The Beginning of Intolerance of the Undocumented

LatinaLista — There’s news of more towns jumping on the illegal immigration bandwagon: the mayor of Rogers, Arkansas wants to declare undocumented immigrants as public nuisances, and the city council in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania unanimously passed a resolution to ban undocumented immigrants from working or renting residences in the area.

Like the lynch mobs of the old West, people are conforming to a mindset based on hysteria, and in this case, misleading information.


A U.S. lynch mob in the 1930s
(source: digitaljournalist)

For example, according to a prominent Dallas immigration attorney, crossing the border illegally is not a crime and never has been. It’s a violation of a civil statute.

And as far as the undocumented being a drain on public services.

Well, with each monthly rent or mortgage payment they make and every burger or taco they buy and every television, sofa or stereo they purchase, they’re paying sales tax and property taxes which, in turn, go to the county coffers to pay for a good part of public education and health services — just like us all.

So, the question that suddenly occurred to me was: When did this hysteria targeting undocumented immigrants really begin?

It didn’t start last spring in retaliation to the immigration marches.

Something so vile has to worm its way through the public conscience before it gets that strong a foothold.

And it really didn’t start with Bush’s election either. Days before September 11, Bush was making plans to meet with Mexican President Vicente Fox to start working on a viable plan dealing with the situation.

And it didn’t start with House Republicans, though they would probably like to take the credit. Their rhetoric resembles nothing more than the parroting of a persuasive script.

So, when and with what did it start?

Historians and people more schooled in tracing the historical beginnings of such hysterical hatred could probably pinpoint several specific events in our history, but for me, negative heightened awareness of undocumented immigrants, especially Mexicans, began with one man and his book.

Samuel Huntington wrote Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, in 2004.

From the time it was published, debates on how Latino culture was incompatible with our Anglo-Saxon-founded nation dominated the air waves from radio and television to op-ed columns.

And during that time, Huntington’s observations evolved into fact to be championed by a people who didn’t have enough faith to believe this country could retain its values or its identity.

How ironic that these same people who feared that the undocumented would change the country, are in reality creating a much greater and long-lasting change with their own intolerance and paranoia.

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