Is there a preference for ‘white’ immigrants?By Philip Dominguez Mercurio
When it comes to race relations in this country, I’m always reminded of the attitudes professed by my high school comrades. They were of the belief that by then (the late nineties) we had come to the point where the civil rights movement and its underpinnings weren’t necessary anymore. Those who continued believing that minorities weren’t equal either had to be kidding themselves or were just plain taking advantage of the situation. Discrimination was -- for the most part -- over.
Now, I understood where they were coming from. Attitudes people had in the late nineties have primarily changed for the better than those in the early sixties. But I don’t think discrimination -- even racism -- completely went away.
In my years living in California, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, it was the Northeast (not the West or the even the South), where I found that racial tensions ran the deepest. For eight years, I lived in South Philadelphia and you’d have to be blind not to realize much of the city of Philadelphia was a darker shade of color than much of the surrounding suburbia. Kids from the projects would be yelled racial epithets after walking across the street into a well-do-to Italian neighborhood and Italian kids, some even with mafia ties, would be terrified of taking the subway (SEPTA). Listen to KYW News Radio or read the Inquirer and they’d report about a black family who moved into a section of Northeast Philadelphia of mainly Eastern European descent and find a dead fish outside their door. I believe that family actually moved out in the end.
Even in this environment, where the school system was purely segregated (black kids went to public schools while the white kids went to Catholic schools), I believed preferences for one race over another was something everyone was desensitized to.
Everyone knows it happens at some level but in terms of it appearing publicly -- especially coming from those in the limelight -- it was highly unlikely.
But a month ago, I cut out a story related to illegal immigration, concerning Irish illegals in this country that had a profound effect on my views. Maybe some of you know about the issue, but here’s the scope:
Apparently, there exists a large population of undocumented Irish immigrants residing in this county - a good 25,000 to 50,000 of them. As the immigration battle heated up last month, the Irish were also voicing their intent of working to become legal (under the McCain-Kennedy bill) just like other coalitions supporting illegals for other countries but there was one big difference: The small Irish Lobby was able to get Senators Kennedy, Clinton and McCain to speak at their event. The largest coalitions, mainly representative of Latin American countries, didn’t get any. Hmm.
The article, “An Irish Face On the Cause of Citizenship,” in the Times says that the senators had scheduling issues and therefore couldn’t attend the larger immigrant rallies.
Now, when it comes to illegal immigration, I’ve already expressed my views in my last piece (“To the Back of the Line”) basically stating that they should get legal status after those who applied legally decades ago go through the process first.
But on this issue though, I’m looking at the face value of the message the senators on the hill are saying, perhaps by accident on their part. The fact that four of them could attend a 2,400 manned rally for the Irish Lobby and not the 40,000 manned mainly-Hispanic march the previous day is disturbing. Illegal or not, it sets a bad precedent when there are tens to hundreds of thousands of a different race with whom you claim to support but you happen to privy the smaller group of two thousand European illegals. Something’s not right.
Knowing they received that much attention, it’s no wonder why the Irish Lobby felt comfortable striking out on their own, making “Legalize Irish” t-shirts and having the Prime Minister of Ireland publicly lobby for their legalization to our President on St. Patty’s Day. According to the article, this wasn’t even the first time they’ve accomplished this. They were given special visas in the eighties and nineties with some historians calling it, the “affirmation action for white Europeans.”
Is there really a preference for those of European descent?
Decades ago it sure seemed so and thanks to the actions of those senators, it continues to seem so.
If illegals are allowed the path to citizenship by law, then all should be allowed in. If not, then none should be given preferential treatment, especially on the basis of race. Doing so in public would substantiate claims that those against a quick ‘path to citizenship’ are racist. And that is a completely wrong message to send. - PDM
See this article,"Is there a preference for ‘white’ immigrants?" in Philippine News. Click here.