I always think through many degrees of indirection. One must do that to ensure that they are not succumbing to groupthink or a false belief of being right on any particular issue or occurrence. Immigration is an issue that while Progressives seem to be winning the hearts and minds of many, it may be wind pie, a mirage.
As an immigrant, I understand the prejudice first hand of Americans especially in times of perceived strife. What is interesting, is that discrimination does not always come from the those one usually describes as the bastions of prejudice and racism.
Before going to the University of Texas at Austin, I did one year at Blinn College in Brenham Texas because they gave this foreigner a scholarship to play in the marching and stage bands. -- an engineering student on a music scholarship. I worked my butt off, dumped the scholarship, and headed to Austin. Ironically my first sting of prejudice in America came from my black brothers and sisters. As I tried to find a home away from home, I tried like hell to assimilate. They treated me like the constant outsider. Hell, I couldn't even get a date. During the first semester, it was the white kids who wanted to hang out with me. Of course, by Thanksgiving, the superficiality was evident. Luckily, all of us Latinos from Central and South America hung together as well.
Why the synopsis mentioned above? We tend to look at events singly or one-dimensionally. The immigration issue is fraught with dangers for the left.
Many Progressives frame the immigration issue as one of the white Trumpist racists who hate brown people or people of color. They see Trump as stoking that carnal fear exhibited by his followers and in turn, uses it to intensify his support and with that his voter base. While that may be true for many Trump supporters, it is not the case for all nor is the Trump supporter the only xenophobes or anti-immigrant people.
A few days ago I was making that point on Politics Done Right. I wanted to point out the dangers on the manner in which we address Trump's xenophobic evil in general but specifically his cruel deeds at the border. In the process of making the argument on the episode of the show, a caller, a black man from New Orleans called in. I found his words not only sincere but one that rarely gets addressed by Progressives as they make the immigration case.
This black man has valid reasons why immigration isn't his #1 concern
Many in the black community falsely believe that immigrants entering their communities with businesses received some stipend from the government just because of their immigration status. I cannot mention the number of times I have heard that in many black communities around the country. Of course, the sad truth is that racism indirectly drives these immigrants to those communities. But that is beyond the scope of this article.
The black man from New Orleans has seen immigrants come into his community and extract without making any attempts of being a part of their fabric. Moreover, through the prisms of their eyes, they see people from a foreign land and adapt many of the behaviors of their racist compatriots. Why then would they have any heightened desire to further assist the immigration process of anyone?
But the immigration issue and how it plays out is ultimately deeper. That family irrespective of race or ethnic background who is suffering in Appalachia or the middle of any part of urban or rural America may justifiably ask similar questions. That angst can quickly turn any favorable poll toward immigrants rapidly. And it does not solely affect the unskilled. Attacking HB-1 visas can promptly bring the professionals into the anti-immigration fold as well.
If Progressives do not modify our narrative and also learn to walk and chew gum at the same time in a cohesive manner, then the immigration poll numbers can turn on a dime. And once again the moral argument would succumb to fear.
I think Progressives can innoculate ourselves, but it will require us accepting where we have erred and then change tactics quickly. We support equity, equal access to success, and pay it forward policies (tuition-free college, subsidized childcare, debt relief, etc.). But the people that most need these policies generally have no clue that we have solutions because we have not been in their faces for a long time. They see us fighting battles but many times not in a manner that they believe will help them directly. That leaves the door open for the liars.
The same enthusiasm we have in the downtowns of America, the suburbs, exurbs, and other places, we must have in Appalachia, the barrios, and the ghettos. Yes, many times they won't open their warmth and hearts to us as they will be suspicious. After all, where have we been? I've been working with many Indivisible groups in my area. They are doing great work. Unfortunately, like many other mainstream Progressive groups, they look nothing like America nor the people most in need of the policies they are fighting for nor do they enter those communities with any frequency.
At the same time, we are fighting like hell for our immigrant brothers and sisters on the border, we must visibly enter those distressed communities and let them know we are fighting for them too. It is not a zero-sum gain. Most importantly we must make it clear that it is not them or us. We need immigrants for sustainable growth, and our economy is more than able to support it all if we did not have a class robbing us all and using division as the medium to do so.
Also published on Medium.