the way California has. Er, came the reply; the studies we've just ben talking about show that's a myth; less than 1% of medicare (sp?) in CA goes to illegal immigrants and that's for child birth and urgent (I've fallen off a roof and broken my leg urgent) care. My Californian friends blame tax policy for the California budget, not illegal immigrants...

For one thing, that immigrant was probably up fixing the roof of someone who hired them because they were cheap; the bottom of the American economic pyramid has always been a gear wheel pulling in immigrants who will often move on and up to better jobs, so you need a continual supply of incoming lower-paid workers to keep services like roof repair and elder care running at current prices.

And then there were the reports from Oklahoma that women immigrants don't report domestic abuse to the police for fear of being deported.
But my overwhelming impression was that immigration is the new class war in the US. There's a perception that the US doesn't have a class divide; I think it's there and very clear - rich and poor. But a few years ago (conspiracy theory alert!), maybe around the time that tax cuts for the rich got even bigger, the finger-pointing at illegal immigrants as the leeches on the US began. And it reminds me of the anti-semitism of the 1930s, claiming that the Jews were leeching all the money out of Germany, that Hitler used to get elected. Someone to blame, someone to hate, someone to unite against that otherwise-friendly everyday folk feel comfortable being prejudiced against. And that's scary.

(I remember back in the 80s and 90s, as the cold war enemies became too reasonable to hate and demonise any more, predictions that the Arab world would take that scapegoat position. it seemed an abstract and clever analysis at the time... but it's uncomfortable how basic a human need turning us and them into a blame game and lever to power seems to be)

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( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
fjm
10th Oct, 2008 10:29 (UTC)
More like the anti-Mexican campaigns of the 1910s. That is also when marijuana became illegal, mostly as a way of harassing Mexicans.
sbisson
10th Oct, 2008 10:49 (UTC)
I always understood that the marijuana illegality came as a result of Hearst owning a lot of wood paper mills for his papers, and using them to create a scare that would bankrupt the hemp growers who were making paper far cheaper (and more durably) than him.
fjm
10th Oct, 2008 10:53 (UTC)
It's not impossible that both are true.
sbisson
10th Oct, 2008 11:22 (UTC)
It would make sense. Things like that feed on each other.
marypcb
10th Oct, 2008 12:34 (UTC)
was there an economic plummet they were blaming on the Mexicans? I'm coming up blank on my US history for that period
fjm
10th Oct, 2008 12:37 (UTC)
The bottom dropped out of land prices. It went up again during the war.
marypcb
10th Oct, 2008 12:41 (UTC)
what's resonating for me is that it's not a single thing the immigrants are blamed for, it's a conspiracy style response whereby when one canard is debunked they go on to something else to blame them for...
fjm
13th Oct, 2008 08:22 (UTC)
Yep.

In the 1890s, there was a campaign against the British Sparrow. Bird watching was popular among women, and this foreign sparrow! It had sex! In public!

Small boys were encouraged to throw stones at them.
mdlbear
10th Oct, 2008 13:21 (UTC)
Back in the 1960s and '70s it was the blacks who were demonized, mostly by Southern Democrats who all moved over to the Republican party when tougher civil rights legislation came in. Now it's increasingly gays and women. They don't care who they make the voters hate as long as they can cobble together a majority of haters to keep them in power.
(Deleted comment)
marypcb
12th Oct, 2008 16:04 (UTC)
some days I don't either.

but individual people can be so nice, so I don't know if it's a-hole percentage or the people individually/people en masse distinction
fjm
13th Oct, 2008 08:24 (UTC)
Thats the "But one of my best friends are X. You know, I don't hate Xs, but so many of Xs are [insert crime] that it's not surprising that so many people hate them...."

Which is a summary of the conversation that sent me ballistic at Eastercon in Blackpool.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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