There is no phenomenon more important in shaping American policy, at home or abroad, than the huge tide of immigration rolling in across its borders.
In the home stretch of George W. Bush’s presidency, a vast amount of attention is still given to the analysis of his inclinations. As the imminence of his departure begins to drain the interest from that exercise, the same attention will be transferred to Hillary Clinton and John McCain. That is wilfully blind. The scale of immigration that the US is facing is so large that the subject will come to dominate all of its politics.
The past fortnight has given us a taste of the future. Aerial photographs of the sea of people demonstrating in Los Angeles on Saturday suggested the crowd was half a million strong. There were 300,000 in Chicago on March 10, 50,000 in Denver, 20,000 in Phoenix, and 10,000 in Milwaukee.
Bill Frist, the second-most powerful Republican in the Senate, say the borders should be tightened for reasons of national security.
Hispanics fiercely resent that claim. “When did you ever see a Mexican blow up the World Trade Centre?” David Gonzalez, a Los Angeles marcher, asked the Associated Press. “Who do you think built the World Trade Centre?”
Just as Republicans began to make big inroads into the traditionally Democrat immigrant vote, they have jeopardised it.
But it is not something either party can duck.
It is bound to make the US more introverted, with preoccupations very different from Europe’s. Those who protest against the US’s “overbearing” foreign policy should consider how hard it may become to keep it interested in the rest of the world when it faces such a revolution at home.
Sue and I handed out placards and flyers (pdf) on Saturday as the sea of marchers moved past us. The flyer detailed ANSWER‘s position on amnesty. People would see me, a middle-aged Anglo with a flyer, and start to move on. Then they’d see “Amnestia” in big letters as the title of the flyer and come back, asking for one. There were times I couldn’t hand them out fast enough. What struck me the most was this was the working class, the poor, the recent immigrants marching – and that their sheer numbers made this a historic event.ANSWER wasn’t just flyering. We had two speakers during the rally as well as two co-chairs. Why? Because we see immigrant rights as an equal issue to antiwar. The system that invades based on lies is the same system that exploits and demonizes immigrants. The antiwar and immigrant rights movement are starting to join forces. May it grow.