Ethnic cleansing lite, or how to Make America White Again

First, throw out of the country as many black, brown, Muslim, and Spanish-speaking people as possible. Then, prevent others from coming in, with walls and blanket bans barring all immigration from entire countries and regions. Finally, abolish the system of legal immigration that prevailed over the last half century and return to the race-based system in place from 1924 to 1965.

In broad strokes, this is the immigration plan Trump and the Republican Congress want to extort from Democrats in Congress under threat of blaming them for shutting down the government and using that as a hammer in the 2018 mid-term election. It amounts to a political project for ethnic cleansing, albeit not as brutal or rapid as that underway in Myanmar.

To call out the immigration bill being prepared by the Republican troika (House, Senate, President) as ethnic cleansing has never been done in the endless media coverage and talking-heads debates on immigration that I have been watching for months. This would be a transgression against the pseudo-objectivity of the mainstream media (MSM) which has received myriad knockdown pitches and spitballs from the administration and mostly answered with softballs.

Another issue not discussed in the MSM: The ethnic cleansing now being pushed by Trump and the Republicans is a virtual photocopy of the agenda of the racially-motivated anti-immigrant movements that arose as a backlash against growing immigration from the less developed world after the 1965 immigration reform.

The movement, led by such organizations as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and US English, aimed to stop the processes through which America was becoming less white and less Anglo-Saxon, culturally and linguistically. Movement leaders denied these were their goals. They tried to couch their objectives as progressive—zero population growth, environmental protection. In fact, secret memos, accounts of meetings and informal conversations among movement insiders, plus the nature of these groups’ funding sources, show that their real purpose was to prevent absolute White Anglo dominance, in population and culture, from slipping.

This Anglo-chauvinist project attracted a significant number of followers and had several successes against bilingualism, especially bilingual education. But, on the big one, immigration, they mostly failed. Until now.

To have an administration in the White House and in both houses of Congress adopt their agenda wholesale would have seemed like a pipe-dream to people like Dr. John Tanton when he founded US English more than four decades ago.

Tanton, like Trump, always disavowed racism. But in an internal US English communication he wrote about the threat that the men who could not keep their pants up (Third World people) would overtake in numbers those who did keep them up (white Americans). Which shows how prejudice and sexual anxiety fuel xenophobia and racism, from Tanton to Trump.

This pioneering xenophobic movement saw family-based legal immigration as the biggest problem and coined the term “chain migration.” The GOP has adopted this derisive term and most of the MSM has followed along. Now, the core goal of the hardline xenophobes is finally getting traction. The Trump-GOP alliance wants to end immigration based on family reunification and replace it with what Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vaguely described as a “merit-based” system.

In fact, the immigration system that exists today has the merit that it serves the needs of the U.S. economy and society remarkably well. Low wage employers in agriculture and the service sector—the latter a huge part of the economy—get the labor force they need. As do the would-be housewives who have gone into the work force massively in significant part with the help of low paid immigrant child-care workers. The ever-more critical high-tech industries get their programmers and engineers too. And, in an aging society, which includes the aging medical labor force, the increasing demand for doctors and nurses is being met mainly by immigrants. What happens without all these workers?

Now the GOP is cynically framing what amounts to blackmail as a gesture of bipartisanship. In exchange for being allowed to turn the entire immigration system on its head to satisfy xenophobia, Republicans are offering a path to citizenship for about 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who were children when they were brought here by their parents.

It’s a Machiavellian gambit by the Republicans. The Dreamers, as this group is called, are Americans in everything but legal status (no assimilation necessary); their education has cost the country billions; they are already making contributions to the economy that will only increase as they advance in their careers; because of their ages, they will be paying into the strapped social security system for decades. What a great concession the Republicans are making by protecting these young people!

In fact, the Democrats’ insistence that the Dreamers be protected from deportation gives the Republicans an out from their own folly and from the corner they have painted themselves into for fear of their ultra-xenophobic supporters. Throwing the Dreamers out would be insane for the economy. It would be bad for the fraying social security system. Sending them back to countries they don’t even remember is bad optics and worse politics. Fact-based media coverage of the expulsion process will add more proof to the GOP’s well-earned reputation as the party of cruelty. It would be unpopular with the American people, especially with business.

Instead of incurring these costs, the GOP has chosen to drive a hard bargain and to offer Democrats a very bad deal.

As I write this the situation is at an impasse. The Democrats have already conceded to fund Trump’s most tangible folly, the Wall that in Trump’s sick imagination the Mexicans were going to pay for. But the Republicans want nothing less than to end immigration as we know it. No more immigrants from “shithole” countries, legal or illegal.  Bring in the Norwegians so that America can become white again.

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