From Bad to Worse: Immigrant Smearing in a Time of Midterm Cholera

Well it’s finally here—open season on immigrants. You don’t even have to stare into the headlights of campaign politics to observe how blithely some candidates have taken aim at their opponents and managed to catch immigrants in their crosshairs. Two recent campaign ads portray undocumented immigrants as darkly-clothed thieves—like in one of those overly-dramatized alarm system commercials where just when you turn your back, Hispanic immigrants apparently come sneaking across the border, receive over-sized checks, and steal your children’s college tuition. Right.

Aside from the blatant racial stereotyping, the authors of these ads don’t even get their twisted “facts” straight. But even more troubling is the ubiquity of immigrant-bashing in the run up to midterms. Ever since Arizona’s SB 1070—and some would correctly argue well before—demonizing immigrants has evolved into the latest political strategy in campaign warfare. At least we’d expect this from restrictionsist groups, who by the way, are still hard at work scapegoating immigrants with their usual broken logic, loose facts and ludicrous conclusions. But now it’s going mainstream.

Let’s start with senatorial candidate, Sharron Angle (R-NV), who approved this message:

 

And this ad was approved by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who’s running for re-election:

So in the first video we have tax breaks, Social Security benefits and preferred college tuition rates for undocumented immigrants—and footage of Latino immigrants sneaking across the border. The second video features, footage of immigrants sneaking across the border (with flashlights, mind you), welcoming marching bands, and this is my favorite, undocumented immigrants receiving a Publishers Clearing House-sized check, riding away in a limo, as the band plays and fireworks burst overhead. There may also have been a high five, but you’ll have to check.

Clearly, as America’s Voice references in a blog post, fact-checkers and journalists have dissected these spurious claims and found them to be terribly misleading, if not untrue. But what did we expect? Facts often end up on the cutting room floor, especially when political gains are possible by ignoring them. It is, as Adam Sewer of the American Prospect points out, “a transparent attempt to gain political support by demonizing Latinos.” Which gets us where exactly? Sure, some candidates will likely ride the anti-immigrant wave into office, but what happens when we DO eventually decide to tackle immigration once and for all? It’s not like our broken immigration system is going anywhere and it’s clearly not feasible to deport nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants? Are we really going to begin a serious policy debate with race-baiting and immigrant-bashing?

Practical policy solutions to our immigration problems won’t be found by exploiting and distorting an emotional issue. All politicians need to move out of a framework of “who’s the toughest on immigration” and into “what are the problems and how do we fix them,” or our immigration problems, much like television campaign ads, will only get worse.

Photo by Arenamontanus.

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  1. 1 in 10 voters is a “New American” « Reform Immigration For America | October 14, 2010

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