It’s time we acknowledged the major role that racism is playing in preventing the undocumented Irish living here from securing the immigration reform they desperately seek.
It’s not anti-Irish racism, it’s anti Latino racism of course, but it hurts the Irish by proxy, because in torpedoing every attempt at reform the forces that hurt Latinos hurt us.
It’s amazing how few people will point this out. You might think that such a self-evident truth would have encouraged the creation of a cross community organization, a rainbow coalition of fellow travelers. The reverse has happened, however. Each ethnicity really agitates for itself alone.
That’s not to say that principled people don’t run these organizations, they most certainly do. Some of the hardest working and most principled people you will ever meet are the powerhouses driving immigration reform attempts from coast to coast.
The problem is that are working in relative isolation. The Irish groups work alone, the Latino groups work alone, and the LGBT groups work alone. Because they do the strength of their numbers has never been effectively harnessed.
In contrast the anti-immigrant organizations that work against reform march in lockstep with enviable budgets and with a unity of purpose that can border on the obsessional. That’s why this asymmetric stalemate has endured as long as it has.
All that conservative organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) - which, despite it’s progressive sounding name, has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as anti-immigrant – have to do is hold the line. They can depend on Americans worst fears to do the rest.
Dan Stein, the group’s executive director, has warned that certain immigrant groups are engaged in “competitive breeding” aimed at diminishing white power. FAIR has also been a major beneficiary of the Pioneer Fund, which according to the SPLC has long subsidized dubious studies of the alleged links between race and intelligence.
This kind of rhetoric plays on the deepest fears of conservative voters. In their minds punishing immigration laws are all that stand between them and America turning into a new terrorist sponsored caliphate where people defecate and toss garbage over main street USA.
Fear of the dark skinned hordes overrunning the nation is behind so many of the latest anti-immigrant protests you see on television, and the governments failure to address the issue fairly gives an opening to the most rabble rousing hardliners and openly racist organizations.
“Part of it, I think - and I hate to say this, because these are my people - but I hate to say it, but it’s racial,” a Southern lawmaker told Buzz Feed this year. “If you go to town halls people say things like, ‘These people have different cultural customs than we do.’ And that’s code for race.”
Congressman Steve King has spoken of “drug mules” with “cantaloupe-sized caves,” turning Latinos into cartoon bogeymen. Congressman Tom McClintock has stated, “there’s only one race here, it’s the American race.” No prizes for guessing what color it is.
In the 19-century many Nativist groups dismissed the idea that the Irish were white. With our religious superstition (Catholicism), our fidelity to a foreign power (the Vatican), and our poverty and alcoholism we would turn America on its head, they insisted.
In fact over the next century we were instrumental in building much of the infrastructure and signature skyscrapers and bridges of that make America what it is. But don’t cite that example to the “War On Whites” crowd though, who prefer to blackguard their neighbor rather than work alongside them.
And don’t think that Democrats are necessarily the good guys when it comes to this issue, either. In the past four years under the Obama administration the US has broken every record for deportations with 409,849 deportations occurring in 2012 alone.
That’s why it’s curious that discussions about immigration reform rarely take into account the way race continues to limit and define the realities of non-whites.
The current immigration stalemate copper fastens the structural, social and economic domination of Latinos, but it quietly does the same to the undocumented Irish who are also living in the shadows.
It undercuts their true earning potential; it keeps them quiet and subservient too.
Jackie Kennedy’s granddaughter has uncannily similar looks