Saturday, April 15, 2006

Immigration and eliminationism

Those mass marches are having their effect: They're scaring the crap out of the nativists.

And they're fighting back in the usual, expected fashion ... by lying and making ugly but empty threats.

At least, we hope they're empty. Because what they're advocating, increasingly, is eliminating all 11 million illegal aliens in the United States. How they'll achieve that is something, however, they leave to our imaginations.

Recently a powerful Arizona legislator named Russell Pearce, a Republican from Mesa, recently uttered the following in response to the marches:
They're illegal and they have no right to be marching down our streets. They have no constitutional rights. They don't have First-, Fourth-, Sixth amendment rights. They're here illegally and they chose to be here illegally.

Pearce heads the state's House appropriations panel, has served as a judge, and was for many years a law-enforcement officer. And he really believes this?

As Blogs for Arizona explains, illegal aliens in fact have all kinds of rights under the constitution, including due-process rights, free-speech rights, search-and-seizure rights, and criminal-justice rights.

Of course, we hear the word "illegal" all the time in the nativists' arguments. "What part of 'illegal' don't you understand?" is one of the Minutemen's favorite T-shirt slogans.

To which the appropriate response is: "What part of 'bad law' don't you understand?"

The bottom line in the immigration debate is that current immigration law -- as well as the proposals being floated by the Tancredo wing of the Republican Party (including James Sensenbrenner) -- is inadequate for dealing with the realities forced on us by economic forces which no amount of border fence and no mass expulsions will overcome. As I explained before, there are two forces driving the current wave of emigration: 1) a massive wage and standard-of-living gap between the United States and its immediate and most populous neighbor, and 2) the increasing demand for cheap labor in the United States.

Stressing that these immigrants' status as "illegal" begs the whole question of whether the laws on the books are adequate or just. They just create a whole class of criminals out of people who come here to work, and the latter has always been the driving force in immigration throughout our history.

But the nativists don't care. They like simple solutions. It's easier to blame the poverty-stricken pawns in this economic game, and take their anger out on them, than to deal with the core problems. What they're interested in is a scapegoat. After all, that's what they do.

Constantly shouting "illegals!" furthers the nativists' aims by separating these people from the rest of us: they're non-citizens, and thus by extension almost non-entities. Perhaps even non-human.

That certainly seems to be the line of thinking adopted by at least one right-wing blogger (wouldn't you know it, another of those "reformed liberals" who now claims that he and his "Red State" kind represent the real America). In a post decrying those "illegal aliens," he compared them to rats:
We can learn from Buffalo, New York. Now in Buffalo the rat problem in the city was a huge one. Exterminators could not handle the problem. But then in 2001 the city mandated that everyone would have to begin using special anti-rat garbage totes that the rats could not open. With no way to get to the garbage, the rats left Buffalo. Now, they went to the suburbs and now the suburbs are fighting them. But it is no longer a problem for the people of Buffalo, New York. Here is how to do the same with our problem:

1) No services.

Absolutely no services of any kind for those who cannot prove they are in the country legally. Nothing but emergency medical care. Without all the social services, medical and other services provided for them, the illegals will find life here less attractive.

2) No schools.

Absolutely no schooling for anyone who cannot prove they belong here legally.

3) No easy birthright.

Change the law. Now, if you are born here, you are a citizen. I say, if you cannot prove that you were born here and that your mother was here legally at the time, then your citizenship is that of the mother and not of the USA.

4) No legal status. No drivers licenses. No bank accounts. No ability to sue a citizen. No legal standing for anyone who is in this country illegally.

5) No free lunch for "The Man".

Make it a criminal offense (and enforce it if it is already on the books) to hire an illegal alien, or to rent a dwelling place to him, or to sell him a home knowing that he intends to live there. Make employers provide documentation for all of their workers. You put the onus on "The Man" and it suddenly becomes less appealing to take advantage of the illegals.


Anyone familiar with eliminationist rhetoric recognizes this motif: compare the object of elimination with vermin, and then describe the steps you need to take to "exterminate" them.

Indeed, the "rats" comparison has a particularly ugly history: it was, after all, one of the most effective pieces of imagery in film created by Nazi propagandists in drumming up hatred of Jews, as Richard Webster explained:
The film Der Ewige Jude, which formed part of a propaganda programme designed to justify to the German people the deportations of Jews which were already taking place, included a powerful montage sequence in which Jews were compared to rats. In the words of the commentary, 'rats ... have followed men like parasites from the very beginning … They are cunning, cowardly and fierce, and usually appear in large packs. In the animal world they represent the element of subterranean destruction.' Having noted that rats spread disease and destruction, the commentary suggested that they occupied a position 'not dissimilar to the place that Jews have among men'. At this point in the film, footage of rats squirming through sewers is followed first by the image of a rat crawling up through a drain-cover into the street and then by shots of Jewish people crowded together in ghettos.

In the Security Service report on the film, the comparison of the Jewish people to rats was held to be 'particularly impressive'.

There is, of course, nothing intrinsically anti-semitic (or racist) about the image of the rat. However, presenting images of Jews as unclean insects or rodents was perhaps the most effective way not only of arousing and confirming anti-semitic hatred but of directly inciting physical violence by stirring some of people's deepest fears and anxieties. The same idea was used in 'instant' propaganda exercises to prepare for mass murder. According to one account, peasants recruited by the Germans in occupied countries in order to help in mass murders were given an intensive training course which lasted only a few hours, and which consisted in the study of pictures representing Jews as small repulsive beasts (Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman, Prophets of Deceit: A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator, New York, Harper and Brothers, 1949, p. 54)

It also has a history of use in America, particularly in immigration and race debates. Recall, for instance, that James Phelan, a U.S. Senator from California, made nearly identical attacks upon Japanese immigrants. Phelan was urging the passage of immigration restrictions and "alien land laws" that stripped immigrants of the right to own land, and whipping up fears that the West Coast would (thanks to those evil "picture brides" and their progeny) soon be overrun by "yellow people," when he explained it thus:
The rats are in the granary. They have gotten in under the door and they are breeding with alarming rapidity. We must get rid of them or lose the granary.

It's also been used in recent years to demonize gays and lesbians.

Fortunately, the blogger in question seems to be extremely obscure, with limited influence. But it's interesting to see the "vermin" motif popping up increasingly in discussions of illegal immigration, particularly paired with discussions of rounding up and deporting all illegal aliens.

After all, it's not just obscure bloggers doing this. It includes guys like Michael Savage, who claims millions of listeners.

Likewise, you're hearing a lot of talk about rounding up and deporting all illegal aliens. But you don't hear any of them telling us how they intend to achieve this --despite the fact that we're talking about 11 million people and, without question, one of the pillars of an economy increasingly built on cheap labor.

You can hear this not just from organizations like VDare -- rated a "hate group" by the SPLC but endorsed by Michelle Malkin and many others -- but also from people with real influence and power, like Newt Gingrich and James Sensenbrenner.

Kinda puts that news a few weeks ago about Halliburton building mass detention centers to cope with an "immigration emergency" in perspective, doesn't it?

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