March 12, 2008
Students of political science may look to their discipline’s greats to describe what’s going on in today’s volatile social environment, but they might as well turn to the physical sciences–to Isaac Newton, in particular. It was Newton’s legendary third law of motion that stated for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, an axiom that easily encapsulates the United States’ supercharged battle over immigration.
Criminalizing immigration has become a right-wing attack plan that’s worked with precision in Congress and mainstream conservative media like CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight . But the clarion calls for so-called reform have actually had the opposite effect: they have galvanized the immigrant community into ever-increasing political participation, rebutting Republican efforts.
In fact, one reason that the Republicans had come to power in recent years was due to the Latino vote, which often leans toward more conservative value systems. As Senator Gil Cedillo told me for an earlier Wiretap piece on Latino politics, “I think there is an assumption that Latino electives will be progressives, and I don’t think that’s the case. In truth, Latinos are known to be more conservative than most progressives. Frankly, they are as poised to be Republicans as they are to be Democrats, and probably would be if Republicans didn’t hate them or promote hysteria about them.”
The overall lesson to be learned, Cedillo indirectly argued, was not to bite the hand that feeds you. But the Republicans have done exactly that, with the media following suit. And not enough pundits or politicians have countered those attacks by pointing out the obvious: We are, all of us, a nation of immigrants, occupying lands that once belonged to someone else, including Mexico.
Myths, Power and False Patriots
“Unfortunately, the history of the United States as popularized on TV or classrooms seems like it was made by Disney,” explains journalist Roberto Lovato, who’s written on the subject for diverse publications like The Nation, Los Angeles Times and more, and also served as executive director of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), one of America’s largest immigrant rights organizations. “It’s not real. We talk a lot about the holocaust, but we don’t talk about Native Americans. There’s no holocaust museum for them. We don’t have an Ellis Island for the black slaves. Most of the slaves came through Sullivan’s Island, and it should be a monument, but it’s not. A sense of history is profoundly and institutionally lacking, and so you’re going to have a population that looks at this treatment of immigrants as natural.”