From the time that the Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock, the immigrant dream of coming to America has been one of finding greater freedom. (Of course, I am referring to immigrants who came here voluntarily, not those who were dragged here in chains as slaves.) But freedom has never been compatible with the domination of a nation's political system by a small, privileged, wealthy elite. Throughout recorded history, and in every part of the world, this has always been the case.
For decades, America has been moving in the direction of becoming a "guided" democracy rather than a real one, due almost entirely to the pernicious influence of money over our election system. Never has this been clearer than it is now, when a small group of billionaires have the power, thanks to Citizens United, to tilt this fall's elections to the right, not only at the federal level, but in state after state.
According to the Washington post, Super-Pacs controlled by Karl Rove and the Koch brothers alone will be able to pour $1 billion into swaying this election toward the party, and the candidates, who are most friendly the interests of wealthy individuals and powerful corporations. At the same time, at least 17 states have passed laws making it harder for minorities, the less well off, and young people to vote. Florida is now in the process of purging an estimated 100,000 people, mainly Hispanics, from its voting roles.
From this kind of rigged election, it is much more likely that the winners will be politicians devoted to serving the interests of the small wealthy elite, also known as the 1 per cent. Our recent history has shown that when this group takes power, freedom comes under attack.
We saw evidence of this during the George W. Bush years, when his administration claimed to be above the Constitution in the name of the "War on Terror", at the same time that it was putting through tax cuts for the rich and engaging in an Iraq war which, whatever other justifications there may or may not have been for it, resulted in huge profits for well connected defense companies. That administration also give us Guantanamo and "enhanced" interrogation.
If America is taken over by right wing politicians who could make Bush/Cheney look like liberals by comparison this fall, freedom will inevitably come under even greater attack. Already, even under the current administration, we now have a law that allows the government to lock up American citizens indefinitely, without charges or trial, merely under suspicion of supporting terrorism. President Obama has pledged never to use this law, but would a President Romney, who has said that important decisions should be made behind closed doors, do the same?
At the same time, Internet censorship is already under discussion, and one powerful right wing propaganda channel, Fox News, continues to have an outsize influence on our political debate. How much access to real information will the public continue to have after a right wing coup in this November's election, if there is one?
All of this does not bode well for immigrants. Traditionally, and to a large extent, still, immigrants have been among the least powerful, the least privileged, and the least welcomed in American society. If the 1 per cent take over this fall, we can expect even more scapegoating of immigrants, more restrictive laws and, yes, even more and faster deportations, as the right wing tries to solidify its power by appealing even more than ever to racial prejudices.
Most of all, how many immigrants will continue to want to come in or live in a less free America, where the billionaires and big corporate interests call all the shots? If the right wing Super-Pacs and the politicians who are furiously trying to purge minorities and the poor from the voting rolls have their way this fall, we may soon find out.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.