Immigration: a hate-filled minority controls the conversation

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It sickens me, the actions of our government in these past weeks. Thousands of children fleeing the violence and human trafficking in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala showed up at our border and now our government is sending most of them back, many of them to certain death. And why would our government do this? Do these children pose any threat to the United States? Are they in some sort of conspiracy to steal our freedoms away and destroy America from within?

The Emma Lazarus poem, “The New Colossus,” as it appears on the Statue of Liberty. (Wikipedia)
The Emma Lazarus poem, “The New Colossus,” as it appears on the Statue of Liberty.

No, our government does this to satisfy the racially insensitive elements of our society that have decided America is only for Americans. The message on the Statue of Liberty is no longer applicable.

  • “Give me your tired, your poor,
  • Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
  • The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
  • Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
  • I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
  • — Emma Lazarus

This is the new America and the message is: “Stay the fuck out!”

Especially if those trying to migrate here happen to have brown skin and come across the southern border of our nation.

Interestingly enough, immigration never seemed to be a problem until Ronald Reagan was elected president, when he and his party ushered in this new era dedicated to greed and selfishness. It’s no surprise that when the Oliver Stone classic film, Wall Street, was released in 1987, the Gordon Gekko phrase, “Greed is good,” became not just an oft-spoken catch phrase, but a religious mantra for the people eager to accumulate as much wealth as possible, regardless of the damage done to others.

The irony being Stone and actor Michael Douglas intended Gekko to be a villainous character and his phrase a ringing indictment of the people who actually run and control our economy — Wall Street and big (now mega) businesses. Turns out they control our government too.

It was about that time “illegal immigration” became an issue. All of a sudden, we had a different enemy and they were coming here uninvited across the U.S.-Mexican border.


Immigration for Our Grandparents

Back when both sets of my grandparents migrated here about 100-110 years ago from Hungary and Greece, they didn’t have passports or visas, they just stepped off boats at Ellis Island and went through a process to be registered as immigrants, tested for diseases — quarantined if needed (it wasn’t) — and then sent on their merry little ways into the Big Apple, New York City.

Of course people already here didn’t like them. My grandparents didn’t speak the language when they arrived, couldn’t read the street signs, had no clue about the 4th of July or Thanksgiving and they had no idea how to cook a pot roast. What’s not to hate?

But off they went, from New York City to Milwaukee, WI (Dad’s family) and Dubuque, Iowa (Mom’s dad and uncles).

My Uncle John and Aunt Irma on my dad’s side were born in Hungary, in a little village that is now in Romania. In all the years they were alive it never occurred to me to ask either of them if that had the proper papers. They were my aunt and uncle and what the heck: Aunt Irma could cook! “Az íze olyan jó!”

Uncle John had the family farm in Rio, Wisconsin. As a teenager I would spend time in the summers working and drinking lots of beer. Hell yeah, Uncle John was king!

Only one grandparent, my dad’s mother Anna, lived long enough for me to know her and she didn’t speak a lick of English in the eight years I knew her. She was in a nursing home the entire time, the victim of debilitating strokes I believe. She died at the age of 84.

Uncle Bill on my Mom’s side: he emigrated to the U.S. in 1915 from Greece, a few years after one or both of his brothers. For whatever reason they went to Iowa. But, when the U.S. decided to enter World War I Uncle Bill enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Twitter post
Twitter post

One of his brothers Spelios, everyone called him “Pete” because no one could pronounce any of their freakishly spelled Greek names, Pete was my grandfather and he was a son-of-a-bitch. No way to put a pretty bow on that one. He and my grandmother, Mabel, whose parents were Irish immigrants, were married and had two kids, my mother and her brother Georgie.

Mabel died from injuries sustained in a kitchen fire and that son-of-a-bitch husband of hers dumped my mother and Uncle Georgie in an orphanage and left to start another family somewhere else in Iowa. Hence, my grandfather Spelios — Pete — is a son-of-a-bitch.

Never met him either. He died before I was born, but I did meet — and like — his two brothers, my mother’s Uncles Bill and Chris. I don’t even remember their actual Greek names. They were always Uncle Bill and Chris. When he was in his 60’s, Uncle Chris went back to Greece were he died, but Uncle Bill stayed and ran his family business which was dry cleaning stores.

After my Uncle Georgie died of spinal meningitis in the orphanage Bill and Chris got my mother out and Uncle Bill raised her as his own. I loved that man. When we were growing up we spent many Sundays at Uncle Bill and Aunt Marie’s house and they both spoke fluent Greek as well as English. It never occurred to me to ask if he had the proper documentation; if he were a U.S. citizen, even though I knew he had been born in Greece. Uncle Bill would sometimes talk about his years in Greece, but we never considered him — or the foreign born relatives on my dad’s side — to be anything other than Americans. They had come here for a better life in America and then made it so for them and their families.

A snarky tweet about that anti-immigrant crowd. (Twitter)
A snarky tweet about that anti-immigrant crowd.

Pretty much the same way all the Latin immigrants do when they come here to the U.S. from South of the Border.

Immigration Since Reagan

But now, for the past 30-plus years, Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Americas have not been welcome. They’ve been vilified, verbally assaulted in the media and social media and accused of being the source of all our woes, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars that they bring to our economy through their labor.

Somewhere along the line, between the time my grandparents arrived here a century ago and the 1970’s, the U.S. decided to officially institutionalize racial discrimination in the form of immigration laws, making it illegal for millions of people to migrate to America. Despite the fact that unfettered immigration had been the biggest part of our national identity.

It’s why the inscription was put on the Statue of Liberty.

Instead, tens of thousands of immigrant children are finding themselves being held in cages in detention centers, or worse yet, their buses assaulted by angry mobs of haters spewing the vilest epithets at them. Not adults, kids, as young as five and six. Their buses blocked by these mobs of screaming adults who have no problem treating children with vicious contempt.

This is America today. No longer do we welcome the yearning masses, the homeless and tempest tost — screw them.

Not all Americans, but a vocal minority that is so loud and full of hate, they cannot be ignored. Most Americans understand that they themselves are the result of immigrants that arrived here much the same way as the Latin American immigrants of today.

In 1925 the U.S. instituted harsh immigration laws the set quotas on different ethnic groups, in hopes of curbing Asian immigrants in particular. Congress abolished those laws in the 1960’s and immigrants were once again welcome in America.

The Overpass Light Brigade gets into the debate against the anti-immigratiion crowd. (Twitter)
The Overpass Light Brigade gets into the debate against the anti-immigratiion crowd.

But since the era of Reagan, the xenophobic, often racist anti-immigrant hatred has risen once again. Immigration isn’t an economic issue, it isn’t a health issue — it isn’t even a social issue. Immigration was turned into a political issue so politicians could create a bogeyman that would attract voters. “Don’t like them dark-skinned people coming from Mexico? Well we hate’em too and by golly if you vote for us we’ll put an end to them ugly people coming here!”

Of course they, the GOP, never has and never will because they, the GOP, understands two things; ONE: the immigrants are a great financial benefit to their big business bosses; TWO: if you actually could achieve that goal of stopping immigrants from coming across the Southern border and deporting the ones already here, then they, the GOP, would not have that particular wedge issue to use for elections and fund-raising. And that explains why Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio declared immigration reform dead in the House of Representatives and why he and his GOP caucus have chosen to do nothing to help the refugee crisis — what the crazy right wing refers to as an illegal immigration crises.

Immigration Today

And the realities are: immigration from South of the Border is at an all-time low and deportations under President Obama are at an all-time high. And shamefully, most of those kids in the news today are getting sent back to the horrible circumstances they initially fled.

Here’s another reality: the state making the most noise about the immigrants, the one with the drama queen for a governor, isn’t even the state that feels the most impact from Latin American immigration. Texas, where the governor got on a boat for some tough guy photo ops and has recently called out the National Guard to stand around at the border, isn’t even third on the list of states most impacted by immigration. Texas isn’t even in the top five.

Video surveillance is prevalent along the U.S. border with Mexico. (Wikipedia)
Video surveillance is prevalent along the U.S. border with Mexico.

The top states for immigration are as follows: California, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Nevada. The San Ysidro border crossing, which connects San Diego, CA, USA to Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, is still the busiest border crossing in the world. And this state, California, still has more undocumented immigrants than any other state.

What’s the difference? The people that control the state governments. California welcomes immigrants, Texas doesn’t. That little embarrassment in Murrieta? The buses just came to San Diego instead. Problem solved.

It’s an embarrassment how our government has treated immigrants for the past 30-plus years. It’s a great disappointment President Obama has chosen to be more inhospitable to immigrants than his predecessor.

Maybe if control of Congress is returned to responsible adults in the mid-term elections this year that will start to change. Call me a dreamer.