Border Security has become like drug enforcement. In the last 40 plus years, the US is estimated to have spent over a trillion dollars nationally on anti-drug enforcement, feeding that beast until it has developed, like the Cold War, into an industry. This anti-drug frenzy has made the US the country with the largest prison population on the planet. Now the new target is illegal immigrants. They are the latest boogeymen. Communists are gone and the anti-drug crowd has made league with the dealers in keeping narcotics illegal, therefore a profitable business while the enforcement-only crowd spends more on the industry. Presently, the legalization of illegal immigrants is fast becoming like trying to get a public debate on legalizing or decriminalizing narcotics use or possession.
The new age of political correctness has created the insidious nature of this new racism: the great and grand struggle to protect America from getting too foreign (read: dark and alien) looking. After all, Latinos are not traditionally viewed as acceptable immigrants but instead like Native Americans: conquered and vanquished people but without reservations. They are people who traditionally were confined to certain sides of town. They were the ones with the ability to seasonally service rural parts of the country but who were expected to return to their places of origin.
If one ‘passed’ or assimilated in unnoticed numbers, then one could be accepted, especially with the increasing need for cheap labor, as the US rapidly became less competitive in the global market, as cost of labor skyrocketed. This occurred as traditional white and black Americans insisted in the American dream of high (living) wages. The massive migratory movements from Latin America began concurrently. Previously, the only significant flow had been during the Mexican Revolution. The Castro Revolution of 1960 ignited the first migratory movement covered by the mass media. The anti communist factor helped generally in accepting the first waves of mainly the Cuban white enclave fleeing a majority non-white country. Subsequently, the truly large numbers of immigrants coincided with the US need for cheap labor and the economic and political upheavals in all of Latin America. Hence, the rise of both legal and illegal immigrant movements into the US occurred.
At the same time, the increasing rise of remittances (dollars) sent back to the countries of origin ”hooked’ many Latin American governments to actively support or encourage this massive migration to the US and other developed countries suffering a labor shortage. With the US economy soaring from the late 80s through the 90s, the flow continued. It was the tragic incident on 9/11 that brought a noticeable halt to this readiness to accept this immigrant flow. As the deepest economic recession since the 1930s reared its head in the aftermath of 2001, the exacerbation of economic conditions especially unemployment together with the foreign anti-terrorist awareness or phobia heightened the rejection of ‘outsiders’.
During the Depression years of the 1930s, a backlash against Mexicans arose, significant round-ups of anyone suspected of being Mexican nationals took place and all were deported. Many US citizens were taken to Mexico forcibly. It is common to see, during these uncertain times, the ever-present nativist crowd spring into action as guardians of sovereignty and sentinels of the American tradition. The recognition that the “Latino” population is over 45 million is daunting. The battle cry of “border security” is now the operative term against illegal immigrants and increasingly anti-Latino. The feared white backlash is perhaps and unfortunately the gathering storm in civil relations in the US. Much lies ahead and the impending 2010 electoral cycle will serve to polarize the discourse. The “Latino” leadership must take note and rise to the occasion.