How Anti-immigrant Laws Carry Un-American Ideas
As in generations past, undocumented workers face a new era of crisis,
embodied in a new bill. There are no such things as illegal immigrants, just illegal
It is ironic that much of the history of this nation of immigrants
hostility toward immigrants: the Nationality Act of 1790, which made
citizenship available to only free white people; the 1882 Chinese
Act, which barred immigration of Chinese for 10 years; the failure to
refugees from Hitler's Germany; and the relocation of Japanese
into internment camps during World War II.
Yet America has also struck down many of these laws, demonstrating that
xenophobia and nativism are un-American. Which is why what's happening
Washington is so out of step with the rest of America.
Immigrants are now again in a period of crisis. The House recently
H.R. 4437, the "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal
Control Act." The bill would deprive immigrants of due process,
families, and criminalize the 11 million undocumented immigrants who
the United States. The temporary-worker provision would formalize a
system: American and "temporary other."
Children would be especially punished. Overnight, three million U.S.
citizens, children of undocumented immigrants, could be orphaned with
deportation of their parents.
Bills like H.R. 4437, a version of which is being reviewed by Sen.
Specter and his Judiciary Committee, not only target undocumented
They are also directed at any U.S. citizen who safeguards the cherished
American spirit of brotherhood and equality.
For example, the bill would criminalize any American who supports the
undocumented, including such simple activities as accompaniment
counseling to a battered woman. This provision would transform the work
many charitable organizations into felonies. Further, the bill would
encourage social service organizations to violate Title VI of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, which says public services cannot be denied on the
of national origin.
Fear of these anti-American proposals has caused some immigration
to support a lesser-evil approach - a bill by Sens. Ted Kennedy (D.,
and John McCain (R., Ariz.) - which also calls for increased
a new guest-worker program. Unlike the other bills, though, this one
provides a pathway to legal residency for the undocumented.
Still, what we really need are more policies that address the root
immigration. We forget that U.S. foreign policy creates forced
For example, so-called free-trade agreements devastate local economies
overseas - pushing workers to seek alternative employment or another
to work in.
One way to approach this issue positively is to take a fraction of the
going into beefed-up border enforcement and militarization and redirect
to programs for commodity stabilization, rural credit, and
development in countries from which many of the undocumented come.
In the meantime, the undocumented workers deserve more than
citizenship. Anything short of a pathway to legal permanency is a
injustice: From 1942 to 1964, Mexican farmworkers, in the United States
under the the Braceros program, were deported if they went on strike.
workers in today's farm labor programs who do not accept abuse are
blacklisted. Contract workers in American Samoa's garment factories
held in involuntary servitude.
Immigrants deserve a meaningful pathway to amnesty through legal,
residency. The last amnesty was signed into law by Ronald Reagan in
led to legalization for more than six million - people who are now
contributing to this nation of immigrants.
As the Senate takes up immigration reform next week, let's make sure
any of H.R. 4437's anti-American principles wind up in the
bucket along with the rest of the anti-immigrant laws this nation has
Reproduced with permission from Jason Jaewan Lee.
About The Author
Jason Jaewan Lee, a native of Philadelphia, is a 2nd generation Korean American. Upon graduating from Occidental College, in Los Angeles, he began freelance writing, and community work in Philadelphia. He currently is director of community development for the Southeast Asian Mutual
Assistance Association Coalition, Inc.(SEAMAAC). SEAMAAC is a charitable organization serving immigrant and refugee communities in Philadelphia.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.