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Guest Voz: It’s time to acknowledge fear drives today’s politics against immigration reform

By Ivan Marte
President of the Center for the Defense of Civil Rights & Equality in Rhode Island


In this past midterm election, I couldn´t help but notice that there was one platform element shared by many politicians, regardless of where they lived — it was fear.


Fear was used by some politicians to declare war on the idea of Immigration reform.

As a result, U.S. politics has devolved from civil debate about the issues to crafting campaign platforms with the sole intent of inciting fear among citizens, and violence against particular groups. Consequently, more hate crimes are being committed against Latino migrants. Crimes which have appalled and sparked outrage in the global community, especially the home countries of the crime victims.

In the national fervor that has erupted to protect the nation’s territory and defend its boundaries, fear has been adopted as an effective tool to make the nation forget that we are part of a global community.

As the world shrinks more and more each day, connecting us in more ways than we know, it’s no wonder that treatment of undocumented migrants on our soil has triggered criticism from countries that once looked upon us as role models of the world.

For example, there is nothing admirable about denying people the opportunity to seek medical help, a common goal by many anti-immigrant activists. In fact, it is short-sighted to say the least.


If a person, denied access to medical help, has a contagious disease and doesn’t receive treatment, it’s only a matter of time before others become infected. Then, before we know it, one case becomes a preventable epidemic.


The human toll contagious illnesses take on a community go hand-in-hand with the financial costs. How much would you estimate a sick individual with a contagious disease would cost the state, the city or the community?

Not to mention how the Center for Disease Control would even find the person to isolate the sickness since in all probability the afflicted person would be forced to seek treatment from underground medical services that are not schooled in the proper handling, notification and treatment of such sick individuals.

In turn, it generates a fear in the general populace that is clearly preventable.

Another kind of fear that is preventable but is being exploited by today’s politicians is fear of Latino immigrants. The point was brought home in a recent article posted at Latina Lista titled “USA is Making Latinos the boogeyman of the 2010 midterm election.”

The article made clear that politicians in the nation were utilizing threatening images of brown-skinned immigrants on TV political campaign ads to cause fear among our citizens.


Yet the bigger fear is that we, as a nation, have become so enraged and frustrated dealing with this issue that we are opting to embrace fear as our partner in crime in the hopes it deters people desperate for a better way of life from stepping on our soil.

In our zeal to embrace fear as a weapon, we have forgotten the lessons of other societies that have come before us: Nazi Germany, Iran, Iraq, China, Libya, Cuba, Palestine, Russia and those Latin American leaders that attempted to control their citizens with fear.

In each instance where fear is used as a weapon against a group, it has proven to be a deciding factor in the eventual downfall of that nation.


In our own country, we have a litany of examples where one group tries to control another with fear: Joseph McCarthy, the Ku Klux Klan, talk radio and news pundits who have a public platform to espouse anti-immigrant rhetoric — and fear among Americans who still live very segregated lives.

If I were asked what path we should take at this moment, I would say, “One that can reconcile our differences.” While this may sound like an oversimplification of a complex situation, it means: Figure out how much it would cost the country to grant undocumented immigrants citizenship versus continuing to violate the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights.

Recent impact studies done on the state
of Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070’s effect on the state’s economy, after it was signed by AZ Gov. Brewer, shows that the state lost a little over $141 million in lost business from groups that boycotted the state as a convention site.

All that lost business: hotels, restaurant dinners, entertainment, etc. also means lost taxes collected on people who won’t tolerate intolerance enforced by a government, state or national, especially against those who share the same cultural inheritance as the convention attendees.

Regardless of citizenship status, Latinos comprise 48.4 million of the nation’s population. Latinos make their homes in communities across the nation.

For example, in Rhode Island Latinos account for 13% of the population with 140,000 estimated as of 2009 with a purchasing power of $2.2 billion. In lieu of this report, it´s estimated that if all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Rhode Island, the state could lose $698 million in economic activity and $310 million in gross state product.

There are 5,780 Latino-owned businesses in Rhode Island with sales receipts of $312.7 million which employ 3859 people according to a US survey. Immigrants comprised 17.8 percent of the state´s workforce in 2009.


These numbers hardly reflect an economy that is adversely impacted by unauthorized immigrants. While there are those politicians and anti-tolerant groups who would want us to believe we are teetering on the brink of destruction due to the presence of undocumented immigrants, the reality of what will prove to be this nation’s downfall is still — fear.

Fear of those who are different from ourselves; fear of new ideas and fear of being part of a global community where boundaries exist more on paper than in real life.

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