National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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Nativism in the Immigration Debate

February 04, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

The New York Times had two great editorial pieces examining the role of nativism in the immigration debate and exposing the true roots of restrictionist anti-immigrant groups. Here are some excerpts:

“The relentlessly harsh Republican campaign against immigrants has always hidden a streak of racialist extremism. Now after several high-water years, the Republican tide has gone out, leaving exposed the nativism of fringe right-wingers clinging to what they hope will be a wedge issue.  

(…) For years Americans have rejected the cruelty of enforcement-only regimes and Latino-bashing, in opinion surveys and at the polls. In House and Senate races in 2008 and 2006, “anti- amnesty” hard-liners consistently lost to candidates who proposed comprehensive reform solutions.

(…) Americans want immigration solved, and they realize that mass deportations will not do that. When you add the unprecedented engagement of growing numbers of Latino voters in 2008, it becomes clear that the nativist path is the path to permanent political irrelevance.” (Editorial, The Nativists are Restless, New York Times, January 31, 2009)

As the second editorial asserts,

“The harsh Republican line on immigration is usually depicted as motivated by concern about jobs, national security, drugs or terrorism. But that tune has a persistent undercurrent of fretfulness about race, culture and ethnicity.” (Editorial Board Blog, The Nativists are Restless, Continued, New York Times, February 2, 2009)

And hence the need for close attention to the rhetoric of groups who disguise themselves as experts on immigration but find it hard to disguise the code words of hate (i.e. immigration is racial warfare, or immigrants are responsible for global warming) and can be traced back to groups who have been part of the white nationalist movement.  Our friends from America’s Voice have posted a very interesting video looking at who is really working behind the scenes to turn every Congressional debate into a fight over immigration. Check it out at:

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