Seneca: Pondering the Sinking Immigration Discourse

June 14th, 2010 · 7 Comments

The prospects for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) are dwindling day by day. Even the proposed Dream Act to help the children of the undocumented (aka illegals) secure university-level education is slowly diminishing. Moreover, I am convinced that the heartless and even poisonous positions being taken by many fellow Americans will sink any hopes of achieving some satisfactory resolution of the current immigration crisis. The Arizona law is a dreadful harbinger: it is ‘vigilantism’ codified into law. This is encouraging other states to seek the same cover for vigilante action. Vigilantism in our history shows that it can readily become a basis for lynchings.

Obama and his fellow Democrats appear to lack the political bravery to take strong leadership on immigration reform. This suggests they have lost whatever courage they may have possessed early on. It increasingly indicates that the President is listening to his top political advisors who have convinced him like Rove did to President Bush that CIR is ‘lose lose’ proposition. They read the polls and know how to count. California for instance has 42 percent white population, but this group represents 70 percent of voter registration within the state. Then combine this reality with the deep divisions among the Hispanic community plus general Latino voter apathy. Further exacerbating this situation are the potential high negative feelings toward immigrants held by some in the Black and Asian communities. All this may be telling Mr. Obama to turn tail on CIR or anything related to immigration reform that could result in positive action for illegal aliens. Moreover, the current Administration is militarizing the US-Mexico border while faintly apologizing over the recent shooting of a Mexican teen by the Border Patrol. In sum, there is no penalty for not doing anything to resolve or achieve some progress on the current immigration tangle. Enforcement or clamping down on the presence and flow of the undocumented into the country seems to be the preferred way forward. However, a severe penalty lies electorally should any constructive attempt be made to help alleviate the current impasse to do the right thing.

On top of it all, the Latino national leadership is AWOL as usual. One big problem appears to be that our narrative lacks passion. With passion, one moves mountains and captures the imagination of the majority. It seems the Latino narrative plainly may not evoke deep feelings like slavery did or the drama of the Cubans fleeing communism or the high seas trek of many immigrants over the last two centuries. Jumping fences, digging tunnels under the border, hiding under the car’s floorboards, and fording river puddles are not captivating. Chases across the desert are equally uninspiring as opposed to the high drama of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, NY. Add this to the unjust perception that Latino immigrants are a motley lot seeking hand outs. When the vast majority of immigrants came to America before mid 20th century, the US had not established a social safety net to provide those in need. An exception was made for Cuban exiles because their narrative coincided with the height of the Cold War. Hence, their flight from Communism was readily embraced. Now with a social safety net (medicaid, food stamps, etc.) available the dominant white majority in this recent economic downturn has grown mean-spirited and appears to fear these immigrant ‘hordes of mendicants’ who will feast on their largess. Hence, the Latino narrative becomes even more unappealing. Latinos are viewed like the Native Americans who were colonized and occupied by Anglo-Americans simply putting a stake in the land and proclaiming it was no longer Native American property. Likewise the Alamo and Gold Rush served to conquer the Spanish-speaking people of the Southwest. This may explain why Latino narrative does not fit into the traditional American immigrant saga. Distressingly, high hopes for a practical, timely and humane resolution seem to evaporate as time passes. Then again, the Washington approach may be to get out from under the problem (encontrar una salida) and not to resolve it.

Tags: African-Americans · Barack Obama · Democratic Party · GWB · Immigration · Latino History · racism · Seneca

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anna // Jun 14, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Re: “It increasingly indicates that the President is listening to his top political advisors…”

    Why is that people are reluctant to hold Obama accountable for anything? He is responsible for his actions, nobody else. Frankly, I do not think he ever intended to deal with immigration. His feeling is that we have nowhere else to go, and that fear of the GOP will make us reliable Democratic voters. Why do you keep giving him the benefit of the doubt? Get a clue. I will not vote for him in 2012, and any Latino who does is an idiot.

    Anyway, the oil spill and his non-response has doomed him. He’s only pretending to care about the Gulf now because James Carville called him out on CNN. Obama will not pressure BP to reimburse those people, regardless of what he says. His words are uncoupled from his actions.

  • 2 HeavyGabe // Jun 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm


    I wholeheartedly agree, Obama should be held accountable for what happens on his watch. The media hasn’t turned on him yet. It will be an interesting dynamic if they ever do.

    If he is to accomplish any kind of immigration reform, he had better do it quick. After November, he may not have the opportunity to get anything legislation pushed thru. At least then, he will have someone to point blame at. Right now, he has no excuse for abandoning his campaign promises.

  • 3 Anna // Jun 14, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    The media is owned by corporations and as long as Obama is deferential to corporations he will
    have the media’s support. He’s barely meeting with the CEO of BP, almost two months after the spill? Unbelievable.

  • 4 Chicano future tense // Jun 14, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    seeing beyond voting as a solution..

    We can vote until we are “blue in the face” because as long as the existing two-party paradyne exists we will get the same thing over and over ..we will get the obamas then we’ll get the bushes ..over and over…”tweedle dee tweedle dum”..the electoral system is so corrupt and devoid of any content of true democracy that it makes voting a farce,an exercise in futility and wishful hoping by the weak and powerless..
    Latinos like most other Americans have been brainwashed into thinking that voting is the primary means of redressing problems….
    I’m not suggesting that Latinos do not vote,rather, what I am suggesting is that Latinos move forward and consider developing an alternative analysis of how america is really run..
    Hopefully one day the veil of illusion of voting as the primary means of change will be pierced as Latinos develop a realization that we have to do more than just vote to make change..we need to develop unity,join organizations become personally active and participate in our fight against the SB1070’s and all it’s probable future incarnations..
    Take a look at the tea party movement,and other minutemen or “patriot” type racist xenophobic groups..they clearly understand that activism and militant action is what truly makes change..they ain’t messing around..they know the real deal here..
    Yes,it is extremely difficult,not easy for Latinos to come to a disturbing,sobering conclusion that the majority of white americans prefer to dominate and subjugate or if they had their way get rid of Latinos in this country..”out of sight..out of mind”..

    The true power that white racist xenophobic america has over Latinos is that they know that Latinos are scared to death to challenge the dominant white power structure,institutional racism and xenophobia.Unfortunately they are in part right due to weak pathetic Latino leadership,confusion and just straight out fear.

    Challenging that system of power requires risk and the probability of receiving punishment for daring to challenge the status quo..

    it is true …voting is safe and anonymous risk involved..BUT…

    Becoming an activist carries with it the risk of one losing their job,getting kicked out of school,being isolated by coworkers out of fear and reprisal from the company..and being targeted by the forces of the established white power structure ..we’re talking about getting your head bashed in by a police baton,getting thrown in jail, targeted by the police and criminal justice system,by financial agencies,creditors and the IRS..yes,they will mess with you if you dare to fight back!

    Change very rarely comes about by going to a voting booth and pulling a lever..reality doesn’t work that way..
    besides that most of the time white voters overwhelmingly outnumber Latinos in voting strength…look at prop 209,187 in Cali and SB 1070 in Arizona as well as a whole new slough of states that are considering following Arizona..
    Bringing about real change requires commitment,activism and risk..
    unless Latinos are willing to make this leap..they as a people will NEVER EVER advance..
    like I said before they can keep voting until they are “blue in the face” will just repeat a vicious cycle of bushes..obamas..more bushes ..more obamas.. etc etc ad hope and change in voting within the two party’s a rigged game..

  • 5 irma // Jun 15, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Latinos were stupid to support Barak Obama.
    I never succumbed to Obama mania- I did not see a great leader – I saw someone with a lot of ego and not much to show for it. He was an average student – a transfer to Columbia University (much easier than applying out of high school). During his political campaign he was touted as a legal scholar because he had been President of the Harvard Law Review ( an elected position). He was also supposed to be a law professor, while his actual title was “Instructor.” Instructors are not professors.
    He has, to my knowledge, published almost nothing in any legal journals. It would appear that he was annointed a scholar by his campaign operatives, without the credentials to back up their claim. But, f0r some reason, the media and the rest of the country ate it all up. 2 years later- what did we get ?

    1. Nothing on immigration reform.
    Instead he sent troups to the southern border of the United States. A Mexican child was shot in his own country- Obama made no statement.

    2. Invest in biomedical research. This he did for just one year and it was a pittance.
    The kicker on this is that all recipients of this money have to report their progress every three months! The average grant was about $150,000. That is barely enough to pay two new employees for twelve months. And yet,
    he bailed out Wall street with millions with NO accountability for the handout.
    3. Tax reform – none.
    4. Environment- he supported off shore drilling and the Gulf of Mexico is turning into
    a oily cess pool

    We need a real leader in the Democratic party.
    That person is not Barak Obama.

  • 6 Anna // Jun 16, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Re: “I saw someone with a lot of ego and not much to show for it. ”

    I agree. Honestly, if the democratic front runner had not been a woman, I don’t think Obama would have been able to raise the money to run. 2012 cannot come soon enough. Let’s see if we have any of our rights left.

  • 7 Pablo // Jun 18, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    My thought: rally around what little support we do have in the House — particularly Grijavla and Polis. Make them heroes, others may see the benefits of such political economies

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