Denying the Repression of Mexicans in the United States is as Incredible as Denying the Jewish Holocaust

The Failure of Congress to Enact Humane
Immigration Reform has Evolved our Country
into a state of National Psychosis

By Lorenzo Cano

Like a communicable disease our nation is infected. The latest outbreak and spread

of xenophobia in the state of Arizona has pushed us deeper into a state of national
psychosis. As a nation of diverse people we must step up our efforts so that xenophobia
can be challenged more effectively just as many have historically challenged and

continue to challenge racism in all its forms. Xenophobes fear the growing number
of Mexican Americans in the United States since they (xenophobes) believe that they
have a divine right to govern. They fear that a growing Mexican American presence in a

democratic United States will challenge their positions of power and privilege, and this
fear has led to the persecution of Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants under
the guise of enforcing immigration laws. Most disturbing is that the failure of the U.S.

Congress to enact meaningful and humane immigration reform after years of inaction
has contributed to an atmosphere of repression and violence against people of Mexican
descent. The murder of nine year old Brisenia Flores in Arizona last year by members of

the Minutemen is one of many acts of violence against people of Mexican descent. The
passage of Arizona Bill 1070 which obliges law enforcement officials to inquire about
the immigration status of those individuals they suspect may be in the country without

proper authorization is simply another example of xenophobic sentiments designed to
harass people of Mexican descent, regardless of their immigration status.

Many individuals in the United States deny the current systematic persecution of

undocumented Mexican residents. This is just as incredulous as denying that the
persecution against Jews and other people ever occurred as carried out by the Nazis
during the 1930’s through the mid 1940’s (over 5 million Gypsies, Poles, Slavs and

others were murdered as well). It is as incredulous as denying that the persecution and
genocide of indigenous Native Americans ever occurred or that African Americans were
never enslaved and brutally repressed throughout our nation’s history. These examples

are not intended to insinuate that the current persecution of undocumented residents has
reached the levels of severity as these earlier events in history, but rather than denying
that a grave level of repression and violence are occurring can lead us to even greater

levels of conflict; particularly if the Congress of the United States does not move with all
possible speed to reform our outdated immigration laws. It is also intended to highlight
that the severity of the current persecution of undocumented residents in the United

States is a gross violation of human and family rights with no adequate justification. As
stated above, the verbal hate mongering against Mexican undocumented residents is such
a regularly widespread phenomenon that it has evolved our country into a state of

national psychosis. A psychosis is defined as a defective condition characterized by a
loss of contact from reality. It is a serious problem for any infected individual as it is for
an infected nation. This was witnessed most clearly a few years ago when Fox News host

of the O’Reilley Factor, Bill O’Reilley, verbally attacked Geraldo Rivera while
discussing a drunken driving case that O’Reilley wanted to turn into an anti
undocumented (Mexican) immigrant bashing incident. O’Reilley was out of

control “foaming at the mouth” with extreme rage over the presence of undocumented
Mexican residents. The U.S. Senate’s failure to pass a comprehensive immigration
reform bill back in 2007 that would take into account the demands of the U.S. labor

market by, among other things, providing a path towards permanent residency for
undocumented residents has led to an increase in paranoia and violence against Latinos,
regardless of their immigration status. Rather than negotiate in good faith, a significant

number of U.S. Senators, mostly from the Republican Party, could not get themselves to
support important provisions on behalf of undocumented immigrants even though the
most reputable studies have pointed out the net-positive benefits of their presence and

contributions to our nation. In fact, a Migration Policy Institute study indicates that future
significant immigration to our country is essential to U.S. national interests.

What is behind this National Psychosis?

Vicious verbal attacks against Mexican undocumented migrants, such as O’Reilly’s
and now those of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, are heard every day on hundreds
of radio stations throughout the country. These attacks are also heard on television

programs and networks such as the one that was hosted by Lou Dobbs on CNN before
he was forced to resign due to his hate-mongering and deceitful comments about
Mexican undocumented residents. The nature and frequency of these attacks are linked

to xenophobic and racist sentiments deeply rooted in the collective psyche of a minority
but significant sector of U.S. society. Xenophobic behavior is not only displayed by
uneducated social misfits in our society, as one would expect, but is practiced by many

formally educated individuals at all levels of our society. For example, radio talk show
host, Michael Savage, has been banned from entering Britain precisely for the hatred that
he espouses against Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and others on his daily talk radio

program.

Xenophobia is defined as a fear of strangers or of immigrants who possess traits and
characteristics that some consider foreign to a nation’s culture, language and heritage.
As a result of this phobia many xenophobes engage in all types of hideous activities

to keep targeted groups from becoming part of society. Nativism is a synonymous
term applied to xenophobic sentiments and activities as they have evolved specifically
in the United States. Any individual in the U.S., regardless of his or her race, can be a

xenophobe (nativist). This is why a small number of Latinos and African Americans
have been associated with certain xenophobic organizations. However, xenophobia in
the United States has formed primarily among Anglo communities in the United States

and is historically tied to “White” nationalism. Xenophobia in the U.S. is recognized as a
convoluted form of nationalism (patriotism and loyalty to one’s country) causing many of
its followers and converts to feel frightened and insecure about their role and privileges

in society; particularly in light of the presence and growth of groups that they perceive to
be different.

On the other hand, racism is the belief that racial differences result in an inherent
superiority or inferiority of a particular race. In the United States certain sectors of

Anglo society historically have felt superior to people that possess physical traits and
characteristics common among individuals of Mexican ancestry such as darker skin
tones. It is the belief among a growing number of Americans of all racial, religious,

and ethnic backgrounds that the passage of Arizona Bill 1070 was influenced by both
xenophobic and racist attitudes.

Historically, racism and xenophobia have been major underlying social maladies
that have led to the specific discrimination and persecution of Mexican Americans in

the United States; an ethnic group that has a long history in this country. These twisted
and potentially dangerous sentiments are fueling the sectarian and state-sponsored
persecution and violence against Mexican undocumented residents in the U.S. today (as

well as against others who appear to be of Mexican descent such as Central Americans).
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, some of the anti-Mexican xenophobic
sectarian organizations in the U.S. today include: U.S. Border Watch; the Federation

for American Immigration Reform (FAIR); Sons of the Confederacy; Council of
Conservative Citizens (CCC); the Minute Men, and the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi
organization.

Mexican Americans (primarily U.S. born individuals) have a long history of

experiencing xenophobia and racism. Hundreds of examples have been documented in
academic studies, films, and court cases. Perhaps one of the most notorious is when
Second World War Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Macario Garcia, was denied

entrance to a restaurant in Sugar Land, Texas shortly after the war ended. Xenophobia
and racism against American citizens of Mexican descent have included: geographical
segregation; employment discrimination; patterns of abuse at the hands of law

enforcement officials; vigilante murder and justice; substandard education; electoral
fraud; exclusion from petit and grand juries; forced dislocations from their
neighborhoods; voter intimidation; language discrimination and much more.

Documentation of these and other experiences exists in abundance in similar fashion to
that of African Americans and Native Americans. Hence, the current persecution of
undocumented Mexican residents is another attempt by xenophobes and/or racist to

relegate people of Mexican descent to a position of powerlessness and has little to do
with the “undocumented” status of this group. As in the past, xenophobia and racism are
intersecting in order to maintain xenophobes in power and in control of the apparatus of

government. The City Council in Farmers Branch, Texas, adjacent to Dallas, is a good
example of this. The Mayor and City Council placed a proposition to the voters that
would have prohibited renting apartments to undocumented individuals and their

families. It was passed by a significant margin of Farmers Branch voters three years ago.
This ordinance was later struck down by a federal court as being unconstitutional. The
passage of this municipal ordinance was due primarily to the xenophobic and racist

sentiments among many voters living in Farmers Branch. The recent passage of a similar

type of bill in the small town of Fremont, Nebraska is another example of xenophobia,
racism, or the misinformation that is continuously being fed by the mass media against

undocumented residents. The passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 was passed for the
same reasons. Democracy simply doesn’t seem like such an attractive political system
when xenophobes and racists realize they may have to share political power with others.

Long History of the Spanish Language

Xenophobes oppose the use of languages other than English such as Spanish. This is
ludicrous since the English language wasn’t the first and will never be the only language

ever spoken in the United States. This is not to deny the importance and predominance of
English, but xenophobes cannot comprehend the presence, importance, and legitimacy of
other languages. Various forms of the Spanish language have existed in what is the

Southwestern part of the U.S. going back to the 1600’s. One only need study the history
of cities such as San Antonio, Texas, Sante Fe, New Mexico, and Los Angeles,
California. Yet, hate-mongering over the speaking and use of the Spanish language in the

U.S. along with anti immigrant inflammatory language in the electronic mass media,
have provoked an increase in the physical beating, kidnapping, and murder of Mexican
immigrants throughout the United States. A few years ago several young defendants

charged with beating and killing Miguel Vega in Yonkers, New York pleaded guilty. The
defendants admitted that they beat, robbed and killed Vega because they thought that the
32 year old Peruvian was a Mexican. It’s believed by a growing number of individuals

that many of the people committing these crimes are being set off by the hate mongering
practiced by O’Reilly, Michael Savage, John Hannity and others that are reckless in their
use of the airwaves. Although these individuals criticize “crime in America” their actions

are said to be provoking individuals to commit serious crimes in our country, including
murder. The murder of nine year old Brisenia Flores and her father in May of 2009 is just
one of several murders that can arguably be linked to the xenophobic attacks coming out

of talk radio. In this incident at least three members of the Minute Men, including 42 year
old Shawna Forde, broke the door down and shot and killed Raul Junior Flores and his
daughter, Brisenia. The three were allegedly looking for drugs to fund their anti-

immigrant activities. Shawna Forde was recently found guilty of murder for this crime.
On July 12, 2008 Luis Ramirez was beaten and killed by a group of White teenagers as
he was seen walking with his girlfriend’s sister who is an Anglo in Shenandoah,

Pennsylvania. Thus far, the assailants have either been set free or have been given much
lighter sentences other than what one would imagine from the murder of an innocent
individual. In December of that same year, Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhanay was hit and killed

with a baseball bat in Brooklyn, New York, an area that has seen an increase in the
number of Mexican and Latino immigrants. Earlier in 2008 a group of teenagers killed,
Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean resident living in Patchogue, New York. The teenagers

had a history of harassing Latinos and apparently were out looking to do some “beaner”
jumping.

These acts of intimidation and violence are occurring even though 74% of the most
prestigious economists have indicated that undocumented workers have a net positive

effect in the United States. 11% felt that they had no effect either way. In fact, the vast
majority of reputable research in this area comes to this conclusion (see Beyond Smoke
and Mirrors: Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration).Yet, xenophobic

talk radio hosts fail to provide this type of information when bashing undocumented
residents on their radio programs. These hosts and the radio stations that hire them are
behaving outside the parameters of what our society should allow on the airwaves.

Providing one’s opinion is one thing, but to systematically indulge in hate mongering day
in and day out against undocumented residents as they do is tantamount to shouting “fire”
in a crowded theater when none exists. This practice guarantees that more Mexican

undocumented residents (and others that may appear to be of Mexican descent including
U.S. citizens) are going to be needlessly hurt, trampled, and killed and this must be
stopped by the corporate media giants that allow this to happen. Ironically, these very

same media giants, such as Clear Channel, also own and operate media outlets that cater
specifically to Mexican immigrants knowing very well that many are undocumented but
they realize they can make substantial amounts of money in advertising dollars.

English language news media outlets, in particular, have failed to report the
xenophobic nature of organizations such as U.S. Border Watch and the Minute Men.
In fact, few media outlets have ever used the term “xenophobia” when reporting on the

activities of these groups. One of the reasons for this is that reporters and assignment
editors are unaware about the meaning of this form of prejudice and how it is interwoven
into the fabric and psyche of a nation. Like many media professionals during the growth

of the Nazi power surge in Germany, anti-Semitism was not recognized for what it
really was. The national psychosis prevalent during that time period in Germany blinded
individuals from reality. It became common knowledge that Jews, Gypsies, and other

groups were being incarcerated and murdered but Germans of diverse backgrounds
rationalized it as acceptable due to xenophobia—their own disconnection from reality
influenced by the dehumanizing and demonizing of specific sectors of society that

didn’t fit their notion of who belonged in their new world order. Many educated and
normally “decent” professionals in German society such as teachers, engineers, architects
and medical doctors accepted this brand of xenophobia (Nazism), and therefore,

supported the persecution of targeted groups, often without any feelings of guilt or
remorse, just as many people in the U.S. have no remorse for sectarian and state-
sponsored persecution of undocumented Mexican migrants in our country including

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and many others.

It is said that the Congress is currently unlikely and unwilling to pass an immigration
reform bill that will provide a path to permanent residency for many hard working

and honest undocumented residents and their children because it continues to be a
wedge issue and that those running for re-election may be defeated. If this is true, then
a significant number of our Congressional Representatives, and a significant part of the

electorate from their respective districts, have been manipulated by the xenophobes in the
mass media sponsored by the corporate media giants that sponsor them. Doing nothing,
other than border enforcement will only work to maintain an atmosphere of repression

which will lead to more violence, the separation of children from their parents, and the
murder of innocent individuals.

Attacks against Families

Today’s immigration policies and raids are having a devastating impact on thousands

of decent families. Hard-working individuals that simply want a better life for their
families are being incarcerated and deported without due process of law while many
children are being separated from their parents. Until recently immigrant children had

been incarcerated at the T. Don Hutto facility in Taylor, Texas (near Austin) for nothing
more than for traveling with their parents. As a result of pressure from human rights
groups this facility no longer incarcerates innocent children. Ironically, hardworking

parents are being arrested for doing nothing more than simply wanting to pick themselves
up from their own bootstraps. Believing that this type of repression is justified due to
the undocumented status of individual family members is to have a myopic and bizarre

view of our society. Worse of all, it capitulates to the acceptance of a dehumanizing
society where the violation of family and human rights has no virtue, and therefore is
of no significance. This is not what should be occurring in a nation that claims to be the

moral leader of the world. More importantly this mindset and Congressional inaction
has the danger of evolving us into a bigger and more dangerous era of racial and ethnic
conflict and violence. It is imperative that President Barack Obama and the Congress

from both political parties unite in a non-partisan manner to reform our immigration laws
by providing the opportunity for law-abiding undocumented residents to seek permanent
residency.

Immigrants form part of family and community networks. Many of these families are

mixed in terms of the immigration status of individual family members. When parents
are captured in an immigration raid and locked up and deported, there is a good chance
that their children will come home from school with no idea on the whereabouts of one

or both of their parents. Many of these children and teenagers are U.S. citizens by birth
but shun the idea of calling the police for fear that it will bring attention to the legal
status of their parents. When this occurs, the future of these children is jeopardized

with consequences that no decent society should tolerate. According to the Migration
Policy Institute there are approximately 3 million U.S. born children in the United States
where this potentially could occur. In addition, there are approximately 1.6 million

children who, like their parents, are undocumented. This means that 4.6 million children
and teenagers in our country could theoretically find themselves parentless or with the
possibility of losing one of their parents if the xenophobes and racists had their way.

The incarceration of productive and hardworking parents and innocent children is a
reflection of degenerative thinking. The accusation that these individuals have broken our
immigration laws and therefore deserve this treatment is simply a pretext, a sort of red-

herring, intended to gain support for the xenophobia that has run amuck in our country.

The Role of the Business Community

Interestingly, financial institutions and U.S. businesses, such as Bank of America,

Coca Cola, General Motors, and Wal-Mart understand the importance of undocumented
consumers to our local and national economies, even though many of these companies

are primarily concerned about making profits. Advertising dollars have increased

significantly in Spanish-language marketing strategies in the U.S. Only a fool would
think that advertising in Spanish is only intended for documented immigrants and U.S.
born Spanish Speaking individuals. The American business community sees the positive

contributions of undocumented residents as consumers. Therefore, the American business
community needs to become more vocal in countering and critiquing the xenophobic
hysteria that has engulfed our society, especially since many business enterprises have

benefited significantly from the presence of undocumented residents as consumers and
hardworking employees. For example, the business community in Utah is partially
credited by some for influencing state government there from passing a number of anti-

immigrant bills.

Mexican immigrant workers are indispensable to U.S. labor demands and will
continue to be in demand for the foreseeable future, even during times of economic
recession (especially with the aging and retirement of the baby boomers). Many level-

headed individuals of all ethnic and racial backgrounds recognize that hard working and
productive Mexican undocumented residents are a positive investment in our country’s
future and should be allowed an expedient path towards permanent residency, if only the

U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate would move in that direction. The
failure of the Congress to move decisively will mean that more xenophobic and racist
knee-jerk ordinances and laws will arise at the local and state levels such as Arizona S.B.

1070. The current attempt to eradicate Mexican American Studies from the public school
system in Arizona is an example of this. It should be noted how this new law to eradicate
Mexican American history and culture is uncannily similar to the attempt to eradicate

Jewish studies in Nazi Germany.

The failure to act by our Congress will perpetuate and increase the sectarian and
state-sponsored persecution and violence against undocumented Mexican immigrants
as well as Mexican Americans and any other individuals that may be perceived as being

undocumented. It will be tragic if the Congress decides to act only when a tragedy of
significant proportion occurs such as the widespread rioting which occurred in France
a few years ago among its segregated and discriminated immigrant population. Will

it be only then when the members of Congress will no longer be able to ignore the
consequences of their inaction? Apparently the murders of nine year old Brisena Flores,
Raul Junior Flores, Luis Ramirez, Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhanay, Miguel Vega, Marcelo

Lucero and many others are not enough to motivate the Congress to move quickly to
enact humane and comprehensive immigration reform that, among other things, will
provide a path towards permanent residency for honest and hard working individuals and

their families.

Lorenzo Cano is the associate director at the University of Houston’s Center for Mexican American
Studies. He can be reached at: Lcano

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