(TriceEdneyWire.com) – “…Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Emma Lazarus “The New Colossus” 1883
The Trump administration has expressed its support for a much harder line on legal immigration into America. These changes are reflected in the new proposed bill called the RAISE Act. It is an attempt to change the standards used for approving green card applications from focusing on an individual’s ability create a living for themselves and uniting families, to a points-based or merit system. According to Trump and excerpts from the proposed legislation, applicants will score more points if they are “wealthier applicants…English speakers” and are “skilled laborers” who can “financially support themselves” and have skills that “can contribute to our economy.”
For a politician who wants to build a wall to control illegal immigration, this proposed legislation will only make it worse. The jobs that need less skilled laborers will not go away and will not be filled by a native-born workforce for the same pay. By focusing on those immigrants with higher skill-sets over those who perform service sector and manual or “stoop” labor jobs; Trump’s proposed legislation will result in lower skilled immigrants entering the country via any means necessary, thus exacerbating illegal immigration. It’s a solution looking for a problem.
Let’s focus on the rhetoric and language being used to rationalize these actions. Behind all of this is not an effort to “Make America Great Again”, it’s an effort to “Make America White Again”.
There has been a lot of discussion about diversity in America and that America is a “melting pot”. In the early years of its development, immigrants to America were primarily European. According to Nicolas Evans, “From 1836 to 1914, over 30 million Europeans migrated to the United States.” Even though conflicts arose between these European immigrant groups, Irish, Italians and others, they relinquished many of their cultural ques to become “American”. Over time they could assimilate into mainstream America because they were white. Today, we no longer differentiate between those European ethnic groups, we simply refer to them as “white”.
At a recent White House press conference to explain President Trump’s new immigration policy, Trump administration policy aide Stephen Miller very dismissively said, “The poem (The New Colossus) …which was added later, is not part of the original Statue of Liberty.” This ignores the historical fact that the sonnet was written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 to help raise money for the construction of the Statue’s pedestal. It’s not as though the poem or the placement of the bronze plaque on the base in 1903 was some sort of afterthought as Miller ignorantly attempted to infer.
In reality, this discussion about the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island and immigration is a bit disingenuous because it connotes White or European immigration. According toHistory.com, “…close to 40 percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island…as more and more immigrants poured in from southern and eastern Europe…Jews escaping from political and economic oppression in czarist Russia and eastern Europe…and Italians escaping poverty in their country. There were also Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Serbs, Slovaks and Greeks…” References to The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island do not reflect the harsh realities of the 15-20 million enslaved Africans that were brought to the shores of North America through the Middle-Passage and the African Slave Trade. Enslaved Africans and Chinese workers brought here to build the railroads were not, “the homeless, tempest-tost to me…”
Looking back at the rhetoric it is easy to see that when Trump discusses “protecting the American worker” and bringing in highly educated wealthier “English speakers” with “higher job skills” he’s is speaking to White people about White people. Candidate Trump told us about Mexico, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you…They’re sending people that have lots of problems…They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” He led the campaign claiming President Obama was “other”, “He doesn’t have a birth certificate, or if he does, there’s something on that certificate that is very bad for him. Now, somebody told me…that where it says ‘religion,’ it might have ‘Muslim.’ And if you’re a Muslim, you don’t change your religion, by the way.” Trump also said, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
While in Poland President Trump gave a not so subtle nod of approval to Poland’s authoritarian and anti-immigrant President Duda. Trump, the patron saint of the “birther movement” spoke about defending “Western civilization” and “Western values”. He also said, “We must work together to confront forces…that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith, and tradition that make us who we are…” We also have Trump supporters and surrogates such as Iowa Congressman Steven King praising the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has espoused anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric and recently called Moroccans “scum”. While in Europe, King said, “You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else’s babies…You’ve got to keep your birth rate up, and you need to teach your children your values. In doing so, you can grow your population, you can strengthen your culture, and you can strengthen your way of life.”
To the average American these are innocuous words, standard American rhetoric. To those with another reality who understand settler colonialism, American racism and hegemony, this is White Nationalist code language and this immigration policy is an attempt to put this code language into practice. A 2016 Huffington Post poll of White Trump voters found that 45% of them believe that Whites are the victims of discrimination, more so than Muslims, Blacks, Jews and Latinos.
The ethnic demographics of America are changing. This change is striking fear in the hearts of a lot of White Americans. Birth rates among White’s in America are dropping. According to Census.gov , America is “Browning” and according to NPR, not only is America “Browning” but this demographic shift is impacting voting traditional voting patterns. “America is at a demographic inflection point. The crosscurrents of demographic and cultural change are upending traditional voting patterns and straining the fabric of what it means to be American.” This is the motivation for Trump’s bogus Vote Fraud Panel, another solution looking for a problem.
Trump plays to the fears of many Americans who feel it is necessary to circle the wagons to protect themselves from enemy attack. His racist rhetoric and proposed policies are speaking to these fears. His executive order “protecting the police” makes it more difficult for citizens to sue police officers for misconduct even in the most egregious of circumstances. Even though according to The Hill, “the overall trend of violence against police has moved steadily downward for the past several decades, and assaults on police dropped over 15 percent between 2004 and 2013”. It’s the xenophobia of “them vs. us”.
Trump is not trying to “Make America Great Again”; his immigration efforts are trying to “Make America White Again”.