One of the pieces of political language that drives me absolutely nuts is the term ‘illegal immigrants’. The system of immigration in both Canada and the United States disincentivizes documented immigration by making it nearly impossible and subject to interference by the capricious whims of the party in power. Looking at it cynically, one could make the argument that there is a huge economic benefit to the elite class, who can exploit undocumented immigrants for what is essentially slave labour, secure in the knowledge that threats of deportation are usually enough to quell any resistance to the illegal working conditions. The system punishes the exploited, not the exploiters.
Of course, there are few places in the USA that are more openly and notoriously malevolent to undocumented immigrants than the state of Arizona. Despite the blatant racism inherent in their newly-minted anti-Mexican law that they try to pass off as a way of handling “illegals”, they are still legally allowed to detain and deport anyone who looks ‘foreign’ and can’t prove their non-foreign-ness to the satisfaction of the towering legal intellect of folks like Joe Arpaio.
Gabriela Saucedo Mercer hasn’t even won the Republican primary for Congress in Arizona yet, but she is already facing attacks from the Democratic Congressman she is hoping to unseat in November over some incendiary comments she made in the past about Middle Eastern immigrants.
In an interview with a conservative website last year, Saucedo Mercer talked in depth about her views on immigration. A Mexican immigrant herself who became a U.S. citizen , she said the issue was important because people from places other than Mexico were among those coming across the border illegally.
“That includes Chinese, Middle Easterners,” she said. “If you know Middle Easterners, a lot of them, they look Mexican or they look, you know, like a lot of people in South America, dark skin, dark hair, brown eyes. And they mix. They mix in.
“And those people, their only goal in life is to, to cause harm to the United States. So why do we want them here, either legally or illegally? When they come across the border, besides the trash that they leave behind, the drug smuggling, the killings, the beheadings. I mean, you are seeing stuff. It’s a war out there.”
There’s a lot to unpack here, so I’ve inserted reference numbers to make this deconstruction easier.
1 – Being a person of colour doesn’t
vouchsafe safeguard you from being a racist piece of shit
Ms. Mercer is descended from Mexican immigrants to the United States. While it seems to follow that she would therefore have some sensitivity and insight into the perils facing people of colour (PoCs), particularly Mexicans, as Gershwin said, “it ain’t necessarily so”. Like misogyny from women, racism at the hands of PoCs can be far more shocking and hurtful than when it comes from white folks, who you at least might expect it from. Of course, the fact that a conservative Republican would say something like that probably shouldn’t surprise us at this point.
2 – What the what?
Apparently, according to Ms. Mercer, “Middle Easterners” (does she mean Israeils? Has anyone asked her if she meant Israelis?) look so much like Mexicans that gosh, she just can’t tell who’s who! So we’d better keep all those brown-skins out – how are the state’s racist sherriffs supposed to understand the difference between someone who “looks Mexican illegal” and someone who “looks Middle Eastern illegal”? We don’t want to overtax their poor brains! Of course, putting national security in the hands of people who can’t tell the difference between Beirut and Oaxaca seems pretty problematic to me, but then again I’m a foreigner too, so WTF do I know?
3 – The Middle East is a big place
I’m guessing that Ms. Mercer studied at the Sarah Palin school of geopolitics, because her assertion that “Middle Easterners” are motivated solely by their desire to harm the United States run on the heady mixture of xenophobia and ignorance of basic geography and history that gave us ‘I can see Russia from my house’*. All of this is to say nothing of the grossly offensive and wildly inaccurate broad-brush description of people ‘from the Middle East’. I’d imagine there are a few disgusting generalizations we could make about Mexicans if we were as casual with the truth (and basic human decency) as is Ms. Mercer.
4 – “Legally or Illegally”
Of course this is the most damaging (and most revealing) part of the interview. Ms. Mercer doesn’t simply want to ensure screening to keep out people bent on destroying the United States – she just wants anyone from the Middle East kept the fuck out (again, did anyone think to point her ignorant ass toward a globe and ask if she meant Israelis too?). And this is it – the Arizona policy isn’t about protecting the state from the ravages of “illegal immigration” – it’s about keeping all Mexicans out, just ’cause. “We don’t want you in our country,” says the daughter of immigrants who has risen up the ladder enough to run for state politics.
But of course, that is the sine qua non of conservatism – ‘I got mine, so fuck off’. Of course, all of this is to say nothing about the odious Islamophobia inherent in assuming that everyone who comes to America with a Qur’an is a religious zealot committed to engaging in acts of terrorism. Considering the way that certain Islamic countries treat people who show up carrying Bibles, Ms. Mercer should take a good, long look at who her ideological brethren are and decide whether her “Middle Easterners” might not be quite as ‘foreign’ as she thinks.
It was certainly considerate of Ms. Mercer to strip away most of the artifice surrounding the “problem of illegal immigration” and simply be honest about where she and her party stand. Here’s hoping they’re not standing for much longer.
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