What Happened This Week
It seems that all there was to hear this week was the wailing of terrified children on the southern border. Due to the Trump Administration’s ‘zero-tolerance’ border policy set back in April, border control began separating illegal immigrant children under the age of twelve from their parents to persecute adults without children as a ‘ticket to American asylum’.
What came to a peak this week included outrage from the left, support from the avid border control conservatives, and wailing from more than just children across the country. Crushed underneath both heavy Democratic and Republican pressure, President Trump signed an executive order last Wednesday to stop the family separations.
Although most liberal Americans rejoiced at this small victory, is this the turning point that will end Trump’s inhumane approach to immigration?
The reason for this skepticism is that Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration policy has nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with the underlying racism of many white Americans. This hidden resentment is thus likely to continue reappearing in other policies even when the dust settles on Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration policy.
The History Of American Immigration Policy
While America champions itself as the “nation of immigrants”, the country’s immigration laws had always been founded on racism since their inception in the early 1800s. Even if the original ‘Americans’ were the many Native American tribes and Mexicans that inhabited North America, migrant Europeans who settled in present-day America and Canada used race as a claim to the land. Furthermore, once the United States founded itself by ‘removing’ present-day Native Americans in a colossal genocide, white Americans insisted on their right to the stolen land based on their cultural ‘highness’. These Europeans used the manner of their language, English, and their dominant religion, Christianity, in addition to the paleness of their complexion to justify their ownership of the land and the atrocities committed to gain it.
Then, they were determined to keep all others out.
Immigration laws are a perfect litmus test of white racism in the United States, and nearly all of them have the subtext of keeping the ‘other,’ or the ‘alien’ colored person confined from white society in the United States. According to the ‘Civilization Act’ of 1819, Native Americans were only allowed to assimilate if and only if Protestants could convert them to Christianity. When that did not work, lawmakers passed the ‘Indian Removal Act’, which stripped Natives from their land and placed them on small reservations in present-day Oklahoma. In 1848, the United States annexed the present-day continental U.S. from Mexico with a promise to “protect the land, language, and culture of Mexicans living in the ceded territory”. Although Mexicans were given the right to become U.S. citizens, they are simultaneously denied access to their ancestral lands if they could not defend their case in English within U.S. courts. In the Naturalization Act of 1870, naturalization, the process of gaining citizenship was limited to “white persons and persons of African descent, effectively excluding Chinese and other Asian immigrants”. In short, America has a long history of using the white race and culture as a standard to which immigrants must assimilate and pass for citizenship and livelihood within America.
Trump’s policy is no different. The administration has not been shy in using Christianity as its basis for its harsh stance on punishment against illegal immigration, mainly citing Romans 13 as the most substantial reason to deport and block illegal immigrants seeking asylum. Attorney General Jeff Sessions proclaims that Romans 13 advises all “to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order”. The Constitution of United States ordains both freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. Therefore, it is inappropriate to cite a specific scripture as the basis for a law governing Americans of all faiths. In addition, Christianity has plenty of other quotations promoting the protection of all children and peoples seeking asylum from war-like circumstance. These include but are not limited to Isaiah 10, Leviticus 19:33–34, Jeremiah 7:5–7, Ezekiel 47:22, and Zechariah 7:9–10. It is thus that many white Americans hide behind verses of the bible to promote their own needs as capitalists and nationalists without examining the whole of what Christianity promotes.
It is with this that white rage hides in policies such as the Trump administration’s ‘zero-tolerance’ border approach. Although advocates will state deflation of economic success by American citizens, it appears to be the opposite. After a harsh round-up of many illegal immigrants in Alabama, conservatives hoped that residents would acquire agricultural jobs and get back to work, improving the overall productivity of the state. The plan backfired, however, as illegal immigrants from Mexico left and the economy plummeted. American citizens could not be coerced into the same low-wages as illegal immigrants and did the work slower and with much less grace, which decreased profits for the state’s agriculture industry. This case study shows the vast profits America makes off of illegal labor and the benefits of the whole of America off of this loophole. If illegals are taking the ‘dirty’ and ‘harsh’ jobs that are unappealing to many white Americans, who actually also benefit from their cheap labor, then for what reason do white Americans have to despise them?
The answer is racism.
Racist immigration laws are as old as the country; although they will not be going away anytime soon without a fight, the first step is to acknowledge their evident existence. Although many tote our country a ‘nation of immigrants’, perhaps it is time to acknowledge the other, heinous prerequisites of immigrating here – that you must pass as part of American culture, or more plainly, white culture.
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