by Martha K. Huggins, Ph.D……
Westport, Connecticut. My husband’s Democratic brother-in-law was the press secretary to New York City Republican Mayor John Lindsay (1966-1973). When he, a White US citizen, moved his family to Westport, Connecticut, the first thing he did was to join the city’s “no-population growth” movement.
Illegal Immigrants: A February 2017 Fox News [i] headline read: “WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. – A southern Illinois community that solidly backed President Donald Trump has rallied behind a Mexican restaurant manager who doesn’t have legal permission to live in the U.S. and has been detained by immigration officials.” Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, “38, came to the U.S. in the 1990s but didn’t obtain legal status.” He worked for ten years managing La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant in West Frankfort, Illinois– “a community with coal mining roots, about 100 miles southeast of St. Louis.” Lori Barron, owner of a local beauty salon believes that, “People need to do things [i.e., immigrate] the right way, follow the rules, and obey the laws.” But she “firmly believe[s]…that Juan Carlos “may have done more for the people here than this [city] did for him.” Townspeople launched a petition campaign to save their immigrant neighbor from deportation. His attorney incorporated the outpouring of community support into his client’s immigration case and Juan Carlos’ deportation was placed on hold.
3.5 Percent: The US today, has about 11 million “unauthorized immigrants,”[ii] about 3.5% of the US population. In 2015, six US states had 59% of unauthorized immigrants: California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, [iii] a pattern that continues. While numerically small in proportion to the size of the US population overall, illegal immigration is considered by some to be the United States most serious social problem, requiring presidential intervention and strict government action–including arrest and deportation of all illegals. I hate being jerked around by politicians–who grab any issue to get elected, and I despise corporate US media for beating issues to death to increase ratings, so I asked myself, what social problems other than the perceived swarm of unauthorized immigrants impacts 3.5% of the US population? The answers: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder [iv]— 3.5% of the US population is victimized daily by PTSD. An estimated eight percent of those suffering from PTSD are current and former service members who served in Afghanistan and Iraq [v]; clinical depression—3.5% of the US population suffers from “a constant sense of hopelessness and despair…, a symptom of a serious clinical depression” [vi]; Auto-immune diseases, [vii] seriously threaten the health of 3.5% of our country’s population; alcohol use disorder challenges the health, psychological, and financial well-being of 11.2 million US men—just over 3.5 percent of the US population [viii] ; binge eating disorders: 3.5% of especially young women [ix] are binge eaters; 3.9% of such women will die from this eating disorder. [x]
Yet if your family or neighborhood includes someone with any of these health issues–and some people suffer with more than one at a time–it is very likely that all the political and media hype about illegal immigration is far from your family’s most pressing daily problem. So why wasn’t at least one of these five debilitating human problems, each impacting 3.5% of the US population, front-staged on one of Obama’s or Trump’s federal-level agendas? Indeed, one might ask why President Obama did not, or why President Trump has not signed an Executive Order making PTSD, clinical depression, or alcohol abuse disorder a priority of the administration, along with dedicating our tax money and federal government machinery to eliminating these crippling maladies? Better yet, how about the Trump administration tackling opiate addiction? While only 2.6 million people in the US use or are addicted to opiates–heroin, morphine, and prescription pain relievers—this problem is already being described as an “epidemic.” [xi] And opiate use and addiction is said to be connected in the United States to “at least 50 percent of the major crimes…. at least half of all suspects arrested for violent crimes (homicide, assault, etc.)… [were] under the influence of opiates when arrested.”[xii] Now there’s a real “social problem” in the making.
Social and political construction of a “social problem.” Sociology’s answer to why some societal problems are more popular with politicos than others—and thus get transformed into a “social problem” requiring government attention– is that some societal problems offer greater political benefits than others. Large numbers of people need not be harmed by the alleged problem—as few as 3.5% of a population will do– for it to become a “social problem” requiring federal government intervention and increases in federal and state taxes to pay for its eradication. Something becomes a “social problem” when someone takes the initiative of ‘calling it out’ and creating an apparatus for treating a perceived ‘problem’ as dangerous. Those in the best position to denounce something as requiring government attention, and have their claims taken seriously, are politically, socially, and/or economically powerful societal actors. The US corporate media—whether they agree or not that the alleged “social problem” actually exists—must ‘buy-into’ publicizing debates about the “social problem” so that tax-payers will fully understand the alleged “social problem’s” danger—or not–and accept that the government has a responsibility to use their tax money to protect them from the danger. The sociology of social problems sometimes teaches that those with a political investment in having a particular societal condition seen by their constituents as a “social problem”—for example, the danger to the United States of “illegal aliens” getting past our porous borders—must create a “protection racket” dynamic, where a government, organization, or group creates or greatly amplifies a danger and then charges people for protecting them against it.
The US has lots of challenging and potentially dangerous social conditions, but only one narrowly-defined domestic “social problem” at a time is likely to be given full presidential-level support. Candidate Donald Trump promised to build a wall to secure and protect the United States southern border with Mexico against the illegal entry into the United States, of “aliens.” Candidate Trump also promised voters that Mexico would pay the cost of the border wall’s construction. Okay, so far no “protection racket.” However, President Trump’s recently released budget statement for the allocation of US taxpayer funding allocates–as a down payment on the expensive border wall—two billion US taxpayer dollars toward the wall’s construction. “Social problems” are costly to taxpayers so we need to assess carefully what we support. Unfortunately, fear of ‘illegals—especially because we are told they could be ‘terrorist Muslims’—can stifle rationality and replace it with submissiveness to political power, which is the very essence of a government-run “protection racket.”
The administration of Barack Obama quietly, and without transparency, deported illegals. Therefore, his administration didn’t have to create consent for deportations among his constituents. And, yes, I am complicit in not doing my research and condemning such deportations: “Under George W. Bush, just over 2 million people were deported. Under Obama, more than two and a half million were deported, and that’s more than any other president before.” [xiii] The alleged US “social problem” of illegals was not openly debated and it was not sufficiently media-hyped during most of the Obama presidency. In contrast, deportation of “illegals” was openly discussed and condemned during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and now during the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. Just the same, each president shaped his deportation practices to satisfy, or at least not anger, his political base: Obama, the liberal, back-staged his deportations and most of his political base followed suit by not denouncing deportations. Trump, the conservative, has placed “illegal immigration” front and center; his anti-immigration message appeals to his followers, who enthusiastically promote and support his anti-immigration stance. We–these politicos’ constituents–struggle in the here-and-now with household bills, over-due payments, college loan debt, under- or unemployment, sickness and death, and try along the way to have a little fun. Then a video documentary by the Blue Paper–researched and produced by journalist Amber Nolan–was published last week. Around one-third of those who viewed it perceived the documentary to be challenging President Trump’s immigration paradigm. It now focuses in part on the 3.5% of immigrants who are “illegal aliens.”
The Blue Paper: Reader Push-Back
Blue Paper readers commented enthusiastically about last week’s documentary video that presented visual facts about the arrest and possible deportation of two Haitians living and working in Key West. Being interested in Blue Paper readers’ comments, I read them all and then categorized all of the negative comments according to their similarity, using comments from the on-line paper itself and the Blue Paper’s Facebook page. Four different push-back categories were found: (1) The video is uncredible: ‘The Blue Paper cannot possibly be telling the whole story; it does not make sense’; (2) Law and Order is essential and illegals are violating it: ‘Immigration laws exist to be enforced: if you’re here illegally, you are a criminal and need to go’; (3). ‘Illegal immigrants are unwelcome: they take citizens’ jobs and do not pay taxes’; (4) The Blue Paper video–the work of liberals–implicitly and explicitly criticizes ICE and/or President Trump: ‘Politics must not enter into law and order reporting.’
‘The video is uncredible’: Blue Paper reader “Vman”: “Why would ICE pick out these individuals for deportation if they were upstanding illegal citizens?” “Folly1,” “Deporting a legal resident? I find that highly unlikely because there are no grounds unless there is a criminal conviction.” What are the hard facts about immigrants in the United States today? “Of the more than 41 million foreign-born people living in the United States in 2013, about 30 million were naturalized citizens, permanent residents and legal residents. [xiv] Eleven million were unauthorized immigrants.[xv] Of those who did not have authorization to be here, about 40 percent entered the country legally and then let their visas expire,”[xvi] this rendered them in the United States illegally. This is not, however, a criminal offense: “Federal immigration law says that unlawful presence in the country is a civil offense and is, therefore, not a crime. The punishment is deportation. However, some states—like Arizona—have criminalized an immigrant’s mere presence.” [xvii]
Law and Order is essential and illegals are violating it.’ ‘As “Hengist” explained, “Aliens have no right – constitutionally or morally – to come here and take our country. I have no right to immigrate into Saudi Arabia and most other countries. Saudis have no right to come here. For that matter, I have no right to immigrate to Israel because I don’t qualify. Israel is an ethno-state. Jews only. No Christians need apply. Our country is full. No more immigrants.” As Gary Lee stated on the Blue Paper’s Facebook page, “If you know of a place that’s full of illegals just call ICE….Do a good thing for your Country and report these criminals.” “Estalio Fano was even more emphatic: “TAKE THEM ALL AWAY, CRIMINALS.” It would be perfectly natural to assume–given the political scope of the “social problem” that now defines the status of “illegal alien”–that the United States is overrun like never before by immigrants. But, in fact, “As a percentage of the U.S. population, the historic [immigration] high actually came in 1890, when the foreign-born constituted nearly 15 percent of the population. By 2012, about 13 percent of the population was foreign-born. At the start of the recession in 2008, the number of undocumented immigrants coming into the country actually dropped, and in more recent years, that number is stabilizing with little change.” [xviii] As for illegal immigrants being more criminal than the rest of us–please see my prior Blue Paper article[xix]: “According to the conservative Americas Majority Foundation, crime rates from 1999 to 2006 were lowest in states with the highest immigration growth rates. During that period, the total crime rate fell 14 percent in the 19 top immigration states, compared to only 7 percent in the other 31.” The US National Institute of Corrections points out that, “Foreign-born people in America—whether they are naturalized citizens, permanent residents or undocumented—are incarcerated at a much lower rate than native-born.” [xx]
‘Illegal immigrants are unwelcome: they take citizens’ jobs and don’t pay taxes for the government services they receive.’ “Gleneric’s” comment about the Blue Paper’s documentary video stated that, “the [Haitian] man entered [Key West] illegally and had five years of employment that could have been given to legal citizen….Let him go back and apply like the rest.” In Don Leistner’s words: “Jobs for Americans! Bye Bye criminals that broke the law and entered illegally.” But what are the numbers?: “The U.S. civilian workforce included 8 million unauthorized immigrants in 2014, accounting for 5% of those who were working or were unemployed and looking for work….” In the United States, “two trends have reduced “the number of Americans willing or available to take [the] low-paying jobs [now held by most immigrants]: better education and an aging [US] population.” This has decreased the number of Americans willing or available to take low-paying jobs usually held by the foreign-born: “Close to 26 million foreign-born people, or 17 percent of the country’s labor force, [who] worked in the United States in 2014, were likely to be employed by the service industry”—especially in low-level hospitality-industry jobs. In contrast, Native-born workers were “more likely to hold jobs in management, professional, sales and office occupations.” Blue Paper reader Andreas Gemellas, declared that, “Entering this country illegally is the first problem. Getting work permits by private contractors is the second problem. Staying here illegally and reaping the rewards without paying taxes is the third problem.” In fact, according to fact-checked research, “Undocumented immigrants pay taxes [—just as US citizens do–] every time they buy gas, clothes or new appliances. They also contribute to property taxes—a main source of school funding—when they buy or rent a house or apartment. The U.S. Social Security Administration estimated that in 2013 undocumented immigrants—and their employers—paid $13 billion in payroll taxes alone for benefits they will never get (emphasis added). They can receive schooling and emergency medical care, but not welfare or food stamps.”
Finally, a number of Blue Paper readers stated that the paper’s video–the work of “liberals”–implicitly and explicitly criticizes ICE and/or President Trump: ‘Politics must not enter into law and order reporting.’ According to Folly1: “Another Trump hit piece by a liberal. Deporting a legal resident? Did you interview anyone from ICE? No, because it didn’t fit your agenda. You interviewed an anti-Trump writer and immigrants.” Shawn Benghazi Newton wrote on the Blue Paper’s Facebook page: “Bullshit! If your [sic] here illegally originally then you are still illegal. No one can give you temporary permission to stay. What happened was under Obama, ICE was told to stand down. Now that TRUMP is in he’s told ICE to deport illegals whenever you come in contact with them! Your [sic] creating havoc and confusion unnecesscarily [sic] just because you dont [sic] like TRUMP! You are FAKE NEWS!”
As for the Blue Paper video about the arrest of two Haitians in Key West, the paper writes for KeyWesters and others interested in our Island. Amber Nolan’s video therefore focused specifically on two Haitian immigrants—one with whom she had worked. Good and trustworthy journalism limits itself to what it knows to be accurate and can document at a given place and time–exactly what last week’s video journalism did [xxi]. Amber Nolan and the Blue Paper’s editors did not reach beyond what was available to them at the time–excellent journalism! What we learned was troubling: it generated anger from some, praise from others. Naja Girard, one of the paper’s editors, personally addressed most of the comments that challenged Amber Nolan’s piece in the Blue Paper: I have never seen such interactive journalism from an editor or news reporter among any of the media conglomerates. Shout out : Blue Paper readers keep your questions coming to the Blue Paper and be sure to ask them of your favorite politicos as well.
[xiv] “A rising share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for at least a decade. About two-thirds (66%) of adults in 2014 had been in the U.S. at least that long, compared with 41% in 2005. A declining share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for less than five years – 14% of adults in 2014, compared with 31% in 2005.” (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/03/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/)