Friday, December 19, 2008

II - When People Are Afraid They Invent Enemies


Xenophobia From the Comfort of Your Own Computer Chair
by D.B.S.

Conflating the issues of national security, crime, and immigration is not only a drastic oversimplification of a complex, global phenomena that stems from globalization and transnational flows of labor and capital, but also demonstrates the lack of national conscience. If our interests are perceived to be threatened, then we will demonize whom we will, regardless of the enormous contributions made by immigrants to our social and economic infrastructure or the massive toll that their demonization takes on the advancement of human rights. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that immigrants - even those with the lowest levels of education - commit far fewer crimes than do the native born; by continuing to label immigrants as drug smugglers and terrorists, we run the risk of creating irrevocable inequalities and human rights abuses.

Which brings me back to BlueServo: validating vigilantism and xenophobia in this manner only strengthens the resolve of those who seek to harden the heart of the nation against those who come to make a better life for themselves and their families. Our nation's incapability to craft a sensible immigration policy has continually plagued our history, and one need look no further than the estimated 10 million undocumented individuals living and working in the US forced to hide in the margins of our society to see that our immigration system is broken.

As the economy worsens and the search for culprits intensifies, the United States has a choice. Continue to dehumanize immigrants as illegal, drug smugglers, terrorists, job-stealers, and a strain on the public infrastructure, or accept the realities of globalization and transnational labor and capital flows and lead by example, creating a fair, thoughtful immigration policy that is not rooted in ideology or nativism but in a recognition of the social world as it truly is.

My closing thought will be a verse from the Old Testament that the prominent sociologist Roger Waldinger included in the dedication of one of his books on immigration. The sentiment, I think, applies quite nicely here.

The stranger who lives with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Leviticus 19:34

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