Monday, October 24, 2011

Demagoguery Meets Demography

Source: Prof. Peter Catapano, Immigration History
My recent "jockeying" post focused on the hypocrisy of most of the Republican presidential candidates, as they ramp up anti-immigrant rhetoric while engaging in practices and promoting policies that increase immigration. It was only a couple of days later that journalist Ann McFeatters published "White House Watch: GOP Views on Immigration," which details the demographic constraints on demagoguery.

First, let's be clear: scapegoating immigrants is a bipartisan sport, and long has been. Democrats and Republicans play it differently, but both play. President Obama has become Deporter-in-Chief, as McFeatters points out, having sent 400,000 people packing for paper lapses.

In recent decades, legislative redistricting has often focused on "majority minority" districts, but as early as 2042, the entire country will be in this category. That is, non-Hispanic whites will be less numerous than people formerly dismissed as "minorities" in this country. What is a politician to do in the face of such profound demographic change? McFeatters explores the options and finds the current campaigns very much lacking.

She clearly shows that over time, even the most xenophobic politicians will have to recognize the need -- as Rick Perry currently does on his good days -- for everyone who lives in the our society to be an educated and contributing member of it. Long before US-born whites become a minority in the population as a whole, they (we, in my case) will be a minority in the working-aged population. In her words:
Instead of embracing inevitable demographic change as a golden opportunity, we are trying to kick people out or make their lives miserable. The truth is that we are rare among developed nations in getting the gift of young workers (and consumers), who, if properly educated and motivated, will save us.
Of course, not all undocumented workers are Hispanic, but McFeatter is not mistaken in noting the rhetorical connections between race and migration. It is well known in the Northeast that thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of undocumented workers from Ireland, Australia, or Eastern Europe go unnoticed while Hispanic workers and even their children are increasingly likely to be harassed, regardless of status.

Source: Prof. Peter Catapano, Immigration History

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