I've put up a guest post at The Big Con ruminating on how the nativist approach to the immigration debate is essentially part of a divide-and-conquer strategy, while progressives need to be talking about the issue in a way that brings us together:
- One of the black holes in our national discourse is the right’s revival of old-style nativism in its approach to the current immigration debate -- replete with its scapegoating, demonization, and conspiracy theories, all in the pursuit of an eliminationist policy of deportation. In sucking all the oxygen out of the debate, the right has obscured some of the real issues surrounding our dysfunctional immigration system, thereby preventing us from finding effective solutions.
It’s become difficult, for instance, to talk about the effects of immigration on labor and wages, or the challenges to the cultural assimilation that has been part of the historic American immigration model posed by mass illegal immigration, without finding oneself placed in the nativist camp.
After all, they are among the first to raise these issues -- but in a way that inflames stereotypes and encourages scapegoating, and almost consistently on the basis of false and distorted information. Compounding the situation is the “journalism” practiced by media figures like Lou Dobbs of CNN, who in attempting to make the populist case that illegal immigration is harming the middle class, consistently reverts to reporting bogus information from racist-right sources – and then complains that it’s his critics who keep raising the specter of racism.
Anyone who can see the nature of the larger issues – which really are about the nation’s competitive economic future, which is only hampered by the persistence of irrational xenophobia – wants nothing to do with such discussions.
But there are real problems surrounding our malfunctioning immigration system, and some of them have a great deal to do with these cultural, labor, and economic issues. And in the long run, it will behoove progressives and people who favor comprehensive immigration reform to begin talking about them -- because it’s essential to how we shape our solutions, and indeed is part of the rationale for implementing the reform in the first place.
Hope you enjoy it.