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Erika Lee on the enduring history of American xenophobia, drawn ‘from a place of fear’

University of Minnesota historian Erika Lee
University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota historian Erika Lee: "Our country still has certain understandings of who is an American. I’m a third-generation American. But some may not see me as an American, because they see me as Asian."

This is the second of five pieces in an occasional series, derived from recent interviews with scholars at the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts. 

University of Minnesota historian Erika Lee’s just-published book is titled “America for Americans.” It is a history of our “nation of immigrants,” as the United States is sometimes called, and also a nation with a recurring history of xenophobia. 

Xenophobia is a fear of the “other,” the outsider, including the foreigner who seeks to come to one’s country. In fact, “America for Americans” is subtitled “A History of Xenophobia in the United States.”

(This is another in an occasional series of interviews with U of M scholars, originally written for the magazine of the U of M’s College of Liberal Arts. The overall theme of the interviews was “Work in Progress,” suggesting that America always has work to do to live up to its aspirations.)

Romantic self-image meets anti-immigrant emotion

Except for the members of the native tribal nations, everyone in America is an immigrant or a descendant of immigrants. The romantic self-image of our country sometimes draws on that “nation of immigrants” image, symbolized by the Statue of Liberty, standing in the harbor importuning the world to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

As Donald Trump rose to the presidency, tapping into, among other things, a wave of anti-immigrant emotion in the electorate, Lee was finishing her history of xenophobia. Naturally, when I interviewed Lee, we talked about the tension between the message on the statue and the anti-immigrant message that Trump rode to the Oval Office. Of course, she told me, xenophobia and anti-immigrant backlashes are nothing new to our history.

 “You cannot understand Trump’s America, or the history of how we got here, without specifically understanding the role of immigration in our history, and the history of its use as a political issue,” she said.

As a college undergrad herself, at Tufts University, Lee first took an interest in the topic when she studied the xenophobic reaction to the early waves of Chinese immigrants to America. That included the so-called “Chinese Exclusion Act,” adopted in 1882. The 1882 law was the first in American history to place broad restrictions on immigration. It declared a 10-year moratorium on new arrivals, specifically from China. The law was updated through the decades, and the total ban on new arrivals from China expired, but the last successor to that law was not repealed until 1942.

One of the versions of those laws applied to Lee’s own grandparents, although it obviously didn’t prevent them from coming to America. Lee said her grandparents hadn’t told her much, during her childhood, about how they came to America, or of the anti-Chinese sentiments they faced.

During her own life, anti-immigrant sentiment seemed milder than what her grandparents had had to overcome, although as a historian she knew that it was a recurring theme. She recalls thinking: “Thank goodness, it [anti-immigration sentiment] isn’t that bad anymore.”

Students often surprised by history of barriers

As she proceeded to grad school (M.A. and Ph.D. at Berkeley), immigration history became a focus. As she entered her teaching career, students often seemed surprised at the history of barriers to immigration, having grown up in a less xenophobic era. Up to 2016, Lee said, the country “seemed to have been lulled into a mood of complacency,” believing America had become a more welcoming place to newcomers.

Then came Trump, whose immigrant-bashing demagoguery seemed to contribute to his political success. Trump described new arrivals as “people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

This was aimed less at Asian immigrants and more at Latin Americans emigrating across the Mexican border, and at Muslims, against whom Trump pledged as a candidate (and later, unsuccessfully, attempted) to impose “a total and complete shutdown.”

The United States has long granted citizenship to anyone born here. Trump has mocked that practice as ridiculous. He wants it repealed, but says that if Congress doesn’t act, he might try to do it by executive order. He has issued some orders designed to cut down on automatic citizenship, but has not ordered an overall ban on birthright citizenship. 

Lee described her reaction to Trump’s rhetoric, and then to his unexpected election, as “stunned.” She recalled going to class the day after the election. She faced many students who were themselves refugees or children of recent immigrants. Bravely and honestly, many of them shared with their classmates what this sudden change in the climate toward foreign arrivals felt like to them, and “how desperately they feared” for their own families. They feared being deported themselves or worried about relatives, some of whom were languishing in refugee camps and were understandably worried that their chances of being accepted for admission into the United States was disappearing in the increasingly hostile political climate.

A need to reassess immigration history

As a historian, Lee knew that these impulses were not brand new to America. But as the issue moved to the front pages, she felt that “we really needed to reassess our immigration history, to really understand why in 2016, our country, built by immigrants, celebrated as a nation of immigrants, would have elected someone running on these politics and now supporting these increasingly draconian policies the likes of which we had not seen in our lifetimes.” 

“We needed to have an honest, brave conversations, about the democratic values on which the country was founded,” she said. “And we did have those conversations. We’ve been trying to encourage a broader and deeper understanding of xenophobia. It’s something beyond a prejudice that some people have. It’s almost an ideology, a worldview, a form of systemic discrimination against not only those who were actually born in a foreign country, but those who are perceived to be foreign because, for example, of the way they look.

“That’s important. Our country still has certain understandings of who is an American. I’m a third-generation American. But some may not see me as an American, because they see me as Asian.”

So to prepare for writing “America for Americans,” Lee traced the enduring history of American xenophobia. The definition of that term is not as simple as resistance to allowing more migration into America, she said. The meaning of the original Greek term means “fear of the stranger.” 

‘A fear of foreigners, but it’s more than that’

Lee said: “Xenophobia is a form of fear, a fear of foreigners, but it’s more than that. It’s a form of racism.” Racism and fear have combined at times, as in the ugly chapter during World War II, when, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were incarcerated in barbed wire camps for no crime other than being of Japanese descent.

Lee said: “I promote the understanding that xenophobia is an ideology and a worldview that’s based on the premise that certain foreigners, and even the American-born descendants of immigrants, are threats to our nation and its people.

“I emphasize that it’s an irrational fear, often manufactured and exploited by those who are seeking to maintain or change the balance of power in the United States.”

“And it’s not just about issues of immigration. The reason it’s so important to America is that it’s about who has the power to define who gets to be an American, who gets to enjoy the privileges of being an American citizen and who does not.”

Every nation is entitled to secure and police its borders to adopt regulations governing legal immigration and the path to citizenship, and to deal with these matters in what it believes are the national interest, Lee said. The U.S. government is certainly justified in making a judgment, based on the national interest, about how many immigrants and refugees to accept.

“But those positions and laws and regulations do not have to be xenophobic,” she said. “They don’t have to be drawn from a place of fear, or a violent and racist worldview of hatred for certain groups.”

Lee argues that President Trump’s exploitation of these issues, for political gain, have been racist and have stoked a rise in racism among his supporters, encouraging people to follow their worst instincts.

Coming to the U.S. border to seek asylum is a legal process, Lee said, and the laws governing that process should be followed. 

But Trump is deliberately casting doubt on the credibility and viability of those laws and processes. His goal, she believes, is “to make it harder for asylum seekers to get into that process” by first narrowing the ports of entry so they were stopped up and backed up, which created what she called a “made-for-media impression that the border is out of control” and that the homeland was threatened with being overrun by dangerous migrants.

‘A very savvy political strategy’

“It’s a very savvy political strategy,” she said. And it has worked for him, convincing his base that “the country is being overrun by dangerous criminals, and that only Trump’s proposed wall can fix it.”

But this issue certainly didn’t come out of nowhere. Her book provides some of the context that, Lee said, comes from and builds on a tradition that goes way back to many episodes across U.S. history when nativist groups and politicians have raised alarms that newcomers to America were a threat. 

The issue comes and goes in waves, Lee said, but Trump built on a wave that has been rising since the late 1970s when an organization called the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) came into being to advocate for reducing immigration. At first, Lee said, FAIR seemed too extreme to be taken seriously by mainstream public opinion. But FAIR turned out to be “very adept at pushing public opinion toward the view that immigration — both legal and illegal – was dangerous to America.”

An author and Forbes Magazine editor named Peter Brimelow wrote a 1995 bestseller titled “Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster.” Harvard University history professor Samuel Huntington made a bigger splash with “The Clash of Civilizations” (1996), which predicted that future wars would not be between countries, but between cultures. 

Also in the 1990s, Pat Buchanan made two angry outsider bids for the Republican presidential nomination on a platform that included the argument that America was under threat from a rising tide of Latin American and Muslim immigrants.

Lee said that Buchanan in 1992 “proposed a very specific border platform and talked about illegal aliens as an ‘invasion force,’ and about the need to control borders, but there was little interest. … But during the ’90s, both parties took on the issue of border security. … Under [Democratic President Bill] Clinton, we get the militarization of the US.-Mexican border, with increased border patrols.” In 2006, Republican President George W. Bush signed the “Secure Fence Act,” which authorized 700 miles of new fencing on the Mexican border.

The point, she said, is that long before Trump, presidents have been aware that a reservoir of fear existed in the electorate about lax border enforcement and that, well before Trump, “our reaction to immigration over the past decades has been from a position of fear.”

“It has focused on particular populations, like Mexican immigrants, while ignoring other factors that also explain immigration, including our continued need for migrant workers and our existing immigration laws, which provided hardly any way for unskilled or low-skilled workers to come into the United States legally,” Lee said.

“Going back to ’70s and up to today, and considering our economy’s continued dependence on unskilled workers, undocumented immigration has become a permanent feature,” she said. And yet politicians have continued “demonizing the people” who do these jobs that legal residents don’t want. Among the businesses that rely on this, she noted, is Trump’s own Mar-a-Lago Golf Club in Florida.

Comments (33)

  1. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 09/16/2019 - 10:09 am.

    While I am not a supporter of Trump, and my mom was born in Austria and came to America as a child, I am alarmed by the immigration stance on both sides of the political divide. On the Right, much xenophobia; on the Left, a reactionary treatment of any check on immigration, as if that were inherently racist. On the one hand, shut down the borders; on the other, send the message that if you come to the border and claim asylum you should be let in.

    The fact is, there are 7.5 Billion people on this planet. Global population has doubled in my lifetime. “Growth” and “Progress” have become like a modern Religion, as dogmatic and unquestioned as any “Eternal”. Never mind this obsession/delusion is tilting the biosphere toward the sixth mass extinction, global systemic chemical toxicity, plastics filling the ocean…is there any limit on any of this, or is God/Tech going to simply work it out because, well, It has to?

    This needs to be part of the conversation. But neither the Right nor the Left in America will seriously question “Growth” or “Progress”, so the conversation devolves into the petty, mean and absurd in defense of the indefensible, on both sides, while the biosphere heads inexorably toward ecological collapse, which ecology is the foundation of civilization….

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/16/2019 - 10:10 am.

    Crossing Montana and Idaho in late August on a trip to Glacier National Park, followed by a brief visit with an acquaintance in Spokane, WA, before returning to the Twin Cities, there were lots of fundamentalist religious billboards, all with the same phone number for me to call, but they didn’t mention politics. I did, however, encounter one billboard that reinforced Dr. Lee’s prescription, next to a gas station in Lewistown, MT, and it fit her book title perfectly. I don’t remember all the text, except to note that it was essentially from the Montana Tea Party, but the primary slogan was, “America is for Americans!”

    Even a cursory overview of American history tells a tale of discrimination against a long list of non-WASP groups of immigrants: Irish, Jewish, Catholic, German, Polish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Latin American, and of course African and African-American, among others. It’s worth noting that there have been periods in our history when my ancestors would have had to deal with some of the same suspicion and dislike, and Mr. Trump’s ancestors, as well. We all have our blind spots. Mr. Trump, coming from a background that includes being badly-educated and privileged, has more of them, and larger ones, than many.

  3. Submitted by richard owens on 09/16/2019 - 10:10 am.

    Trump’s use of fear and especially his repetitious stereotyping of whole groups of people by ethnicity, race, and religion, is a campaign strategy that works. Any salesman can tell you if you can be made afraid, you can be sold something that will allay those fears with promises.

    It begins with the rhetoric, “We want legal immigration and we do not want illegal immigration.’ “Illegal immigrants are terrorists and free-loaders, rapists and drug smugglers.” The Trumpian voter accused of xenophobia or worse says “We want them to get in line and come legally.”, which nicely soothes the conscience of watching children being taken, refugees being sent to less safety and more danger.

    All of which is the topic of Last Week Tonight’s episode by John Oliver (YouTube).

    In comedy fashion, Oliver explains, there are no “lines” per se.
    Legal American immigration is based on:
    (1) Family (presumably bringing your closest relatives assures the immigrant of support from an existing family that cares for them.
    (2) Employment (you already have a job offer in the US).
    (3) Good Luck (the immigration lottery.)
    and finally,
    (4) Bad Luck (refugees fleeing threats.)

    Oliver covers the immigration issue with honesty and humor- as opposed to lies and fear. He also has a separate show on immigration COURTS.

    The truth needs to be told loudly and thoroughly and repetitiously as Trump’s lies.

    Funny yet sad, when one sees how effective Trump spreads fear and hate.

  4. Submitted by Steve Timmer on 09/16/2019 - 10:46 am.

    “The United States has long granted citizenship to anyone born here. Trump has mocked that practice as ridiculous. He wants it repealed, but says that if Congress doesn’t act, he might try to do it by executive order. He has issued some orders designed to cut down on automatic citizenship, but has not ordered an overall ban on birthright citizenship.”

    Donald Trump has never been much of a student of the Constitution. Here are the first words of Sec. 1 of the 14th Amendment.

    “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

    Not “granted” citizenship; are “citizens.”

    You’ll remember that in Scott v. Sanford the Supreme Court said that there was no such thing as an African-American (it didn’t say it that way), that slaves could never be citizens. The language quoted above dealt with that problem. If you were born here as a slave, you were a citizen under the 14th Amendment. You, too, Dred and Harriet!

    Donald Trump cannot eliminate birthright citizenship, the Congress can’t either; it can only be eliminated by an amendment to the Constitution, ratified by a sufficient number of states. I wouldn’t look forward to that happening anytime soon.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/16/2019 - 11:20 am.

      Birthright citizenship (actually, citizenship in general) was not a big topic prior to Dred Scott, but as far as anyone can tell, birthright citizenship was part of US common law (at least, as far as white people were concerned). Chancellor Kent said that “[n]atives are all persons born within the jurisdiction of the United States,” and devoted more discussion to whether persons born before the Revolution could claim birthright citizenship. The Wong Kim Ark case held that the Fourteenth Amendment affirms the rule of jus soli.

  5. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 09/16/2019 - 11:19 am.

    The Central American immigrants crossing the border are, in a manner of speaking, U.S. chickens coming home to roost.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, leftist revolutionaries attempted to overthrow the far-right, almost feudal governments of these countries. El Salvador, for instance, was literally controlled by fourteen rich families, and everyone else lived in desperate poverty.

    An acquaintance who spoke Spanish well, thanks to study abroad in Spain, decided to celebrate his college graduation in the mid 1970s by driving down the Pan-American Highway to Panama City. He found the poverty in Mexico disturbing but reported that the poverty in places like Honduras and El Salvador was beyond belief. He was not surprised that revolutionary movements were springing up.

    Later, when Reagan’s wars of suppression were underway, I heard a talk by a Catholic priest who worked with Central American refugees in Mexico. When he first went down there, he believed the typical American line that these rebels were Communists and that they would bring nothing good to the region, but when he asked the refugees if they weren’t worried that a rebel victory would bring about loss of freedom, they laughed in his face. They had no freedom anyway, because anyone who protested the government or lobbied for better working conditions ended up as a mutilated corpse by the side of the road.

    When a member of the audience asked why these revolutionary movements were springing up now, when conditions had always been bad, the priest said that the arrival of the battery-powered radio had been the most revolutionary force in years. Yes, life had always been miserable for the majority, but most people never traveled more than a few miles from their home, so they could easily believe that everyone lived as they did, working for a rich landowner for little pay, but the availability of radios opened up the world to them, including broadcasts from Mexico, Costa Rica, and Cuba, where they learned that other people lived a lot better than they did. Yes, even in Cuba, where everyone could go to school, receive basic health care, and be guaranteed a minimum amount of food.

    These countries were in desperate need of change, and instead of applauding and supporting the one successful revolution, the one in Nicaragua, the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations did everything they could to undermine it on the grounds of “stopping the spread of Communism.” Yes, the country that brags about its Revolutionary War was hell-bent on suppressing a revolution that overthrew the kind of tyranny that the Founding Fathers could not have imagined.

    (This paranoia about Communism, by the way, led to another disastrous decision, the decision to support the Islamic rebels in Afghanistan against the Soviets. While I am no fan of the Soviet Union, it had long provided compulsory secular education for its own Islamic areas and banned cultural practices that repressed women, two reforms that Afghanistan was in desperate need of.)

    So anyway, people in the Central American countries other than Costa Rica and Panama are still plagued by grinding poverty and have to deal with the added factors of climate change impeding their agricultural output and vicious drug gangs , all with governments that are indifferent to their plight and/or corrupted by the drug gangs.

    How bad would your life have to be to motivate you to embark on a journey through all kinds of terrain, from jungles to deserts, preyed upon by opportunistic criminals, to be met by cruel treatment at the border where you sought asylum?

    Actions have consequences. Chickens come home to roost.

  6. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 09/16/2019 - 11:50 am.

    Don’t pull up the ladder just because you’re in the boat.

  7. Submitted by John Webster on 09/16/2019 - 01:57 pm.

    This is yet another essay by a left-wing pundit effectively advocating for open borders. Nowhere is there a word about how before 2008 almost all prominent Democrats advocated for restrictions on immigration for the same reasons most Americans currently favor restrictions. Without border control, tens of millions – no, hundreds of millions – of impoverished people would come into the country and become a huge economic burden on taxpayers.

    It’s amazing how simple logic and basic economics escapes so many people, including most journalists. There is much angst expressed over how automation will soon eliminate tens of millions of jobs, especially lower-skilled jobs. At the same time, there is the claim that America needs the low-skilled illegal immigrants, only 4% of whom work in farm labor, the only occupation that – as BLS labor statistics show – is the only “job that Americans won’t do.” The impact of large-scale illegal immigration has been felt mostly by blue-collar people who have seen their wages cut and job opportunities lost to people willing to work for much less. This is all well-documented, although it’s never disclosed in most of the very partisan “news” media.

    Moreover, it’s an inescapable fact that low-income people – regardless of legal status – on average consume far more per capita in public services than they’ll ever pay in taxes. It costs the Minneapolis public school district at least $23,000 per student/year for those who need bilingual education, according to an article in the Star Tribune last year. That’s not counting the cost of medical care provided to illegal immigrants, law enforcement expenses, and other public costs.

    Speaking of medical issues, there are already serious shortages of medical professionals. Consider just one specialty: psychiatry. A friend who works for a major employee assistance program recently said that getting an appointment with a psychiatrist for medically-caused mental issues usually takes at least three months, sometimes as long as nine months. If the medical system has to serve tens/hundreds of millions more people, where will those professionals come from, not even considering the costs since they won’t work for free?

    The current crop of Democratic politicians never has to address these questions because no journalists other than on Fox will ask them uncomfortable questions about the logistics of unlimited immigration. And yes, all the leading Democratic presidential candidates now favor de facto open borders – what immigration policies do they want enforced and who do they favor deporting other than (maybe) some violent criminals?

    P.S. Just for some enlightenment, watch the videos included in this link.

    • Submitted by Mike Chrun on 09/16/2019 - 02:35 pm.

      Good grief, stop spouting right-wing rhetoric as facts to back up the exact thing that the column is about. Fox is the standard for journalistic excellence? Um … okay.

      Measuring the sum effect of immigrants on our economy is tremendously complicated and probably not even doable. It depends, I suspect, on who is doing the research, what data he or she is using, and what he or she is trying to find out. Here’s a fairly different point of view from “The Atlantic.” I know, fake news from left-wing media, but one a lot more credible than Fox:

      ” As one Federal Reserve summary of the research puts it: “If immigrants are assigned the marginal cost of public goods, then the long-run fiscal impact is positive and the short-run effect is negative but very small (less negative than that of natives).” Given some time in the country, these families pay in, in other words.”

      By the way, I do like buttressing your argument with the fear that immigration will cause a crises in the psychiatric field. It does seem appropriate.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/16/2019 - 02:44 pm.

        The best thing that happened to the right wing is the cut-and-paste operation.

      • Submitted by John Webster on 09/16/2019 - 03:48 pm.

        Speaking of the Atlantic, here’s an essay by a left-wing writer that says pretty much what I’ve written here.

        • Submitted by richard owens on 09/16/2019 - 04:44 pm.

          Webster: Your Obama-as-Congressman video has Obama saying we need to go after the employers who hire illegals. (that’s why they come- to EARN a living. Much of what they make is sent to help their families back home.

          Your smear of the author as a “left wing pundit” belies her work and accomplishment as a historian.

          Your bemoaning the COST of immigrants is short term – they are more productive per capita as adults and their kids achieve great things but your reactionary party disses them even when they have become great achievers and given so much back. Check the DACA travesty. That’s YOUR people hating even those who immigrants worked so hard and accomplished so much in a brand new land.

          Your viewpoint sounds like a xenophobic one, in that many of the south-of-the-border poor people are more indigenous to North America than YOU. This land is OUR land, not yours. Many of the ethnic residents of the southern border states have lived there even before our border was there.

          Who is worthy to strut and judge the “offending” individuals in a time of extraordinary displacement and mass migration movement all over the world? Not you. You would not be fair. A judge should hear their case.

          This land is free, not just for the anointed few. Our Constitution and our promise made around the world have put the USA in a place where we must strive to be the shining nation on the hill for all who can.

          I wish you knew a some new immigrants well enough to appreciate them.

          I wish the Republican party did not depend on racism for votes, but instead proposed actual policies that were helpful. Your party is useless except to parrot the same old resentments you cultivate and repeat.

          Let us try to lift up those who come after us and try to make ours a better country with its strength in its diversity and its resilience. Stop the looting of the treasury for private prison corporations and stop kidnapping kids at the border to discourage their migration. We expect everyone to know right from wrong.

          • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 09/17/2019 - 02:04 pm.

            Yes, new immigrants, whether from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia, are the type of people America needs. They start businesses (look at Lake Street and University Avenue), work at 4D (dirty, dangerous, debilitating, depressing) jobs that Americans disdain, and urge their children to do well academically.

            They pay sales tax, and if they work with a fake Social Security number, they pay into it without ever collecting on it.

            • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 09/23/2019 - 10:42 am.

              At least 65,000 people came to the southern border last month. Send the message that we would take them all in and watch it jump to about 150,000+/month. This, at a time when automation and AI are eliminating more jobs every month….at what point does this overwhelm the ability of America to manage immigration?

              Are there no limits on this finite earth?

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/18/2019 - 02:28 pm.

            Well said!

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/16/2019 - 02:43 pm.

      What is a “medically caused mental health issue”?
      Medicines do have side effects, but cognitive ones are relatively rare.
      Someone needs a more literate class of acquaintances.

      • Submitted by John Webster on 09/16/2019 - 03:46 pm.

        Psychoses, schizophrenia, various delusionary issues, etc. are psychiatric problems caused by chemical imbalances. The treatment is not talk therapy – it’s medication and other medical techniques overseen by psychiatrists. How do you not know this basic fact? Someone needs to keep up with medical issues.

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 09/16/2019 - 04:38 pm.

          You may wish to carefully re-read what you wrote in your original post. You didn’t say “chemically-caused mental issues”, you said “medically-caused mental issues”.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/16/2019 - 05:02 pm.

          That’s one theory.
          As a professional psychologist I know that most of the biological bases for mental health problems is conjectural.
          I’d suggest that you read the professional literature on the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy vs. medication.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 09/16/2019 - 09:46 pm.

      “Speaking of medical issues, there are already serious shortages of medical professionals. Consider just one specialty: psychiatry”

      I’ll give you a good job on that one.

      Donald Trump is allegedly worth billions of dollars and apparently can’t get an appointment with a qualified mental health professional.

    • Submitted by lisa miller on 09/17/2019 - 11:26 pm.

      Well for starters, the shortage of psychiatrists is due to not enough med students choosing that area due to pay. Also many people use refugees and immigrants interchangeably, those are 2 different categories. Refugees go through a pretty intense vetting process and are expected when they can to be up and running on their own in 6 months. At the same time, I agree that people tend to gloss over some medical costs of having some immigrants on MA and that some bypass other countries to claim asylum in the US despite having had some supports offered in other countries. Trump has made a mess of the entire process and has reduced to the issue to either/or when its more complicated. You have some smugglers making false promises, you have desperate people in search of something better. We have a moral obligation to help refugees and as others have noted, it would also help if we didn’t support dictators. We also have the right to manage who comes in and have a set and humane process. Emphasis on the humane.

    • Submitted by David Lundeen on 09/18/2019 - 12:27 pm.

      Borders after a terrible, archaic idea, and a scar upon the land.

    • Submitted by Al Andresen on 09/23/2019 - 02:41 am.

      The only thing I would change about your spot on post is this

      Instead of saying “including most journalists”, I would say “Especially most journalists”.

  8. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/16/2019 - 04:03 pm.

    As a descendant of the original “xenophobes,” the Sioux nation, you’ll have to excuse me if I find all this talk about “irrational fear” and “anti-immigrant backlashes” a bit off-putting.

    In the movie “Dances with Wolves,” the character Chief Ten Bears displays a Spanish helmet passed down to him from his ancestors. “The men who wore this came in the time of my grandfather’s grandfather. Eventually, we drove them out. Then the Mexicans came. They do not come here anymore. In my own time, the Texans. They have been like all the others. They take without asking. I don’t know if we are ready for these people. But I think you are right. I think they will keep coming. When I think of that, I look at this helmet. Our country is all that we have, and we will fight to keep it.”

    For my ancestors, the fear of foreigners was well-founded. The film ends with: “Thirteen years later, their homes destroyed, their buffalo (and way of life) gone, the last band of free Sioux submitted to white authority.” We all know how that ended.

    This isn’t about irrational fear of “the other.” This is about lessons learned when your culture is incompatible with that of the invading foreigners’, it’s only natural to resist the invasion and to defend your native culture.

    Labeling that reaction as “xenophobia or racist” shows an ignorance of human nature.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/17/2019 - 09:15 am.

      All well and good, but you leave out the part that the people your ancestors so rightly feared are the ones who are now afraid of a few Mexican dishwashers and groundskeepers. They secured their dominance through brutal conquest and near-genocidal policies, and are now seeking to protect their ill-gotten gains.

      It’s like a burglar buying a security system to protect his swag.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 09/17/2019 - 07:51 pm.

      Ignorance of human nature: Meaning what? We don’t understand where Cro magnon man came from? Or how easy it is to stoke fear in the un-educated?

  9. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 09/17/2019 - 08:23 am.

    WOW! Thanks for asking the really tough questions.

  10. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 09/17/2019 - 10:07 am.

    Too paraphrase I suspect there are good and bad people on both sides of the border! We all live on space ship earth, there is no other place to go! What next start kicking folks off the planet. Amazing how it appears the folks that seem to deem themselves the so called strong independent individualists etc. are the ones with the biggest fear psychosis!

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