Immigrants did not cause the Economic Crisis, but they can help us rebuild

The Anti-Defamation League recently published a thoughtful article warning all of us to be careful in assigning blame to any one group of people (Nathan, Martin. Houston Chronicle)  The ADL’s article focused on Susan Carroll’s Houston Chronicle series which highlighted problems in our criminal system.  While study after study like that of Harvard Sociology Professor Robert Sampson has shown that recent immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes (45% less likely than 3rd generation Americans in his study), xenophobic rhetoric abounds on blogs, comments, and media posts concerning immigrants.

What’s more alarming, yet inextricably linked to such polarizing rhetoric of hate and “otherness,” are the increasing hate crimes against Latinos and other immigrant groups. The Houston Chronicle article highlighted FBI statistics that show from 2005-2007 hate crimes against Latinos grew from 475 to 595.  Indeed, several high-profile hate crimes against immigrants have occurred in New York City alone, that emblematic heart of the American melting pot.  Ecuadorean brothers Jose and Romel Sucuzhanay were brutally beaten in Bushwick, Brooklyn, on Sunday, December 7, by three men shouting obsenities which were “ugly, anti-gay and anti-Latino” (McFadden, Robert. New York Times).  On November 7 in Patchogue, NY, seven teenagers fatally stabbed 37-year-old Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean returning from his late shift (Finn, Robin. New York Times).

And so, as the economy continues its downspin and people, unable to wreak justice on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, scan the nation for a proper scapegoat, preferrably one without a voice and lacking human rights.  It is this nativism fueled by the economic crisis which propels hate speech and hate crimes, as well as xenophobic legislation like New IDEA (Immigrant Deduction Enforcement Act), an attempt to massively expand the role of the IRS in aiding the Department of Homeland Security to crack down not on employers but primarily on unauthorized immigrants. Iowa Congressman Steven King, seemingly unfazed by the destruction the Postville ICE raid has caused his own small-town constituents, touts this bill he introduced as a means of wresting jobs from the immigrants holding 7 million jobs (as per the PEW Hispanic Research Center) and distributing them to the 9.5 million jobless Americans. While his Robin-Hood techniques may sound appealing in a time of economic depression, we cannot forget that immigrants are people too; this is not merely redistributing wealth or opportunity – this is redistributing people.

As we head into the New Year, looking back on our mistakes of 2008 and crafting new resolutions to see us through 2009, blame-shifting will help none of us.  No, we must turn from this simple scapegoating and look at real solutions which can help us all rather than profiting some at the expense of the most vulnerable (isn’t this the sort of predatory business model that caused the economic crisis in the first place?).  Immigrants didn’t cause the economic crisis, but they can sure help us rebuild.  Why? Because they are us and we are them; we are all in this thing together.

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6 Responses to “Immigrants did not cause the Economic Crisis, but they can help us rebuild”

  1. Angela Kaelin Says:

    I’m impressed with your blog. I follwed a link here from one of your Houston Chronicle posts. I’ve only been in the Houston area for a little over a year. The hatred of Latinos that exists here has been a shock for me. It’s not like that where I’m from. I was glad to see the Houston Chronicle article on this subject, but I’m afraid there is no shame in people who harbor real hatred for others. The commentary from readers really scares me because I know what is in the hearts of such people. This is more than rhetoric and if you are in this area, in the company of a Latino, you will know in a short time that is true. I felt almost relieved when I followed the link on your post to this blog. I will visit again. Thank you!

  2. uk visa Says:

    I agree with you 100%; would that people in mass media were publicising this as well as you have.
    ‘Because they are us and we are them; we are all in this thing together.’ – beautifully crafted writing and a great message for people to remember.

  3. joseph smith Says:

    It is sadly to say but I believe that in the coming months hate crime against immigrants, especially Latinos, is going to get worse because the Republicans will continue with their malicious rhetoric. As PoliticalArticles.NET: World Politics – News, Comm… blog stated “Latino immigrants are prime targets for White Racists emboldened by the now three year old Republican campaign of HATE and XENOPHOBIA.” And now that they blame Latinos for helping Mr. Obama to win the presidential election, the Republicans will do whatever it takes to block any immigration bill. It is the only issue in which they can be so venomous and get away with it, especially using the unfavorable situation of the U.S economic. They should blame Tancredo, Dobbs, and the bunch of vitriolic congressmen and senators, whom lost their seats for being so prejudice against hard working, family oriented, allies, God believers’s people, for losing so bad the election. God works in mysterious ways.
    NOTE: To Mr. Vitter, your ex-girlfriend “Cortez” is not Hispanics. She was using her boyfriend last name. Therefore, a hispanics woman never sold you out so stop your hate against those poor people.

  4. Matthew Webster Says:


    Thank you so much for taking the time to visit this blog. I, too, have seen the hate people display towards immigrants, the look of fear in the eyes of a Latino American as they tell you about how they are followed monthly by the Border Patrol because they “look illegal.” I am sorry that you are experiencing nativist hatred in Houston, but we must believe that hatred is always born out of ignorance, however deep it may run. I truly believe people are inherently good, and if they are acting out of hatred, then Angele, you and I must do a better job of encouraging them to see immigrants as people. I hope to see you back at this site soon!

    – Matthew –

  5. Matthew Webster Says:

    UKvisa –

    Thank you for your continued support of the issues this blog attempts to forward every day. May we never stop getting out that all-important message, that we are “caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, woven in the single garment of destiny.”

    – Matthew –

  6. Matthew Webster Says:

    Joseph Smith,

    It will be interesting indeed to see the ways in which the new immigrant population changes our country. It is certainly up to us to make sure they have a voice and continue to gain the rights we take for granted. As shown by the last election, they are a deciding force.

    – Matthew –

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