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This nation, we often forget when it comes to people of color, is a nation of immigrants. None of us is native to this land – except Native Americans (from whom all the land was stolen or cheated away). It remains symptomatic of our obsession with skin color and cultural “otherhood” that we forget that our parents or grandparents or great-grandparents arrived here after uprooting themselves from places where they were either not welcome or no longer viable citizens – because of their religion, their crimes, their finances, their lack of opportunity, their victimhood – seeking a new start, some way to survive, feed their families, recreate community.
Too often, the second- or third- or fourth-generation immigrant starts identifying as the owner of his her place and not the occupant of space that once belonged to someone else. They begin to see “the other” – either those brought here against their will or appearing voluntarily to start anew and do the work we once did and no longer will do – the dirty work. That’s the work that creates millionaires of others of us, and just a few of us at that.
Do we ask why, then, the government we elect and pay for treats our immigrant brothers and sisters like criminals? Why are the very people who pick our produce, who roof our houses, who serve our domestic and commercial needs and wants harassed and discriminated against – and shoved out of the United States, despite our unwillingness to perform such tasks ourselves anymore?
We have laws on the books that creates citizens of anyone born in the USA, as the children of so many immigrants are. And, yet again, we are prepared to send these children back home with their deported parents?
This is a nation of laws, yet also a nation of laws that make no sense and enforcement mechanisms that ignore justice and stretch the rules to de-nude our commercial and industrial entities of their capacity to continue operating. There’s a serious duplicity operating here – hypocrisy of policy and politics so clearly based in our obsession with color and culture that it defeats its own purpose for being because our longstanding racism and white supremacy.
Like the INS before it, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency often operates on a plane above the law or as a government unto itself. In whose best interests are the raids and jailings and deportations carried out by the federal government? What are we doing to the families of undocumented worker who keep this country’s economy afloat with their hard work and subpar wages? What about their children? What about their education? Their health care? What about the taxes they pay, the mortgages they’ve been allowed to take out on modest living quarters?
And yet, we’re told that Minnesota does one of the better jobs of working together to solve many of these problems, and it shows in the stories coming out of towns and cities where factories and farms have created whole new communities of new residents – some undocumented, some not, but living and working together to keep those communities thriving. Worthington is one. Madelia’s another. But Uncle Sam’s vigilant guard is ever on the prowl.
All questions needing answers. A few of them will come this week as TruthToTell’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI query two of the state’s most active advocates in this field. Some might even say strange bedfellows who are nevertheless members of a broad coalition of interested legal agencies, nonprofits, unions and business groups who support major immigration reform.
JOHN KELLER – Executive Director, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
BILL BLAZAR – Senior Vice President, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
TruthToTell, Nov 14: OVERCOMING RACISM IV: Joe Feagin and The White Racial Frame - AUDIO HERE. VIDEO HERE.
How deeply embedded in our personal, institutional and national cultures is the notion of racial superiority – the very idea that, no matter what we say or do, people of color are just not quite what most of us are: white? This program takes the idea of white supremacy and white privilege one step further than we’ve ever gone before.
We cannot excuse the present national ethos by saying things have gotten better or now that we have elected a president of African-American descent - or that we no longer embrace the slavery of Antebellum - or that we have passed a Civil Rights Act(about 400 years after the first settlements) - that we can say we no longer fit into what Professor Joe Feagin calls the White Racial Frame.