The Next Chapter in our Immigration Story

Have the immigrants changed or have we? There is the part in us that, having edged our way into this society, wants to close the door firmly behind us.

Reports  are trickling in now, via a leak to Politico, that the right is now ready to compromise and come together to pass immigration reform.  It seems divisiveness is a thing of the past and this new Congress is ready to roll up its sleeves and get shit done or as James Wolcott of Vanity Fair put it: stop “legislative constipation.”


During the RNC Presidential election post mortem—you know, the one where they sat around looking at each other, at the ground, then at each other again, knowing full well that something’s gotta give if they don’t want to remain losers from this point forward—Republicans realized it was time for “Operation Woo the Latinos”.  Marco Rubio will offer up his face as the beacon that sheds light on the Hispanic population, saying “See? We’re with you.”

The Hispanic share of the electorate grew to 10% in 2012. The hard truth that the right had to face, undoubtedly accompanied with some aged and very strong scotch, was that while Romney shored up the white vote just as Reagan did before him, it wasn’t nearly enough.  The Hispanic vote is now five times what it was in Reagan’s time.

And so – immigration reform. Turning a kindly eye to the brown people. Extending a hand.  The main objective behind this bipartisan Senate deal put together by the self-proclaimed “Gang of Eight,” led by Chuck Schumer, would be to offer undocumented workers a path to citizenship.  But will their constituents on the right follow or will they use their votes to slap back Republican candidates in the midterms? If gun control is a hot button issue with right-wing Americans, try selling them on ingratiating themselves to the Hispanic community.  And watch gun sales skyrocket even more, if that’s even possible considering the spike we’ve seen in the weeks following the Newtown tragedy. Americans are arming themselves at a historic pace in anticipation of stricter guns laws.

But expect the gun debate to take a back seat as Facebook memes are undoubtedly being created to vilify the lowest class of non-Americans.  Prepare for talk of more welfare recipients, those “taking advantage” of our system, and well-paying jobs being whisked away right under our noses.  Pay no mind to the fact that these are counter-arguments to each other. One cannot be a lazy freeloader while simultaneously working so hard as to steal work from others.  Watch for this: the folks who decried Obamacare as socialist and unconstitutional  might start looking at it differently in this context.  Might “illegals” be here to take advantage of our healthcare system?  It doesn’t matter – this is an emotional issue, much like gun control, and the arguments are rarely based in thought and sense and has its roots, like so much else, in our collective American culture.

When we broach the subject of immigration, I find that what infuriates us the most is the lack of assimilation. You know the story. Our grandparents worked hard to come here and adopt American customs and spoke quietly and seldomly for shame of their accents.  They taught our parents English and wished for them to be above all else, the picture of white American success. Business owners, college graduates, home owners. Yet, somewhere along the line, we separated into groups with distinctly drawn boundaries and identities.  These lines are drawn along socio-economic and racial lines. And they are etched ever deeper now, instead of dissolving into the melting pot of this country.

It might serve us all well to question why.  Have the immigrants changed or have we?  We talk about American exceptionalism, sometimes as a boon to our nation and sometimes as a scourge.  There is the part in us that, having edged our way into this society, wants to close the door firmly behind us. The part that believes to let others in might dilute what makes us stand out among the world as strong, singular, unique. Have we lost the distinct pride of country and if so, when?  Or is it that because the country is colored differently from our grandparents’ generation, we fail to recognize it as our own? Could the strides that we made in civil rights have opened the floodgates of criticism by giving a microphone to people who said things we did not want to hear?

The voices of the smallest among us are growing louder.  They are issuing demands and asking for consideration.  And it just might be too much. Equal rights and opportunities are to be earned, we chastise.  I picture in my mind the high school bully holding the head of his victim in the bathroom toilet, where he cannot breathe but for foul-stench water.  When he is let up for air, the bully expects profuse thankfulness and deference and is shocked, utterly shocked – to receive that toilet water spit into his own face.  Now the anger is multiplied and the blurry random victim is given a face to direct it to.  Now it’s personal.

Where is the roadmap back?

Could it start with a gang of eight senators, each with an agenda of his own, whether it is a hungry ego that needs his name front and center on a bill, or the strategy of one party that knows it must sacrifice some of its “sure thing” voters in lieu of a growing population?

I’ll wait for the memes to let me know.



Author: Jaime Franchi

Jaime Franchi is a freelance writer living on Long Island. Her work can be found on, Milieu Magazine, Punchnel's and the New York Times.

1 thought on “The Next Chapter in our Immigration Story”

  1. This is not completely new: for decades, Chinese immigration was banned and Chinese immigrants already in the country were blocked from citizenship. But that proves a point: that anti-immigrant fever always seems most intense when the immigrants are not white, non-Jewish Europeans.

    Of course, once the GOP allows the Latinos a path to citizenship, they’ll work on voter restriction laws, redistricting to limit the power of the voting bloc, and fiddling with each state’s electoral voting.

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