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How Arabs fit into US ‘immigration reform’
“IMMIGRATION reform” has become one of America’s most important priorities. But the “reform” being discussed has little to do with Arabs, who are among the most harassed when it comes to immigration.
It has everything to do with the politics of race and the battle between Democrats and Republicans to win over the votes of the country’s largest minority group, Hispanics. In recent years, Hispanics have been moving away from the Democratic Party and are flirting with the Republicans. Like everything in America, politics is bizarre. Principles do not apply and double standards are rampant.
Immigration reform is defined in the political dynamics of the American debate not as a concern for minority fairness, but rather as a key factor in a Republican versus Democratic political tug of war focused on one minority, Hispanics.
Traditionally, Democrats have been the most sympathetic to minorities and over the years the two largest minority groups, Blacks and Hispanics, have voted overwhelmingly Democratic in national elections. That is an anomaly in American politics because minorities generally are more conservative when it comes to issues of family values. So why wouldn’t they favor Republicans?
Racism against minorities in the Republican Party has been pushed aside by the need to grow the party and weaken the Democratic base. There are 50 million Hispanics and only 37 million African Americans among the country’s 315 million population. About 198 million are White and the remaining 30 million are “miscellaneous” minorities that include Asians, Native Americans, and others spelled out by the US Census.
Hispanics were also a strong voter base for Democrats, but that changed after Sept. 11, 2001. For some reason, Hispanics became more “patriotic” in defending America from the “Arab terrorism threat.” Republicans took notice, trumping their racism against minorities like Mexicans.
Once staunchly opposed to immigration reform, Republicans now see it as a way to attract Hispanics away from Democrats. Whether Republicans and Democrats come together or not to adopt immigration reform is a big political “if”. But Republicans are desperate to widen their political base in the face of Obama’s landslide presidential re-election victory over Mitt Romney last year.
Deep rivalries between African Americans and Hispanics have given Republicans the opportunity to appeal to Hispanics. The Democratic Party has a “minority imbalance” problem with Blacks and Hispanics vying for the same limited “chairs” at the “table,” an American euphemism for empowerment. Many African Americans believe that they lose power when Hispanics gain power.
Historically, African Americans and Hispanics voted Democratic because the Democratic Party was the most sensitive to their needs creating special laws requiring that a large percentage of government contract awards must be “set aside” for minority-owned companies.
The largest number of undocumented immigrants in the United States come from Mexico, crossing the border into Arizona, Texas and California to find jobs and to escape increasing crime and poverty in Mexico. They are not coming from Africa and they are not coming from the Middle East. That’s why the parameters of the discussion focus on the issues of immigration that apply mainly to Mexicans who have crossed over into America illegally.
The debate on immigration reform is about allowing undocumented residents to become citizens without undermining national security. And when Americans talk about “national security,” they are not talking about African Americans or Hispanics. They are talking about Arabs.
Don’t expect immigration reform to address the injustices in how national security has created nightmarish situations for Arabs under the Department of Homeland Security.
Arabs are intentionally being excluded from the national debate. This is all about Republicans seeking to build a political constituency while Democrats are seeking to retain their hold on Hispanics. It’s really not about adjusting the immigration injustices. America was built by immigrants. But the children of immigrants have lost their civil rights conscience. The spirit of the welcome inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty is tarnished. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” is no longer this country’s driving mantra.
America is more discriminatory about who it lets in, and even more discriminatory about which minority groups it helps. There is no political advantage to Republicans or Democrats to help Arabs. That’s why Arabs are excluded from an accounting in the US Census.
The key to empowerment is knowing how many people in your community exist. Funding is based on those numbers. If you know, you benefit. If you don’t, you lose out, blocked from taking a place at the proverbial “table.”
How many Arabs live in America? We don’t know. So how can we apply immigration reform to Arabs in America? Today’s debate on immigration reform includes key phrases that separate Arabs from other minorities.
Obama’s immigration reform proposal focuses on four points: Strengthening the nation’s borders; cracking down on companies that hire undocumented workers; making undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship by paying taxes and penalties and moving to the back of the line, learning English, and passing background checks; and streamlining the legal immigration system for families, workers and employers.
For example, a key principle in making immigration policies more fair focuses enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a “national security” or “public safety risk.” Children born to undocumented immigrants can remain in America under the “Dream Act,” except when circumstances involve “national security.”
In today’s America, “national security” has an intended relevance to Arabs.
— Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com Follow him on Twitter at @rayhanania
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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