Immigrants: A Helpful Political Prop

Monday, October 31, 2005

Immigrants: A Helpful Political Prop

I noticed that as he announced his nomination of Judge Samuel Alito for SCOTUS, President Bush couldn't resist the chance to play up the immigrant angle. Even though Alito himself was born in the U.S., it was critical, the president's speech writer felt, to note that Alito's father immigrated from Italy.

In his statement, Bush remarked:
"I'm sure, as well, that Judge Alito is thinking of his mom ... [a]nd I know he's thinking about his late father. Samuel Alito, Sr., came to this country as an immigrant child from Italy in 1914, and his fine family has realized the great promise of our country."
Some historians have asserted that America loves its immigrants, but I don't think the evidence quite backs that up. Without question, we seem to be quite fond of immigrants' children, or their children's children. But those who are fresh off the boat? Not really.

The real immigrants tend to be more of a source of anxiety than anything else as we worry what demands they will make on the schools, the health care system and entitlement programs. I'm willing to bet that many WASPs who crossed paths with Alito's father were less than welcoming. But there's who we really are and then there's who we'd like to think we are as Americans.

Immigrants have fared reasonably well in America relative to most other countries, but the overwhelming majority of immigrants to the U.S. have encountered a lot of ignorance, bigotry, and personal or economic hostility.

Still, presidents, governors and other leaders hasten to point out when one of their appointees or political allies happens to be an immigrant. Doing so validates the myth that race and culture are never obstacles in America. Bush constantly reminded us that appeals court nominee Miguel Estrada was an immigrant from Honduras. (Never mind that Bush's Homeland Security chief is less fond of immigrants.)

Of course, the same conservative citizen who, just a few years ago, was writing letters and e-mails urging the Senate to confirm Estrada might consider it a crisis to learn that a Honduran family had moved in next door.

0 comments in Immigrants: A Helpful Political Prop

Post a Comment

Immigrants: A Helpful Political Prop | Demagogue Copyright © 2010