Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe
marypcb

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)
Tags: politics
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