Why the government’s hunt for the migrant poor is the perfect distraction from real problems
by Jorge Majfud
In June of 2019, President Donald Trump announced the scheduling of raids for hunting down illegal immigrants in the 10 biggest cities in the United States, which commenced on July 14. The fact that big cities were selected rather than big farms, which are unable to gather their harvests without illegal immigrants, most probably stems from a phenomenon that I have pointed out before, which is that in the United States, minorities (blacks, Latinos, Asians) are politically underrepresented, not just because illegal immigrants don’t vote but also because the votes from citizens of those groups are worth several times less than a white vote in a low-populated ultraconservative state, all of which calls into question the supposedly democratic nature of the entire political and electoral system, not to mention the economic and financial system: one citizen, one vote.
For historical reasons associated with the marginalization of land ownership and because of present-day necessities, minorities are concentrated in large cities in the service sector. They reside in the most populous states, each of which has as many senators as any sparsely populated state. Since the 19th century, such largely rural states have been conservative bastions. To come up with the same population as California (40 million) or New York (20 million), which are two progressive bastions known for being more receptive to all kinds of immigrants, it’s necessary to add together the populations of more than 10 conservative states (the gigantic state of Alaska has a population of less than 1 million people). Nonetheless, each of these large states possesses only two senators, while a dozen conservative and thinly populated states possess 24. Texas is the inverse exception but not according to its internal dynamics.
An accurate representation of this structural reality must also include, among other characteristics, the fact that so-called populist governments quite often strive to make a big splash with spectacular and symbolic decisions when they might have done the same thing in a more discreet way. Leftist populist movements tend to play this same card with more powerful antagonists, which is what empires of various stripes are. Right-wing populist movements tend to play the same card by attacking and demonizing the governments of poor countries when the latter get the idea of toying with independence, or by going after the most defenseless sectors in a society such as poor immigrants or workers. Immigrants not only don’t vote but likewise their economic power and ability to shape the media narrative are irrelevant.
In the case of right-wing populism, which is an expression of elite interests misleadingly conflated with the frustrations of the working class who are manipulated into directing their vigilante fury at the undesirables below their socioeconomic level, we can at least say that it’s a kind of cowardice raised to an exponential degree. Without even considering that post-humanist fanatics (fanatics are those working-class people who defend elite interests against their own interests, not those elites who simply defend their own interests) tend to wave the diverse and contradictory flag of the cross at the same time they rend their garments and thump their chests while claiming to be the followers of Jesus, a man who preached about indiscriminate love and surrounded himself with marginalized people. He who was crucified alongside two other criminals by the imperial power of the day and the always necessary local collaborators.
Different studies (Derek Epp and Enrico Borghetto) have shown that the greater the social and economic differences separating elites from the working class, the greater the media coverage given to problems related to immigration and crime. This is just as much the case in prominent countries as in peripheral ones, in rich ones as in poor ones. One other characteristic must be added, one that even shows up in papers written by university students. The debate (or perhaps more accurately “social verbalization”) is laid out with its axiom and corollary from the very beginning when it is presented as “the immigration problem” rather than “the challenge” or “the great immigration opportunity.”
Although President Donald Trump lost the election in 2016, he made it to the White House because of an electoral system invented for protecting Southern slaveholding states in the 18th century (today, liberal states like California need twice as many votes as the Southern states they subsidize through taxes to get an electoral vote) and characterized by racist discourse, as in Europe, barely disguised by the eternal and cowardly excuse of legality, which, as I’ve already analyzed previously, has historically been promoted and respected when doing so was convenient for the groups holding power. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is another example: designed to favor Irish immigrants in the late 1980s (the least welcome immigrants throughout the 19th century before becoming “white” in the 20th century), suddenly it was considered absurd and inconvenient when politicians realized the law favors mostly non-white immigrants. Of course, there are a few notable and heroic exceptions to this rule, like the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965; these exceptions and examples of social progress have been always thanks to demonized people fighting for social justice. Racism is neither created nor destroyed. It is only transformed.
The date July 14, 2019, which marked the start of a round of raids on illegal immigrants, is an arbitrary one but is consistent with the fascist psychology that loves untimely and symbolic decisions taken against any specific working-class group that has been demonized as “the others,” such as everyday Jews, everyday Muslims, everyday immigrants. Of course, not just any illegal immigrant but rather the poorest, most desperate and with the darkest skin. The other illegal immigrants, if they are white, go unnoticed. Or if they are white women, they can even become the First Lady in spite of the fact that her parents were (by free choice and because it was required for registering as “mountain climbers”) members of the communist party in some European country. Further proof is that immigrants do the work that the nation’s citizens refuse to do.
Tribalism, the fascist, racist misogynistic horde and disgust for the equal rights of others—all of these will pass away. We don’t know when, but I’m convinced that it’s a global reaction to everything that has been accomplished in this sense, whether how little or how much, in the last few centuries. And it’s an entirely expected pretext for a worsening conflict between those who are increasingly fewer and have increasingly more and those who are increasingly numerous and feel but don’t understand that they are being pushed aside and, in the best-case scenarios, are being turned into docile, grazing consumers. It’s a historic process that cannot be perpetuated, that will explode in an uncontrolled catastrophe nobody wants, not even those at the top who are so accustomed to expanding their zones of influence during each controlled crisis, such as the one that will come in 2020.
The powerful old men who rule the world have an existential advantage, which is that they won’t live to see the fruits of their hate and greed. That’s why they don’t care about anything in the long run, even though they say the exact opposite over and over. This is especially true if they think they’ve managed to buy a penthouse in the kingdom of the Lord by virtue of paying alms and praying five minutes per day with their heads bowed. For them and for the working class, “time is money.” This is a myth that can only be busted by considering that no mountain of gold can buy them additional time. Since they can’t amass time, they instead amass gold while destroying the lives of the weakest and most desperate—of the youngest who far and away have more time than gold. It’s a sin for which they won’t be forgiven.
Jorge Majfud is a Uruguayan American writer and professor of Latin American literature and international studies at Jacksonville University.
This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.