Those in the Chattering Class who are wondering why Donald Trump’s calls for tightening up immigration policy seem to resonate with so many Americans need wonder no more. Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law has looked into the matter, and shares his sage finding in his latest column, titled “The Real Reason So Many Americans Oppose Immigration.” Those Trump supporters, Sunstein has discovered, are just plain xenophobes, if not outright bigots.
Sunstein cites attitude studies, which sound questionable to me, and also cites the recent NAS study, which I have stated here is truly awful. I won’t go into discussing those studies in this posting. I will discuss at least part of NAS when I have time (and even then will treat only one or two egregious examples, out of many).
Instead, here I want to address a certain aspect of Sunstein’s piece that moved me to write this blog posting. It’s very simple — he refers to “first generation immigrants.” I know this will baffle many of you, even after I explain, but this term drives me up the wall, and I claim it suggests that Sunstein’s own attitude toward immigrants is pretty lousy.
Let’s say that Sunstein’s grandparents were immigrants. (I think it is a safe bet that I am off by no more than one generation.) So, they were immigrants, and yes, the first generation of the family in the U.S. But does Sunstein them think of his parents as “second-generation immigrants,” with him being a “third-generation immigrant”? Of course not. The term “first-generation immigrant” is redundant, and terms like “second-generation immigrant” are nonsense.
What I am saying, then, is this: Sunstein’s phrasing indicates to me that he feels that terms like “second-generation immigrant” apply to Asians and Latinos, not those of European ancestry, and that he sees Asians and Latinos are “perpetual foreigners.” As such, his sanctimonious defense of immigrants is empty, outrageously condescending and insidiously harmful.
I remember an edition of the PBS Newshour some years ago, in which there was a panel discussion on immigration. One of the distinguished pundits on the panel made the observation, “I’ve talked to immigrants. They’re good people.” In words, to him too, immigrants are The Other, and again, I find this offensively condescending.
Unhealthy attitudes toward other races is bad enough, but subtle, beneath-the-surface atittudes like the above are actually much worse.
Just like Robert Reich (“I finally found a Trump supporter”), people like this live in their own little world — an immigrant-free world. They are the true “deplorables.”