I think anyone who wants to engage you in a serious discussion about immigration reform should first be required to take a simple geography test.
Show them a map of the Western hemisphere. If they can name even five of the twenty sovereign nations that lie south of the U.S. border with Mexico then chances are good they can at least walk and chew gum at the same time and might have something besides rank ignorance to contribute to the conversation.
As many of my Latino friends can attest, it's amazing how many U.S. citizens, hearing them speak for the first time, ask what part of Mexico they're from. “You speak Spanish, therefore you must be a Mexican!”
Behind the obvious ignorance of this stereotyping, there is also a more sinister dynamic at play. This attitude, which seems to be on the rise since the ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency, becomes a convenient tool for the propagandists in his administration who are working overtime to transform undocumented Latinos into convenient scapegoats for all that ails modern society.
The Bible’s Book of Leviticus describes the scapegoat as an actual goat released into the desert by a priest in a practice designed to unburden the Jewish people of their sins. Since then, scapegoating has become a time-honored tradition employed by fascists and autocrats throughout history to deflect blame for their own shortcomings in governance and assign the ills of society to a marginalized group with little or no power to defend themselves.
According to Robert Soucy, Professor Emeritus of History, Oberlin College, scapegoating is an important tool of propaganda– the most famous example in recent history being the tendency of Nazi propaganda to accused Jews of being the singular source of Germany's economic woes and political collapse.
Today, under the leadership of U.S. Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the Trump administration is working overtime to stereotype and demonize an entire class of immigrants as dangerous criminals, ignoring study after study which prove that their positive contributions to society far outweigh the negative.
Last week, the Trump administration rolled out the latest weapon in its war on immigration reform–
a victim's advocacy initiative called VOICE, the acronym for Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement.
VOICE was established by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to acknowledge and assist U.S. citizens whose lives have been impacted by criminal alien behavior. According to the mission statement: ICE wants to ensure those victimized by criminal aliens feel heard, seen and supported.
VOICE has set up a toll-free hotline to answer questions from these crime victims– 1-855-488-6423
and its office can provide registered victims and witnesses with detainee location data through ICE Enforcement and Removal Operation’s (ERO) Online Detainee Locator System (ODLS). This locator information is available to anyone, including family members of ICE detainees and can be accessed at locator.ice.gov/odls/homePage.do
Georgia's Republican lawmakers continue playing catch-up with their pals in the Arizona, Texas, and Alabama state capitols when it comes to crafting anti-immigrant legislation. This spring, Savannah Representative, Jesse Petrea, introduced HB 452 which targets what he calls “criminal aliens.” It orders the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to launch an online registry – which lists “criminal aliens” who have been released from jail and who now reside in Georgia. The registry lists personal information such as name, address, etc. and under Trump's new and improved definition of “criminal” will include any and all immigrants charged with crimes, some of them as minor as driving without a license. Governor Deal signed the bill into law last month.
Anyone who thinks this legislation does not have potentially lethal consequences has not been paying attention to the reports of “concerned” citizens taking the law into their own hands and gunning down people of color during the past year. “So there's this illegal living in that gray house down on the corner? I don't think he should be here.”
One of the few positive outcomes I've witnessed during Donald Trumps' first 100 days in office is the formation of an organized resistance from people who are horrified to see the destruction of values and ideals that have made our country a beacon of hope and freedom for nations around the globe.
Thus, I was hardly surprised to discover that, within minutes of its rollout last Wednesday, thousands of people were calling the VOICE hotline to report abductions by space aliens.
To those ICE officials who expressed outrage that a “well-meaning” government service should be disrespected and sabotaged by pranksters, my reply is that many innocent lives are at stake (and I'm not just referring to those victimized by criminal aliens).
You don't need a degree in political science to understand how Trump's message equating “illegal aliens” with “dangerous criminals” is reinforcing the stereotypical thinking of his followers.
I nearly ran my car off the road early last week while listening to the radio as Savannah's homegrown version of Rush Limbaugh described a triple homicide that occurred in Savannah over the previous weekend. While police investigators were still trying to establish a motive for the murders, this genius had already figured it out. “Folks, this is just another reason why we so desperately need to close our borders to all the criminals and filth that are invading our country,” he said.
Police later established that an African-American gang was responsible for the deaths, but, hey– you never want to miss a good opportunity to blame those dastardly “illegals” for all that ails us.