Vicious, hateful rhetoric out of the mouths of Republicans roars a backwards mindset, the dehumanization of immigrants as segments they wish to continue to isolate.
Though President Abraham Lincoln’s historic Emancipation Proclamation ending the inhumane and terrifying institution of slavery in the United States went into effect on January 1, 1863, some politicians and media personalities would have us return to the shameful atrocities of the past.
Though the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees any person born within our borders citizenship (“birthright citizenship”), Donald Trump, in his quest as the Republican standard bearer for the White House proposed not only the erection of a 20-foot wall spanning the entire US southern border with Mexico, but this week argued that children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants, whom Trump and later Jeb Bush pejoratively referred to as so-called “anchor babies, should lose their citizenship status. He asserted that we must “keep families together” by throwing out of the country these children along with the remainder of their family members. Though the rhetoric around issues of immigration has long been divisive and contentious, I thought that Trump had brought it to a new low when during his announcement for the Presidency, Trump figuratively spit in the faces of minoritized “racial” groups, in particular Latinos and Latinas, during his off-scripted rambling speech:
“The US has become a dumping ground for everyone else’s problems,” he said. “[Mexico is] sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and they’re rapists.”
Trump eventually enlarged his dehumanizing representations to include people in all of Latin America.
Donald Trump, arguably the more prominent of the so-called “birthers,” continually accused President Obama of illegitimacy as Commander in Chief by arguing that he was born outside the United States, even well after the President released his official birth certificate. This along with his supposed investigations into Mr. Obama’s time spent in Indonesia as a child, and inquiries into his African roots on his father’s side coexist as not-so-veiled xenophobic and racist threats.
Trump echoes other politicians who also currently demonize immigrants coming from our southern borders. According to Iowa Republican Representative Steve King:
“There are kids that were brought into this country by their parents unknowing they were breaking the law…[and] they weren’t all brought in by their parents. For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert….”
And Florida Republican Representative Rich Nugent:
“Listen, if you’re 14, 15, 16, 17 years old, and you’re coming from a country that’s gang-infested—particularly with MS-13 types, that is the most aggressive of all the street gangs—when you have those types coming across the border, they’re not children at that point. These kids have been brought up in a culture of thievery, a culture of murder, of rape. And now we are going to infuse them into the American culture. It’s just ludicrous.”
And, of course, we cannot exclude Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican Representative, who warns of grave public health threats. In a July 7, 2014, letter Gingrey wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
“As a physician for over 30 years, I am well aware of the dangers infectious diseases pose. In fact, infectious diseases remain in the top 10 causes of death in the United States….Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.”
Unfortunately, as vicious and hateful are Trump, King, Nugent, and Gingrey in positioning themselves within the overall immigration debates, their rhetoric pales in comparison to current presidential candidate Ben Carson and conservative Iowa radio talk show host Jan Mickelson.
Carson stated as he walked along the Arizona and Mexico borders on August 19, 2015 that he would not rule out the use of military-style drone strikes to take out undocumented people attempting to surreptitiously enter the US. For Carson, assassinating people who are trying to build a better life for themselves and their families seems a reasonable and logical tactic. Though vitriolic and totally over the top in terms of strategies, when I heard Carson talking about this, while I was moved to anger, for a number of reasons I wasn’t particularly surprised since the Republican Party’s obsession with guns and other forms of weaponry has become a mainstay in its policy directives.
Though I find myself becoming increasing numb by the hyperbolic political rhetoric, I found myself completely stunned by statements of radio host Jan Mickelson on his recent comments about undocumented immigrants. I lived in Iowa for 9 years until two years ago, and I was well aware of Mickelson’s brand of venom. I even appeared on his program a number of years ago, somewhere around 2005 or 2006, when I answered his twisted questions over my contention that “sexual orientation” and “gender identity and expression” needed to be included as explicitly protected categories, along with “race,” “color,” “ethnicity,” “nationality,” “religion,” “disability,” “gender,” “socioeconomic class,” and others in Iowa school’s anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policies.
Jan Mickelson floored me when I read the transcripts of his broadcast of August 17, 2015 in which he rejected the idea of deportation for undocumented immigrants. Instead, he would render them as the property of the state to do with as it wanted. He said he would follow the lead of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio who argued for the placement of immigrants into “tent cities” if they did not voluntarily leave the country by a set deadline. Argued Mickelson:
“If you are here without our permission, and we have given you two months to leave, and you’re still here, and we find that you’re still here after we’ve given you the deadline to leave, then you become property of the state of Iowa. And we have a job for you. And we start using compelled labor, the people who are here illegally would therefore be owned by the state and become an asset of the state rather than a liability, and we start inventing jobs for them to do.”
Following the host’s assertion, a caller said that it “sounds an awful lot like slavery,” to which Mickelson responded, “Well, what’s wrong with slavery.”
Mickelson referred to his hypothetical slaves as “new assets”: “Put up a tent village, we feed and water these new assets, we give them minimal shelter, minimal nutrition, and offer them the opportunity to work for the benefit of the taxpayers of the state of Iowa. All they have to do to avoid servitude is to leave.”
Sometimes, I simply can’t fathom what some people believe and say. Mickelson’s statements go far beyond his quest for ratings. They enter into the realm of pure hatred. His radio station would fire him immediately if his words had not resonated with a large segment of his listenership, which, unfortunately, they do.
Though I believe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his assertion that ““The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” I know as well that the arc often circles back upon itself seemingly erasing its forward trajectory before reaching its final resting place. Current immigration rhetoric harkens back to actions taken by European-heritage invaders that resulted in the genocidal slaughters of First Nation peoples in the “Americas,” to the Congressional refusals of permitting refugees entry to escape Nazi horrors during World War II, to the demonization and eventual incarceration into concentration camps of JAPANESE immigrants and birthright children into interior sectors of this country.
I choose not to heed with words of the bigoted, but rather to follow the words of scholar and activist Cornel West:
“You tell the truth. You sacrifice your popularity for integrity. There is a willingness to give your life back to the people given that, in the end, they basically gave it to you, because we are who we are because somebody loved us anyway.”
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