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June 30, 2014 1

Children Suffering On Southern Border Fodder For Anti-Immigrant Voices

The plight of Cen­tral Amer­i­can chil­dren flee­ing vio­lence is being used as yet another excuse for inac­tion on humane and sen­si­ble immi­gra­tion reform that Amer­i­cans crave. border-detention-center-humanitarian

While Pres­i­dent Obama responded strongly to the sit­u­a­tion by send­ing a mes­sage to fam­i­lies in Cen­tral Amer­ica not to risk send­ing their chil­dren to the United States,  anti-immigrant groups and the politi­cians that fol­low their cues are using this human­i­tar­ian cri­sis to argue that the bor­der is out of con­trol and that sen­si­ble reform should be delayed.  

The anti-immigrant move­ment and some right wing media dis­miss the high mur­der rates, gang vio­lence, and poverty that drive these migrants to the United States and attempt to use this dire human­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion to cre­ate a cli­mate of fear around immigration.

The uptick in extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric around the issue has focused on por­tray­ing immi­grants as a pub­lic health haz­ard. On June 20, William Gheen of the extreme anti-immigrant group Amer­i­cans for Legal Immi­gra­tion PAC (ALI-PAC) claimed that the chil­dren are com­ing to the U.S. “in dis­ease and gang infested hoards.”  D.A. King of the Georgia-based anti-immigrant group Dustin Inman Soci­ety (DIS) asserted on June 9 that refugees are “swarm­ing the bor­der and bring­ing dis­ease.” On June 12, James Kirk­patrick, an author for the extreme anti-immigrant web­site VDARE, recently voiced his con­cerns about chil­dren car­ry­ing what he called a “diverse mix of excit­ing mul­ti­cul­tural diseases.”

Many right-wing and far-right media out­lets are also echo­ing the rhetoric of anti-immigrant groups. A June 22 arti­cle pub­lished on the far-right web­site News With Views bemoaned the “hordes of une­d­u­cated, unskilled and too many dis­ease rid­den com­ing from El Sal­vador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.” Using the metaphors “flood” and “tidal wave” to talk about the chil­dren, Dr. Eliz­a­beth Lee Vliet penned an arti­cle in the conspiracy-orientated right-wing online news­pa­per World Net Daily  on June 17 warn­ing that the chil­dren are car­ry­ing “dis­eases the U.S. had con­trolled or vir­tu­ally erad­i­cated: tuber­cu­lo­sis (TB), Cha­gas dis­ease, dengue fever, hepati­tis, malaria, measles, plus more.”

Aside from the dis­ease rhetoric, anti-immigrant and right-wing media out­lets are also espous­ing other extreme themes. Mack­u­bin Thomas Owens, an author for National Review Online (NRO), penned an arti­cle for the pub­li­ca­tion on June 13 titled, “Camp of the Saints, 2014 Style?” In the arti­cle, Owens called for his audi­ence to read the bla­tantly racist French novel Camp of the Saints in the wake of the human­i­tar­ian issue. Camp of the Saints tells the story of Indian immi­grants com­ing to France by boat and tak­ing over the coun­try by vio­lent means.

This mes­sage is not only big­oted and dehu­man­iz­ing to these chil­dren; it dis­tracts from the crit­i­cal fact that the real solu­tion to this human­i­tar­ian cri­sis is to reform our bro­ken sys­tem.  Only a func­tion­ing immi­gra­tion sys­tem can truly fos­ter orderly migra­tion and allow author­i­ties to deter­mine which chil­dren are eli­gi­ble to come to or remain in the U.S. and which are not.

  • RustyJones

    Well, I’m an Obama sup­porter and con­trib­u­tor (and cam­paigned for John Kerry) who strongly dis­agrees. I’m dis­mayed that the ADL (or at least this writer) is so dis­mis­sive of the lib­eral oppo­si­tion to the Gang of Eight immi­gra­tion reform pro­pos­als and oth­ers like that. They should read TA Frank’s argu­ment in the New Repub­lic. They should lib­er­als like Paul Krug­man and Nick Kristoff in 2006, when they rejected this same basic reform pack­age. Ille­gal immi­gra­tion is a boon for the 1%, a –slight– ben­e­fit to the mid­dle class and ter­ri­ble for the work­ing poor. It’s par­tic­u­larly bad for the African-AMerican under­class, and I urge any­one who cares about this issue to review the research cited in the 2008 U.S. Com­mis­sion on Civil Rights report and sub­se­quent stud­ies (there’s also an out­lier study from St. Louis Uni­ver­sity con­clud­ing differently).

    As for the cur­rent cri­sis, it’s not merely the lure of “per­misos” but the very real­is­tic reports that depor­ta­tions are about to be halted, and that immi­gra­tion reform will pass with pro­vi­sions mak­ing it very easy to forge “proof of res­i­dency” prior to the effec­tive date.

    As for racism, why do I sus­pect that if these immi­grants were com­ing from the Mid­dle East rather than Mex­ico and Cen­tral Amer­ica, and polls showed they car­ried the same neg­a­tive atti­tudes against Jews that are car­ried against African-Americans (any­one remem­ber when Mexico’s for­mer pres­i­dent effec­tively called African-Americans a bunch of lazy you know whats?), and were dilut­ing Jew­ish Amer­i­cans right­ful polit­i­cal power, the ADL might be writ­ing some very dif­fer­ent things?