Thursday, May 24, 2007

US Immigration

Demagogues everywhere always resort to Fear of Foreigners when all else fails - this is not just a British phenomenon - it's a cheap way to win votes, and some US Republicans, on the backfoot over Iraq, overspending and an uncertain economy, are predictably playing that card.

However, Republican senators Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia broke ranks to side with the Dems on a compromise immigration bill.

Robert Novak writing in the Washington Post reports that,

Graham ... quoted from a federal government report on the new arrivals to this country, "largely unskilled laborers" and heavily illiterate: "The new immigration has provoked a widespread feeling of apprehension as to its effect on the economic and social welfare of the country." The report, by the U.S. Immigration Commission, was dated 1911.

When Graham returned to Washington on Monday as the immigration debate began, he read the 96-year-old quote into the Senate record to demonstrate that fear of foreigners is not new for Americans.

..........Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, while probing for the compromise's weak spots in Senate debate Tuesday, warned of "cultural" change resulting from a flood of low-income immigrants. That recalls the 1911 report of the U.S. Immigration Commission (headed by an old-fashioned Republican conservative, Sen. William P. Dillingham of Vermont) asserting that the "proportion of the more serious crimes of homicide, blackmail and robbery . . . is greater among the foreign born," who also refuse to learn the English language.

In reading part of Dillingham's report into the Senate record, Graham declared that these immigrants who were "ruining America" fathered the "greatest generation." That immigrant wave included my grandfather, a Russian Imperial Army veteran working on the John Deere tractor assembly line in Moline, Ill., as an unskilled, undocumented alien who could not speak English. Refuting Dillingham, he was an American patriot proud of a son who fought with the U.S. infantry through Africa and Italy in World War II.

I'm pretty sure if we look back into our own history in Britain we will find similar tirades against German and Irish immigrants in the late 19th century, and others throughout the 20th century, similar to that coming from some Tories now. And they were wrong for the same reasons. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

1 comment:

tyson said...

There will be a point in our history when the country of our birth is as relevant as what we ate for breakfast.

Until that time comes politicians will capitalise on fear-and sadly, Margaret Hodge recently has just been as guilty as others.