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  1. #1
    Wounded Ronin's Avatar
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    Help me understand why immigration is such a contentious political issue in the US

    I've been reading about the government shutdown in the news and how a lot of it has to do with failure to reach an agreement on DACA.

    Clearly, immigration is a very contentious political issue in the US. It appears that Donald Trump ran in large part on an the idea of immigration and borders. For some reason some people still like the idea of building a wall to keep immigrants out, regardless of whether or not such a measure makes sense fiscally or practically.

    I've also heard rhetoric about "millions" of "illegals" and facebook memes about the idea of cultural integration.

    Of course, the abstract or academic explanation would be that it has to do with generalized fears of cultural displacement or loss of hegemony. After all, why else would there be support for travel bans from certain countries that the supporters haven't even visited and hence don't know? But I don't just want to buy into an abstract explanation of people I haven't necessarily met.

    I mean, maybe in places in the US I haven't been, things are different in some way and the issue is more concrete and less abstract. Is there something I'm overlooking?

    Also, why the emphasis on trying to block immigration, rather than penalize businesses that violate labor laws? If the concern is labor displacement, surely the latter would be a more effective strategy than the former.

    The rhetoric seems disjointed from my day to day experience. Can anyone relate to this issue and help me understand why it seems to evoke such passions?
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    *sighs heavily*

    Ok. This is a LOT to unpack in one post, but I will try to keep it within reason.

    At this point it boils down to traditions as old as anyone can remember. And in some form or fashion, it has always been this way.

    America is a nation largely settled by waves of immigration, and for the first... well about 100 years of our existence, this was fine, but starting in the 1880's the world outside the US in various places had gone right to ****, I mean famines, death, wholesale slaughter... you know, normal ****.

    BUT, America, largely thanks to some economically sound if unethical as hell decisions by our leaders following the War of Northern Aggression, was on an economic boom. And, we didn't, up to this point, have any rules about immigration. It was like the lady on the statue said about the poor and the tired and such.
    Problem is, there got to be FAR more tired and poor than we could accommodate, a lot of them brought here for no other reason than to exploit them for cheap labor in virtual slavery situations. So we started passing rules regarding immigration to limit this. Keep in mind these rules were tinged with more than a hint of racism as well. But we'll come back to that.

    The thing is, when you pass these sorts of laws, there is the need to create other laws and agencies to enforce the first laws, until we have our current immigration process. Now, I don't know any rational person who is opposed to LEGAL immigration through our current process. It is a difficult, time consuming, but ultimately worthwhile process that isn't that out of line with other similar nations.

    What many people object to is the idea that someone can bypass that process and still expect to be treated with the same dignity and rights as a citizen of the United States.

    Now keeping in mind that there was a degree of racism embedded in our earliest immigration laws; it's still there. Though to a much lesser degree than it was.

    That brings us to today's situation, where our political masters have decided that this is something we should fight each other over because it is convenient for them. Most of the outrage on both sides of the immigration issue is counter-productive nonsense that achieves little and is quite expensive. BUT it serves to identify people based on what are believed to be perceived traits. For example, if you oppose illegal immigration, because our immigration system had some degree of racism in it when it was set up, you can conveniently be labeled a racist, or xenophobic, thus one doesn't have to actually engage with you.
    On the other side, if you support streamlining our immigration system or making it easier to pursue legal immigration, you can be labeled a "liberal cuck" with the same result.

    See how convenient it is?
    Now, this is all BEFORE I get to the "plight of the downtrodden in our country". Ultimately that is a non-starter as an argument but it goes something like this: Immigrants work cheaper than local labor, and tend to work harder, and because they lack many of the skills of the local job market, they tend to gravitate towards jobs that require universal skill sets, such as blue collar labor and service industry jobs. This "takes" those jobs from the local labor market.

    The issue with this argument is it just doesn't happen that way in MOST markets. That said, there are SOME specialized markets and industries where it is a greater concern. Just far less than is portrayed in common media.

    I have now written a bit on this and realized that I have just glossed the surface, but check out this link for more history of immigration in the US:
    https://www.uscis.gov/history-and-ge...gency-history/

    And this link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histor...ary_since_1830

    To get an idea of just HOW diverse the US actually is.
    Now, remember that racism I mentioned earlier?
    Another convenient part of that is that it always seems to be directed at whoever is the newcomer in the area for the most part. Once it was the Irish, then it was the Italians, the Chinese, the Germans (partly influenced by wars), Mexicans, various Middle Eastern countries... so on and so forth. African-Americans and Native-Americans are a bit different since one was brought here largely against there will as prisoners and the other was already here and lost there land to the violence, greed, and diseases of other cultures.
    But outside of that, whoever is the newcomer gets hate for a bit. And the more different their culture is from the existing ones, the more difficult it is for them to integrate and overcome this.

  3. #3
    Wounded Ronin's Avatar
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    Like you said, maybe it's always been this way. Maybe the fact that people in the US seem more sensitive about it or willing to call it out is actually a sign that society is changing.

    It sounds like so much about this is about cultural or group identity. Maybe the right word would be "xenophobia" moreso than "racism" per se?

    So what is up with people who feel that their cultural hegemony is in jeopardy? Why would they believe such a thing, just because of the presence of immigrants legal and otherwise? Why the desire to be able to believe that everyone thinks and acts in the way they do, or strives to do so?
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    Article from The Economist: https://www.economist.com/news/unite...-used-be-found

    ONE moonlit night 13 years ago Jennifer crossed into Texas, squeezed into a car footwell. Her mother had made the clandestine journey from their native Guatemala, looking for work to help pay for Jennifer’s leukaemia treatment, five years earlier. Having established herself in Maryland, cleaning houses and caring for children, she wanted her son and two daughters—including Jennifer, by then six and cancer-free—with her. “All I remember is staring at the moon,” Jennifer recalls. “So long as I could see it, I thought we’d be OK.”

    Now in her last year of high school in Maryland, Jennifer is the commander of her school’s air cadets and has been offered a place by six colleges. Whether she will be able to join the air force, as she would like, or study for a degree, or even remain in America is unclear, however. She is one of the 700,000 beneficiaries of an Obama-era programme, known by its acronym DACA, that shields illegal immigrants brought to America as children from deportation; but which President Donald Trump has ended. The programme is due to lapse on March 5th, leaving its beneficiaries, known as “Dreamers”, liable for expulsion. This would be so obviously counter-productive that only a seriously dysfunctional government could countenance it. In other words, Jennifer is right to be worried.

    Mr Trump says he is legally compelled to axe DACA, which most Republicans regarded as an act of executive overreach, and wants Congress to pass a law to protect the Dreamers. Yet he also sees that as an opportunity to extract support for his restrictionist agenda from the Democrats, who are dedicated to saving the Dreamers and whose votes are needed to do so. So Mr Trump is demanding billions of dollars for his promised border wall, as well as changes to legal immigration, which he and other Republican hawks want to cut by half. The Democrats say: no way. And with a rare moment of leverage looming for the minority party, in the form of a spending bill required to keep the federal government running beyond January 19th, they are demanding that the fate of Dreamers should be secured first. That seems ambitious. Though the Dreamers will probably be saved eventually—because around 85% of Americans want them to be—the stand-off has degenerated into an ugly row over Mr Trump’s reference to Haiti and African countries, at a bipartisan meeting on immigration, as “shitholes”. Moreover, in any event, the farrago will have sucked up vast amounts of congressional time, caused needless anxiety to those affected (including, Jennifer estimates, a third of her school’s 200 air cadets) and perhaps a government shutdown costing billions in lost economic activity.

    That America is in a fix over immigration is perhaps unsurprising. Through its history, periods of high immigration have always provoked a backlash—thus, the restrictive measures passed in the early 1920s after an influx from southern and eastern Europe, and again in the early 1960s, to expel thousands of low-skilled Mexicans. It is a cycle as American as the opportunity the country otherwise affords immigrants. After another great inwash of Hispanics, peaking during the late 1990s at around 750,000 arrivals a year, a repulse was inevitable. Only this time it is different. Anti-immigration movements have in the past been as much within the parties as between them, the backlash having traditionally been led by left-wing unions and right-wing nativists. Yet this row is partisan, making it symbolically important to the parties, liable to get personal, and correspondingly intractable. For the same reasons, the political discussion of immigration has become increasingly removed from reality. Employment in low-skilled jobs will grow faster over the next decade than the number of native workers. By leaving millions of long-stay immigrants in the shadows, America is inflicting a vast opportunity cost on itself. Moreover, perhaps in part as a response to Mr Trump, immigration is becoming much less unpopular.

    In both parties, fundamental forces have shaped this political change. Only a decade ago, Republican leaders such as George W. Bush enthused about immigration. Yet they were out of touch with the nativism of many Republican voters. That sentiment, which Mr Trump divined and has exacerbated, has now infected the party to such a degree that hostility to immigration is the surest indicator of Republican support. The arrival of many Hispanics in Republican states which had previously seen little recent immigration, such as Alabama and Arkansas, is one reason for this. Another is the electoral migration of working-class whites from the Democrats—bringing with them the left’s traditional fear for the effect of immigration on native workers’ wages. In addition, Republicans’ fears are driven, opinion polling and Mr Trump’s rhetoric suggests, by ethnocultural anxiety which, in a country turning rapidly browner, cannot easily be assuaged.

    In with the out crowd

    Meanwhile, the Democrats, who until a decade or so ago were similarly divided on immigration, are now all for it. In 2006, 40% of Democrats were in favour of a border wall; now less than 10% are. This is in part because the party has to some degree replaced its lost whites with Hispanic voters. It also represents a more profound cultural shift, driven by a cosmopolitan relish for diversity and zeitgeisty aversion to chauvinism, such that even white Democrats now feel markedly less chary towards immigration than they did. To be pro-immigrant is becoming even more inherently Democratic than to be agin immigration is Republican.

    This is unhelpful for anyone who wants to improve America’s immigration policies. And that includes the public at large, which is to the centre of both parties on the issue. Surveys suggest that Americans chiefly want better border security, a deal to legitimise undocumented immigrants and a more meritocratic visa regime—an appealing mix, drawn from the left and the right. It is, for the same reason, almost unimaginable.
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  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wounded Ronin View Post
    Like you said, maybe it's always been this way. Maybe the fact that people in the US seem more sensitive about it or willing to call it out is actually a sign that society is changing.

    It sounds like so much about this is about cultural or group identity. Maybe the right word would be "xenophobia" moreso than "racism" per se?

    So what is up with people who feel that their cultural hegemony is in jeopardy? Why would they believe such a thing, just because of the presence of immigrants legal and otherwise? Why the desire to be able to believe that everyone thinks and acts in the way they do, or strives to do so?
    Consider this for a perspective on changing cultures:
    http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion...-20170809.html

    Loss of cultural hegemony can lead to a host of social ills. It doesn't always, but it can.

    And the reason they believe such a thing is that our country "celebrates diversity" so there is often times a delay in social integration of immigrants as they are often allowed to keep much of their original culture. The perception from many is that this original culture is what lead to the underlying problems causing them to immigrate in such large numbers. As such, why would we want to have it here?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by AcerTempest View Post
    Consider this for a perspective on changing cultures:
    http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion...-20170809.html

    Loss of cultural hegemony can lead to a host of social ills. It doesn't always, but it can.

    And the reason they believe such a thing is that our country "celebrates diversity" so there is often times a delay in social integration of immigrants as they are often allowed to keep much of their original culture. The perception from many is that this original culture is what lead to the underlying problems causing them to immigrate in such large numbers. As such, why would we want to have it here?
    I suppose there's some empirical evidence that social cohesion supports positive social outcomes. During some of my time spent out in the Pacific, I noticed that islands where there was more social cohesion and preservation of tradition seemed to do a little bit better in terms of students doing well in school, pro-social behavior, and less substance abuse.

    My hope would be that in the global post industrial world, people with access to good nutrition and lots of information would be able to make the cognitive leap from being moored in tradition towards being flexible, adaptable, and ready to explore whatever changes the future might bring. A willingness to discard what no longer works and embrace what works under different circumstances. To go from TMA to MMA, so to speak, and not worry any more about the forms of the past.

    Maybe still easier said than done for most folks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wounded Ronin View Post
    I suppose there's some empirical evidence that social cohesion supports positive social outcomes. During some of my time spent out in the Pacific, I noticed that islands where there was more social cohesion and preservation of tradition seemed to do a little bit better in terms of students doing well in school, pro-social behavior, and less substance abuse.

    My hope would be that in the global post industrial world, people with access to good nutrition and lots of information would be able to make the cognitive leap from being moored in tradition towards being flexible, adaptable, and ready to explore whatever changes the future might bring. A willingness to discard what no longer works and embrace what works under different circumstances. To go from TMA to MMA, so to speak, and not worry any more about the forms of the past.

    Maybe still easier said than done for most folks.
    I think Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson said it best:
    What we have lost is the ability to judge what is true from what is not.

    I believe that as a society we have taught ourselves to be consumers of content rather than evaluators of information. As such, we lack individual discernment. We thus rely on group affiliations that are suspect at best to to determine truth.
    For example, if I post something regarding the statistics of the Uniform Crime Report to 2 different political groups, at least one of the groups will believe it without question because they think it supports their position on something, and the other group will question it to the point of believing literally non-existent statistics instead because it opposes their position.

    It's possible that we have never had such a thing is individual discernment on a group level, and what we are seeing is simply the classic symptoms of groupthink projected on to a new medium.
    As long as people have the ability to shelter themselves from opposing ideas and viewpoints, and also lack the critical thinking skills to determine objective reality in a day-to-day concrete sense, then your hopes regarding peoples ability to move from one worldview to another is nothing more than wishful thinking I am afraid.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wounded Ronin View Post
    I suppose there's some empirical evidence that social cohesion supports positive social outcomes. During some of my time spent out in the Pacific, I noticed that islands where there was more social cohesion and preservation of tradition seemed to do a little bit better in terms of students doing well in school, pro-social behavior, and less substance abuse.

    My hope would be that in the global post industrial world, people with access to good nutrition and lots of information would be able to make the cognitive leap from being moored in tradition towards being flexible, adaptable, and ready to explore whatever changes the future might bring. A willingness to discard what no longer works and embrace what works under different circumstances. To go from TMA to MMA, so to speak, and not worry any more about the forms of the past.

    Maybe still easier said than done for most folks.
    Human nature doesn't change, really. Not yet at least...
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by BKR View Post
    Human nature doesn't change, really. Not yet at least...
    You just have to take a look at any USA Today comments section to see that! :(

    I can't believe how repetitious and acrimonious people are.

    I like to tell myself that people who take the time to spam the USA Today comments section must be extremists with nothing better to do...
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    Quote Originally Posted by AcerTempest View Post
    Consider this for a perspective on changing cultures:
    http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion...-20170809.html

    Loss of cultural hegemony can lead to a host of social ills. It doesn't always, but it can.

    And the reason they believe such a thing is that our country "celebrates diversity" so there is often times a delay in social integration of immigrants as they are often allowed to keep much of their original culture. The perception from many is that this original culture is what lead to the underlying problems causing them to immigrate in such large numbers. As such, why would we want to have it here?
    The trouble with this argument/perception is... Italians, Irish, British, Scottish, French, Dutch, Spanish....I could go on...or any European culture is always acceptable today in America because they're familiar, and the xenophobia comes in when you have to deal with other somewhat different-seeming cultures (even though almost all cultures share the same universal values). Italians, for example, didn't leave any of their culture behind. Their empire once dominated the globe, but nobody goes around claiming they are planning on doing it again in America...unlike something a lot of Muslim or Mexican refugees are accused of (they're bringing crime and Sharia!). But go back 100 years, and the Irish and Italians were the dirty immigrants nobody wanted...the cycle of hateful ignorance repeats.

    For some reason (maybe because bigotry is contagious especially online), a lot of misguided people in America have a great deal of resentment towards people from Latino or Muslim nations, but this isn't anything but racial and religious bigotry. No logical argument can support it, but they will try day and night on Twitter and Facebook to convince others that bigotry of that sort is perfectly logical for reason X or Y.

    Unfortunately, it's often based on nothing more than what other people look like, what they believe in, or how they speak to one another. Prejudice is prejudice.

    You can see this every day in America...

    ...someone looks Mexican or speaks Spanish, so they MUST be illegal immigrant (but they are a natural, bilingual citizen).

    ...That guy pumping gas wearing a turban looks Middle Eastern, so he MUST be Muslim (but he's Sikh).

    ...that guy praying on that rug must hate America, because Islam is "incompatible with Western values", something I've seen a lot since 9/11 (but that guy leads a peaceful religious community that dishes out soup to homeless people).

    The truth is people don't run from their cultures most of the time, unless we're talking extremes like ISIS or Nazi Germany...people run from persecution, war, famine, disease, and their shining beacon of hope for 200+ years has been the American border.
    Last edited by W. Rabbit; 1/24/2018 3:02pm at .

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