When Immigrants Kill
by nrafter530, Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 12:38:47 AM EST
Politically of course...All right, so I'm playing devil's advocate here. All I ask is that you hear me out. I'm going to use my own experience to explain why I think the common American is so far out in the extreme on the issue of immigration and why I think it will kill the left.
I have consistently argued in the past on this blog that Immigration is the one political issue that can yank the floor from beneath the Democratic Party without it even knowing. I'd like to take the time to explain why I think the psyche of America has become so anti-immigrant by using my own experiences.
However, my experience with immigration in my neighborhood may explain the animosity toward them we see today, even among first, second and third generation Americans who descend from people with similar circumstances. When I was 16, I went out looking for a job to keep myself occupied after school. I looked for something that can pay around $6 an hour, at least that's what I would put on my applications. I applied for many well-known national chain drug stores and supermarkets, but failed to get any jobs. After a few years, I gave up (I was graduating high school anyway.) What I remember about those days was the number of people, immigrants from Eastern Europe and the West Indies, who worked in these places I had applied to. They had a grasp on English and are warm people, but I remember expressing anger that they had gotten jobs that I, a natural born American, could not get. Later, I found out from a friend that a job she had been trying to get for me at a local establishment went to an immigrant who wanted minimum wage (which was about $5 back then.)
I honestly believe had I grown up anywhere other than Queens and a similar situation occured to me, I would've become the angry anti-immigrant like those who seem to overpopulate our country.
Even the most liberal Democrats I know, families and friends, tend to knock on immigrants. Among the quotes I've heard are;
"It's hard for us Americans to find jobs because immigrants will do the work for less"
"Because of them you need to speak Spanish to get anywhere and that's sad"
"Our ancestors came here in disease-ridden dirty smelly boats and had to go through intense red tape at Ellis Island, why do these Mexicans get to run across the border with no one stopping them"
"Why can't we just force immigrants to go through Ellis Island again?"
Now, like I said, I was lucky. I'm an educated person, expose to all kinds of immigrants; legal and illegal. I have a good friend of mine who immigrated from Eastern Europe about 17 years ago and is more American than some Americans. My positive experiences with immigrants as friends and acquaintances has allowed me to overlook the negative experiences of feeling like I couldn't get a part-time job because I was a white English speaking American who wanted to get paid a fair wage. However, most of America do not have these experiences, only the negative type that I previously discussed. Therefore, it should come as little surprise there is strong animosity toward immigrant communities today.
It bothers people when they speak their language. It bothers them when they fly the flag of their own country. It bothers them when do a job for little money that an American would do for a wage they deserved. It bothers people when immigrants come to the United States to have their children to "take advantage" of our citizenship laws. (although my grandmother did this, she still complains about it when "Latinos" do it)
Especially in this post 9-11 word, Americans see immigrants as threatening forces, here to work for as little as possible, thereby driveing down wages for the rest of us and helping fat cats get fatter. They see immigrants as people who have no respect for "American culture," which to them includes the English language.
It's not that Lou Dobbs convinced them and brainwashed them, it's that Lou Dobbs is saying what people are thinking.
So what does this have to do with politics? Well, as we have seen, things for the GOP are one way or the other, and the Republican Party has done an excellent job framing the Democratic Party as pro-immigrant and therefore Anti-American.
I live in Queens, New York, which is the most ethnically diverse county in America, and that is an understatement if you ask me. I count myself blessed the stork dropped me off here. Growing up, I have been able to partake not only in the cuisine and culture of my Italian ancestors, but also tasted the best Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, German, and Mexican food, as well as the best Roast Beef sandwiches from the best Jewish delis this side of Tel Aviv. I have had a chance to experience Cinco de Mayo, Passover, St. Patrick's Day and and Diwali with my friends and their families growing up, as well as our own holidays (Christmas, Easter, Columbus Day.) I learned three other languages other than English mainly from immigrant friends; Italian, Spanish and Greek and I've picked up plenty of Hebrew. On my street, I have for neighbors Italians, Scots-Irish, Indians, Filipinos, Guyanese, Germans, Russians, Dominicans, and African-Americans. I'm truly blessed, as a second generation American, to have experienced all of this. I have absolutely no animosity whatsoever for our immigrant friends. It is because of my ancestors and these present immigrants Queens is the masterpiece it is today.
I believe the way Democrats take back the issuse is to highlight the plight of immigrants in America. Prove to them that they are not a resource-sucking population looking to get free handouts meant for Americans. At the same time, Democrats need to get strong on undocumented workers. If legal immigrants anger Americans as much as it seems to me they do, even here in Queens, imagine what people think when they here illegal immigrants? People don't like Congress and the President because they don't feel like their fighting for the people, Law-obiding American citizens. When a President or party begins supporting the legalization of illegal immigrnats, Americans feel that their government cares more about people who came here illegally then the descendants of those who came here legally.
I truly believe this is the issue that can and will mortally would Democrats. We need to formulate a policy here, but one that is fair and popular to the people. It takes time, but if we're going to show some gonzo now, we'd better do it this way, and not do the Eliot Spitzer "I don't care that it's unpopular, I'm doing it anyway" approach.
Spitzer got nailed on this issue and the rest of the party may too I'm afraid.