Language has been a concern ever since humans created it and began using words to replace grunting, howling or shrieking. It’s much easier to be clear in communication when speaking, assuming the language is mutually understood, rather than simply gesturing or making barely intelligible noises. But when indicating difficulty in communicating with someone was once referred to as an experience like “talking to a wall”, present political discourse about immigrants and immigration among people who supposedly speak the same language has become divisive screeching in a “tower of babble”. This is a weapon for minority dominating powers who keep humans in a condition of confusion in order to continue ruling out any notion of a state of democracy, another concept widely confusing and misunderstood.
But let’s just stick to the words immigrant and immigration, which are as different as day and night or love and hate, and are a great cause of social division among people who desperately need unity before that division helps push an entire society into oblivion.
Confusion over those words has pushed many good people who passionately support immigrants into dispassionately supporting policies that strengthen the very immigration system they criticize. A majority of Americans still support the political economics they have lived in and under all of their lives, but they are as confused as social critics who in their desire to help other humans often work at cross purposes by strengthening an anti-social, anti-human, anti-environmental system that is helping destroy nature – and we who are a vital part of it – more quickly than ever before. Things have become so confused that many calling for “revolution” work hard to create a sanctuary for the system they seek to radically change. Or at least they do that based on another confusion of language that convinces some that “revolution” is exclusively personality based, involves identity-tribal-religious-ethnic groups, an alleged two party system in which both parties are owned by the rich, and other contradictions that manifest serious problems getting worse by the minute.
America is believed by many to be a nation of immigrants in that it was founded by people from Europe and grew peopled by new generations that came first from Europe, then Africa – in physical bondage and not just economic chains – then Asia, and more recently, from the southern part of North America, the name given to the continent settled by immigrants from Europe. The fabled tale of our nation’s birth and our seeming worship of immigration usually leaves out the near destruction of the humans who lived here before the invasion of settlers and immigrants who found better lives – mostly after suffering a great deal as most immigrants did and some still do – at the cost of ruining the lives of those they replaced. And all immigration under any circumstances has social costs that are absorbed by some far more than others.
Under the political economics of capitalism, which ruled when our nation was founded though it wasn’t called by that name yet, immigration profited many people greatly but meant a loss for sometimes far more. That reality has continued from its beginning with the replacement of the indigenous people by murder and ethnic cleansing to a more modern form which simply reduces some to lower standards of living while increasing profits for investors in capital’s market for cheap labor, the reason for the overwhelming majority of people who came here in the sixteenth century and continue to do so at the present moment.
Whenever there was a need for bodies to work the land – the peasants sent from England and later Germany at the nation’s beginnings – or work the mills and factories of the later industrial revolution – when the rest of Europe and China offered their unwanted or extraneous populations – the calls for new shipments went out and soon they were delivered.
While it was supremely difficult for immigrants to enter the country illegally in the past when oceans had to be crossed in becoming a newer, cheaper work force, it became a bit easier for workers from south of the American border who, often at great and even life threatening difficulty had to merely step over an invisible line to leave one nation and enter another. Since that line had been created more recently than mostly older European and Asian borders, there were mixed cultures on both sides and a sometimes-easier community to welcome new immigrants. Immediately arriving migrants from Mexico and Central America could find old communities that spoke the same language and were of related culture – with differences, of course, but none as wide as those between English speakers and Germans or Italians or the Irish of previous immigration waves – and this too made it possible to find quicker entrance and a degree of comfort and familiarity. Where previous groups took some time to settle in and find cultural comfort zones, the Latino influx of 20th and early 21st century was able to adapt more quickly, and with even more homeland pleasure for the profits they created as cheap labor. And with the new class of illegal immigrants, they become even cheaper and thus even more profitable for capital and its professional class servants.
Whether finding work in agriculture, factories, mills, or smaller businesses like restaurants or in domestic work, the Latinos became both a larger group of workers than ever imported in a short time, and a far more profitable one taking jobs at the lower and entry levels of the economy. Thus, the upper-middle and professional classes could also enjoy the replacement of domestic servants with cheaper help for house cleaning, childcare, landscaping and such, at lower cost than previously employed Americans. And again contradicting well intentioned people anxious to end racism and employment discrimination, those replaced Americans were mostly black, as is true of hotel workers who have become almost entirely Latino where once black Americans did the vacuuming, bed making and laundering for both hotel chains and independent smaller motels. This replicated past experience when the English immigrants were replaced by Germans and they were replaced by the Irish and they by central and southern Europeans. Each new group entered the nation poor, took the dirtiest jobs available, and with luck moved up the economic ladder to become more average working class and later and more recently a middle class citizens. This highlights more language confusion when America is supposedly a non-class society, which just happens to have a lower, middle and upper class. Oh well.
Or is it Orwell?
The point being that in almost entirely well intentioned support for immigrants, good people continued bad policy when, by creating alleged sanctuary for individuals suffering systemic problems, they actually create sanctuary for capital’s policies that replace one group of workers with another, thereby strengthening the system’s endless need for cheaper labor for its profits by creating greater loss among the often misguided majority. When those who profit directly from the import of cheap workers are joined by those who bear little or no social cost for that intervention, the policy is strengthened by a focus on humanism, which conveniently keeps capitalism out of the frame. Then, people are reduced to being labeled “racist” if/when they complain about immigration – as though immigrants were members of a different race than human, in keeping with a racist culture’s population subdued into believing such mythology – which completely excludes the personal and social cost of bringing a newer work force in to replace an older work force going out, and a tax paying public frequently receiving no profits at all while absorbing much greater loss.
The more recent wave of immigration meant entry-level employment for new workers, which were thus denied those Americans previously dependent on such work. If that wave of immigrants were professional class and English speaking, say from Canada, and Americans could get a lawyer, doctor or therapist for fifteen bucks and hour, a teacher, social worker or accountant for ten, many Americans might be thrilled and delighted but that would hardly be the case for all those professional class people reduced to near or real hardship if not destitution. Under such duress we might see “extremist” groups of lawyers or doctors with shaved heads and swastika tattoos parading the streets upon losing their homes, investments and facing such hardships. And rest assured that America’s bloated and near bursting penal colony numbers many members of a new “criminal class” who became such as entry level jobs vanished from their version of the American Dream, too often a nightmare upon waking to face reality.
A far better and socially just answer to our massive economic problem of worship of market forces instead of democracy would be to bring in immigrants from foreign countries the way we bring in relatives and neighbors whom we treat as such and not simply profit makers for us and burdens for others. A truly humane welcome would not see to it that they remain illegal as we give them driver’s licenses, educations – which frequently leave them speaking foreign languages and denied equal status to their neighbors and thus remaining at the lower paid end of the economy – but make them legal, as quickly as possible if we truly want them to stay here and become Americans. Anything less, whether directly supported by capital or ignorantly accepted by those who mean well but practice ill, continues a rotten system that abuses far more than one or another sector of the population but all of us who carry the burden of an out of control system that ultimately threatens all and not just some humans, whatever language we speak or culture we are taught to embrace.
Frank Scott writes political commentary and satire which appears online at the blog Legalienate.