The punitive immigration bill is about as hostile a bill as I can think of is. And the so-called "Border Surge" especially so. Our history is littered, and I mean LITTERED with actions provoked by race and ethnic hatred. And generally this hatred has been stirred up by people with their own often economic or power-hungry interests at heart. As Americans, we certainly haven't taken the words on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty to heart:
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-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside te golden door!"
Emma Lazarus, an American Jew and a woman, wrote them in 1886 as an entry in a contest for a poem for the base of the Statue, part of a benefit auction for the pedestal. It wasn't put on until 1903, and it was after it was that the statue became a welcoming symbol for immigrants.
Lazarus herself was inspired to claim a more active role as a Jew following pogroms in Russia. Of course Jews in the US have and continue to suffer from prejudice. Catholics have and do, too. And of course there are Muslims to bait. Which brings us to ethnic groups. In the US, prejudice has thrived against European immigrant groups, especially Irish and Italians and probably Eastern Europeans. I'm not mentioning the Germans in and after the Second World War. The Japanese aren't Europeans, but they were our enemy during the World War II. Japanese who had lived their lives in the US were put in concentration camps on US soil. Of course, the worst and most brutal prejudice, racism, has been against blacks, Indians and Latinos/as. Perhaps the only group not subject to prejudice, or at least a prejudice which has hurt it, has been that made up of white Protestants males, especially white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males who for much of our history filled the halls of wealth and power. This is not to say that these various groups don't have prejudices against each other, because they do. And among the most progressive of us, unexamined, often harmful prejudices linger.
As I indicated, the Immigration Reform bill currently before Congress is a remarkably harsh bill. Here I am interested in the section on border security part. The whole thing is called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (gimme a break). Recently amended to include what its authors, Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota call a "border surge" it would DOUBLE the number of border patrol agents to almost 40,000, add 700 miles of fencing and include infrared ground sensors, thermal imaging cameras and a fleet of, you guessed it, DRONES. All this at a cost of (gulp) 40 BILLION DOLLARS. Various writers have pointed out that we are living in financially tight times and that there are a LOT of things that could benefit from 40 billion dollars. Lindsay Crouse in the NY Times says the nation's infrastructure could be one beneficiary. He mentions that te American Society of Civil Engineers says it will cost $20 billion a year to repair our nation's bridges.
I have often suspected that the increase in funding for border security has more to do with keeping defense contractors happy since we don't have Iraq and Afghanistan to splurge on anymore. I'm not in anyway alone. See this article on the ABC/Univision site, for instance.
There is no pretext anymore that this "border security" is for the purpose of catching terrorists. (And none so far as I know have been captured at the border, but I may be wrong.)This because a vociferous group of US citizens want to keep Mexicans and others from Latin America OUT and politicians are fanning their desires. This hostility to people crossing the border without papers is crazy. If you are one of those who supports this immigration bill with its "border surge" and says, "I'm not really prejudiced but...", ask yourselves what it is you are so afraid of. Perhaps the ghosts of Indians and blacks slaughtered by whites have inhabited the bodies of Mexicans?