Thinly veiled behind the battle between 800,000 Dreamers and Trump’s Wall is a no-holds-barred war to settle what white nationalists refer to as: The Mexican Problem.
The Mexican Problem is a term that was developed in the 19th Century to describe to challenges white people encountered when absorbing Mexico — and millions of brown people — into to the white controlled borders of the United States.
White had to be separated from Brown, as colonizer had to be separated from colonized. Light Brown had to be separated from Dark Brown, as manager had to be separated from laborer. And English-speaking had to be separated from Spanish-speaking, as citizen had to be separated from non-citizen. And it all had to be done without the recognition that the indigenous peoples of North America were the only true native inhabitants of the land.
This was a problem. And it still is.
Today, the lines between welcome immigrant and unwelcome immigrant — those from Norway and those from Shithole countries — are aggressively being redrawn to shift the balance of power in the United States. And they are being redrawn by Donald Trump, Stephen Miller, Tom Cotton, Steven King, and the Federation on American Immigration Reform.
Specifically, they are attempting undo what the far-right sees as one of the most unforgivable acts of the Republican Party’s Old Guard: The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act.
This Act, which was signed into law by Ronald Reagan, gave pathways to citizenship for immigrants that had resided in the country for over 5 years, shifted the criminal burden from immigrants to the employers that recruit them, and resulted in the amnesty of approximately 3 million immigrants, the majority of whom came from Mexico.
While the provisions of the act that targeted corporations that illegally recruited and exploited undocumented citizens were never fully funded or enforced, 3 million majority non-white citizens were added to the population of this nation. And those that were eligible and able to do so, were also able to vote.
Herein lies the problem. Well, half of the problem.
The Republican party has spent billions of dollars in efforts to concentrate voting power into the hands of the white electorate. Voter ID laws, felony disenfranchisement policies, polling place closures, voter intimidation efforts and voter misinformation campaigns have enabled the Republican Party to secure all three branches of government and adding millions of brown (and black) voters to the rolls would ensure that despite those efforts, the Republican Party would never win an election again. In fact, they blame brown and black voters for their loss to Barack Obama in 2012.
As Steve King said it best himself on the House Floor in 2013:
“Ronald Reagan’s signature on the 1986 amnesty act brought about Barack Obama’s election. If … we take 15 million people out of the rolls and say they wouldn’t have been here without the 1986 amnesty act, or at least they wouldn’t be voting, and if 71 percent of them voted for Barack Obama, then it’s clear to anybody that can do any kind of statistical analysis that Barack Obama wouldn’t be President of the United States without Ronald Reagan’s 1986 amnesty act.”
The Republican’s Mexican problem is that they vote. And they vote Democrat.
It’s not that we need a Wall to protect us from rapists and murderers. Undocumented immigrants boast crime rates lower than any other population in the United States. They actually bring the national crime rate down. It’s not that Mexican immigrants are flooding the border at uncontrollable rates. The rate of immigration from Mexico has declined steadily for the past 10 years. In fact, the rate of flow of immigrants from Mexico has dropped so dramatically, Chinese immigrants now represent the largest influx of migrants. It’s not that undocumented immigrants are detracting from the economy. In fact, they contribute over $11 billion to the US economy annually. And it’s not that they are taking jobs American’s won’t work. It’s that they don’t have the protections that documented citizens have, can be exploited for subminimum wages, and have little ability to legally protect themselves from dangerous and hostile work environments.
It’s not that Americans are too good to do these jobs. They aren’t. It’s that they don’t have to.
The only threat that undocumented immigrants pose is the threat that they will become citizens — and active voters. As 90% of them do. This, in large part, explains Trump, Miller, King and Cotton’s urgent push to deport millions of undocumented immigrants out of our borders.
The white nativist associated with the Trump Administration and the Republican Party understand that if immigration reform followed a similar path to the one that was chosen by Reagan, Democratic voting rolls would be flooded with millions of brown and black voters. For example, of the over 6 million undocumented immigrants from Mexico, over 5.5 million arrived prior to 2010. Of these, close to 4 million have been in the United States since before 2005.
These men, women and children specifically have been our family members, friends, and neighbors for decades. They have been in this nation working under the harshest conditions, absorbing the most devastating forms of discrimination, and continuing to make this nation a safer place to be since well before the boundaries between the United States and Mexico were even solidified.
Even so, according to the Federation on American Immigration Reform, the think-tank whose members are core architects of Trump’s immigration and voting policies, are aggressively trying to end both legal and illegal immigration. According to their website:
“FAIR seeks to reduce overall immigration to a more normal level. Reducing legal immigration levels from well over one million presently to 300,000 a year over a sustained period will allow America to manage growth, address environmental concerns, and maintain a high quality of life.
FAIR puts the interests of American citizens and future generations ahead of big business and partisan demands.”
So, it is clear that the Republican Party is invested in ethnically cleansing this nation of black and brown immigrants, and that they are doing so in large part to consolidate power into the hands of white conservatives. What is less clear is why the Democrats are allowing them to do so.
The Democrats also have a Mexican problem.
Just as the Republican Party would never win a General Election again if all 11 million undocumented immigrants were granted citizenship, the white leadership in the Democratic Party would never win another Primary.
Just as there are factions and fissures in the Republican Party, there are competing political networks operating within the Democratic Party. While the most publicized divide is between the old guard of the Democratic Party and the Sanders wing, the most prominent divide is between white Democrats and Democrats of color.
If the Alabama Senate race between Doug Jones and Roy Moore taught us anything, it’s that the Democratic Party is willing to accept a certain number of black votes, but only enough to secure wins for their white candidates. Of the 100 Senate seats on Capitol Hill, 90 of them are filled by white people. And neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are looking to change that trend.
In fact, both parties are actively working against it.
Voter ID laws target black and brown voters and successfully kept 21 million voters away from the polls in 2016. Felony disenfranchisement and voter purging, which also overwhelmingly target voters of color account for another 8 million suppressed votes. And mass polling place closures and ADA violations which also disproportionately in poor communities of color account for another 10–20 million suppressed votes.
And while it is the Republican party that has spend billions of dollars carefully piecing together this web of voter disenfranchisement, it is the Democratic party that refuses to stop them.
Correction: it is the white leadership in the Democratic party that refuses to defend the rights of its constituents of color. And Democrats are refusing to aggressively counter these measures just as they are refusing to push for the legalization of all 11 million undocumented immigrants for the same reason the Republicans are pushing to deport them out of the country: they vote.
Not only to brown people vote, but they represent the largest population of “minorities” in the United States. Latinos, in fact, outnumber white people in California, Texas and Arizona. New Mexico will soon follow suit. And if the Latino voting bloc was re-enfranchised and mobilized in these states alone, they would likely never see a day of white Republican or white Democratic rule again.
But Democrats aren’t working to re-enfranchise Hispanic, Latino, Chicano, or Mexican voters. As they aggressively attack gerrymandering, they have refused calls from the community to engage in a nationwide effort to legally and politically remove voter ID restrictions, voter purging, felony disenfranchisement, polling place closures, and ADA violations which disproportionately target voters of color.
Out of the 120 million people of color in the United States, Hispanics comprise almost 50%. Of these 27 million were eligible to vote in 2016. And because of English only registration efforts that ignore Spanish speaking and bi-lingual communities, only 15 million, or 40%, of eligible Hispanic voters were registered. This falls approximately 30% below the 72% voter registration rate for white voters and 69% voter registration rate for black voters.
Despite overwhelming obstacles presented to Hispanic voters by both parties, 12 million showed up to the polls in 2016. Of these, 8 million voted Democrat and 3 million voted Republican.
Of the 8 million that voted Democrat, 80% were bilingual or Spanish speaking only voters.
There are as many documented Mexican immigrants in the United States as there are Black citizens of all origins at 47 million apiece. Of these 37 million are Mexican. Only 5 million Mexican citizens speak English only, and only 11 million speak English well. The overwhelming majority of Mexican citizens, 26 million, speak limited English — and they vote overwhelmingly Democrat.
If Democrats ended obstacles put between Hispanic voters and the polls and aggressively recruited Spanish speaking voters, they would carry more than enough votes to dominate every single General Election in the foreseeable future. White Democrats, though, would lose their majority in the party, and likely the Senate.
And for the same reason that they are refusing to enforce the Voting Rights Act in order to give tens of millions of voters of color their right to vote back before the 2018 Midterm elections, they are refusing to remind both the Democrats and the Republicans that the strongest solution to protecting Dreamers and all immigrants from attacks by white nationalists is to nationalize all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
And that this is a strategy that has been advanced before — by the Republican Party. With great success. Unless you are a white supremacist.
Racism is the greatest threat to our survival as a nation. And white power wins by pitting “minority” communities against each other. Citizen vs. non-citizen. White vs. Black. White vs. Brown. Black vs. Brown. Dark Brown vs. Light Brown, and so on.
The only way we can defeat this threat is to unite against it. We must defend each other against a common enemy, and we must defend every community facing that attack.
And that starts with taking a stand for not only the 800,000 Dreamers in the United States, but the 11 million undocumented immigrants that are also facing deportation from their homes, their families, and their communities.
Defend them because it’s not about papers. It’s about people. It’s not about citizenship, it’s about nationalism. Defend them because they, like every other community of color, are under violent attack from the white nationalists running the federal government. Defend them because failure to do so is an act of white supremacy. Defend them because it’s the right thing to do.
And defend them because the Trump Administration is coming for you next.
The United States is positioned to allow the Trump Administration to begin the process of deporting millions of men, women and children from the United States based on the color of their skin. Allowing this to happen would be a step in the direction of race based totalitarianism that this nation may not recover from.
In order to stop it, all people — people of color, people living with disabilities, poor people, homeless people, people from the LGBTQ community, non-Christians, and all targets to the Trump Administrations white nationalist attacks — must abandon their own bigoted tendencies to reinforce these white lined boundaries and turn their collective force on the white nationalists in office today. We must defend every community under attack and refuse to pick and choose which communities we are willing to sell out for our own benefit.
In order to stop the Trump Administration, we must actively protect each other. If we don’t, we lose. And if we allow our own bigotry to stand in the way of stopping the Trump Administration, perhaps we deserve to.
To learn more about Dr. GS Potter and the Strategic Institute for Intersectional Policy (SIIP), visit: http://strategycampsite.org/v2/
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