Magazine article New Internationalist

A Nation of Immigrants Speaks

Magazine article New Internationalist

A Nation of Immigrants Speaks

Article excerpt

For white supremacists in the US, the apocalypse predicted in the Mayan calendar came true: in 2012, for the first time, more than half of all babies born here belong to ethnic minorities. If trends hold, white people (or 'non- Hispanic whites', to be more accurate) will themselves become a racial minority here around 2040.

For non-bigots, these changes are merely a reflection of one of the US's great strengths: its status as a constantly self-renewing nation of immigrants. But whether one celebrates the reality of diversity or yearns for the 'traditional America' depicted in sitcom reruns from the 1950s (Theodore 'The Beaver' Cleaver*, present; histories of racism and segregation, conveniently missing), shifting demographics are already reshaping US politics.

Latino voters currently make up a small fraction of the electorate. Yet in critical swing states, they can be decisive. Latinos voting overwhelmingly to re-elect Barack Obama - roughly 7 out of 10 opted against rule by Romney - helped determine outcomes in battlegrounds such as Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Florida.

US conservatives, struggling to understand how anyone could possibly oppose their programme of using government primarily to control women's uteruses, invade foreign countries, and provide gainful employment to lawyers who want to rewrite the tax code for the benefit of the one per cent, have come up with an explanation. They argue that President Obama bought offLatinos with 'gifts'. Specifically, they point to a White House decision last summer to stop deportations of young immigrants who came to the US as children and are now attending college or serving in the military.

It's true that, in effect, this executive action implemented key provisions of the Dream Act, a measure heavily favoured in Latino communities but previously blocked by Congressional Republicans. However, the notion that Obama's move was merely a piece of patronage concocted to mop up votes is an offensive one.

First off, it shows the massive amount of condescension flowing from US conservatives toward Latinos. (Note to the Right: accusing an ethnic group of being a bunch of paid-offpatsies is probably not the best way to woo them to your side. …

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