Saturday, September 19, 2020


Article Index

D. Undocumented Immigrants Present a Threat to America's Security

One example of the effective use of fear can be seen in the recent debate on immigration reform. Why are we as a country unable to reach some kind of consensus as to how to address the presence of millions of undocumented persons in this country? The author and conservative commentator Linda Chavez directly answers this question. In a column addressing the issue, Ms. Chavez states that the debate is all about [f] ear of the other'-of those who look or sound different, who come from poor countries with unfamiliar customs-has been at the heart of every immigration debate this country has ever had. Ms. Chavez went on to state:

Some people just don't like Mexicans-or anyone else from south of the border. They think Latinos are freeloaders and welfare cheats who are too lazy to learn English. They think Latinos have too many babies, and that Latino kids will dumb down our schools. They think Latinos are dirty, diseased, indolent and more prone to criminal behavior. They think Latinos are just too different from us ever to become real Americans.

She concluded by explaining that this fringe group of Americans, fewer than 10 percent of the general population, will never succumb to reason. In a stunning admission considering her conservative activism, Chavez described some of the members of this group:

Unfortunately, among this group is a fair number of Republican members of Congress, almost all influential conservative talk radio hosts, some cable news anchors-most prominently, Lou Dobbs-and a handful of public policy experts at organizations such as the Center for Immigration Studies, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, NumbersUSA, in addition to fringe groups like the Minuteman Project.

Certainly, the growth of the Latino population fuels this Hispanophobia. The total United States population reported by the 2000 Census was 281,400,000, with Latinos comprising 12.5 percent of that total (approximately 35 million). Fueled by immigration and high birth rates, Latinos in 2005 reached the number one position among ethnic minorities at 42.6 million. The 2010 Census revealed the Latino population grew to 50.5 million. As a result of this growth, the politically connected group that Chavez described blames Latino aliens for their unemployment. This generates animosity toward all persons of Latino descent, including citizens and resident aliens.

The public, encouraged by conservative talk show hosts, incessantly complain about the illegal alien problem, even stirring up a national debate to free two border agents who shot a smuggler even though they were convicted after the agents conspired to conceal the truth. Many resident aliens and citizens of Latino descent complain that their attempts to become acculturated are aggravated by constant contact with the alien invasion.

Political figures also exacerbate animosity against the alien community by misstating facts and sometimes plainly lying. In an interview with Fox News after the passage of SB 1070, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer explained that the law was needed due to the crime generated by the migrants: We cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime and to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings. She provided more details, as to how law enforcement agents had found headless bodies in the desert, a claim the Arizona Guardian investigated and found to be completely false.

In an editorial in the Washington Post, the columnist remarked:

Brewer's mindlessness about headlessness is just one of the immigration falsehoods being spread by Arizona politicians. Border violence on the rise? Phoenix becoming the world's No. 2 kidnapping capital? Illegal immigrants responsible for most police killings? The majority of those crossing the border are drug mules? All wrong. . . . The scary claims of violence, in turn, explain why the American public supports the Arizona crackdown.

Shortly after these claims of an alien crime wave, the Arizona Republic reported that, according to statistics from the FBI and Arizona police agencies, the incidence of crime in Arizona border towns had been essentially unchanged for the ten years leading to 2010. For example, Nogales, Arizona reported twenty-three rapes, robberies and murders in 2000; a decade later, even with a larger population, there were only nineteen such crimes. The Pima County sheriff reported that the border has never been more secure, a statement corroborated by FBI statistics reporting that violent crime rates in all of the border-states are lower than they were a decade ago.

Notwithstanding this information, Senator John McCain claimed that the violence in his home state is the worst I have ever seen. The former presidential candidate then announced in a June 19, 2011 press conference that recent forest fires in Northern Arizona were caused by people crossing the border illegally. He then revealed his political motivation by stating that the remedy is to secure the border.

Historically, xenophobic views were always justified by an articulable national fear based on an event that affected the national security of the United States. Therefore, it is somewhat accurate to state that, based on the attacks of September 11, 2001, America went from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of suspects. As a result of the 9/11 attacks, the national government immediately began to combat this overwhelming threat of terrorism, focusing primarily on immigration. The first casualty among political priorities occurred when the negotiations between Mexico and the United States to adjust the status of over 3 million undocumented Mexican workers immediately ceased. Congressional interest then shifted to security-related issues involving admissions, border control, and alien tracking. The USA Patriot Act, the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, and the Homeland Act were all legislation directed at reforming immigration in response to this tragic event.

Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law