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Dan Lawlor: Stop Blaming Immigrants for Your Problems

Saturday, February 25, 2012


More often than I like, I’ve heard and read denunciations of “illegal aliens.” I recall a jaw-dropping example at the Ancient and Horribles parade a few summers back where people actually walked around in Martian Outfits with signs reading “Illegal Aliens.” The fears that “others” are coming in and “taking jobs,” turning “our” capital into a “sanctuary city,” spreading crime and the like are very pervasive. However, I think this fear of “illegal aliens” is based on a very selective memory of history.

There are people in our political life today who echo the paranoia of the 1920s. The 1920s was a time when Rhode Island was a major textile manufacturer, when workers had to strike (and at times did so violently) for vacation time and higher wages. In Massachusetts, Sacco and Vanzetti, Italian immigrants, were executed in the electric chair after an unfair trial. In Rhode Island, the National Guard was called on to fight against factory workers in West Warwick. The KKK had a growing presence particularly in Northern Rhode Island, and political corruption in the RI on the part of the Republican Party allowed over-representation of the rural towns, giving power extra power to a small number of anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish voters, who often feared the “dangerous” Irish, Russian and Italian immigrants.

By the mid- 1920s, nationally, legal immigration from Southern Europe and Eastern Europe was dramatically cut, and immigration from Asia was forbidden. The 1920’s was a time of Jewish and Catholic quotas at elite colleges. It was a time of little to no protections for most workers. It was a time of school quotas, legal segregation and lynching for blacks. It was a time of a resurgent KKK. When people talk about rising crime in cities today, I think they forget the street gangs, terrorists, and mobs of the past.

Some people today – in our state and country - who denounce citizenship by birth for children of undocumented people, would perhaps not be citizens if the US had adopted a similar policy back in the 1920s. There were certainly plenty of Americans who would have loved to deny citizenship to Irish, Italian, and Jewish citizens of yesteryear (not to mention black Americans whose rights were denied for decades). Not all immigrants from 80 years ago were saints, and not all were sinners. We shouldn’t look back with rose-colored glasses to justify exclusion and discrimination today.

There were certainly challenges and reasons that helped produce the fear of immigrants. Were there legitimate concerns for terrorism in the 1920s? Yes. Did those concerns justify demonizing all Southern and Eastern Europeans? No.

Were there concerns about regulating a fair wage for laborers in the 1920s? Yes. Did those concerns justify denying people the right to enter this country based on their country of origin? No.

We live in a time of stress, confusion, and frustration. It is hard to find a job. It is hard to make sense of all the changes in our world. However, that frustration is no reason to blame people of different skin for a crisis brought on by wealthy bankers and neglectful regulators, to blame immigrants for a local budget crisis created by politicians down the street, or to deny the right to citizenship to those born here.

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we should be blaming our elected officials! they have done nothing to help improve our economy, lives and way of life.

Comment #1 by donatello gori on 2012 02 25

Your article makes the case exactly. Everything you mentioned in it refers to Legal Immigrants to the US. Today we are dealing with illegal immigration's impact on school budgets, hospitals, town budgets and paying the price through increased property taxes or health care insurance.

I applaud the legal immigrants. My grandfather was one. It took him a year to find a sponsor and a job before they let him enter the US. Illegal immigrants today cross a border, show up and want the job, place their kids in the school system and go to hospitals for medical treatment.

So thank you for pointing out illegal immigration vs. legal immigration. Yes there were problems and hostility to the newcomers, but they legally emigrated here. That's why we have laws on the books regulating it and protecting them against persecutions under the law.

Comment #2 by Mark D on 2012 02 25

Legal and Illegal Immigration are 2 different topics entirely. The writer is doing nothing to distinguish between the two and making every attempt to play the white guilt card by hinting opposition to illegals is racially based. It's not. If i had relatives in Europe looking to come, I'd tell them "do it legally or not at all".
They are breaking the law by doing what they are doing. Next time you go to the movies where you get a ticket at the counter and present it to the usher on the way in, just try to run by both of them and grab a seat in a theater. See how far that gets you. Then argue when they confront you that you just want to watch the movie like all the others who followed the rules and paid to be there. I got news for you....you're still going to rightfully get tossed. We shouldn't be allowing people in this country who decided the rules don't apply to them.

Comment #3 by Bernie McCrink on 2012 02 25

Dan, I've never heard of a single person complain about LEGAL immigration. It's ILLEGAL immigration that has everyone pissed off. That, and the fact that our politicians and law enforcement are doing nothing about it.

I don't complain about them, because they put me in the "position" I'm in. I'm doing fine. I don't want my tax paying dollars going to support them by means of welfare, medical, education, food stamps......

The minute they step into this country illegally, they are criminals and should be treated as such. If someone was to break into your home, would you be fine with that too? It's the same exact thing Dan.

Comment #4 by pearl fanch on 2012 02 25

The comments of Mssrs. McCrink and D, as well as Ms. Fanch, are absolutely correct. Legal Immigrants are essential to the success of our country. This article proves Travis Rowley's point in his article; that these Progressives employ the same vapid rhetoric over and over again. For example, referring to "people of a different skin" is the Race Card, the Democrat Progressives favorite weapon. How about all the Eastern European illegals, and how about all the illegal Irish that were here for years, especially in this area? Somehow, those groups never get mentioned.

Comment #5 by Michael Trenn on 2012 02 25

By the way, Mr. Lawlor, The Ancients and Horribles Parade is an example of Free Speech in action. It may not be your idea of "convenient" speech, but too GD bad.

Comment #6 by Michael Trenn on 2012 02 25

I agree, if all immigrants are legal. If they are not, they are breaking the law and taxing the resources, that should not be allowed.
Most failures in RI are caused by inept management and the illegals are a smoke screen but they magnify the problems.

Comment #7 by Gary Arnold on 2012 02 25

Agree with all the comments. All liberals have in their argumentative arsenal is the race card and a litany of past crimes that they can point to....it's never about TODAY. This is possibly the worst article ever written.

Comment #8 by Chris O. on 2012 02 26


Comment #9 by RI WILL BE SAVED on 2012 02 27

"Immigrants"are by definition lawfully admitted permanent resident aliens(yes,Dan"aliens"is the correct term-check out Title 8USC or the Constitution where naturalization is addressed)and as such have most rights of citizens except voting.
Illegal aliens are persons violating Federal law-their ethnic/racial background is immaterial.
If you are going to be a "Mindsetter"do some research first so you don't put your ignorance on display in neon lights.

Comment #10 by Joseph Bernstein on 2012 02 27

It just gives some of you cover to be racist

99% of immigrants do not qualify to be documented – no direct family member, no spouse or fiancée, not rich enough to import a large business

That’s right – your own family member who originally migrated here would be “illegal” under todays messed up immigration system
Who cares? You ask? Your family is in, the country is full?

Good ole fashioned racist nativism
Why? You ask?

More population means more food will be bought, housing rented or bought, cars, clothes, etc. – these needs mean more supply is needed, which means MORE JOBS to create these things – it’s how our economy works

Add to that all the millions in taxes, social security, etc. that undocumented immigrants pay into but cannot access – they actually unfairly subsidize the rest of us

Some of you feel that somehow undocumented immigrants will not work hard and consume products and create jobs, but that they will somehow end up on welfare driving cadillac escalades, hmmmmm? What leads you to believe that?

Why is it that when their numbers are counted by racists they add to all costs?
Wouldn’t we each add up to the same costs? What makes them different besides a piece of paper?

Comment #11 by Joe Shmoe on 2012 02 27

Illegal aliens pose a danger having nothing to do with the economy-it has to do with national security-which includes bothe terrorists and non-terrorist criminals.
The number of actual terrorist illegal aliens is probably small,but they do present a danger out of proportion to their numbers.
Criminal aliens probably account for 10-15% of illegal aliens in general(and a similar percentage of legal immigrants)but when total numbers are considered it's not an insignificant amount.
The racist argument is smokescreen bullshit.
I'm not denying racists don't latch onto this issue but that is not what is driving the concerns of average people.
A LOT of alien criminals are White if you must know, Mr.Lawlor and Mr.Schmoe.

Comment #12 by Joseph Bernstein on 2012 02 28

National Security Mr. Bernstein?

If that indeed is your real root issue, then you must support driver licenses for the undocumented to keep our roads safe and to know who is here, where they live and where they came from. Like the Los Angeles Police Chief and other here in RI.


and you must also support documenting all immigrants already here - to know exactly who is here, where they live and where they came from, only the terrorist and few real criminals would not want to be processed - then our police could focus efficiently.

remove the smokescreen Mr. B, and stop talking bullshit

Comment #13 by Joe Shmoe on 2012 03 01

I'm not going to take this conversation to a gutter level just because you are.
ALL actual immigrants are documented-the so-called "undocumented"individuals are here illegally and I don't believe invalidating our laws because they are routinely being violated is a good idea.
The 1986 "amnesty" was a failure for a number of reasons,but I haven't space here to write a book on it.
The LA Police Chief is entitled to his opinion.
My solution to the question of aliens who aren't presenting an immediate danger is to make access to employment and services as difficult as possible.They can then leave on their own.They found their way here and they can find their way back home.
Focusing on criminal/terrorist aliens should still be the overriding priority.
Your open borders philosophy is wrong on every level.

Comment #14 by Joseph Bernstein on 2012 03 02

Bernstein, how did I know National Security was NOT your priority?

Keeping millions of people in the shadows and from registering themselves is a GREAT National Security strategy!????

Open borders? Only as open as they were when your family member who originally migrated here came. When the only thing an immigrant needed was any citizen or workplace to vouch (sponsor) them.

Those times changed in the mid-seventies, when then INS changed the rules which left 90% of incoming immigrants out of luck. Comprehensive Immigration Reform needs to fix this bottle neck problem. That is why the numbers of people who cannot register keep growing and presidents have had to let those here register (amnesty) but they have not fixed the problem.

Attrition? Seriously?!

Millions of people will either starve to death or move away? That’s a great solution! Except these aren’t tourist that can and go as they please, these are the poorest and worst off souls on the planet and have nothing and nowhere to go.

The Nazis tried attrition - limiting housing, employment, shopping, and every other resource they could think of until they realized it didn’t work and had to escalate their tactics do deal with their unwanted population problem.

That is the natural progression of this logic.

Comment #15 by Joe Shmoe on 2012 03 22

When my family came here around 1905/6 they had to STOP at Ellis Island and if there was a problem they would be barred admission.
You conveniently distort history to fit your agenda.
EVERY country in the world has immigration laws.
Illegal aliens weren't dragged here in chains like the slaves were.They found their way here and can find their way home.
Hitler went after people who were German citizens based on their religious background.
And another thing-try using your real name one of these days-if you believe what you say it should be no problem.
I'm done conversing with you on this subject because I know where you are coming from-let's just give everyone a pass.

Comment #16 by Joseph Bernstein on 2012 03 22

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