This Is Very Troubling

[Content Note: Nativism.]

The clip isn't yet available online, but here is a piece by Philip Bump discussing the Bannon quote that I heard, which was in the context of complaining about immigrants taking places in graduate programs and stealing engineering jobs from Americans:
Bannon asked repeatedly, "Don't we have a problem with legal immigration?"

"Twenty percent of this country is immigrants. Is that not the beating heart of this problem?" he said, meaning the problem of native-born Americans being unable to find jobs and rising wages.
Bump notes: "Immigrants made up a little over 13 percent of the population in 2014, according to Pew." Bannon made a wildly exaggerated claim, in order to justify his nativism.

The administration started by going after undocumented immigrants. Then they turned their attention to Muslim immigrants and refugees, people who were coming to this nation legally.

Bannon, who is now the White House chief strategist, has gone on record saying that there are too many "legal" immigrants, full-stop.

This is very troubling for anyone who is a documented immigrant, or partnered with a documented immigrant, even if they are already citizens, because the law only protects you insofar as any administration respects the rule of law. And this administration doesn't.

And they particularly disregard the rule of law when they are seeking to silence and intimidate.

I'm certainly not ignoring the immense privilege that Iain has as a white European immigrant. I also can't ignore that his being an immigrant, when the White House chief strategist is making blanket statements about legal immigrants, could be used against us (at some point, as the erosion of the rule of law continues), because I'm a public, outspoken critic of the administration.

It's a feature of authoritarian regimes to make statements precisely like this one to keep people in line. The threat of coming after people who thought they were safe.

This is also a message sent to people considering immigrating to the U.S. And that message is: Don't.

I'm sure that sounds like overwrought alarmism to lots of people. And I'm sure that if I had told you two years ago that the president would sign an executive order banning Muslims from legally entering the country, that would have sounded like overwrought alarmism, too. But here we are.

* * *

On a related note, one of the responses I inevitably get when I write about this stuff is the old "we are a nation of immigrants" thing. Don't do that.

For a start, we are not a nation of immigrants, because Native Americans and people whose ancestors were brought to this country as slaves do not have an immigrant family history.

(Or may have only partially an immigrant family history.)

Secondly, being a U.S-born citizen who has an immigrant family history is not the same as being an immigrant. There is a meaningful (and legal) difference in having an immigrant family history and being an immigrant who was not born a citizen of this country.

And that difference is increasingly important, under the tyranny of an administration that promotes nativism.

Please take care, here and in other spaces, not to minimize the fears many immigrants, even documented immigrants, have in this moment, by equating your immigrant family history to the experience of someone who lives in this country but was not born here.

It may feel like you're expressing solidarity, but that flattening of experience feels, to many immigrants, like an erasure of their identities and concerns.

Just be careful not to suggest that having ancestral immigrants is the same as having a personal immigration history. They are not.

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