Historically, economic hardship and
high unemployment tend to bring out anti-immigration sentiment. This can
mean economic protectionism as well as cultural nativism--an attempt to preserve historical ethnic demographics. The U.S. has seen such
movements in the anti-Catholic Know Nothings of the 1850s and, perhaps, contemporary
groups agitating against Hispanic immigration. In today's rough economy,
is nativism again on the rise? With immigration reform possibly the next big Democratic
, could anti-immigration anger endanger the legislation
before it's even off the ground?
- Tea Party's Nativism Will
Shock Everyone The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder warns, "health
care will be child's play compared to the tantrums over the prospect of
earned legalization and other measures. The overlap between the Tea
Partiers and ethnocentric immigration restrictionists is huge, and even
many Republicans worry that the embedded nativism in the movement,
whether or not it is also racialized (as a proxy for being against Obama
and his ilk) will come to the fore in a way that once again diminishes
the fervor of right-leaning independents and energizes Hispanics."
- GOP Riding Anti-Immigrant Wave The American Prospect's Gabriel Arana puts it
plainly: "America has become a more hostile place for immigrants."
Republicans are seeking to champion the shift:
election, the Republican Party has become more anti-immigrant, making
the sort of bipartisan movement on immigration reform we saw in 2006
unlikely. Membership in the dubiously named House
Immigration Reform Caucus, a nativist coalition whose initiatives
have included an outright ban on all immigration -- legal and illegal --
has increased dramatically since the 2006 protests; for years it had
membership in the teens, but it now includes 110 members. Republicans
who once supported comprehensive immigration reform no longer do. For
example, McCain's 2005 plan would have granted undocumented immigrants
amnesty, but the senator has since backed down from the measure.
Recession Is Populist, Not Nativist The Washington Post's Ezra Klein finds poll
numbers that show only a slight increase in anti-immigration
sentiment. The numbers "don't paint a picture of nativism on an
unchecked rise. And perhaps that's to be expected. People blame this
recession on Wall Street. Illegal immigrants, love 'em or hate 'em,
aren't at the forefront of people's minds."
- You Want Nativism?
Push Immigration Reform Mother Jones' Kevin Drum promises a Democratic
effort to reform immigration would wake the sleeping nativist dragon.
"The fact is that political dogs never bark until an issue
becomes an active one. Opposition to Social Security privatization was
pretty mild until 2005, when George Bush turned it into an active issue.
Opposition to healthcare reform was mild until 2009, when Barack Obama
turned it into an active issue. Etc."
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