The immigrants themselves, though, have a flurry of responses to this. Primarily, they say that the law at issue here is fundamentally unjust -- it keeps parents away from children, and dooms millions to a life of subsistence living and grinding poverty. They also claim it's stigmatizing -- it wasn't in the article, but I've heard the argument that we don't use the term "illegal" to apply to any other crime. When I jaywalk, am I an "illegal walker"? Was Ken Lay an "illegal CEO"?
But actually that debate, interesting as it is, is not what motivates this post. Rather, I wanted to highlight how one opponent of undocumented immigration characterized his support of a harsh crackdown bill in Prince Williams County, Virginia:
"There are places in Woodbridge where you can go and not hear a single word of English being spoken, and that's very troubling to me, because it shows a lack of integration in the process. . . . Sometimes it's difficult even to be understood by the store clerks."
Walker said he thinks immigrants' lack of assimilation might be linked to their residency status.
"Let's face it. It's not, by and large, doctors and lawyers who are sneaking across the border," he said. "I think when people are sneaking across the border, it seems they are more prone to stay in their own enclaves and in houses with multiple families and any number of people and to create a Latino subculture."
Walker said he can't know for sure how many immigrants who don't speak English are in the country illegally.
"They could have every right to be here," he said, adding that his support for the supervisors' resolution had no basis in ethnic or racial prejudice.
Let's review. Mr. Walker supports this resolution because, a) many immigrants he sees don't speak English, or don't speak it as well as he'd like, b) immigrants aren't assimilating quickly enough, c) immigrants are from the wrong social class, d) their forming "enclaves" with "multiple families" and thus creating "a Latino subculture" and e) he has no idea the degree to which any of these "harms" correlate to legal or illegal status.
Then he tells us his support has "no basis in ethnic or racial prejudice".
That entire line of reasoning was a prolonged flurry fearful of, to quote him directly, the creation of a "Latino subculture". That's the essence of ethnic prejudice! The term dissolves into nothingness if this isn't included. Indeed, this man can't even resort to the usual dodge about how he's not demanding Latinos act "White", he just wants them to adopt universal values of hard work. These men and women hold down jobs. They work long hours. They build businesses. They contribute to the economy. So long as they do that, I couldn't care less how they decorate their home or what foods they eat or what friends the associate or what language they speak to their pals.
Even hardened bigots often do not object to the presence of a few token minorities in their midst. What they rebel against is the assertion of any independent identity against that of the dominant group. Charles Lindburgh, a notorious anti-Semite, once helped bring over an entire ship full of Jewish refugees from Germany. Writing in his diary, he stated that "A few Jews add strength and character to a country, but too many create chaos." That's anti-Semitism. The litmus test for prejudice isn't that you're willing to concede that a few minorities can enjoy America's bounty so long as they keep quiet and don't remind anybody that they have their own culture. If you're willing to allow Jews in America only insofar as we're willing to stay invisible and out of your way, you're an anti-Semite, plain and simple. If you're willing to allow Latinos in America only if they act White -- even if they hold a job, even if they employ workers, even if they want nothing more than to live the American dream -- you're a racist, equally simple.