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Why Are So Many Americans Scared of Undocumented Immigrants?

As long as our national life revolves around unrealistic, hyped-up fears of "foreign invaders" and "illegal aliens," we all lose.

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A gap between myth and reality shows up in another statistic too: While we’re told that the unemployment rate is hovering just under 10%, in this poll fully 18% say they were “temporarily out of work” but “in the market for work.” That sounds like 18% unemployed to me. And nearly two-thirds say they are concerned that in the next 12 months they or someone else in their household might be out of work and looking for a job.

Since the early 1940s, Americans have feared foreigners invading the nation’s geographical borders, even in relatively prosperous times. But that fear has often grown when there’s also been widespread fear of joblessness and poverty. The big political challenge for the Democrats in this year’s election is to somehow get past the pervasive economic anxiety that haunts the nation. Fears of “illegal aliens” violating our sacred borders might just be their winning ticket.

But as long as our national life revolves so much around unrealistic, hyped-up fears of “foreign invaders” and “illegal aliens,” we all lose. 

Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Read more of his writing on Israel, Palestine, and American Jews on his blog: http://chernus.wordpress.com.

 
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