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Immigration and prejudice: America’s long racist stroll

by C.S. Hagen | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Editorial | January 25th, 2018

America’s immigration policies have ridden the waves of prejudice for more than 250 years, and each refusal and denial takes its toll on the country’s core values.

First, our nation stole, tricked, and traded land from Native Americans, killing indiscriminately upon resistance. Then came the Acadians, devout Catholics, and the Irish and Germans, starving and persecuted. Norwegians and Swedes came soon after, seeking land to plow. Africans became slaves, which the nation fought a civil war to emancipate.

The so-called “Yellow Plague” came in the 1880s escaping decades of war and unjust rule by their Qing oppressors. Chinese in long queues, shaved foreheads, speaking a language and practicing customs foreign to Americans of that day, they helped build railroads and became industrious workers. They were quickly hunted down by whites claiming loss of jobs. The Chinese were beaten in Wyoming, lynched in Oregon, and massacred in California. They were run out of towns and forced to wear identification under “dog tag laws.” Eventually, Chinese were banned from entering the United States for nearly 60 years with the Chinese Exclusion Act.

For the first time in the 1920s – much like today – the United States attempted to implement a racist agenda at “restor[ing] earlier immigration patterns by capping total annual immigration and imposing numerical quotas based on immigrant nationality that favored northern and western European countries,” according to the Pew Research Center.

Countries like Norway, not the “sh*thole countries” of Africa, Mexico, the Middle East, or the United State’s little brother, Puerto Rico.

Although there are many more instances of racial prejudice forging anti-immigration laws, such turbulent times all have one commonality: the outsider is taking American jobs for less money. Such laws and fears inspired Nazi Germany to adopt some U.S. racial policies when they wrote the Nuremberg Laws, anti-Jewish legislation enacted in 1935, and the Blood Laws, which like policy in America at that time, banned interracial marriages until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against such discrimination in 1967.

James Q. Whitman, a specialist in comparative law at Yale University, wrote a book recently entitled “Hitler’s American Model.” He delves deeply into how American anti-immigration policies before World War II bolstered Nazi’s confidence.

“It may seem of particular timeliness at a moment when the “Alt-right” seems to have put questions of white supremacy back on the table,” Whitman said in a March 24, 2017 article in “The Chronicle of Higher Education.”

“It’s worth remembering how deep these traditions run in the United States… The feature of American law that the radical Nazis admired is still present… What we see there is the same disturbing pattern of politicization that radical Nazis admired in the 1930s. To that extent, working through the details of this disturbing episode in the 1930s helps us to recognize the roots and the depth of our problems today.”

Xenophobic rhetoric that the refugees are stealing jobs is the same language Adolf Hitler used to mislead a nation directly into World War II, the Holocaust, and the deaths of more than 80 million soldiers from across the world. Using populist themes, he found a scapegoat for Germany’s troubles before World War II in the Jewish race. He dubbed the Jews and Marxists as “November criminals,” and the “International Jewry,” which to him was the scourge relentlessly destroying the fatherland.

A quote from a speech given by Hitler in Munich on April 12, 1922, reflects the sentiments of many of today’s so-called “Alt-right,” and evangelical Christians supporting President Donald Trump’s blanket immigration bans. Although Hitler targeted Jews during his rise to power, in America today, the government is targeting Muslims and refugees from the Middle East, Africa, and those suffering in Mexico and South America.

"In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in his might and seized the scourge to drive out of the temple the brood of vipers and of adders,” Hitler said. “How terrific was his fight for the world against the Jewish poison. Today, after 2,000 years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before - the fact that it was for this that he had to shed his blood upon the cross… And as a man I have the duty to see to it that human society does not suffer the same catastrophic collapse as did the civilization of the ancient world some 2,000 years ago - a civilization which was driven to its ruin through this same Jewish people."

Besides choosing a scapegoat with the Jewish race, calling them “parasites” and “vermin,” Hitler also called them out for controlling banks, governments, for being behind Bolshevism, and leading the “fake news” Fourth Estate of his time.

The statistics the so-called Alt-right doesn’t want you to know
A January 22 opinion piece published by Inforum and written by Judy Estenson, who ran unsuccessfully for agricultural commissioner in 2014, and is currently the chairwoman of District 23 of the North Dakota Republican Party, reflects such nativist sentiments. She falsely claims that wages aren’t rising in North Dakota, and that refugees and a “disproportionate share” of immigrants in the state are to blame.

Undocumented immigrants constitute approximately five percent of the American workforce, and due to immigration policies making legal routes difficult for relatives of Mexicans currently in the United States, Mexicans make up nearly half of all illegal immigrants.

Many studies show immigrant flows harm some workers, temporarily, but the debate is about who suffers, and how much. High school dropouts, which numbered approximately 64 million in 2014, are included in the low-skilled category by The Economist, and can be affected by up to five percent.

Other studies such as the 2011 research by economists Gianmarco Ottaviano and Giovanni Peri, show that immigrants, legal or illegal, compete primarily with other immigrants for jobs.

Cracking down on immigration, legal or illegal, historically has the opposite outcome of the knee-jerk reactions from overzealous nationalistic naysayers. After Arizona passed draconian anti-immigration laws, the state’s population of undocumented workers dropped 40 percent, but the state’s domestic product decreased two percent, and the employment rate decreased 2.5 percent. Such a recession hurt Arizona’s economy, according to Moody’s.

Economic activity shrank because of the missing dollars to buy clothing, groceries, or start businesses. Construction, landscaping, and agricultural companies fell behind for lack of willing workers. Farmers were forced to increase wages up to 15 percent, which inhibited their chances at growth, and still cannot find steady farmhands. Tough anti-immigration laws prompted unions and organizations to boycott the state, conventions were cancelled, and real estate prices plummeted.

Arizona began recovering in 2010, because the state saved money on expensive state prisons, hospital balances, and public school systems, but analysts question if the laws were worth it.

“Were a President Trump to deport all illegal immigrants, the economy would suffer greatly,” The Economist reported. “Just ask Arizona, where a crackdown on illegal immigrants in 2007 shrank the economy… the incomes of most workers would fall.”

By November 2017, the unemployment rate in Fargo fell to 2.0, a slight bump up from October or September. In Bismarck, the unemployment rate rose higher to 2.4, while Grand Forks took the middle with 2.2 percent unemployment rate. North Dakota stands as one of the most stable states for job growth in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

From December 2016 until March 2017, gross job gains across the state totaled 26,128 and gross job losses number 22,998, a number nearly 20,000 less than two years before.

Across the Midwest, all salaries have risen, and in North Dakota have increased an average of 0.4 percent in 2017, according to Current Employment Statistics Survey managed by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Across the state in larger counties, salaries are also climbing, albeit slowly. In 2016, Cass County reported a 4.3 percent wage growth. Weekly wages in Oliver County, Mercer County, and Williams County reported an average weekly wage of over $1,300 per worker. Sheridan County has the lowest weekly wage rate in the state averaging $500. Forty-four of the 52 counties in North Dakota had average weekly wages lower than the national average of $1,027, but the state’s cost of living, from buying a house to groceries, is lower in rural areas.

North Dakota has a median hourly wage of $18.83, with a mean hourly wage of $22.66, and an annual mean wage of $47,130, a number met when averaging computer and information systems managers with annual salary of $110,260 to restaurant servers with annual salary of $21,100 and landscaping workers at $29,500, according to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

Two years before, North Dakota had a mean hourly wage of $17.75, with a mean hourly wage of $21.20, and annual mean wage of $44,100, which means over the past two years salaries have risen an average of $3,030.

Since January 2002, 3,677 refugees have been settled in Fargo, according to a Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota report. New Americans are employers, taxpayers, and field workers, choosing occupations few local citizens are willing to apply for.

Statistically, what is known at the local level is that refugees contributed $542.8 million to the city’s GDP in 2014, and have a spending power of $149.4 million, according to the Refugee Resettlement in Fargo report, a study commissioned to the Fargo Human Relations Commission to perform and released in April 2017.

First-generation immigrants are cost-positive in North Dakota by approximately $3,250, and long-term benefits are incalculable, according to the study and the City of Fargo’s Community Development Department. First-generation households are cost-positive by $4,900, making North Dakota the second most cost-positive state in the nation.

Between 2011 and 2013, immigrants in North Dakota paid $133.9 million in taxes and spent $425.7 million, according to the Fargo Human Relations Commission’s first report, released in February 2017.

Nationally, since 2011, the U.S. Refugee Admission Program has received approximately 655,000 applications, with more than 75 percent of the applicants fleeing from “sh*thole countries” such as Iraq, Myanmar, Syria, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bhutan, according to the United States Government Accountability Office, or GAO.

In 2016, the United States admitted 85,000 refugees, the largest yearly number in more than 15 years, according to GAO.

There are little to no connections compiled by reputable immigration think tanks correlating immigration to lowering of wages, but there are many reports propped by Trump’s Administration that do not tell the entire truth. There are equally as many studies available that are truly non-partisan, and state every time immigration laws relax, America prospers.

History, if we pay attention, can teach us about the future. All we have to do is look.

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