Here’s a charming number for you to ponder: Over the course of American history, over 50 million people have been kicked out of this country—deported, banished, exiled, gone daddy gone. And of that 50 million, about 90 percent of them were not White.
Today, that percentage is closer to 100 percent. Latinos, Asians, Middle Easterners—you name it, we’re deporting them by the thousands. So when our beloved ex-president said that he wanted more immigrants from Norway, he was just expressing what so many Americans believe, which is that the only good immigrant is a White immigrant.
Even though it is “generally accepted among historians and political scientists that U.S. immigration laws of today have racist underpinnings,” the government has not been in a big hurry to fix the problem. We were too busy building a damn wall (well, sort of building a wall).
In any case, “the historical record shows—quite clearly—that the criminalization of unauthorized entry and reentry rests on fundamentally racist foundations.” And now the judicial system has finally agreed with that perfectly obvious fact.
Recently, a federal court ruled that an immigration law was unconstitutional because it was “explicitly racist in its origins” and was “enacted with a discriminatory purpose.” That purpose, as you might have guessed, was to kick Latinos out of the country.
This is a judicial milestone, although it is too soon to gauge the impact of just one ruling. Still, it is an acknowledgement that calls to “secure the border” are just cover for White supremacy and that the principles we supposedly encourage, “such as diversity, are not actually reflected in immigration law and never have been.”
You see, from the beginning, immigration law was “very explicitly designed to keep out anyone other than people from certain European countries who were designated as ‘desirable’ White immigrants.” From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the Undesirable Aliens Act of 1929 to the militarization of the U.S. Border Patrol in recent decades, our immigration system rested upon an “openly eugenicist frame” that asserted America “was for White people and that immigration law should be written in a way that preserved whiteness.”
This worked pretty well for 200 years or so, when immigrants were predominantly from European countries. But by the late 1990s, the top five countries for immigration—Mexico, China, Philippines, India, and Vietnam—showed that the glory days for European immigrants were over.
So today, you have right-wing media figures shrieking that immigrants make America “poor and dirtier and more divided.” And that’s when conservatives are not going straight up Replacement Theory by claiming the nation is “importing a brand new electorate of third-world immigrants to dilute Americans’ political power.” Yes, this core belief of White supremacists, which has “motivated racist violence and mass murder in the US and around the world,” is as powerful as ever.
OK, we understand that bigots really don’t like immigration. But despite all their bluster, hatred, and neo-fascist shenanigans, there is not a whole lot that they can do to stop it. In fact, over the next 50 years, immigrants and their descendants “are projected to account for 88% of the U.S. population increase.”
Yikes! It’s going to be immigrants everywhere! And as usual, the country will be better off because of this.
That’s because America’s “economic engine has always required a steadily growing pool of labor to keep things chugging along.” But Americans are having fewer kids, and stagnating birth rates mean that without immigration, the nation would soon be a place “where schools shut down for lack of students and maternity wards close for lack of use.”
If we stop immigration, America will eventually turn into Children of Men, but without square-jawed British guys being all roughish and saving the day. And really, who wants that?
Of course, the looming population decline shows “just how shortsighted—but narrowly targeted—the anti-immigration movement in the United States truly is.” It also makes clear that the Republican Party cannot plan more than one election ahead, because whether they are killing their own voters or alienating the next generation, the GOP focuses exclusively on its base, even if that means supporting “the revanchist white supremacist movement and risking economic catastrophe.” Damn, with all the data that shows a net positive impact economically from immigration, “you’d think that staving off a demographics crunch would be a pretty big priority for the supposedly pro-business Republican Party.”
But no, because right-wingers believe that if immigrants are not White, they shouldn’t be allowed in the country. After all, that’s the way it has always been.
However, that is not the way it always will be.
Featured image: “Border Patrol Museum” by jonathan mcintosh is licensed under CC BY 2.0