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Dan Lawlor: Anti-Immigrant Mindset is Uncalled For

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

 

There is a virulent anti-immigrant mindset among some people in wealthy countries around the world. Oddly, sadly, strangely, this anti-immigration feeling is matched with rising economic insecurity. As traditional job opportunities disappear, people often blame immigrants - legal and illegal - for working the system, taking jobs, or undermining the "real" community (often composed of second or third generation immigrants). I say this is strange because the collapsed economies were more often than not caused by native-born politicians and native-born graduates of big deal business schools.

In Greece, the economic collapse, caused by a mix of poor finances and massive debt payments, has resulted in growing political chaos and rioting. Political diversity has reached a polarizing level - the opposite of Rhode Island - resulting in extreme tensions between Communists, Socialists, Centrists, Liberals, Nationalists, and Neo-Fascists. Immigrants have been beaten and murdered in the name of safe streets, everyday Greeks have seen living standards decline and crime increase, riot police and protesters have violently clashed, and political mistrust is deep. One commentator mentioned a sense that many Greeks feel "abandoned" by the political system, and are turning to extreme solutions on the left and right.

In Italy, far right Italian political parties have denounced ALL forms of immigration, legal and illegal, and mainstream right wing parties have acted against gypsies and criticized gay rights. Some Northern Italian politicians have even proposed dividing Italy in half - the urban North, and the agricultural South.

In France, anti-gypsy deportations programs were established and criticized. Especially since the urban riots of 2005, immigration and acceptance has been a hot topic in the French Republic. Former French President Sarkozy made his career in part by acting tough against perceived social chaos. Yet, his failure to connect with French voters and assure them he was more than a tough guy, along with the sour economy, lead him to be rejected at the polls.

In Japan, strong anti-immigrant laws apply even to asylum seekers.

In Norway, a violent extremist, with a deep seated anti-liberal, anti-Muslim, anti-multiculturalism passion, killed dozens of teenagers and adults in an attempt to halt "traitors" to European Culture.

In US, similar to Italy, the anti-immigration tendency tends to be anti-illegal immigration, but that at times it can overlap with anti-Latino, or anti-Asian sentiments. This ranges from college level tensions to murders. For instance, at Tufts in 2009 there was a violent altercation after a drunk, underage freshman called members of the Korean Student Association slurred names, shouted they should "Go Back to China," and "I'm going to kill you all." Latino-Americans, notably Juan Varela and Raul and Brisenia Flores, have been killed in Western States by deranged white supremacists who thought they were killing illegal immigrants.

Locally, groups against illegal immigration are nonviolent and supportive and encouraging of legal immigration. Yet, you can be for legal immigration, strict enforcement, nonviolence, and still be unclassy. I recall at a 4th of July Parade in Gloucester people marching around in Martian outfits with signs reading "Illegal Aliens." That's de-humanizing. The Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement website also states, "Many of us still don’t want to accept that America is facing huge and imminent threats, among which are the Occupy movement, Radical Islam, and the outrageous Agenda 21, a global master plan from the United Nations."

Individual violent extremists exist in these parts as well, against minorities and immigrants. In Springfield, some young white lunatics burnt down a black-majority church after Obama's 2008 election, to be rebuilt only this past Fall. In Worcester, recently, a fascist praising lunatic, also known as a pathetic Rhode Island born student at Assumption College, cheered the "atrocious but necessary" Norwegian Murderer for his assault on "cultural Marxism and Islamization."

Paranoia is wide, and in pockets run very deep. The very real economic and cultural frustrations that people feel - from here to Japan- can warp into attacks on immigrants (legal and illegal). We can disagree on policy, and how to respond to illegal immigration. Yet, people are people.

At present, as politicians in Washington grandstand that illegal immigrants and green card applicants who have experienced domestic abuse should not feel able to report crimes to the police without fear of deportation, we've reached absurd levels of cold-heartedness. Don't believe me? See some of the debates around the renewal of the act to prevent violence against women.

We should not have our politicians echoing the paranoia of Northern Italian right-wingers and French anti-gypsy proponents. Economic trauma is real, but we can't embrace cures worse than the disease.
 

 

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