The United States’ Nativist Tone is Neither New nor Unique

/“Daniel Restrepo, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former Western Hemisphere advisor to President Barack Obama; Jacob Soboroff, NBC News and MSNBC correspondent; and Roberto Suro, professor of journalism at the USC Annenberg School and scholar of US immigration policy, examine progressive, humane visions for border control and immigration policy. Moderated by Univision journalist and Slate columnist León Krauze.”

On Wednesday April 17th, Moderator León Krauze started off by characterizing Trump as having, “become something never before seen quite like this in American political life: an outright nativist president”. He posits this forum around the question: How should democrats respond, and if it is simply enough to be against Trump.

We have three panelist who are on the liberal side of today’s agenda. They all are against even trying to logically confront Donald Trump. Instead, there’s conversation over nationalistic identities, deterrents, and the brokenness of the American deportation and immigration systems.

Roberto Suro says it doesn’t matter who the target of hatred is, “it’s a matter of self-identity” … “it’s a measure of insecurity” by the republicans in order to protect their privileges and bloodstained lands. However, this ends the conversation with blame placed and little clarification on what repercussions the people who are antagonizing migrants should go through, or what that healing process might be like. These conversations don’t go deeper because many allies have started to look at immigration as something second to universal healthcare, to universally equal benefits. Restrepo brings up Nancy Pelosi’s directive for the democratic party to stay within a certain set of topics. Pelosi pleads to stay focused on the issues which she believes will allow democrats to win. This may seem like they are trying to do good – at all costs, but at the same time they are actively engendering a system which continues to ignore immigrant issues further silencing the already conspicuously quieted voices of those marginalized communities that have less say in government matters.

How are democrats overall responding? In many cases it seems democrats are agreeing with Pelosi. March 26th, democrats in the house from all over joined Pelosi’s call to “stay focused on our purpose ‘For the People’ — lower health-care costs, bigger paychecks and cleaner government.” They shirk away from acknowledging the issues of less-represented people and lower-regarded issues. On the other hand, republicans are weaponizing the issue of immigration, causing malcontent and resentment, which leads to further polarization of people and also seeks to inflame the Republican base voters by appealing to their fears. Krauze brings up that about two thirds of republicans believe immigration is the more dire issue in the country. While one side of politics screams at immigrants with hate, the other attempts to gain their own prosperity without defending those under siege. Even if done with the best intentions of wanting to assume control in order to then help, watching it play out in real time it is difficult to get past the gurlessness of it.

Each of the speakers agreed that the way politicians are going about immigration is wrong. Soboroff and Restrepo spoke of the deterrents put in place at the border, and although they have been effective in lowering the official tallies of unauthorized immigration over the border, they have also increased the number of deaths occurring when crossing over.

I turn to Gloria Anzaldua’s Chicana feminism to point out that “[w]here there is persecution of minorities, there is shadow projection.” (Anzaldua, 108) The hatred is internalized, and then projected. By keeping a classist and xenophobic system it’s easier to see the immigrant as not only different than ones self, but also lower than ones self. This pathological need to “other” new waves of immigrants stems from the insecurity of belief in the ‘American dream” ideal. As Suro points out, the nativist feelings of America have gone back to the core. Since John Adams, since the Chinese Exclusion Act, etc. Similarly, the history of liberals progressing their own needs, like healthcare, can be made to be seen as “For The People”, regardless of issues involving outside threats and internal conflicts. Los gringos must learn to listen, even after their savior complexes are fulfilled.

The biggest agreement that the panel came to was on the creation of a more accepting process of immigration. They shot down the image that a flurry of immigration would wreak havoc in the United States and deemed it an imaginary phenomenon. This also goes on to negate some sort of good faith negotiation in regard to immigration. To attempt to overpower those attempting to immigrate is simply a negation of how dire some of their situations are.

The belief that most unauthorized border crossing is done to wreak havoc in the United States (and Mexico) is absurdly villainizing and the idea that deterrents such as a wall could stop them is infantile and laughable. The wall is only a symbol of the republican projection of insecurity, and likely a manifestation of a narcissistic need to leave a mark . While this forum did call out the democratic party’s general agenda and their lack of response to the republicans’ demonizing stances on immigration, they didn’t go after specific people, and even passed on endorsing any specific candidate for the upcoming presidential campaign. With their voices as latino males they also need to step up. This is a metaphor for the whole situation. Intelligent voices must be heard and we must insist on a level of discourse that leads to a society in which we can be proud. Otherwise we are left in a world where emotions are stoked in order to appease the self-aggrandizement of bullies, leaving behind their version of untalented graffiti scrawls behind on a world they did not care to respect or understand.

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