The Senate Judiciary Committee has spent the past week “marking-up” the immigration reform bill introduced by the “Gang of Eight.”   The mark-up process allows the committee with jurisdiction over the bill to go over it section by section and discuss adding and changing elements through an amendment process. The language that is being used in the room is notable. At one point this week, Senator Graham said “The people coming across the southern border live in hell holes” in clear reference to Mexico. Juxtaposing that to Canada which he said is a “nice” place to live. In addition, the use of the word “illegal” is rampant, rolling of the tongue of some more than others, as well as “amnesty.”

We also witnessed the roll-out of a much-maligned report by the Heritage Foundation which exaggerated what immigration reform would cost the nation—framing immigrants as takers of a wide range of public services and benefits. Yet days after release, one of the report’s authors resigned from Heritage after the press uncovered the premise of his Harvard doctoral thesis: Hispanic immigrants have lower IQ’s than White Americans and not much hope of catching up.

Even though we seem to be moving forward on immigration reform, is the Senate being strategic in the language they use or have they just developed bad habits in how they talk about immigrants and the places they come from?

Is the Heritage Foundation creating ethnically biased data that encourages stereotypes of immigrants in America?

To what extent is the debate over immigration reform actually a debate about the nation’s racial/ethnic composition?

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  • Miguel

    There is no doubt that being a Senator does not equate to being well-informed. If there is any malady that is easily identifiable during any attempt at a congenial discussion about immigration reform it is the prevalence of ethnocentric points-of-view and skewed perspectives.

  • Cassie Rodriguez

    Unfortunately, I think many people in the US mis- interpret being undocumented or ” illegal” with being “hispanic” and hispanic with “mexican”. The white’er’ undocumented immigrants, like Russians, and the “darker”undocumented immigrants like Africans simply escape the public’s attention and blend in with society. In so much as hispanics are tied to being “illegals” whether unconsciously or consciously, the immigration reform debate is very much so about racial/ethnic composition.

    On a side note, I would say that Sen. Graham’s hell-hole comment is accurate in many cases. Anyone who has seen the shacks built on dirt floors in Mexico where people live in abject poverty would agree. That’s why we have a higher number of undocumented Hispanics in the US than Canadians, and I would say it’s all the more reason we need immigration reform to help people coming from these hellish places to have an opportunity to live and work in the US.

    Just maybe we can embrace our American promise of accepting the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free