Like the rest of the country, immigration reform is top of mind for the folks around our office this month.
Now that the U.S. Congress seems to have exhausted the delaying tactics that allowed them to continuously “kick this can” down the road, it appears we have officially run out of road!
“Wait, wait, don't tell me” is one of the most popular shows on National Public Radio. Airing locally on Saturdays, the show features lively repartee between host, Peter Sagal, celebrity panelists and phone-in contestants who vie for a chance to have iconic NPR radio announcer, Carl Kasell, record the voicemail greeting on their telephones.
My favorite segment each week is "Bluff the Listener," wherein a contestant hears three outlandish stories based on a common theme. Two of the stories are fake, while the third describes a genuine event. The contestant has to listen to each news piece, then choose the one that actually happened.
It's an entertaining concept but also a vivid reminder that we live in an age when fact is easily confused with fiction and I give Donald Trump a lot of credit for this phenomenon. Trump’s constant harping on “fake news” has created a world where reality has become fluid and each of us is encouraged to pick and choose our own version of truth.
But I assure you the racist graffiti spray-painted on the walls of a couple Hispanic restaurants on Savannah's Southside during the early morning hours of New Year’s Day was not imaginary. The concrete blocks that shattered the glass front doors of La Nopalera Mexican Restaurant on Mall Boulevard and Antojo Latino a few blocks away were very real indeed. Neither place was robbed, just vandalized.
“Spic” was sprayed across both of these storefronts, along with a few other choice words. This hate-filled slur harkens back to an earlier age when ethnic slurs were tolerated and even celebrated in the guise of humor (a la Don Rickles). But there was nothing remotely humorous about these latest events.
I’d like to think we’ve progressed as a society during the five decades that have elapsed since the passage of landmark civil rights legislation in the 60’s but Donald Trump has surrounded himself with a cabinet dominated by white men who make no apology for their stubborn determination to turn back the clock on social reforms and their willingness to feed the darker impulses of nativists and white nationalists.
Fake news has been around for a long time and now two of its most prominent adherents are Trump’s closest immigration advisors, Stephen Miller and Kris Kobach. Both men are ardent supporters of anti-immigrant think tanks, and regardless of what you read in the news about Trump’s willingness to forge a compromise on immigration reform, remember that these are the men positioned to whisper in Trump’s ear before he signs off on any agreement.
The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has been branded a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and is famous for twisting and distorting immigration statistics to create a negative image of Latino immigrants. The Federation for American Immigration Reform or FAIR has one primary objective– to ensure that the U.S. maintains its majority white population.
I have been studying and researching immigration issues for many years and I have learned to question any and all statistics promoted by either FAIR or CIS.
I want to get excited about the possibility that we are finally ready to craft a compromise that insures a bright future for DREAMers and other immigrant groups, but I have no illusions it will be easy. Hate sprayed from an aerosol can is ugly but it’s the sly winks and conspiratorial whispers we should worry about most of all.