The New York Times recently reported on a small rural townwhere longtime residents complain about “young Mexican men working construction and driving down wages, the children of laborers flooding crowded schools…and strip clubs springing up on roads that used to be dark and quiet.”
Is the town in Wisconsin, Kansas, Alabama, or even (shudder) Arizona? No, it is “a precolonial Mexican village outside Oaxaca City, filling up with fellow Mexicans.”
It seems that the urge to hate immigrants — even of the same nationality — is universal.
Here in the United States, however, xenophobia directed at immigrants has long had a political slant that pays short-term benefits. Social conservatives have made immigration the wedgiest of wedge issues (note: “wedgiest” is not a real word). Clearly, it riles up the base to say all of American’s problems are because some guys jumped a fence.
But what happens if this proven vote-getter loses its power? We may soon find out, because the use of immigration as a political scare tactic may be ending.
As the Times article illustrates, many Latin American immigrants are no longer making the trip to El Norte. Instead, they’re moving around within their own countries or regions. The United States, mostly because of our sickly economy, is simply not the draw it once was.
Indeed, the rate of immigration, legal or otherwise, has plummeted. Specifically, “for the first time in sixty years, Mexican migration to the United States has hit a net zero,” leading some experts to say the “immigration boom of the 1990s and early 2000s is unlikely to be repeated ever again.”
In addition, the Obama administration has recently revised some immigration rules, with the result that undocumented people have a better shot at staying here. That means they are more likely to become integrated into American society – or at the very least – their children are.
Taken together, these two facts imply that screaming your head off about immigration will soon have the same effect as proclaiming that the Russians are going to bomb us. Perplexed observers will ask, “Are you still worried about that?”
However, this doesn’t mean everything will automatically be sweetness and light for Latinos. There are long-term consequences for the demonization of Latinos. Long after the political advantages of battering immigrants have worn off, hostility toward Latinos will remain.
We already see collateral damage. For example, a few weeks ago, the Charlotte Observer ran a fairly routine article about the city’s first newborn of the year. He was a Latino named Tommy. The article “simply mentioned the family name and included a portrait of the new mom and baby.”
But in today’s culture, where open loathing of Latinos is commonplace, many people felt entitled to label Tommy as an “anchor baby.” After the article came out, “what followed was a litany of hateful and racist comments posted on the Observer’s website, so profane that site administrators disabled all comments.”
Well, Happy New Year to you too.