What's Scary About the Anti-Immigration Debate





Ms. Pfaelzer is professor of English and American Studies at the University of Delaware, and director of the University Honors Writing Fellowship Program. The writer of numerous articles on nineteenth century women’s literature, feminist theory, and cultural theory, she has been appointed to the Washington D.C. Commission for Women. She lives near Washington, DC. Her new book, Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans, is available at all booksellers.

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When we think of ethnic cleansing we think Darfur, Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia.  Maybe its time we started thinking Fortuna, California; Hazleton, Pennsylvania; Cherokee, Georgia; and Whitewater, Wisconsin.

Once, 1.5 million Native American Indians lived here; by 1900 250,000 survived the roundups, slaughter, and wars of extermination. 

Between the Gold Rush and the turn of the 20th century, in town after town, Chinese miners and merchants, lumberjacks and field workers, prostitutes and merchants’ wives, were gathered up at gunpoint in over two hundred towns. The first Chinese Americans were forced onto steam ships, marched out of town, or driven out, sometimes along the railroad tracks they had built.

In Tacoma, Washington, at nine o’clock in the morning of November 3, 1885, the mayor ordered all the steam whistles at the foundries to blow, to notify vigilantes to begin the rout of the town’s Chinatowns.  By mid afternoon Tacoma’s Chinese were forced from town on a nine mile trek in the mud and rain, never to return.  In Eureka, California the rout of 1885 took less than a night, as the Chinese packed whatever belongings they could. The Chinese, many of whom had lived in Eureka for twenty years, were held under gunpoint at a warehouse on the docks, loaded onto two steam ships and sent to San Francisco. 

In the mountain town of Truckee, it took ten weeks to starve out the Chinese, when the editor of the local newspaper shamed merchants, timber barons, and women who ran boardinghouses, ordering the town to neither buy from, rent to, hire, or honor wood cutting contracts with early Chinese Americans.  When most of the Chinese had left, the “anti-Coolie” League and the vigilante committees (like the “601”—six feet under, zero trial, one bullet) circled the white part of town with fire wagons, invited the ladies to watch, and burned Chinatown to the ground.  Two Chinese men died, refusing to leave their homes.

During the Great Depression, two million Mexicans and Mexican Americans were deported under Herbert Hoover’s Mexican Reparation campaign. Sixty percent of the deportees were children, born in America. The rest were mostly US citizens who had lived on this land for generations.

Now, from Fortuna, California, to Trenton, New Jersey, immigration officials are sweeping through towns without warrants,  seizing Latinos from homes and factories, leaving children abandoned at schools and day care centers.

And now too, a simple housing code, traveling the Internet, is purging thousands of Latinos, suddenly homeless and on the run. Over eighty towns have enacted the canned language of “The Illegal Immigration Relief Act” and banned any landlord from renting to an undocumented worker. 

Evicted from their housing, American citizens, legal immigrants, and illegal immigrants are in flight from frightened landlords who have become the storm police. 

In Hazelton, PA, landlords face arrest or fines of $250 per day. In Riverside NJ the fines grow to $1,000 per day. In Cherokee, GA, even after an eviction, landlords must prove that their former tenants have left the county before they can again collect rents.

In just one year this housing code has spread from historic Sandwich on Cape Cod, (whose web site invites you to “experience life the way it used to be”), south to Riverside NJ, Landis, NC and Beaufort, SC, to Avon Park, FL, Cherokee, GA, and Valley Park, MO. The code travels to Farmer’s Branch, Texas, up through Carpentersville, IL, Bloomington, MN, and Arcadia WI, where 140 Latinos once lived in a little town of 2,300 people. Then it jumps westward to Escondido, California.  

As civil rights groups try to enjoin the codes, others spring up.  Only the federal government can deport people, but small towns can drive them out of town.

This week, as soft wild dogwoods bloomed along the East Coast, I read a Christmas story, a tale of Christmas just past. It was called the Ordinance 2006-18.

T’was the week before Christmas 2006 when Hazleton banned Santa Claus. Santa was about to climb down the chimney without a green card. Although his biology has always been a bit unclear, Santa was an “alien” of the illegal sort who employed thousands of alien elves—“unfair foreign competition” to American toymakers.

Making a list and checking it twice? For the feds: “identity data provided by the property owner.” Data provided by a landlord? Based on what kind of verification?

And why?

Hazleton’s mayor told Sixty Minutes about a 70% rise in violent crime since Latinos came to town in 2001 (the correct number is 20 of 8,500 crimes). Farmers Branch, Texas said that the code would prevent terrorist attacks by purging its Latinos. One third of towns that passed the code are in unemployed areas of Pennsylvania--railroad towns that once sold anthracite coal, steel tubes, and carpets.  Now they export Latinos. 

These gentlemen prefer blondes. The mayor wants Hazleton to remain 94.7% white. Last week in front of a burning cross the  Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party, recently defunct, announced to ABC Evening News that since they began assaulting, torching, and “bleaching” Latinos, membership has risen 40%.

“Pack your bags…It’s over, go home” shouted local Minutemen after Escondido’s city council voted 3-2 for the Hazleton code. With nearly half the town born outside the US, anyone who looked or sounded “foreign” stood to be evicted. In Altoona, which is 99.9 % white, a city councilman declared “We just want to stay ahead of the curve.” 

Neither the local U.S. Attorneys (those that still have their jobs), the Department of Homeland Security, or Attorney General Gonzales is stopping the unconstitutional enforcement of this unconstitutional code.

But immigrant rights groups are trying to stop the spread of this internet virus. They took Hazelton to federal court, arguing that the code violates immigrants’ rights to due process, fair housing codes and legal leases. The judge temporarily stopped the town which still awaits a final ruling. Sixty eight percent of the voters in Farmer’s Branch voted to support its code in May, but in June the Mexican American Legal Defense fun managed to get that vote overturned. Another break may be protections in the Hate Crimes Bill, passed by the House, moving through the Senate but facing a presidential veto.

Still, as Hazelton’s mayor bragged, the code endures, even though his struggling  town faces $2 million in fines and legal costs

Yet across small town America, landlords face empty apartments and vacant trailer parks. Businesses are shutting down. One-third of Riverside’s immigrant population has moved away. Twenty-five percent of our undocumented population has children who are US citizens, but unable to fend for themselves, these kids are losing their constitutional right to live here.  This code, perhaps deliberately, violates what children promise: permanence, stability, and future generations.

Latinos often say, “mi casa es su casa.” By contrast, this code says “leave.”

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    Angelo Mancuso - 11/12/2007

    Politicians and Americans for that matter should take a look at "American Harvest." Its a non-partisan feature length documentary about immigration as it relates to agriculture. It presents the facts as they are without political bias.

    http://www.americanharvestmovie.com

    American Harvest Synopsis

    Anti-immigration sentiment sweeps across America. A journey from Florida to New York, including a trip to the Mexican border, reveals the lives and issues of legal and illegal migrants and farmers working toward a better life. Is the immigration system in America flawed? Immigrants are dying to feed America.

    American farmers and agriculture rely on immigrants to do jobs that Americans won't do or feel that are simply beneath them. Some only see the problems in the news from the perspective of those extreme points of view of the left and the right side of our political system.

    Discrimination of immigrants has existed in the United States since the English persecuted the Irish. It was once generally considered that if you were Greek or Southern Italian you were not white.

    American Harvest points out the inconsistencies of the current policy on immigration. See the changing face of immigrant America as it relates to Agriculture.

    Follow legal and illegal farm workers and the farmers caught in the middle of a flawed immigration policy.

    Every farmer I have spoken to wants to secure our borders. But they also want a workable solution to LEGAL immigrant labor.

    Americans have to understand that we all need to appreciate and respect those people who grow and harvest our crops.

    The men and women that put food on our kitchen tables deserve no less.


    Carson B. Dugal - 7/28/2007

    The Unacknowledged Holocaust

    Back in the 60’s the Federal Government came into the public schools and brainwashed us as little children with the message that the children we were about to have were unwanted because the population was rising so fast. They launched a program called, “Zero Population Growth”. They pushed Family Planning and birth control pills. I think you and I now both know that you only have to trick people for their few child bearing years and there is no going back.

    Many of us never had a say in the future of our unborn.

    I am the result of two living cells. One from each of my parents. They are the result of two living cells, one from each of their parents. I wasn't just born. I am a continuation of life. I am a living thing that reaches back into time perhaps 400 million years and the result of billions of joining of pairs of cells. It is possible that if you were to follow my cells back to my parent’s cells and beyond that my family tree touches every living thing here on earth. That is if we limit ourselves to believing life was created here on earth. If it rained down from the immensity of the universe it could reach back into that immensity of time and space, and who knows what relationships and who knows what species.

    At least until I came up against the Federal Government and their plan to control the population.

    I have seen the Federal Government do little else to control the population.

    The open border, United States laws only apply to some, is a serious slap in the face. No, not a slap in the face, it reaches well beyond that. Maybe back to the beginning of time and stretch to the bounds of the universe.


    Joseph Mutik - 7/16/2007

    Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York city, synthesized the situation in the most accurate way:
    "This afternoon in an interview on Fox News he said that the question of whether this would represent "amnesty" was beside the point.. "I'm a mayor, I have to deal with the real world," Mr. Bloomberg said. "I'm a businessman, I have to deal with the real world. I don't have the luxury of talking about the ideological wordsmithing of how you call it. The truth of the matter is we have people, they are here because we have wink-winked and let them come in. They are part of our economy. We need them. We need more.""
    quoted from:
    "http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/24/nyregion/24cnd-bloomberg.html?ex=1306123200&;;en=e1f17508223ee990&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss"
    The reality is that the employers are interested in illegal immigration because through illegal workers they can control wages and keep them down. The citizens of the U.S. are also interested in illegal immigration because through illegal immigration because they want cheap food, cheap construction work prices, cheap landscaping, cheap hose work, etc. I wonder what would happen, if suddenly, all the rednecks screaming for deportation will have to pay $5/lb of tomatoes instead of $2/lb?!
    The reality is that there is no political will for immigration reform because there is no real grass roots will for this kind of reform, the employers don't really want it and the regular folks don't really want it.
    The immigration bill didn't get the approval of the Congress because it was designed in such a way to make sure it isn't going to become law.
    The reality is that all the necessary laws to stop illegal immigration are already in place. If employers would have to check, with the Social Security Administration, if the social security number and the name on the social security card belong together, the majority of the illegals would be out of work. There are other documents (like higher education diplomas) that if discovered as false can send one to jail and the employer will go to the police and prosecute the owner of the false diploma. Of course would be very hard to prosecute all the owners of false social security cards but checking it will keep them out of work and with it the incentive to illegally cross the U.S. border.


    Joseph Mutik - 7/16/2007

    Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York city, synthesized the situation in the most accurate way:
    "This afternoon in an interview on Fox News he said that the question of whether this would represent "amnesty" was beside the point.. "I'm a mayor, I have to deal with the real world," Mr. Bloomberg said. "I'm a businessman, I have to deal with the real world. I don't have the luxury of talking about the ideological wordsmithing of how you call it. The truth of the matter is we have people, they are here because we have wink-winked and let them come in. They are part of our economy. We need them. We need more.""
    quoted from:
    "http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/24/nyregion/24cnd-bloomberg.html?ex=1306123200&;en=e1f17508223ee990&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss"
    The reality is that the employers are interested in illegal immigration because through illegal workers they can control wages and keep them down. The citizens of the U.S. are also interested in illegal immigration because through illegal immigration


    Angeline Lee - 7/15/2007

    This, unfortunately, is what quite a lot of people think. They're saying that the illegal immigration (undocumented is often used by those who love political politeness) push is an ethnic cleansing... whatever. They're uneducated nitwits that will not understand until something serious, involving an illegal immigrant, happens to them or someone in their family.

    The problem is not Hispanics. The problem is illegal immigration. Plain and simple. Playing the race card, the KKK (brought to life by the Democrats to put the fear of God into Republicans, black or white - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KKK), and anchor babies is getting old. Argue intelligently, please.

    Do illegal immigration bleeding hearts not realize that there are Doctors, Lawyers, Pilots, Teachers, etc. that are here illegally? Do they not realize that the problem is huge, and does not involve who happens to be my neighbor’s gardener, or the person handing me a hamburger at a fast food restaurant? The basis is security, safety for the American citizen – yours and my financial security. Who has access to your financial records? You do not mind if it is an illegal immigrant who could disappear with a drop of a hat?

    The legal immigrants of America need to get a clue and get a fast. The problem is growing exponentially.

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