Multiculturalism and Immigration History in the United States II: Origins of Modern Immigration

My last post on this segment covered some past views on immigration in the U.S. over the last couple centuries. I want to take this time to cover what I feel to be the horrendous origins over the outright xenophobic and racist campaign covering the propaganda of what has come to be known as illegal immigration. I want to highlight the groups responsible for the mass public hysteria over the fears of such illegal immigration, beginning with FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the opinions about this politically active organization from The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The modern Latino immigration debate can be dated back to Jan 2, 1979 with the founding of FAIR by a man by the name of John Tanton. John Tanton, a man who has a remarkable history of making racially insensitive, and inflammatory remarks concerning the fear of losing his white identity to the influx of Latino immigration, and fears “As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?” This is the leader of the debate, its founder, its initial propagator, and a man fond of making blatantly white nationalist remarks such as this one. FAIR has outright opposed the Immigration Reform Act of 1965 which made illegal previously racist immigration quotas. FAIR has since lobbied for strict immigration quotas to be reinstated “at the lowest feasible levels”. In 1997, FAIR president Dan Stein had this to say to Tucker Carlson:

“Immigrants don’t come all church-loving, freedom-loving, God-fearing … Many of them hate America, hate everything that the United States stands for. Talk to some of these Central Americans.”
— FAIR President Dan Stein, interviewed by Tucker Carlson, Oct. 2, 1997 (SPLC)

This horrible rhetoric is the same we have heard since the early 20th century and dating back throughout the 19th century. Simply, this rhetoric and more, along with Neo Nazi associations, gives us plenty of insight into where these debates originated. Just like the historical comments made concerning immigration, these remarks have proven time and again to be seriously unfounded and false. It is this rhetoric against migration, which has only benefited our nation over time, that has polarized the far right in this country. These are racial theories, fears of Caucasians becoming a minority, and the slandering of multicultural peoples in a nation that is considered ‘white owned’ by opponents.

We’ve seen the Arizona Senate Bill SB 1070 severely gutted by the Supreme Court. The founder of this bill, former Republican Arizona state senator Russell Pearce, was the bill’s principle author. His bill naturally received vast support from FAIR. Russell Pearce called for a renewal of 1950’s immigration enforcement, coining the campaign, “Operation Wetback”. He has emailed supporters of the bill with texts by the white separatist group National Alliance, which hosts Holocaust deniers and conspiratorial theories of multiculturalism being a Jewish, anti-white movement. Pierce has also had questionable associations with alleged child murderer and suicide victim, J.T. Ready, a known Neo Nazi supporter and former candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives.

Multiculturalism has been effective in growing our nation, and we are one of the few nations that can still keep our general political ideals intact while hosting multitudes of peoples throughout history. When looking back at the authors of this debate, including the Tea Party movement, we can easily choose which side we stand on, and refute the veracity of such outrageous claims.


Legal fight for GMO labeling

Recently, we’ve seen various measures proposed across a few of our states in the U.S. for the disclosure of genetically modified foods (GMO). What we have seen is a huge backlash against such measures, and exorbitant amounts of money infused into these campaigns to keep secret how our food and seeds are commercially processed.

Some of the names behind these campaigns aren’t a big mystery. Among the proponents can be found industries such as DuPont, Monsanto, Bayer, and DOW. Companies who have a huge interest in not only keeping their names under wraps in this fight, but also the more obvious reasons for keeping the truths about their GMO products as quiet as possible. What they would like is for us as citizens to not know what we are consuming. They have fought this battle with rhetoric questioning the legitimacy of the science behind whether GMOs are actually harmful to us. The fact remains, that whether it be proven or not, our food and seed productions are being altered… genetically altered, and for many of us, we simply wish to know what’s being genetically engineered so we can make a choice as to whether to consume these products or not.

The popularity over organic foods has been growing, plant based diets are on the rise, and an awareness of the man-made restructuring of agriculture is increasingly becoming a hot topic. Personally, I couldn’t prove to you the detriment of consuming GMO foods, or growing GMO seeds, but that has actually been rather irrelevant over this debate. What is relevant is the suspicious nature of using the science behind such practices to try and keep these practices quiet. Whether it is seriously harmful to our bodies or not doesn’t need to be proven. If my food is being restructured somehow, then I, like many others, feel we have a right to know which foods are being restructured genetically.

The fight against GMO labeling that comes from industries such as DOW and Monsanto are particularly troubling considering these are the companies who have brought us Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. A product used for the mass destruction of vegetation in the fields of Vietnam, and long known to cause serious health issues. Now Monsanto has genetically engineered seeds to withstand the effects of their powerful herbicides. They have done this by infusing herbicidal genes into the seeds themselves. These seeds, and their herbicides are what we consume, along with a myriad of pesticides.

There may be plenty of people who have no problem with consuming these foods, but there are a growing number of people who would obviously choose not to. The fight isn’t about banning these consumables, but simply shedding a little light on the matter, and giving us a choice, plain and simple. It is outrageous to think that 40 million dollars, matched against 13 million dollars was used in California to to kill Proposition 37 which would have required the labeling of genetically engineered food. One wonders why such a gross amount of money was spent to to kill a seemingly harmless bill. Who would lose out if they were labeled? Do companies such as Monsanto not want us to know what they’re doing? Why not? And it is especially disconcerting to learn that the fight against GMOs has been waged by both political parties. It was in California that the Democratic committee, when sending out fliers on which measures the Democrats supported, a No on 37 was included in that. I won’t even go into the absurdity of a political party suggesting what measures to vote on with no argument for against the measure, as though we were all blind sheep.

Multiculturalism and Immigration History In the United States I

Immigration policy has been a contentious issue practically throughout our entire history. If we were to take a look back on historical policy governing immigration reform, then hopefully we can shed some light on the culture of America, and the issues of the past comparable to the modern influx of undocumented immigrants.

A popular way of referring to immigrants since the 1980’s has been to call them illegal aliens. After this pejorative term was abandoned, we adopted the slightly less offensive term of illegal immigrant. Now in 2013, unrepresented migrants to the U.S. are still widely considered to be “illegal immigrants”. No person in the United States can be considered “illegal”. The unreported stay of any person in the United States cannot be labeled criminal until they are charged by a court and convicted.  Essentially, until the Court tells you that you have done something wrong, then in this country, you are innocent. That said, it is reprehensible that we should refer to any individual who has crossed our border as a criminal, or “illegal” in any sense until they are caught, and charged by the courts. There have been many people to cross our borders due to political strife without first asking permission. If that person happens to be a refugee who does this, we are far less quick to consider that person illegal.

Since the founding of this nation, the American people have continued to slander, and libel immigrant peoples of all sorts. German and Irish migration began in the early half of the Nineteenth century. Benjamin Franklin was quoted in a letter:

“Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our language or Customs any more than they can acquire our Complexion?”

When the Chinese began immigrating to the U.S. prior to the 1870’s, after a brief acceptance of them, their migration came to be known as the Yellow Peril. Chinese immigrants built our railroads, mined our coal and participated in the Gold Rush of 1849. Congress would later draft the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. During Irish migration by the mid-Nineteenth century, they were depicted as ape-like and bestial. There was a fear by Protestants at the time that Irish Catholics would be overly loyal to the Pope and try to subvert the government. A national literacy test was implemented in 1917, in which MA Senator, Henry Cabot Lodge, was quoted as stating:

“[The test] will bear most heavily on the Italians, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, and Asiatics, and very lightly, or not at all upon English-speaking emigrants or Germans, Scandinavians, and French.”

Many national immigration quota laws were also adopted in the U.S. during the 1920’s until the Immigration Reform Act of 1965 repealed all quotas.

Institutional bias, racism, and general antipathy towards migrants throughout history has been prevalent since the conception of the Union. We must consider how poorly the Irish have been treated throughout the Nineteenth century, and basically Catholics in general. The underlying fear of immigration is the cultural impact, and the fear of the infusion of new ideals in place of hardened traditions. The Grapes of Wrath tells an abrupt story of how migrant Oklahomans were treated in California during the great dust bowl of the 1930’s. Even interstate immigration can be an ugly affair.

The Cannabis Legalization Debate: Federal v. State

In light of the Justice Department’s decision to use prosecutorial discretion in the pursuit of marijuana offenders, and the latest release made by the department stating that it will not “sue to block laws legalizing marijuana in 20 states and the District of Columbia…” (New York Times), this might be a good time to analyze some of our current prohibition laws concerning cannabis, and the juxtaposition between State’s rights and the Federal laws that stand in contradiction. It is not my opinion that the federal government has any right to regulate the intrastate commerce of the cultivation and use of marijuana, even if it is for commercial use. So long, of course, that that use is contained within a given state where the voters have declared it legal for recreational use (i.e. Colorado, Washington).

My opinion notwithstanding, the Supreme Court has ruled in the case of Gonzales v. Raich 2005 that Congress does in fact hold jurisdiction on the regulation of any article of commodity under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Drawing on the case of Wickard v. Filburn 1942, the Court has found that the regulation of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act 1970 by Congress, albeit intrastate commerce, has a reasonable affect on the entire market of marijuana cultivation. Concluded are the similarities between Gonzales v. Raich, and Wickard v. Filburn, where in the latter it was ruled that wheat production fell under the Commerce Clause, giving Congress the authority to tell farmers when and how to grow their own wheat, even if only for personal consumption.

What this means is, according to these rulings, Congress has full authority to tell you what you can and cannot grow. Let’s replace marijuana, or even wheat with more common garden vegetables, such as tomatoes. Most people with gardens will grow tomatoes, and Congress, according to the Court, has authority in regulating a particular garden hobbyist’s cultivation of something as innocuous as tomato cultivation. The Court ruled since the cultivation and consumption of a particular commodity may affect the overall market of that commodity, in aggregate or otherwise, it may be controlled by our federal government. If you were to grow and consume anything, then that may prevent you from buying them somewhere else, and if we all grow our own vegetables, and were self sustained, Congress would have full authority to end this practice. Therefore, cannabis cultivation, if grown and consumed within a state, and not for commercial use, may be outlawed, because “If Congress decides that the ‘total incidence’ of a practice poses a threat to a national market, it may regulate the entire class.” ( Marijuana cultivation poses a variety of difficulties for all who enforce the laws contained within the Controlled Substances Act, being the DEA et al.

Eric Holder simply chose to use prosecutorial discretion on this matter. In my opinion, it is due to the large task at hand of using limited resources to undermine the people of Colorado, and Washington’s new laws. There is a quote I recall from which I cannot remember the author. That quote may loosely state that the people can be policed only as much as the people choose to be policed. There is only so much law enforcement can do when a great majority is in violation of a given law. I believe that the further decriminalization and legalization of marijuana from state to state will only confound and undercut any administration’s efforts to control what their own constituents have approved per state.

Democracy is not all about the money

In the past few years, increasingly since the turn of the century, and possibly since the Clinton era, Americans have become much more polarized within our electoral system. What we continually hear from nearly every nook of the political media is how divided Americans have become concerning governmental policy in the United States. Elections in this day and age are being fiercely waged immediately following a fresh election. Politicians, new and incumbent, are constantly running for office. The media and technology monsoons that have overtaken our political landscape may be the cause that has effected the sharp rise we have seen in recent campaign financing. As technology, information, and media grows, candidates need to increase staff and resources to simply manage this beast.

As many people are familiar with, the Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission ruling by the Supreme Court, in which five of the nine Justices ruled that “the First Amendment applies to corporations”, paved the way for an unheard of amount of corporate dollars to be flooded into our electoral system. Now it’s been argued that this money, or influence if you will, is having a profound effect on our election outcomes. Basically, the candidate who raises the most money is able to influence the race in his/her favor. There is however, other dynamics to this unfortunate outcome that have been overlooked. You may be thinking that our democracy has been hijacked, or that corporations, special interest groups, and various lobbyists can now structure our political outcomes based solely on cash infusion in respective campaigns. While this may in part be true, let’s not forget who really runs our democracy: We do! We run it, and we always have. The problem is, who are we? We, basically are a bunch of lazy, disorganized, misinformed slackers who cannot be bothered with showing up to the polls (well at least most of us anyway). Sure, we’ve had slightly better election turnouts in recent years, but for the most part, Americans are sick of politics. And even more than politics in general, which we tend to have a love/hate relationship with, we are sick of our choices, and tend to feel an insouciant languor towards our entire political system.

So if we are in fact so lazy, with such low voter turnout, then who is controlling us? Who is controlling what happens to us on a governmental level? It certainly isn’t you or me. Or is it? Is our inaction, disorganization, and indolence all culprits, responsible for the outcomes of our elections? I would assert that they are, in fact. Keep in mind that the ones that control our electorate are a minority, or minorities (and no, I don’t mean ethnic or social class minorities). The minorities I’m referring to are the corporations, special interest groups, and lobbyists I mentioned earlier. Is it their infusion of money that gives them power? Well, yes and no… maybe. You take any politically active group, be it the NRA, or AARP. Their campaign dollars may very well entice candidates and persuade elections, but really, the one thing these two vastly different organizations share are the numbers of voting members they both hold, and the influence over those members that give THEM money, and certainly not the other way around. It is these voters whom they have plenty of influence over that decides these elections. It is their numbers, their organization, and their willingness to vote that really sways elections. They have prominence in media. They can mobilize quickly and inform voters of the issues. Yes, this certainly all takes money, but it is this money that is used to organize their ilk to make a difference at the polls. Without it, they would be just as disorganized, and ineffectual as you or me.

Our democracy is dependent upon, and a product of, our voice at the polls. While one person’s vote doesn’t make much of a difference, our united voices, and blocs of votes most certainly does. We have basically two parties vying for control. It is one of these two parties who are destined to win elections. It is either Republicans or Democrats. We won’t see third party candidates get very far in elections, let alone Independents, because they are small, effete, and powerless in the face of these behemoth institutions which have controlled our electorate for centuries. These institutions, or parties, are highly organized, and it is their organization that accumulates their wealth. That wealth then helps to generate further organization. Where did it all start? Did it begin with wealth? Did it start as some sort of Aristocracy spending fortunes that have been inherited that created this organizational prowess, or was it the organizational prowess that fueled the wealth? My bet is the latter.

So this democracy of ours, for which we are so fortunate to be members of, is not only increased  when citizens become informed and coordinate with one another, but at the same time, diminished. It is the people of the United States who decide elections, not money. It is the people of the United States who control our democracy in numbers, and it is those same people who feel the burdensome demoralization of having our democracy stolen from us by the few. The very thing that fuels our society is the same thing that corrupts it. Money isn’t what it’s all about. Mobilization is what it’s about, which takes money, yet generates more money than it takes, and begins with little to no money. If we organize as a nation, the populace, the whole mass of us, united, we can create a change in government. Without it, we are doomed, and we are not doomed to corporate dollars stealing our democracy. We are doomed by our own devices.