In the Age of Donald Trump, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is everywhere. Thus, over the summer, I visited my old home area of northeastern Ohio/western Pennsylvania as reports circulated of ICE expanding their “containment” sites for refugees. When you visit the lily-white sections of “Real America,” you learn the real story of ICE and illegal immigrants. Republican business owners give immigrants crappy jobs that Republican voters won’t do themselves.
If there’s one thing that’s always struck terror into the quivering hearts of status-conscious white American whimperers, it’s the threat of the looming “not like us” immigrant hordes. Throughout history, Real ‘Muricans of blanched complexions and insecure egos have duplicitously ignored their own non-tribal status while insisting that America should embrace the world’s tired, poor, huddled masses just so long as said masses ain’t too Catholic, too dusky, too Asian-y, too Slavic, or too Messican.’
Enter Sir Donald of Trump. In an era when the American ethnic demographic is rapidly shifting towards a non-white majority amidst an uncertain, recession-smashed 21st-century world, Trump’s hard-line immigration plan is just the sort of paranoid tonic to sooth conservative America’s anxious cultural cough.
In Chapter 4 of The Jungle — Upton Sinclair’s searing 1906 exposé of the American meatpacking industry — Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkus arrives at the steaming blood chambers of Chicago’s slaughterhouses and follows his boss to the “killing beds.” He’s given a large broom to “follow down the line the man who drew out the smoking entrails from the carcass of the steer” and sweep the innards into a trap “so that no one might slip into it.” As the screams of animals whose hides were being peeled from their still-living bodies echoes off of the gut-splattered walls, Rudkus wades through pools of coagulating blood and tries to avoid losing a limb to the same gnashing blades that turned cattle into steak. This is a job primarily reserved for immigrants, and Rudkus is glad to have it: at least it promises a future — it promises the American Dream.
Ah, Latin America. It’s a vast, culturally diffuse part of the world with a rich, complicated history that has involved hundreds of ethnic-groups from an incredibly diverse swath of ancestries and experiences. Moreover, Latin America’s political history shares many similarities with that of the United States, as our neighbors to the south also shook off the shackles of European colonialism during the great Age of Revolution.
But most Americans — especially that know-nothing contingent of reactionary Bubbas that we affectionately call “Wingnuts” — don’t know much of anything about Latin America’s rich history. What they DO know is that Latin America is that place where people play soccer and Fidel Castro plots against freedom. It’s also the place where American college kids and mid-life-crisis wracked adults go to get sh*tfaced off of Sammy Hagar tequila while holding wet t-shirt contests on a beach. But, most importantly, Latin America is where all of those illegal, Spanish-speaking, drug-muling, job-taking brown people come from. That’s right: when many Americans talk “immigration” these days, what they’re focusing on is how to keep the Messicans’ and other Hispanics from crossing America’s sacred, freedom-filled borders. Indeed, in the eyes of the Tea Party, the only good kind of “run for the border” is a late-night Taco Bell binge.