There are so many ways that the Bush Era of division and lawlessness has created a world we often don’t recognize. As the cleansing election of 2006 approaches, the worst continues to creep from the cesspool of the politically lunatic fringe now in power.
In Escondido, California, a law has been passed to ban illegal immigrants from living there. Starting November 18th, it will be a crime for landlords to rent property in the town, just 50 miles north of Mexico. This from All Headline News: "According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, under the law, landlords whose renters are subject of complaints would have to submit documentation on their tenants' immigration status to the city, which would then forward the information to federal authorities for verification."
Get that? "Renters who are subject of complaints". Now, who might make such complaints and about whom? "Hey, did you notice that brown-skinned person moving in down the block? I think he was speaking Spanish...What was that number for the city to make a complaint?"
This abomination is the product of most blatant appeal to racism in American politics since Jim Crow sat demanding poll taxes at voter registration tables in the South. This past summer, knowing they were facing an uphill battle to keep their grip on power, the Republicans – with the help of a compliant mainstream media – created, out of thin air, the "crisis" of immigration. With no corresponding event other than the Hannity-hyped antics of the vigilante "Minutemen" (the most sacrilegious hijacking of Revolutionary iconic sloganeering since the "Patriot" Act), the GOP threw caution, reason and Latino voters to the wind as they tried to see who could come up with the most outrageous "solutions" to the immigration "problem".
Chief among the drooling politicians looking for trophies in the Get ‘Em Hall of Shame was our own national embarrassment, Jim Sensenbrenner. During a recent congressional break, Sensenbrenner led show "hearings" with other Republicans on his Judiciary Committee. The pretend-Committee appeared in swing districts across the country and took "testimony" from those victims of immigration, real and imagined.
But, there is no "crisis" in immigration. Sure, more poor people from Mexico than before come across the border where they can, work hard, and send badly-needed dollars back to their family. So what? Border agents both north and south do what they can to deter people coming in illegally and properly send them back. When there is danger – more likely from the Canadian border, where some prospective terrorists have been found trying to sneak in (or at least that’s what Homeland Security tells us in the weeks before every election) – they enforce the law.
Suspiciously well-financed and always very well-fed and clean, the intrepid all-white "Minutemen" scour the Mexican border areas, harassing any poor soul who has chosen to risk his or her life crossing the desert to make a decent living. They even promised to build fences on private land to keep the Mexicans out. No doubt, this was merely practice for their contract proposal to build the 700-mile fence the Congress foolishly approved before its recent recess. Perhaps they hope to get a sub-contract from Haliburton – always first in line – for such work.
Unfortunately, the immigration issue is one that the Democrats have refused to call by its phony name. Apparently, the consultants-that-be decided that we must treat immigration as a serious issue for which we must propose better and more effective solutions, like fine payments and English lessons for those who want to legalize. Like the failed U.S. embargo against Cuba, for some mysterious reason, we must not challenge the premise. We must, we will, fight – just differently.
This is nuts. The best answer to whatever immigration issue exists is to say – forget it for now. We have so much more to do and so many greater priorities that immigration isn’t even in the top 50 – somewhere below, say, building more concrete barriers around public buildings; above, maybe, revising computer technology in the Bureau of Prisons. There are so many other important issues to tackle, you just don’t get to immigration for a long time. Check back in 10 years and we’ll see.
But, no. At least for purposes of this election, the Republicans and their surrogates have managed to use fear, ignorance and latent racism to move immigration to the front burner of public consciousness. That’s why desperate politicians far from the border – the Mexican border, anyway – like Mark Green use the issue to try to get traction in a failed campaign. While he avoids the issue in debates and everywhere else, his campaign makes a lists of all the things immigrants get just because they are here, plays on the jealousy of those who think they have less and blames it all on Jim Doyle. If these ads had appeared without the surrogate-driven campaign since this summer, he would have been laughed out of the race. He should be anyway, but the phony immigration issue gives his disingenuousness more legitimacy than it deserves.
Meanwhile, back in Escondido, a farm worker leaves his apartment before dawn, heading for a long day in the fields. When he comes back tonight, the police will be there, demanding his papers. There was a complaint, you see, from the neighbors.
It will be up to him to prove that his brown-skin doesn’t mean what we think it does.