When American nativism first crawled out of the sewer in the 19th century, its targets weren't always so easy to spot: fellow Europeans who had the disqualifying characteristic of having arrived after the "real Americans" who had been born here (often to immigrant parents). Their approach to the problem? Violence, discrimination and bad government policies. With their penchant for thuggery, the group took on the name of its standard response when confronted with evidence of crimes: members would say they "knew nothing."
Today's "know-nothing nativists" aren't the violent brawlers their ideological forebears were. But if you want to see the racist mindset behind the moderate media face of the anti-immigration movement, consider these e-mails that I've received in the past week (I wound up on some interesting mailing lists after subscribing to multiple conservative newsletters)...
THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS' POEM
I cross ocean,
poor and broke,
see employment folk.
Nice man treat me
good in there,
Say I need to
"You come no more,
We send cash
right to your door."
they make you wealthy,
Medicaid it keep
By and by,
I got plenty money,
Thanks to you,
Write to friends
Tell them 'come
fast as you can.'
They come in turbans
and Ford trucks,
I buy big house
with welfare bucks
They come here,
we live together,
More welfare checks,
it gets better!
they moving in,
But neighbor's patience
Finally, white guy
Now I buy his house,
and then I say,
"Find more aliens
for house to rent."
And in the yard
I put a tent.
Send for family
they just trash,
But they, too,
draw the welfare cash!
And soon we
own the neighborhood.
We have hobby
it's called breeding,
for baby feeding.
Kids need dentist?
Wife need pills?
We get free!
We got no bills!
He pay all year,
To keep welfare
We think America darn good place!
Too darn good for the white man race.
If they no like us, they can scram,
Got lots of room in Pakistan.
SEND THIS TO EVERY AMERICAN TAXPAYER YOU KNOW!
Initial reaction? Where do these morons think they're living? Canada? We don't HAVE free health care, remember?
Are these people really that misinformed?
For that matter, how many Americans even know what Welfare is? Or what Medicaid actually pays for? Or who gets it?
But wait. It gets dumber.
MR. PRESIDENT, I'M HEADED TO MEXICO
Dear President Bush:
I'm about to plan a little trip with my family and extended family, and I would like to ask you to assist me. I'm going to walk across the border from the U.S. into Mexico, and I need to make a few arrangements. I know you can help with this.
I plan to skip all the legal stuff like visas, passports, immigration quotas and laws. I'm sure they handle those things the same way you do here.
So, would you mind telling your buddy, President Vicente Fox, that I'm on my way over? Please let him know that I will be expecting the following:
1. Free medical care for my entire family.
2. English-speaking government bureaucrats for all services I might need, whether I use them or not.
3. All government forms need to be printed in English.
4. I want my kids to be taught by English-speaking teachers.
5. Schools need to include classes on American culture and history.
6. I want my kids to see the American flag flying on the top of the flag pole at their school with the Mexican flag flying lower down.
7. Please plan to feed my kids at school for both breakfast and lunch.
8. I will need a local Mexican driver's license so I can get easy access to government services.
9. I do not plan to have any car insurance, and I won't make any effort to learn local traffic laws.
10. In case one of the Mexican police officers does not get the memo from Pres. Fox to leave me alone, please be sure that all police officers speak English.
11. I plan to fly the U.S. flag from my house top, put flag decals on my car, and have a gigantic celebration on July 4th. I do not want any complaints or negative comments from the locals.
12. I would also like to have a nice job without paying any taxes, and don't enforce any labor laws or tax laws.
13. Please tell all the people in the country to be extremely nice and never say a critical word about me, or about the strain I might place on the economy.
I know this is an easy request because you already do all these things for all the people who come to the U.S. from Mexico. I am sure that Pres. Fox won't mind returning the favor if you ask him nicely.
However, if he gives you any trouble, just invite him to go quail hunting with your V.P.
Thank you so much for your kind help.
I think I speak for all of us when I say to the writer of this absurdly befuddled piece of satire: Please. Please let me pay for your one-way ticket South of the Border. Be sure to write!
For those of you who think I'm some liberal putz who doesn't care about making our borders secure, let me give you the one-line solution to the illegal immigration problem.
Make the hiring of illegal immigrants a federal criminal offense with a mandatory minimum jail sentence. Hell, if it's good enough for the Drug War, why not the war on Los Illegales?
I'd wager there's not a single illegal immigrant in America who came here for our generous "welfare" or our compassionate free health care. They didn't come here to not pay taxes (or to not collect their Social Security benefits -- in 2005, illegales were subsidizing our social security system to the tune of about $7 billion a year). They come here to work and make money.
If you don't want illegal aliens in your country, stop hiring them. Hire somebody else to mow your yard, wash your car, build your garage, clean your house and watch your kids. Pay more for lettuce, grapes, cigarettes. Everything.
Which is why the GOP is in trouble over immigration. As the corporate party, its true leaders favor illegal immigration because a steady supply reduces labor costs and increases profits. But the GOP is also the party of Grumpy Victimized White Men. Suddenly, the two wings are in conflict. And since the party can't blame the true villians in the illegal immigration story (the sleazy bastards who hire them), it turns the sense of rage and betrayal at the immigrants themselves.
We need better immigration policies. But let me say this as clearly as I can: We need immigrants, and Mexicans are fine by me. I live in a neighborhood where they've been settling, and I have not one complaint. !Vive los Estados Unidos!