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Over the years, certain immigrants have always been targeted as scapegoats in America. Ben Franklin thought Germans should not be allowed into the country because of their “swarthy complexion.” Catholics were not well received because they only listen to the pope. Irish were not popular and thought to be just a small step above African Americans. Southern and Eastern Europeans were hated and prompted the quota laws to be passed. Italians were thought to be violent. Only a small number of Jewish people were allowed into our country even during the Holocaust because of our ongoing xenophobia. We have discriminated against almost all Asians at one point or another because of fears. Our latest target is Mexicans and anyone that looks Hispanic. Although the U.S. is a nation of immigrants, they have always been very selective of who is okay.
The current fear mongering with Latinos is not justifiable. Every year or so, illegal immigration gets brought up and spun around on all the media outlets by all sorts of politicians but for no good reason. Since 9/11 and the major recession, immigration to the United States is down. Most undocumented immigrants do not become permanent residents. They come to the U.S. to be with family or to work. They stay a few years and leave. It doesn’t sound so bad. But, many people in America still feel that immigration is a problem.
Anti-immigration activist believe that immigrants sneaking over the border are more likely to take part in criminal activities. It is unclear why someone would take all that time and energy to sneak over a border to get caught for a crime and be deported when they could be criminals in their own country. Research also indicates that undocumented citizens are not more likely to engage in crime than natural citizens. The exact numbers vary but native born Americans are between 5 and 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than immigrants. In Arizona, state senators used crime to justify their “papers, please” legislation. The lawmakers claimed that crime in Arizona had increased. However, crime rates in Arizona have steadily decreased since 2006 for both violent and property crime. Another reason anti-immigration activists want to seal the American borders is because of the economy. They claim that undocumented immigrants are not paying taxes and draining the social services. This again is false. Immigrants contribute as much as $10 billion to the U.S. economy each year. Legalization of low skilled immigrant workers in the U.S. would result in a net increase in the U.S. GDP of $180 billion over the next ten years. Immigrants, legal and illegal alike, spend their money in the U.S. which is good for the economy. Most immigrants come to U.S. for jobs so they are working and not using social services. Many are too afraid of deportation to take advantage of any programs even if they needed it. Others against immigration worry about overpopulation. They claim that with more and more undocumented immigrants, the public school system will be overwhelmed. Yet, the U.S. continues to push fertility drugs, glorify families like the Duggars, and many want to outlaw abortion, so it cannot be a concern for overpopulation.
As the state of Arizona pushes a slew of more anti-immigration measures through, you can be sure that immigration fears are alive and well in the U.S. However, the Hispanic community re-elected Senator Harry Reid during last midterm elections so they might not be such a good scapegoat any longer.