Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It's dehumanization time

The immigration debate -- already rife with all kinds of extremist rhetoric and appeals -- took another notch downward this week when Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa compared illegal immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to cattle:
It was prop time on the House floor Tuesday night when Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), making the case for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, showed a miniature version of a border wall that he "designed."

He had mock sand representing the desert as well as fake construction panels as C-SPAN focused in on the unusual display.

But it got really interesting when King broke out the mock electrical wiring: "I also say we need to do a few other things on top of that wall, and one of them being to put a little bit of wire on top here to provide a disincentive for people to climb over the top."

He added, "We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time."

Of course, this is par for the course for King, who earlier published a hateful, disinformation-laden screed against illegal immigrants on his Web site. But it's worth noting how, in both cases, the rhetoric was all about dehumanizing border crossers.

The ugliness of the rhetoric in the immigration debate generally is being observed elsewhere. The recent debate in the Colorado Legislature over illegal immigrants raised all kinds of red flags among legislators regarding the thinly veiled racism that underscores so much of the right-wing response to illegal immigration.

This kind of rhetoric has all kinds of real-life consequences. In California, for instance, the total number of hate crimes declined 4.5 percent last year but hate crimes against Hispanics increased 6.5 percent.

Perhaps most ominously, the right-wing fervor over immigration continues to fuel white supremacists, who have recognized it for the opportunity that it presents to expand their base and broaden their appeal.

Recently, there were New Hampshire rallies by "White Pride" groups against illegal immigration, while the Aryan Anarchist Skins at their rally in Oregon, Ill., recently, also focused on immigration.

Of course, one can rest assured that folks like Rep. King have nothing -- no, nada, nuthin' -- to do with that.

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