The politics of fear and hate is nothing new. Politicians and propagandists have long understood the most effective way to rile up the masses is to appeal to the angels of our worse nature. It’s not a new trick, scapegoating society’s easiest targets, blaming them for any number of problems. Jews, Christians, Irish Catholics, African Americans, Yankee Imperialists, Red Communists, and so on. Those strange people with different customs and different clothes, who speak in strange-sounding tongues. They want to take away your way of life, run away with your daughter, force you to do things you don’t want to. In politics the blame game is old hat, here and around the world.
But in the case of Donald Trump, we may have seen a new American low when it comes to the vilification of undocumented immigrants.
In my state of Texas, about two-thirds of all undocumented immigrants are from Mexico. Most come from circumstances most white Americans can’t begin to understand. When I lived in Mexico City and made many trips around the country, the relentless suffering of that country’s poorest made a huge impression on me. The living nightmare of the poor in underdeveloped nations is something, once you see it, you simply can’t forget. It’s cruel, ugly, and it breaks your heart. To make things worse, corruption and graft pervade every level of Mexican society, making social mobility through hard work, a concept many Americans take for granted, a practical impossibility (with the possible exception of the drug trade). When you’re down, you stay down.
Faced with such hardships, many make the risky, expensive decision to come to the U.S. illegally. Sure, they won’t be legal, but this is a small tradeoff for the chance to live in a place where they can work and raise a family in relative security. So they come here and work their asses off in the most backbreaking jobs imaginable, the vast majority simply hardworking, modest people, who just want to take care of their families.
And how do we welcome them? With intolerance and bigotry, with ugly looks and poisonous language. And if you’re Donald Trump, you vilify them, dehumanize them, paint them as little more than rats carrying bubonic plague.
I’m sick to my stomach of this kind of thing, whether I hear it from Donald Trump or the white collar redneck at work. And I won’t shut up about it any longer. If you utter this kind of nonsense, don’t think I’ll let you get away with it. No more shaking my head, lamenting the ignorance of others. From now on I’m going to call out the bullshit where I see it.
With that in mind, here are a few thoughts:
- The overwhelming majority of undocumented immigrants fill an economic need that’s actually complementary and additive to the overall economy. The facts and figures around undocumented workers stealing jobs and draining public resources are either exaggerated, taken out of context, or completely false. You can do what I did–fact check and do a lot of research–or you can do a simple gut-check. Have you felt threatened by an undocumented worker’s ability to steal your job lately? No? Me, either. Here’s another one. Have any major American health care providers or insurance companies blamed their poor quarterly results on the unbearably heavy load of unprofitable, deadbeat immigrant customers? I don’t think so. Look all you want, I doubt you’ll find anything like that in a 10K filing.
- They don’t come here to freeload off the system (that’s a myth), contrary to what conspiracy theorists and fear mongers would have you believe. Here’s a gut-check for you: ever see a Mexican begging for money in the U.S.? Ever see a homeless Mexican in the U.S.? No? Me, either. Why is that? I think it’s because those who choose to come here are made from tougher, more resilient material than most of the rest of us, and they simply won’t let themselves fall to the bottom of society. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but it’s a damned rare thing.
- How many of you have had friends or lovers or in-laws with a last name like Martinez or Sanchez or Gonzalez? Sure, you might say, they may have had brown eyes and hair, but they spoke perfect English and they didn’t like soccer and they were my frat bros at Texas A&M. Those aren’t the kind of Mexicans who are the problem. Oh, really? The odds are pretty high your frat bro’s mom and dad came over illegally. Deal with them apples.
- Undocumented workers fill a need, whether you want to admit it or not. That nice lady from Guadalajara that took care of your kids? You didn’t ask for her social security number, did you now? All you cared about was a good reference and a good rate. After that you didn’t ask questions. And that remarkably inexpensive home you live in? It certainly wasn’t built with union labor now, was it? And the clink-clink-clink of dishes and silverware somewhere in the background of your five-star dining experience? Let me clue you in: there’s a slight possibility those workers aren’t formally on the payroll. Undocumented workers, uninsured and unprotected and living in the shadows, are the grease that keeps the economic wheels turning in many industries.
Don’t agree? Have an issue? Well then roll your eyes, call me a bleeding heart, and take me off your Facebook friend list, white bread. Because I’m not going to shut up about it. These decent people deserve more than the hate and vitriol they’re getting. Much more.