The Racist War on Immigrants
by Stephen Lendman
April 02, 2007
Emma Lazarus’ memorable words on Lady Liberty’s pedestal once had meaning as a new nation grew. No longer in a country hostile to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the homeless and many others not making the grade in a white supremacist Judeo-Christian state worshiping wealth and privilege. No welcome sign is out for the unwanted poor and desperate. At best, they’re ignored to subsist on their own. At worst, they’re scorned and abused, exploited and discarded like trash or labeled “terrorists” in a post-9/11 world of mass witch-hunt roundups aimed at Muslims because of their faith or country of origin and Latinos coming north to survive the fallout from NAFTA’s destructive effects on their lives.
Immigrants of color, the wrong faith or from the wrong parts of the world are never greeted warmly in “America the Beautiful” that’s only for the privileged and no one else. They’re not wanted except to harvest our crops or do the hard, low-pay, no-benefit labor few others will do. The ground rules to come were set straight away in our original Nationalization Act of 1790 establishing the first path to citizenship. It wasn’t friendly to the wrong types as permanent status was limited to foreign-born “free white persons” of “good moral character,” meaning people like most of us – our culture, countries of origin, religion and skin color.
Left out were indentured servants, slaves, free blacks, native Americans being exterminated, and later Asians and Latinos whose “appearance” wasn’t as acceptable as the whiteness of English-speaking European Christian settlers and the mix of others from Western European countries like Holland, Germany and Scandinavia. The law scarcely changed for 162 years until the 1870 15th amendment loosened it enough to include blacks by 1875, no longer slaves but hardly free and in 1940 gave Latin Americans the same right. After the war in 1945 it extended it further to Filipinos and Asian Indians. Original native Americans, whose land this was for thousands of years, only were enfranchised and given the right of citizenship in their own land when Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924 after most of them were exterminated in a genocidal process still ongoing, never mentioned in the mainstream, and for which no redress was ever made or likely will be.
The 1952 Immigration and Nationality (McCarran-Walter) Act (INA) only grudgingly did what no law before it allowed. For the first time it made individuals of all races eligible for citizenship but imposed strict quotas for those from the Eastern Hemisphere with different standards for caucasians from the West. But nothing is ever simple and straightforward in “America the Beautiful.” In the early Cold War atmosphere of Joe McCarthy’s communist witch-hunts, anyone accused of leftist sympathies could be targeted, and any alien so-tagged could be deported, and like today no evidence was needed.
From the INA to the present, immigration laws kept changing for better or worse, but one thing was constant. White Christian Western Europeans are welcomed. Others, especially people of color or the wrong religion, get in grudgingly in lesser numbers and receive unequal or harsh treatment when they arrive. The 1996 Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) and Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA)proved it showing Democrat presidents can be as mean and nasty as Republicans, especially with help from a Republican-controlled Congress.
The 1996 acts were ugly and repressive ignoring the rights of due process and judicial fairness. They allowed Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agents to detain legal immigrants without bond, deport them without discretionary relief, restrict their access to counsel, bar them from appealing to the courts, and can be applied for even minor offenses little more than youthful indiscretions. These laws under a Democrat president “feel(ing) our pain” showed no more compassion or equity than later ones under George Bush in force today. They allow no second chances and deny targeted legal immigrants their day in court. Their harshness tears apart families unjustly made to suffer by a nation hardening its stance to the wrong kinds of immigrants. They’re sent an unwelcome message now much worse in the age of George Bush with his permanent wars on the world and homeland “terrorists” meaning anyone called that on his say alone.
It started post-9/11 with the 2001 USA Patriot Act even harsher in its updated Patriot Act II version. Enacted to combat “terrorism,” it’s done on the border with more guards to spot, detain, arrest and incarcerate Latinos entering the country for a way to survive. For being undocumented and on the pretext of being suspected “terrorists,” they may be indefinitely detained or deported the way it works under any despotic national security police state. It’s even worse for Muslims, 5000 of whom were rounded up and held early on with only three of them ever being charged with an offense. And it got far worse for them after that still ongoing.
Today, federal immigration courts can hold secret hearings for anyone here illegally or charged with a law violation, no matter how minor. Those convicted can then be incarcerated or deported to their country of origin often to face arrest and torture. It’s now open season on anyone targeted with legal protection no longer shielding innocent victims Justice Department (DOJ) or Department of Homeland Security (DHS) go after. They includes poor and desperate mostly undocumented Latinos from Mexico and Central America coming el norte because NAFTA, CAFTA and other neoliberal unfair trade agreements called “free” destroyed their ability to earn a living at home leaving them no other choice but come north or perish.
It shouldn’t be that way, and promises were made early on that “free trade” lifted all boats with higher wages and more jobs. Instead millions of jobs were lost while real wages fell under the effects of a globalized market system crafted for investor elites to profit at the expense of ordinary working people paying the price. They’ve been devastated since by a sustained massive wealth transfer to the top of the economic pyramid that in the US alone has been a generational process of well over $1 trillion annually to corporations and the richest 1%.
For the past 13 years, NAFTA and the rest of globalized trade provided cover for imperialism on the march for power and profit. It prospers from economic and shooting wars of conquest with an engineered race to the bottom driven by giant predatory corporations allied with friendly governments in their service at the expense of ordinary working people paying the price. The result – mass and growing poverty, human misery, and ecological destruction great enough to threaten the ability of the planet to sustain life.
Blame it on the globalized market system. It’s the main reason millions around the world are on the move each year as reported by the International Labor Organization. In 2005, the number reached an estimated 200 million fleeing poverty and conflicts, often leaving families behind, heading for developed countries for jobs and safety unavailable at home.
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