March 31, 2006
April 17, 2006

THE WAR ON IMMIGRANTS – by Stephen Lendman

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your
teeming shore.” Once that was true, but no longer.
Emma Lazarus’ beautiful and memorable words we’ve all
heard many times and know well are fading into memory.
If we’re honest, they should be removed from “Lady
Liberty” and be replaced with something like: We’ll
take your Anglos, especially well-off ones, and the
ones we choose with needed skills; you keep the rest,
especially your poor, dark-skinned and desperate. We
needed ’em once for our homegrown sweatshops. No
longer. We’ve got plenty all around the world. It
now looks like we’ll make an exception though for the
menial or toughest low pay, no benefits, no security
jobs no one else wants. We’re still debating it and
will let you know.

Think they’ll ever affix anything like that to the
Lady’s pedestal? Fat chance. Whatever may emerge
from the Congress, how would they ever explain the
hypocrisy of our once warm welcome and now cold
shoulder and callous rejection of immigrants. The
fact is there are now fewer decent jobs to go around
for a growing population. We thus need to curb the
foreign inflow, and most wanting to come here don’t
have the right skills or connections and aren’t the
“right” color. We don’t say that publicly, but
honesty isn’t a trait this country is noted for.
Neither is honor, integrity or practicing the high
principles we espouse. Strip off the mask, look hard
at the cold, ugly face beneath and uncaring eyes and
see a heart of stone and not a sign of a soul.

Long ago we were building a new nation, needed lots of
labor and threw open our doors. Now we can be as
picky as we choose and even slam the door and bolt it,
except for the special skills we need or the few
privileged we always welcome who can jump the queue to
get in. We still need lots of help to pick
strawberries and cabbages, make beds and clean
commodes and so far have allowed the undocumented ones
who make it here to stay for that kind of work few
others want. But racist and far-right lawmakers in
the Congress with a pathological desire to guard our
borders like Fort Knox and close them to people with
dark skins we denigrate or label potential terrorists
are in a dog fight now with less extreme but hardly
moderate voices there. So far we don’t know who’ll
win or if it will be a draw to be replayed at a future
time. We do know that if even the best of the current
proposals now being debated becomes law, future
immigrants, those wishing to come, and the
undocumented already here will be the losers.

We also know that quality job opportunities for most
working people in the country including high-paying
manufacturing jobs have been disappearing for years as
well as many other good ones we now export to low wage
countries. These jobs are routinely shipped abroad to
exploit the sweatshop labor there where live bodies,
desperate for any work and having to endure terrible
on-the-job abuse, can be hired for pennies on the
dollar and no benefits or pesky unions compared to
manufacturing and labor rates here and what goes with
them. So are many other lower level white collar
service jobs that can be done anywhere. Even the
higher paying ones aren’t immune like those in high
tech where skilled professionals can be hired in “all
you can eat numbers” in countries like India at
quarters on the dollar. What corporation hungry for
profit could pass up a deal like that. Never mind
that doing it hollows out our economy and puts us on
the road to third world status just like those other
nations whose workers are replacing ours.

Besides well-paying construction jobs and some others,
what’s left here are mostly lots of low-wage service
jobs. These are the unexportable kind at Walmart (the
nation’s largest employer), McDonald’s or menial hotel
or restaurant services (plus those strawberry and
cabbage pickers) with few or no benefits and often
little chance to organize in unions for higher pay,
better benefits and worker protection. Other than
those, our message now is keep your people at home.
We can use ’em right where they are. No need to pay
’em much, pennies an hour will do, forget any social
benefits and no need to worry about those annoying
unions. None allowed in sweatshop countries like
China, Bangladesh, El Salvador or Haiti. When any do
spring up in places like Colombia, all you need is a
corporate friendly, anti-union president willing to
sell out his people to US interests, make the country
friendly to giant US transnationals like big oil, and
allow paramilitary hired killers free reign to have at
as many socially-minded “troublemakers” as possible
“eliminating” them and intimidating the rest. That
way you can get all the cheap labor you want there
practically for nothing. Can’t beat a deal like that,
so why let ’em in here. We’re trying to hold down the
number of “undesirables” we’ve now got so there aren’t
too many around to become restive and cause trouble.
It helps when we can recruit a lot of them to go fight
and die for us in our imperial wars. But we’re
handling the surplus by locking up as many as we can
in prison cells for any reasons we can justify passing
new laws to allow it. With 2.1+ million already
behind bars (the largest prison population in the
world – two thirds of them black and Latino) and
adding about 900 more a week it seems to be working
very well thank you very much. At least so far. I’ve
written at length about this horror under the radar in
my article titled “The US Gulag Prison System” – the
one at home.

Unlike long ago, the land that once welcomed your
tired, poor and huddled masses now has hung out a “no
vacancy” sign, is hostile to the undocumented forced
to come here because of our destructive trade policies
impoverishing them, the many legitimate arrivals
already here and contributing more than they get back,
and is pretty nasty to the least advantaged who were
born here, especially if they’re dark-skinned. As
things now stand, what’s ahead is only likely to get


For well over a century we were a growing nation
thriving on the influx of welcomed immigrants. At
Ellis Island alone (where my ancestors passed through
a century ago) over 12 million of them entered the
country between 1892 (when it opened) and 1954 (when
it closed). This country was founded and built by
immigrants – from Plymouth Rock and Jamestown in the
17th century to Ellis Island up to a half century ago.
The numbers were impressive and came in three great

1. About 5 million from 1815 – 1860, mainly English
(on my father’s side), Irish, German, Scandinavian and
northwestern Europe.

2. About 10 million between 1865 (post Civil War) –
1890, again mainly from northwestern Europe.

3. About 15 million from 1890 – 1914, many from
Austro-Hungary, Turkey, Lithuania (on my mother’s
side), Russia, Greece, Italy and Romania. Many
Eastern European Jews fleeing religious persecution
like my maternal ancestors came in this wave.
Thankfully they did and made it. Otherwise it’s
likely they”d have met their fate either at the hands
of Stalin or Hitler.

Many immigrants came to America to escape war,
political turmoil, famine, or religious persecution.
Others came against their will as chattel. Most,
however, came for economic reasons seeking a better
life in a land they saw as one offering better
opportunity than the one they left. Some found it,
others were disappointed and had to wait for their
second and third generation offspring to finally reap
some of what they themselves never achieved. Still
they kept coming en masse as 19th century America was
young and growing and needed a plentiful supply of
skilled and unskilled workers. After the 1880s the
need was almost entirely for the unskilled to fill the
growing number of factory jobs.


The Naturalization Act of 1790 established the rules
for naturalized citizenship as required by Article 1,
Section 8 of the Constitution. Until 1882, almost
anyone could move here and qualify, but thereafter the
government began to impose controls. Extreme racism
was always in our DNA, and it’s surfaced and thrived
throughout our history. It was evident in the 1882
Chinese Exclusion Act that made immigration from China
illegal. It didn’t matter that it was Chinese labor
(first hired in 1865) mainly that helped build the
transcontinental railroad, did the most dangerous work
in some of the most treacherous areas like the high
Sierras, and worked for less than a dollar a day. On
May 10, 1869 when the final golden spike was driven at
Promontory, Utah to symbolize the connection of the
transcontinental system from east to west, ocean to
ocean, it was mainly Chinese coolie labor that raced
to build the final 10 miles of track in 12 hours to be
done in time for the ceremony. We showed our
gratitude by excluding them when they were no longer
needed. Theodore Roosevelt, a known racist and noted
imperialist and war hawk recipient of the Nobel Peace
prize, treated the Japanese with equal disdain in the
1906 “Gentleman’s Agreement” that allowed the US the
right to exclude Japanese immigrants. The result was
all Asians couldn’t emigrate here until the
Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924 that established
quotas restricting Southern and Eastern European
immigration as well as allowing some token numbers in
from Asia and other “less preferred” countries.

Through the years the immigration issue would
resurface on occasion as it has again today and
generally reflected the political bias of the times
over any notion of fairness to all those in other
countries wishing to come here and those who’d already
arrived. We’ve always had our favored countries and
world regions with Anglo Europeans being at the head
of the queue followed by Northwestern Europeans
overall. People of color from Latin America, Africa
and Asia have always been least preferred, except for
the 300 years when we forcibly brought black Africans
here against their will as chattel or allowed a few
million Mexicans the privilege to come and be
exploited by the agribusiness of an earlier era. But
besides that disgraceful past, our racist heritage was
there from the first time a settler met a native
Indian. All 18 million of them or so were only “in
the way” and had to be removed or first used before we
did it – through mass murder, forced resettlement or
neglect. Racism was also a major factor in the
Mexican War in the 1840s when following our imperial
“manifest destiny” we stole half the country from our
southern neighbor. We didn’t take it all because most
of the population was in the southern half, and we
didn’t want all those dark-skinned people diluting our
white Anglo majority.

Asians overall have been relative newcomers to the US
because they were either excluded entirely or greatly
restricted by discriminatory quotas. When the
National Origins Formula was established in 1929,
total annual immigration was capped at 150,000, but,
beyond some token numbers the “no Asians allowed” sign
was still official policy. The important Immigration
and Nationality Act of 1952 (the McCarran-Walter Act)
opened the door a crack to Asians, but in that
McCarthy era time also increased the power of
government to deport illegal immigrants suspected of
communist sympathies. The INA ended racial
restrictions but retained a quota system with a
preference to our more favored countries. Eventually
the INA established a system of ethnic preferences and
also placed great importance on labor qualifications.
But the Act was overturned in 1990 when Congress made
it illegal to deny anyone entry because of their
beliefs, statements or associations. By then the
times were a-changing, the cold war over and the “red
scare” of the 1950s was an anachronism. That window
of relief with no real enemies would be short-lived.

No legislation is ever written in stone, and in the
Immigration Act of 1965 quotas based on national
origin were ended and preference instead was given to
those having US relatives. This enabled many more
Asians to emigrate here, and they along with Hispanics
now comprise the fastest growing segments of our
population aided by their numbers entering the country
legally or illegally. The Immigration Reform and
Control Act of 1986 granted amnesty to illegal
immigrants who had been in the country before 1982
(for many it could be hard to prove) but made it a
crime to hire an illegal immigrant.


Major changes in immigration law were enacted in 1996
when the 104th Republican Congress enacted and Bill
(“I feel your pain”) Clinton signed into law the
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant
Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) and the Anti-Terrorism
and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). These were
repressive laws supposedly intended mainly to control
illegal immigration and combat “terrorism.” They did
neither most often. Instead, their provisions affect
American families, legal immigrants and others seeking
to emigrate legally.

Under the 1996 statutes, legal immigrants are
routinely detained without bond, deported without
consideration for discretionary relief, restricted in
their access to counsel, and barred from appealing to
the courts. The laws also allow additional grounds
for deportation and can subject long-term immigrants
to mandatory detention and automatic deportation for
even minor offenses like shoplifting, disturbing the
peace or having a “joint” in their pocket. Low-level
immigration officials act as judge and jury (no jury
of their peers is allowed), and the federal courts are
allowed no power to review most deportation decisions
and INS activities. These laws can also be applied
retroactively. As a result, many law-abiding
immigrants living here for many years can now be
deported for minor offenses and youthful indiscretions
that may have occurred many years ago. These laws
literally show no mercy. They allow no second
chances, they can change the rules if so desired, and
they deny the targeted immigrant due process in a
court of law. The result has been families unjustly
torn apart and made to suffer. Where are you when we
need you Emma Lazarus?

Our leadership before and under George Bush never
seemed or seems to miss an opportunity to fail to miss
an opportunity to do the right thing. During Bill
Clinton’s second term Congress passed more immigration
legislation in 1997 that spurned most Central American
refugee claims and again in 2000 that offered only
modest relief for some undocumented immigrants. It was
better than nothing but not by much.


Everything changed after 9/11, as if we didn’t know by
now. Start with the passage of the repressive and now
infamous USA Patriot Act in 2001. It provided funding
for more border guards and technologies to spot and
detain/arrest possible “terrorists” trying to enter
the country. It also authorized the indefinite
detention of any noncitizen suspected of engaging in
“terrorist” activities. It gave the Attorney General
complete discretion to decide who was a suspected
“terrorist” and do it based on no evidence. Those of
us paying attention know how things have turned out.
But not enough of us have, and that’s why this bill
passed almost without debate allowing the government
to move us dangerously closer to a full-blown national
security police state and get away with it – so far.

This act, only a tyrant could love, stripped all legal
protection of liberty and justice for Muslims and
Arabs in the US or those wishing to come. It
sanctioned their being monitored without notification
as well as their NGOs, civic, charitable and religious
organizations. The American Bar Association calls
this unconstitutional, but just try to get redress.
It allowed the Justice Department the right to round
up and detain an unknown number of “suspects” from the
Middle East and South Asia overall including at least
5,000 Muslim men only three of whom were charged with
a crime. Federal immigration courts are allowed to
hold secret hearings on their status, and those
thought to be in the country illegally or who had some
immigration violation were ordered deported even when
going back to their home country risked their being
arrested and tortured. It also gave the government
authority to freeze the assets of any organization it
deems suspect for any reason. It’s since been open
season making it legal for the government to conduct a
witch-hunt which has gone on ever since including
allowing several federal agencies to raid the homes
and offices of the national Muslim leadership in
Northern Virginia. It all amounts to a war on Muslims
and Islam, especially targeted at Muslim immigrants of
color or from the Middle East and South Asia.


The post 9/11 climate cast a pall of fear over the
nation that especially affects our immigrant
population, particularly Muslims and especially those
from 25 designated countries (all but one majority
Muslim). It also includes poor and desperate Latinos
mostly from Mexico and Central America who come here
undocumented (an estimated 60% of all Latinos are
coming from Mexico) or wish to when they can’t do it
legally. They practically have no other choice
because of the economic devastation caused them by the
exploitative US instituted so-called “neoliberal free
trade agreements” that have destroyed their ability to
earn a living at home.

It’s resulted in a mass witch-hunt roundup and secret
detention of thousands. Also many individuals were
targeted for deportation and in their removal
proceedings were under gag orders and prevented from
talking to anyone. In addition, all foreign students
were tracked as potential terrorists, recent Muslim
immigrants were asked to voluntarily submit to law
enforcement agency interviews and hospitals were
required to collect information on immigrant status
before providing Medicaid. Also repressive and
restrictive regulations were established governing the
granting of visas including requiring face-to-face
interviews never before needed and withholding visas
for certain categories of people until the FBI
conducts name checks to assure they’re not a terrorist
threat. Fingerprinting of all visa-bearing travelers
is also required either when they get them or when
arriving at airports and seaports. After October 26,
2004 the law required this be done by collecting
biometric identifiers at US visa-issuing offices

How long will it be before all immigrants and those
needing visas to visit will be required to have an
implanted computer chip for ID and tracking. Think
I’m kidding? The FDA has already approved such an
experimental chip for use on 1,000 test subjects.
Wanna volunteer? They’ll even know when you go to the
“john.” If they’re pleased with the results from these
“lab rats”, it’s not far-fetched to imagine a new
repressive law one day requiring all of us – citizens,
immigrants and visa holders – to be so-implanted so
they can monitor every move we make and maybe even one
day know what we think.

The new Department of Homeland Security (aka “Big
Brother”) now controls this Orwellian nightmare
system. It’s run by an unindicted war criminal, John
Negroponte, US ambassador to Honduras from 1981 – 1985
where he was our point man overseeing the infamous
Contra wars in Nicaragua and death squad activities
and human rights abuses throughout the region. He
then briefly served as our “ambassador to the new
Iraq” post illegal invasion where he likely introduced
the “Salvador death squad option” now being used
intensively in a crazed attempt to foment a real civil
war to divide the country. It’s modeled after the one
he was in charge of in El Salvador against that
country’s freedom-fighting resistance combating the
brutal US supported right wing government in the early

DHS makes the visa rules, decides who can or cannot
get them and be allowed into the country. In the past
the State Department handled this. It was simpler
then which encouraged foreigners to visit, attend
school here or emigrate. Now with a maze of hostile
regulations, many foreigners are dissuaded from
coming at all or prevented from doing so. This has
adversely affected US corporations, the travel
industry and also many universities heavily reliant on
foreign students and scholars. It’s caused leaders
and officials in business, science and education as
well as civil libertarians to be concerned enough to
warn this can only be detrimental to the strength of
the nation and our precious freedoms fast

Blame the Congress for this mess. With immigration a
hot issue, they passed the Homeland Security Act in
2002 which abolished the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) and moved its functions
from the Justice Department to the newly created
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Within the DHS
the Bureau of Border Security now has authority over
our borders and enforcement of our immigration laws.
The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services was
given responsibility over visas, citizenship, asylum,
and refugee status. Look for more repressive and
restrictive rules ahead in a post 9/11 climate hostile
to people whether they already live here legally, wish
to visit, and especially if they want to emigrate and
happen to have a darker complexion than most of us.


With the end of the cold war and along with it the
great “red scare” and evil empire” of that period, the
US was desperate to find new enemies. How else could
we justify a high level of military spending and
homeland security and readiness unless we could scare
the public enough to accept it. It’s happened so
often before you’d think people would have caught on
by to it by now – but you’d be wrong. When our
political leaders need an excuse to pursue some awful
public-unfriendly agenda for their own private reasons
and benefit, they need a good excuse to convince us to
go along. They’ve found the best way most often is by
inventing a threat, hyping it to scare us to death,
and then declaring war on it. It seems to work every
time so why not keep doing it. We’ve had a “war on
drugs” for over 30 years, and in the 1980s Ronald
Reagan “fought” that one, the “cold war” and made it a
trifecta by declaring a war on “international
terrorism.” In the 1990s the “cold war” was just a
memory, the “war on drugs” continued to lock up mainly
our poor and black population, the “war on
international terrorism” was shortened to a “war on
terrorism” and we added a new war to keep it in threes
– the one on immigrants which this essay is about and
is very much connected to our so-called but phony “war
on terrorism.”

First some numbers based on Census Bureau data. That
bureau estimates the nation’s foreign-born immigrant
population (legal and illegal) reached a record high
of 35 million in March, 2005. Their data also
indicate the first half of the current decade has been
the highest five year period of immigration in our
history. Between January, 2000 and March, 2005 they
estimate 7.9 million new immigrants (legal and
illegal) entered the country, 3.7 million of whom they
believe came illegally. Their data also shows that
between March, 1995 and March, 2000 the foreign-born
population grew by 5.7 million or about 1.1 million a
year and between 2000 and 2005 an additional 5.2
million immigrated here or about 1 million + a year.
Census 2000 also estimates between 8 – 11 million
immigrants were living in the country illegally. It’s
likely up around the higher number now or even more.

Hispanics now are the single largest and fastest
growing ethnic or minority group in the country
according to the Census Bureau. They number over 41
million or nearly 14% of the population surpassing
blacks at about 40 million or 13.4%. The Bureau
projects that by 2050 the Hispanic population of the
US will reach 102.6 million or 24% of the total. In
large and dominant states like California and Texas
the totals are even more dramatic with Hispanics
numbering about one third of the population and
rising. And in no other major city is this trend more
prominent than in Los Angeles which is now or shortly
will be a majority Hispanic city.


The current legislation that’s now passed the House
and a different version so far unpassed in the Senate
promises to wage an unholy war against three classes
of immigrants primarily – the undocumented ones
already here, (especially those of color), those
coming or wishing to from Mexico from where they can
walk or wade across the border plus their Central
American cousins, and all Muslims (again especially
those of color) from anywhere including those from
Arab countries who aren’t white enough. Since 9/11
all Muslims, including the ones living here legally,
are clearly public enemy number one. But those
dark-skinned Latinos desperate to escape the
catastrophic poverty from US imposed “neoliberal free
market” trade policies aren’t far behind. If anything
passes close to its current House form, it will create
a legalized racially stereotyped underclass of
Untermenschen (subhumans) subject to legalized felony
scapegoating. The result will be a living hell for
the millions affected and be as far-removed as can be
imagined from the 1960s civil rights legislation that
tried undo centuries of injustice and persecution of
black people and all others long denied their equal

It’s unclear how the latest incarnation of immigration
legislation will finally emerge or if in an election
year whether any will. The compromise Senate bill
stalled as the Congress adjourned for their Easter
brake. Debate will resume when Congress returns, and
if the Senate bill passes, which appears likely but
not certain, it will then have to be reconciled in
conference committee with the House. It won’t be easy
and may not happen this year. The debate was heated
in both Houses, and when the conference committee
meets to produce a final bill, it’ll resume again for
sure. In the end the current “reform” (always code
language for annulling our rights) effort may emerge
stillborn. The 109th Congress may just kick it down
the road to the 110th and let them deal with a very
contentious issue that could easily be solved if we
had enough legislators who believed in equity and
justice instead of politics as usual liberally
seasoned with race hate, demonization and blame the

It’s very clear what the new law would look like if
the so-called House Sensenbrenner bill ever makes it
on the books – HR 4437, The Border Protection,
Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of
2005. I love the sweet-sounding language they always
use that usually conceals a horror beneath it. In the
case of HR 4437 it’s even worse than that. For me and
at my age, it’s hard to believe anything like it could
be passed by even a single branch of the Congress.
But I said the same thing about the USA Patriot Act
that passed both Houses quickly and overwhelmingly
(only one honorable senator voted against it) and was
signed into law about as fast as you could say bombs
away. No one in Congress had time to read it or
likely even skim it.

Like its Patriot Act cousin, HR 4437 is a bill out of
the bowels of hell that only tyrants, racists and
hatemongers of all stripes could love. It
criminalizes anyone in the country without
documentation. Under current law that’s a simple
civil violation and often or generally ignored when
those affected work for agribusiness that wants them
or the Walmarts of the world that do as well. Under
the neofascist House bill, 11 million or so
undocumented workers already here would be legal
felons and subject to immediate detention and
deportation with little if any recourse through the
courts. It would break up and destroy families. The
children born here are US citizens and could stay
(supposedly, but don’t count on it). Their
undocumented parent or parents could not. And should
those deported decide to return and get caught, it
would impose mandatory minimum prison sentences for
them and anyone else judged to be promoting illegal

The bill would also make it a felony subject to five
years in prison for anyone giving aid and comfort to
the undocumented like food and water or desperately
needed medical care. There’s a whole lot longer list
of nightmarish provisions in this monstrosity
including building 698 miles of five double-layer
apartheid wall segments along the Mexican border with
California and Arizona (shades of Israel in the
Occupied Territories where the intent is to steal
Palestinian land and destroy innocent lives or the
Berlin Wall). The Senate bill would pass on a
physical barrier and impose a virtual one instead
consisting of surveillance cameras, sensors and other
monitoring equipment. Both bills call for measures to
increase border security. The House version would do
it by increasing the size of a Gestapo-like Border
Control force 60-fold to 663,546 (that’s one third
larger than the active duty US Army excluding
reservists and National Guard). These “border guards”
will be little more than armed thugs legally mandated
to do about anything they want because acting tough
and terrorizing are terrific deterrents, and they’d
only be doing it to poor dark-skinned folks we don’t
want who don’t count for anything anyway.

This huge army, if it’s created, already has a
volunteer border force in place called the Minuteman
Civil Defense Corps (MCDC) or “Minutemen” for short.
Their name is sacrilegiously borrowed from those
“ready in a minute men” that go back in our history to
the mid-1600s and were trained to be first on the
scene to defend us in a conflict. All this force wants
to defend is white supremacy and race hate. It’s an
ultra-right neofascist group possibly numbering in the
thousands of Nazi-like paramilitary street thugs now
terrorizing anyone they catch trying to cross our
borders and enter the country illegally, primarily in
the Southwest. Other organizations are just as
extremist like the National Policy Institute that
believes the rights of white people come first,
“diversity” and “multiculturalism” are practically
sinful, Affirmative Action should be abolished and
mass deportation is the solution to our “illegal
immigrant problem.” These groups and organizations are
being tacitly supported by our elected officials
through their silence or in too many cases their
complicity. Let’s be clear and call all these groups
and their members what they are – white supremacist
racist nationalists or simply hatemongers for short.

In the US today, this is what’s going on to compound
the existing horror from the sort of domestic
equivalent of this bill, the USA Patriot Act, for
those of us here legally. There’s a sinister idea
behind all this legislation, other oppressive laws
already on the books and a government in charge that
believes it can do whatever it wants about anything to
anyone, law or no law. We have a president who
believes and has said he’s “above the law” and the
“Constitution is just a goddamed piece of paper.”
With that kind of attitude, should it surprise anyone
that what’s now happening is a full-scale effort to
create a repressive national security police state
with the consent of the public that’s scared of its
shadow and willing to sacrifice its freedom for the
illusion of security. In reality, the Bush
administration is trying to “keep the legal and
illegal rabble in line” while their quest for empire
goes on unobstructed and unabated by waging permanent
war on all parts of the world we haven’t yet conquered
and colonized.


George Bush has proposed and the Senate may pass its
version of a temporary or guest worker program as part
of their immigration legislation when they return from
spring brake. Shades of the infamous Bracero Program
that was in force from 1942-1964 and gave employers
license to exploit over three million Mexican migrant
farm workers, deny them their rights and subject them
to severe harassment and oppression from extremist
groups and racist authorities. Whether or not we
enact a new version of that old program, we’re
currently moving toward establishing a police state as
I’ve already alluded to above to control and restrain
the home population from resisting or interfering with
their global empire project. The easy targets are
those we label possible or likely “terrorists”
followed by anyone with dark skin living here, wishing
to, already arrived undocumented or others we may
allow in to be used, abused and then discarded when no
longer needed.

We have a tainted history in our treatment of
immigrants going back many years. I discussed earlier
what we did to the Chinese who built our
transcontinental railroad in the 19th century. It was
no different in the 1930s when in the desperation of
the Great Depression, Latinos were viewed as taking
jobs and getting government benefits from “real
Americans.” As a result, up to two million Mexicans
were “relocated” to Mexico during that decade even
though 1.2 million of them were born in the US and
were US citizens. In California alone, 400,000 Latino
US citizens or legal residents were forced to leave.
This virulent racism resurfaced in 1954 when under
“Operation Wetback” (the name alone wreaks of race
hate) and in a national reaction against illegal
immigrants, over one million here illegally were
deported back to Mexico by trucks, buses, trains and
even ships. In some cases even their US born children
were sent with them even though they were US citizens.
It’s a wonder we didn’t put them all on forced
marches and make them go back the hard way.

The stalled compromise Senate bill, endorsed by George
Bush, is little more than election year politicking to
win the Hispanic vote. In addition, it would create a
permanently legal underclass of low-paid workers,
allow employers the right to exploit them and put
added pressure on US workers so as to restrain their
wage and benefit demands.

The Senate bill divides illegal immigrants into three
groups. Those who arrived after April 1, 2001 could
stay permanently if they pass background checks and
pay back taxes and a $2,000 fine (no easy task for
them); worked at least three of the past five years;
work another six years and get in the queue behind
other applicants already in it. Immigrants who
arrived between April 1, 2001 and January, 2004 would
have to return to a US port of entry and re-enter the
country legally with a temporary work permit. They
would also have to pass background checks and pay back
taxes. Finally, illegals who arrived after January,
2004 would be required to leave the country. They
could only return on temporary work permits.

Any immigration bill, if passed, will create an
overwhelming burden of documentation and verification
on millions of immigrants as well as the federal
bureaucracy and employers. Immigrants going through
the process would be forced to give up their right to
privacy protection, asylum and due process. If an
Employment Verification System is part of a final
resolution, they would also have to get a federal
agency’s permission to work. In addition, it would
require them to learn English and would subject them
to overwhelming bureacratic red tape that under the
best of conditions likely would be rife with errors
and delays that would be nightmarish to resolve. And
to boot it would create an easily accessed database
that would make all those in it easy pickings for
identity theives.

Employers under the Senate plan would be required to
verify that their new workers are in the country
legally. They now only need to ask for worker
documents showing those they hire are allowed to be
here. The plan envisions a tamper-proof means of ID,
such as a driver’s license with a picture, a
fingerprint or an iris scan. If that provision
becomes law, it’s step one on the road to a national
identity card for everyone, possibly to include an
embedded chip so Homeland Security, the NSA and other
snoop agencies could keep tabs on all our moves and
whereabouts. “Big Brother” is alive and well and “in
our face.”

The immigration service would also have its hands full
under this plan. It would have to cope with the
overwhelming burden of doing background checks and
verifying the identity, work history, tax obligations
and English language competency of 11 million or more
people. This is on top of their already enormous
burden handling the influx of immigrants into the
country. The IRS and Social Security Administration
would also be obligated along with employers to help
immigrants calculate what back taxes they owe and what
they had paid into Social Security accounts.
Employers would have to report these earnings and
would be in violation of the law if they didn’t.


What’s on the table being debated in the Congress is
not as extreme as Hitler’s infamous Nuremberg Race
Laws, but there are some ominous comparisons. Early
on in Nazi Germany Hitler wanted to assert the
superiority of the “Aryan race.” He hoped to create a
Master Race of pure blue-eyed, blond Aryan Caucausian
Nordic types, and even though the notion of Aryan has
no racial meaning he inferred that it did in what he
preached and the laws he had enacted. The chosen ones
were the Herrenvolk and all others were called
Untermenschen or subhumans. In the US today
Causausian Judeo-Christians are our Herrenvolk and all
others are the Untermenschen, especially people of
color and Muslims.

We don’t say that openly, write our laws with overtly
denigrating or restrictive racist language in them or
practice a policy of extermination today to create a
“racially” pure society. But we did just that for 300
years to our native population and in the process
slaughtered about 18 million of them as we built the
nation we now have. Hitler, in fact, used what we did
as a model for his own plan to exterminate the Jews
and other undesirables he wanted eliminated.

We also used black Africans as slaves over the same
period we eliminated our native population and then
after freeing them held them in the bondage of Jim
Crow laws and racist attitudes that exist to this day
despite the landmark civil rights legislation of the
1960s. We never accepted black people or any others
of color as co-equals even though we piously say we do
and enacted laws that codify it.

The current immigration legislation now being debated
is only the latest chapter in white America’s attempt
to put its oppressive boot on the neck of people of
color we see as inferior or now label “terrorists.”
And we created a new public enemy number one after
9/11, Muslims, and have persecuted them with a
vengeance. Just like the saying that “history doesn’t
repeat itself, but it rhymes”, attributed to Mark
Twain, what the US has practiced in recent years is
not like Nazi Germany at its worst, but there’s
similarity enough to be very disturbing and we’re
heading in the wrong direction.

Hitler, too, began slowly and moderately after being
named German Chancellor in January, 1933 (about one
month before Franklin Roosevelt became our 32nd
President). He needed time to consolidate power and
at first didn’t want to scare the voters before they
lost their franchise or moderate politicians before
they no longer had any say. What began modestly
gradually became more extreme and isn’t too dissimilar
to what’s happening here now. Bill Clinton’s signing
into law the 1996 immigration reform act (IIRAIRA) and
anti-terrorism act (AEDPA) discussed earlier can be
seen as the first shot across the bow in the current
war against immigrants. Then after 9/11 the gloves
came off, and it was off to the races with the
infamous Patriot Act, mass witch-hunt roundups of
those labeled potential terrorists and now an extreme
and hostile attempted crackdown on those immigrant
groups we’ve targeted – those of color, especially
Latinos and Muslims. What’s next? Unless the current
mass public protest uproar continues, gets stronger
and makes the lawmakers nervous enough to believe we
really mean business and won’t stand for this, you can
bet it will only get worse until we’re all targeted
and become potential victims. That’s about how Hitler
did it, and we seem headed in the same dangerous
direction. Good Germans back then didn’t complain as
long as it happened to others until one day many
discovered it could happen to them too. By then it
was too late. That’s how tyranny works.


In recent weeks millions of people have gone to the
streets in cities nationwide to protest en masse
against the current immigration legislation in the
Congress. These protests have the potential to spread
and grow enough to become the new civil rights
struggle of our time. Hostile and denigrating
legislation in the Congress has lit the fuse, and all
the immigrant rights movement may need to combat it is
a few Martin Luther King type figures to lead the
effort for real justice against a government intent on
denying it to them.

The protests are continuing, and at least 60 cities
are scheduling more events and demonstrations that
include candlelight vigils in Los Angeles, a mass
rally at the Washington monument and a “day without
Hispanics” in Telluride, CO intended as a work
stoppage. In addition, immigration rights activists
are planning a national action, student walkout and
boycott they call The Great American Boycott of 2006
on May 1 of no work, no school, no shopping and a
demand for amnesty and full and equal rights for all
working people. Adding overall impact to these mass
protests is the presence of Hispanics from Mexico and
almost every Central and South American country
including Venezuela whose twice democratically elected
President, Hugo Chavez, is also a target of US
hostility and possible future illegal aggression to
oust him. But other immigrant ethnic groups are well
represented as well – especially large numbers from
the Korean and Chinese communities.

Joshua Hoyt, Executive Director of the Illinois
Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a
120-member coalition of organizations, said: “There
has never been this kind of mobilization in the
immigrant community ever. They have kicked the
sleeping giant. It’s the beginning of a massive
immigrant civil rights struggle.” And it’s gone
beyond just the rights of legal and illegal immigrants
to include working people of all races who’ve seen
their jobs exported, unions weakened or destroyed,
wages stagnated and essential benefits reduced, lost
or never gotten. It’s seen permanent high-paying jobs
replaced by temporary ones at much lower pay and often
no benefits. It’s seen the oppressive power of big
corporations aided by their allies in government wreak
havoc over ordinary working people including legal
immigrants and the undocumented in a vicious downward
cycle of exploitation and repression. The voices in
the streets are saying “no mas/no more.” I make no
bones where I stand – four-square with all those in
the streets, and I was born here and am one of the
privileged. That could never have happened if my
ancestors had been denied entry or had been deported
after they arrived.

Look at the impressive numbers in cities around the
country. In my city of Chicago alone, from 300,000 –
500,000 protested downtown near where I live in the
largest ever protest in the city’s history for any
reason. In Los Angeles it was the same thing with
somewhere between 1 – 1.5 million in the streets,
again historic. In New York, tens of thousands
marched across the Brooklyn Bridge carrying the flags
of their native countries. And those in the streets
included more than immigrants – the unions brought out
their members, there were young people and students
who walked out of class in defiance of school
authorities to join in (40,000 alone in Los Angeles).
It’s hard to tell where this will lead or what effect
it will have, but never underestimate the power of
organized people. When enough of them speak out,
politicians listen, especially when those people are
voters or in the case of young people when they have
parents who are. Famed Chicago community organizer
Sol Linowitz understood it when he once said “the way
to beat organized money is with organized people.”
Social activist Arundhati Roy also understands and
she’s said “we are many and they are few.” And I
suggest we all together do a good imitation of Howard
Beale, the news anchor from the 1976 movie Network,
who one day got fed up yelled out “I’m mad as hell,
and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Any Howards
out there? Come on, let me hear you. I start you off
and say what I said before – I’m past made as hell, I
won’t take it anymore, and I intend to fight back to
save my civil liberties and the republic and to help
the disadvantaged and oppressed achieve the justice
they deserve. But I can’t do it alone. I need a lot
of you with me.


I’ve written now a number of times before that I
believe the country is approaching a dangerous
watershed. The scenario I paint is a gloomy one in
which the situation is grave, the stakes are immense
and the time is short. It’s a battle to save the
republic and our sacred Constitutional rights. I’m
desperately trying to sound the alarm against an
out-of-control imperial state engaged in a permanent
war abroad for empire along with a “second front” at
home against all working people (that’s most everyone)
and especially the ones most easily targeted who
comprise the subject of this essay – vulnerable legal
and undocumented immigrants. It’s a life and death
struggle to save us from descending into the hell of
tyranny, the repressive police state being created to
control it and an endless war on the world. That’s
not a world I want to live in or pass on to my
children or grandchildren. I hope you feel as I do
and are willing to do something about it. Unless you
do and together we can find a way to reverse course
and do it quickly, we’ll awaken one day sooner than we
may think and find out it’s already too late, we’ve
crossed “The Rubicon”, and there’s no way back. The
sad lesson of history will have been repeated again,
but this time to us. It can happen here, make no
mistake. Will you now head out to the mall
complacently with what’s at stake? Will you let this
happen without a fight? I won’t. Are you with me?


I’ve never before dedicated one of my articles to
anyone, but this time feel I must. I wish to dedicate
this one to the wonderful and redoubtable staff at US
based Pacifica Radio KPFA’s Flashpoints Radio in
Berkeley, CA for their courageous, tireless and
unrelenting efforts on behalf of the immigrant
communities of my country and for their overall work
and commitment in the unending fight for humanity and
equal justice for all. They inspired me to write this
article and several others as well. I’m deeply
grateful to them.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog
address at

Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. After working seven years as a marketing research analyst, he joined the Lendman Group family business in 1967. He remained there until retiring at year end 1999. Writing on major world and national issues began in summer 2005. In early 2007, radio hosting followed. Lendman now hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network three times weekly. Distinguished guests are featured. Listen live or archived. Major world and national issues are discussed. Lendman is a 2008 Project Censored winner and 2011 Mexican Journalists Club international journalism award recipient.