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Thursday, July 20, 2006 

The Immigration Debate and Eliminationism Rhetoric

One thing is very clear, immigration debate is a complex problem which many would prefer to view it as a simple problem with a simple solution. For example, Grassfire.org's "Stop Invasion" billboards that debuted in Houston and Tucson this week. It is a simple sign, with a straight forward message: "Stop The Invasion: Secure Our Borders."

The debate continues to heat up in the US, which the Natavist continue their efforts to make this issue seem massive therefore scaring this country to death. In fact, many states and cities are coming up with their own reforms. According to a recent USA Today article, 35 states have taken it upon themselves to deal with immigration reform. Out of the 35 states, 27 of them have already enacted 57 bills dealing with the immigration issue according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Bills were enacted in 27 states: Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
What the immigration debate has done is nothing more but incite what Dave Neiwert at Orcinus calls "eliminationism". Neiwert states that eliminationism is the kind of behavior that shut down any type dialogue for the purpose of "outright elimination of the opposing side, either through complete suppression, exile and ejection, or extermination."
... Rhetorically, it takes on some distinctive shapes. It always depicts its opposition as simply beyond the pale, and in the end the embodiment of evil itself -- unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus in need of elimination. It often depicts its designated "enemy" as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches) or diseases, and loves to incessantly suggest that its targets are themselves disease carriers. A close corollary -- but not as nakedly eliminationist -- are claims that the opponents are traitors or criminals, or gross liabilities for our national security, and thus inherently fit for elimination or at least incarceration.
And that is where the problems lies. Nativists, like Grassfire, don't care. They prefer the easy way out and that is to create a whole class of criminals out of a group of people who come here to work. It's easier to blame the poverty-stricken pawns in this economic game because they are voiceless. It is easier to take their anger out on them, than to deal with the core problems.

Neiwert will also point out it is this type of behavior that played a part in the driving force behind the Holocaust, which he first encountered it in Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's text Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.
Hitler's Willing Executioners is an important and impressive piece of scholarship, particularly in the extent to which it catalogues the willing participation of the "ordinary" citizenry in so many murderous acts, as well as in the hatemongering that precipitated them. And his identification of "eliminationism" as a central impulse of the Nazi project was not only borne out in spades by the evidence, but was an important insight into the underlying psychology of fascism.
I have mentioned it before, using labels such as "illegals" is only furthering the nativists' aims of criminalizing the "undocumented" and separating them from the rest of society. It is nothing more setting up a us vs. them situation. It is easy to dehumanize any groups of people in the name of injustice. If they're monsters, criminals, invaders, you name it its okay to lock them up like cattle or round them up and expel them. Possibly separating them from their families, even though they've been here working for decades.

There are legitimate issues surrounding illegal immigration, the immigration debate is a complex issue and it is having an effect here in the US. For one its hurting American jobs and wages. Just recently FL's Gov. Jeb Bush and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson announced that millions of Florida oranges could waste because of a shortage of fruit pickers. In AZ, construction companies are also facing a labor shortage.
o get a sense of the challenge employers face filling the need for workers in Tucson, check out newspaper job listings — on Sundays and Wednesdays you'll find more than 70 employers seeking construction workers. Or look at the stack of yellow fliers inside El Indio Mexican Food Restaurant, 3355 S. Sixth Ave. The ads tout carpentry jobs with "good pay" and "excellent benefits for you and your family."
The notion of rounding up these individuals, building a border wall, placing National Guard troops on the border, itchy trigger finger "Minuteman project" whackos is not only a joke, its exactly what these eliminationists want to see happen.

There is little discussion about why these people come here. That would require generating empathy for the dehumanized, some that the Nativists lack. In order to solve the complex problems surrounding illegal immigration, there are several issues that need to be addressed. The fact is, most undocumented immigrants did not come over with the intention of staying in the United States. Their intent, for a large majority, has and always has been, to come here long enough to earn some money to help their family back home and later return home. But the current laws make that impossible, therefore, they end up living staying longer than they intended.

Marisa Treviño of Latina Lista points out that in the town of Tendeparacua, in Michoacan, Mexico, currently only has 600 people residing there compared the 6,000 residents who lived there in 1985. She also points out that the rural areas of the country, other towns like Tendeparacua, are totally devoid of any working-age men.

People coming in from Mexico and Latin America know they can make much more money working the US than they can at home ($5 an hour instead of $5 per day for example). Since they already worked in extreme conditions in their home country, they realize they can work in the same extremely difficult and labor intensive jobs here in the US for a higher pay in jobs many Americans won't do.

As long as cities who are tired of waiting for Congressional action and taking action into their own hands, such as Hazleton, PA, they are doing nothing more but playing into the hands of the Nativist.
A former coal mining town in Pennsylvania has put itself smack in the middle of the raging debate over U.S. border security by adopting one of the nation's toughest laws against illegal immigration.

The measure, passed by the Hazleton City Council last week, penalizes businesses that hire illegal immigrants and landlords who rent to them.
There is no doubt there are those who are US born Hispanics or who are here legally who are happy to see cities like these take care of the "mojado/a" problem. For right now, they will say they don't mind being stopped by the police to prove they are citizens because to them the police are doing their job. Nor do they really mind having people suspect them that they are illegally here because these are "dangerous times." But all these actions do have hidden consequence. History has a nasty way of repeating itself when it comes to racial profiling.

And during these times, the revised version of Pastor Martin Niemoller's First they came poem by Applied Research Center is very appropriate.

And I Said Nothing (Revisited)
In the United States
They first came for the ARAB AMERICANS
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t Arab American.
Then they came for people from MUSLIM countries
and I didn’t speak up because I was born in the U.S.
Then they profiled PEOPLE OF COLOR as terrorist suspects
and I didn’t speak up because I must not look like a terrorist.
Then they targeted IMMIGRANTS,
and I didn’t speak up because I have legal status.
Then they arrested SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVISTS
and I didn’t speak up because I was afraid to get involved.
Then they came for YOU AND ME– –
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

- adapted by Applied Research Center , 2003

None of these issues are being addressed by the Bush Administration and Congress. Its rarely talked about in the media and certainly not by the Nativists who don't want to regulate businesses or levy fines against those who hire illegal workers for cheap slave labor. To the Nativist and their eliminationist rhetoric its all about catch, detain, and deport.

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