Opinion: Racists Don’t Care if Immigrants Are Here Legally or Not

Walter Rhein

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Throughout the 2016 and 2020 election cycles, there was a lot of talk about immigration. This topic continues to be a firebrand issue. Conservatives often make “defending the border” part of their platform and that can lead to acts of unprovoked violence against immigrants.

Conservative groups are calling on states at the southern border to take matters into their own hands to combat the continuing migrant crisis amid discussions about whether the surge can be classified as an "invasion."—Adam Shaw

Using words like “invasion” in the context of immigration is extremely dangerous. It’s odd that even in the context of conservatives who insist they respect the “sanctity of life” there is so much rhetoric that seems designed to insight violence.

The phrase “all lives matter” began as a response to the phrase “black lives matter” in 2014, according to a story in Congressional Quarterly, following the killing of two NYPD officers. It evolved out of “blue lives matter,” which refers to police officers. Conservatives especially embraced the “all lives matter” slogan—Abigail Bassett

Of course, the insistence that “all lives matter” is only a matter of context for conservatives. Apparently, it doesn’t apply to the lives of children who attempt to flee prosecution by coming to the United States of America.

It’s important to understand that people in the world need our help because they are in desperate situations.

Many people wonder why all immigrants do not just come to the United States legally or simply apply for citizenship while living here without authorization. These suggestions miss the point: There is no line available for current undocumented immigrants and the “regular channels” are largely not available to prospective immigrants who end up entering the country through unauthorized channels—Why Don’t Immigrants Apply for Citizenship?

It’s somewhat stunning that individuals who claim they respect the “sanctity of all life” are willing to engage in rhetoric that might lead to violence against children who take desperate actions to avoid life-threatening situations.

This problem is further compounded when inciting rage against immigrants leads to acts of violence even against people who are here legally.

Anti-immigrant fervor, once relegated to more extreme quarters, has been increasingly mainstreamed over the last ten years. Over the last two years, with the advent of a new administration focused on much stricter immigration policies and complementary executive actions, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment has made life substantially more difficult for all immigrants—Mainstreaming Hate: The Anti-Immigrant Movement in the U.S.

I have personal experience with unfounded anti-immigrant hate because my wife is an immigrant. We moved to the United States legally, but I’ve found our legal status offers scant protection from the hostility of racists.

It’s frustrating how often people, even friends, and family, will repeat anti-immigrant hate rhetoric in my presence.

“We have to defend the border and keep immigrants out of the United States,” they say.

“My wife is an immigrant,” I reply.

“Oh, I’m not talking about her. I’m talking about illegal immigrants.”

“Then why didn’t you say that? You said ‘immigrants,’ which suggests you hate all immigrants whether they are legal or not.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

“Yes, it does!”

At this point, I have chosen to cut friends and family out of my life who repeat hostile, anti-immigrant hate rhetoric. My wife and my children have been the victims of acts of blatant hostility in public spaces.

I find it strange that people who claim to be my friends would fail to call out hate language that’s directed at my family. It’s even stranger that some people defend this kind of language.

I have first-hand knowledge of how conservative anti-immigrant hate propaganda leads to unprovoked acts of violence against innocent, law-abiding citizens. Yet, many people steadfastly refuse to acknowledge this kind of aggression exists.

I find it hypocritical that any political group that claims to champion the sanctity of all lives would turn around and incite hatred against any group. This represents a normalized standard of behavior in the United States that needs to change.

The majority of immigrants are law-abiding, decent, human beings who are entitled to the same treatment as anyone else. In fact, whether you are documented or not, if you are in the United States you are afforded the same constitutional protections.

Nowhere in the first 10 amendments to the Constitution is the word “citizen.” Often it is written “The right of the people…” The Bill of Rights protects everyone, including undocumented immigrants, to exercise free speech, religion, assembly, and to be free from unlawful government interference—Do Non-Citizens have Constitutional Rights?

Engaging in hate speech against any group of people is fundamentally un-American. Furthermore, we cannot allow any erosion of our constitutional protections against government aggression. All Americans must protect the rights of all people within our borders.

Decent Americans who claim to respect the Constitution and who like to think of themselves as champions of the sanctity of life need to take it upon themselves to stand up to political hate rhetoric that commonly targets immigrants.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. It’s time our whole society learned to treat immigrants with unwavering respect.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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