You can already hear the freak-out over Democrats’ call for the United States to accept 100,000 Syrian refugees (they were flipping out over the request for 10,000, then 65,000), even as Pope Francis arrives to talk about charity and caring for others (and has opened a Vatican apartment to a Syrian refugee family). And we have just concluded the Days of Awe, in which one of the sins we ask forgiveness for is the sin of xenophobia.
And yet, xenophobia has taken over, along with a basic all-inclusive bigotry and intolerance against all those who are “other”.
I mean, the very idea of opening the gates to immigrants! Anti-immigrant (Hispanic) hysteria is what is fueling the campaigns of Donald Trump, Ben Carson, to mention just a few, and now you add Muslims!
In fact, we have nothing to lecture Europe about, considering how tens of thousands of Central American children who made such a treacherous journey fleeing violence were greeted when they reached the US. (To be reminded, read “A ‘crisis’ of our own making: America’s disgraceful response to child refugees – Wingnuts are hurling epithets at fleeing children, and media coverage of their plight is no less repugnant,” by Joshua Holland of BillMoyers.com, July 16, 2014)
They were vilified as an “invasion of brown people” (“Stop the Invasion. Save our Country”) and used as fodder in 2014 election campaigns. (See “Hundreds of Cities Fight Back Against Invasion – Massive ‘surge’ in national protest this week,” by Leon Hohmann, July 15, 2014)
Even here on Long Island, there were attempts to block Central American refugees from attending school. Rabble would gather to block buses carrying the children to centers.
The United States doesn’t even take in the Iraqis who worked with American soldiers at grave risk during the Iraq War.
Indeed, Secretary of State John Kerry told the Europeans that the United States couldn’t step in and immediately take some of the hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing the violence there because Congress refuses to fund the number of immigration agents that would be required to properly vet refugees from those areas, as required under Post-9/11 law. (Not to mention the Republicans’ eagerness at the drop of a hat to shut down the federal government, which means lowering our defenses. During the 2013 shutdown, sending the IT people home opened the way for the massive cyber attack on the Office of Personnel Management and other government agencies).
And this week, the President announced: the United States is providing nearly $419 million in additional life-saving assistance for those affected by the war in Syria. This new funding brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance in response to this conflict to more than $1.6 billion in Fiscal Year 2015 and over $4.5 billion since the start of the crisis. (More freak out from Republicans, I’m sure, who will begin again screaming about the federal budget deficit, the national debt.)
The funding supports the operations of the United Nations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other international and non-governmental organizations. It will provide shelter, water, medical care, food, protection, and other necessities to millions of people suffering inside Syria and nearly four million refugees from Syria in the region. It also helps mitigate the impact of the crisis on governments and communities throughout the region that are straining to cope with the mass influx of refugees from Syria.
Part of the new funding will respond to the 2015 appeals of $8.4 billion from the United Nations for Syria and the region.
“It is important to note that even with this contribution, the UN appeals for humanitarian aid to address the crisis in Syria are only 38% funded, resulting in cutbacks to food and other essential services,” the White House stated. ” Contributions from other donors are urgently needed and the United States continues to advocate for increased contributions through diplomacy and outreach. As the Assad regime continues to barrel bomb cities and attack civilian targets including schools, mosques, and hospitals, violent extremist groups like ISIL and al-Nusrah Front also continue to brutalize Syrians every day. In addition to the horror of war in Syria, we also see the plight of refugees fleeing the region to European countries and are reminded of the need to provide humanitarian assistance in countries of first asylum.
“The United States recognizes that along with emergency relief, we must address the long-term development needs of Syria’s neighbors, and the funding we are providing supports communities in neighboring countries that have so generously hosted those refugees. There are over four million Syrian refugees in the world today, the vast majority of whom receive support in the first country to which they flee. It is our hope that by increasing humanitarian assistance and protection efforts in Syria and neighboring countries, Syrians will not be forced to seek assistance abroad at greater personal peril, and will also be able to return home more easily when the conflict ends.
“The United States remains committed to assisting those affected by this terrible war and strongly urges all governments, organizations, and individuals concerned about the situation to support life-saving aid efforts of UN and other partners.”
And the Republicans will be absolutely apoplectic if the United States heeded the call of David Miliband, president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee (“How the U.S. Can Welcome Refugees,” New York Times, Sept. 22)
Miliband is calling on the US to increase the number of Syrian refugees we accept to 100,000, as have 75 House Democrats (so far, in four years, the US has accepted only 1,500).
The refugee crisis in the Middle East is the largest since World War II. But the same arguments that are being made against accepting these refugees were also made against accepting European Jews escaping the Holocaust. The US shut its doors, turned back ships, and sent back families to their tragic ends.
The opposition to the United States becoming more combines two toxic strains: overall anti-immigrant hysteria combined with anti-Muslim furor.
What are the real concerns?
Invasion: There is an invasion of Mexicans and Mexico only sends us their criminals and rapists, says Donald Trump, who is getting HUGE mileage out of this lie.
The fact is that the net number of illegal immigration from Mexico now is ZERO.
Obama, widely pilloried by the Hispanic community for his aggressive deportation policies, has deported more undocumented immigrants than any other president.
What is more “since the housing bubble burst and construction jobs dried up, more unauthorized immigrants have left the United States than have come in. Estimates by the Pew Research Center show that the number of undocumented Mexicans living in the United States shrank by roughly 1.1 million by 2012, from its peak in 2007”
Indeed, some Republicans (Ann Coulter) have claimed that the number of undocumented immigrants is as much as 35 million. Not so.
There were 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2014. The population has remained essentially stable for five years, and currently makes up 3.5% of the nation’s population. The number of unauthorized immigrants peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million, when this group was 4% of the U.S. population, according to Jens Manuel Krogstad at the Pew Research Center
Crime: A variety of different studies using different methodologies have found that immigrants are less likely than the native-born to engage in either violent or nonviolent “antisocial” behaviors; that immigrants are less likely than the native-born to be repeat offenders among “high risk” adolescents; and that immigrant youth who were students in U.S. middle and high schools in the mid-1990s and are now young adults have among the lowest delinquency rates of all young people. (Read a superb report “The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States” by the American Immigration Council)
“In fact, first-generation immigrants have a much lower crime rate than the overall population. As to [Donald Trumps’] rapists claim, whites accounted for 71 percent of all sexual assaults in 2013, even though they are only 63 percent of the population, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Latinos, though 17 percent of the population, committed 9 percent of sex crimes. “Not Like Us,” New York Times, July 10, 2015)
Indeed, the tendency for new arrivals and first generation is to be incredibly ambitious and patriotic.
And look at the awards that are handed out at school graduations they are mostly first or second generations of immigrants.
Jobs & the Economy: Unauthorized immigrants make up 5.1% of the U.S. labor force, according to the Pew Center. In the U.S. labor force, there were 8.1 million unauthorized immigrants either working or looking for work in 2012. Among the states, Nevada (10%), California (9%), Texas (9%) and New Jersey (8%) had the highest shares of unauthorized immigrants in their labor forces.
Immigrants are an economic boon and have been throughout US history (needless to say all the settlers and colonists were immigrants, and much more diverse than we realize). This is why Germany, with a low birthrate and aging population, has been (at least initially) welcoming to the refugees.
“Numerous studies have found that immigrants bolster growth by increasing the labor force and consumer demand,” the New York Times editorial board wrote (Europe Should See Refugees as a Boon, Not a Burden, Sept. 19). ” Rather than being a drain, immigrants generally pay more in taxes than they claim in government benefits. Even a large influx of immigrants does not mean fewer jobs for the existing population, since economies do not have a finite number of jobs. Immigrants often bring skills with them, and some start new businesses, creating jobs for others. The less skilled often take jobs that are hard to fill, like in child care, for example, which allows more parents to work.”
Actually, we see this all around us. In fact, our community has seen wave after wave of immigrants through our entire history. Most recently, those waves have been Western European, Eastern European, Persian and Asian.
The Times cites a working paper published last year by four economists that found that immigration benefited local populations in 19 of the 20 industrialized countries they studied.
Then there is the old saw that immigrants come just to take advantage of generous government benefits – which is what Trump implies with his “anchor baby tourist” image (They only have to come into the country for one day, and we are responsible for that kid for 85 years.”
“But there is little evidence to support this claim,” the New York Times notes. “In Britain, for example, immigrants from the rest of Europe pay more in taxes than they receive in government benefits, according to an analysis by two economists.” On the other hand, another study Another study found that reducing immigration to Britain by 50 percent, along the lines of what Prime Minister David Cameron has advocated, would actually reduce the country’s gross domestic product and force the government to raise tax rates to keep its budget balanced.
Republicans have consistently used the same false arguments (or whatever is handy – Ebola, ISIS, wages, jobs) to block comprehensive immigration reform.
“A Congressional Budget Office report in 2013 estimated that giving undocumented workers a path to citizenship and making more employment-based visas available to foreigners would raise G.D.P. by 5.4 percent and lower the federal budget deficit by $897 billion over 20 years.”
Culture: A real fear, of course, is that “others” will overtake (read “pollute”) the established “culture”, will change “who we are”, and is at the heart of the longing for “America as it used to be” and implicit in the slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
In the case of Muslims, that America’s Constitution, which contrary to the image of it coming directly from God, derives from Great Britain (the Magna Carta is coming to New York) and the Cherokee Nation and European thinkers (John Locke, Thomas More, Adam Smith), will be displaced by Sharia Law, as if that is even possible. That is the great fear of the Nativists giving Establishment Republicans fits over alienating the Latino vote, critical to winning back the White House. The very idea of “catering” (pandering) to a Latino voter! Think back at how Catholics, as recently as the 1960s were rejected (John F. Kennedy had to speechify how his loyalty was to America and not the Pope) and yet, over time, how Catholics have come to dominate political institutions – 7 of the 9 Supreme Court justices are Catholic, as just one example.
Catholics are now nearly 21% of the population, a bigger share compared to “Mainline Protestants” who are just 15% (Evangelical protestants are 25%). More Latinos will increase that share while also hastening the demographic tide toward a minority White population.
Terror: When the Obama Administration announced it would take Syrian refugees, Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said, “I am worried that [the Islamic State] could exploit this effort in order to deploy operatives to America via a federally funded jihadi pipeline,” according to The Hill.
National Journal Next America correspondent Matt Vasilogambros challenged that statement on NPR, saying that “The Department of Homeland Security has a stringent process – background checks, refugees wait over a year or two. The US doesn’t just let anyone in from Syria or any war-torn area of the world.”
And why would a terrorist go through the vetting process when it is so much easier to infiltrate by getting on a plane as a visitor, as former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly noted.
If Republicans were really concerned about terrorism by “others” they would have acted on comprehensive immigration reform, which would have brought 11 million people out of the shadows, made people register or be deported if they are found to be criminals or have nefarious dealings (forget the fact that Native Borns have been responsible for more acts of terrorism than “others”). How does not knowing who is in your country making us safer? It wasn’t about securing the border which is already pretty secure (the biggest share of the security budget goes to border security; see what the Obama Administration has done to secure the border to an unprecedented degree)
Citizenship: What is the anti-immigration hysteria really about? It’s about citizenship.That’s why the Republican-controlled House refused to take up the Senate’s Comprehensive Immigration bill, in face of the unprecedented increase in border security that it contained, the requirement to pay fines and back taxes.
So there will be an even louder freak-out when they get wind of Obama’s latest initiative, “Stand Stronger” Citizenship Awareness Campaign, done without, even an executive order to whip up their frenzy: the Obama Administration will be encouraging Legal Permanent Residents to seek citizenship and having to pander to the likes of Hispanic voters in order to win back the White House (gerrymandering and Big Dollars only get you so far).
“Since the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has made clear that we are stronger as a nation when we welcome immigrants and refugees into our communities and harness their entrepreneurial spirit. At its heart, America is and has always been a nation of immigrants. Immigrants and refugees contribute to our country’s social and cultural fabric, and are critical to our country’s continued economic prosperity,” the White House stated.
On Citizenship and Constitution Day, Sept. 17, President Obama launched a project with nonprofit CivicNation “to encourage eligible immigrants to take an important step in their American journey and commit to citizenship.”
The numbers are quite astounding: There are approximately 13.3 million Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) living in the United States, and 8.8 million of them are eligible to apply for citizenship. this includes over 3 million refugees who have resettled here since 1975 from countries that span the globe. Nearly one out of every three eligible individuals obtained LPR status in 1990 or earlier.
That means “that many have been part of our communities for decades. But they don’t yet enjoy all the rights, benefits, and responsibilities that come with being a full American citizen.”
And to top it off, President Obama even declared September 22 “National Voter Registration Day.”
OMG! Take that xenophobes!
News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. Tweet @KarenBRubin, ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures