Sole Loyalty: The Identity Politics of Immigration Reform
The American motto "E Pluribus Unum" reflects the national aspiration that out of many diverse origins, we may become one people, with one culture, and one sole loyalty. Fidelity to the American social compact -- informed by the traditions and beliefs of this nation's founders -- as opposed to race, ethnicity, or ancestry, is what binds us as people and what marks the metes and bounds of American culture.
No issue is more consequential to the cultural future of our nation, or more freighted with the potential for racial polarization, than immigration reform. The agenda for immigration reform is driven by an ideologically determined group that seeks legalization and a pathway to citizenship -- amnesty -- for this nation's 11 to 12 million undocumented residents. President Obama is a core supporter of this agenda.
The most striking feature of the campaign for amnesty is the blatant plunge into identity politics by the movement's proponents. This strategy is made possible by the moral shift in this nation over the past half-century in which majoritarian (white) identity politics has been pushed to the fringes of the civil polity, while the political application of racial and ethnic solidarity by non-whites has been encouraged, governmentally subsidized, and incorporated into the American mainstream.
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour was drummed out of the Republican presidential primary earlier this year for speaking favorably of the local Citizens' Counsels, which, although ideologically white supremacist, eschewed the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. Similarly, Trent Lott was forced to resign as Senate Minority leader amid a firestorm of bipartisan criticism in 2002 when he praised the presidential platform of Strom Thurmond, who ran as a states' rights Dixiecrat in 1948.
Moreover, prominent watchdog organizations maintain a catalogue of racist groups, many of which preach both racial superiority and separatism in an explicitly non-violent way. Groups such as the Counsel of Conservative Citizens and the American Renaissance are featured alongside more vitriolic groups in the skinhead and Aryan Nations movement in offender registries.
However, racial advocacy in favor of comprehensive immigration reform is treated differently by society.
The driving force behind immigration reform is a collection of groups which are commonly defined by their promotion of racial, ethnic, and otheridentity-based objectives. The overarching "La Raza" movement, an amalgam of groups that purport to speak for Americans of Hispanic descent, has led the charge.
"La Raza" means literally "The Race."
The entry point to "La Raza" is the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), a group which favors the creation of a "Chicano" blood-and-soil ethno-state throughout the American southwest -- termed Aztlán - with strong cultural, if not political, unity with Mexico and Latin America.
An objective comparison reveals that the philosophy of MEChA bears more than a passing resemblance to the belief systems of white racist organizations.
We are Chicanas and Chicanos of Aztlán reclaiming the land of our birth.
Aztlán belongs to indigenous people, who are sovereign and not subject to a foreign culture.
We are a union of free pueblos forming a bronze Nation.
Cultural values strengthen our identity as La Familia de La Raza.
Conservative Counsel of Citizens
We believe that the United States derives from and is an integral part of European civilization and the European people and that the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character.
We support the cultural and national heritage of the United States and the race and civilization of which it is a part[.]
The folk, namely the members of the race, are the Nation. Racial loyalties must always supersede geographical and national boundaries.
We are a worldwide Pan-Aryan crusade dedicated to the preservation and advancement of our Race - Our Race is Our Nation!
However, unlike white racist organizations, which are properly subject to public contempt and typically appeal only to a small and malcontented segment of American society, MEChA and organizations like it are at the vanguard of progressive American politics.
"La Raza" is actually a fragment of the larger phrase: "Por La Raza Todo, Fuera de La Raza, nada." Translation: "For the Race Everything, Outside the Race, nothing" -- a motto of MEChA, as established in its founding documents.
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is another Hispanic identity-based group fighting for immigration reform. Self-evidently, NCLR takes its namesake from the larger rallying cry. In July 2008, Barack Obama spoke as a presidential candidate to La Raza. What is noteworthy, however, is not what was said, but the fact that a mainstream political candidate gave an audience to the institution at all.
La Raza denies its affiliation with MEChA and its approbation of the phrase from which its title is derived. But the denial rings hollow.
To name something is to "own it." Notwithstanding the attempted linguistic sleight-of-hand offered by La Raza ("We have a Spanish term in our name, "La Raza", meaning 'the people' or 'community', which is often mistranslated."), as Barack Obama, himself stated in 2008, words have meaning.
Also, without a trace of irony, unsupported allegations of racism against opponents of amnesty are deployed in tandem with the blatant use of race and ethnicity to advance the agenda. Advocates of amnesty tell America that "you are either with us or against us" and "if you are against us you must be racist."
The racial arguments for and against immigration reform are intellectually lazy, morally repugnant, and destructive to the national discourse. What is truly at stake for our nation is culture, not race.
History is a cautionary tale.
The Byzantine Empire stood as a bastion of Western Civilization for over seven hundred years. Then, in 1071 A.D., at the Battle of Manzikert, a Turkish force defeated the arrayed Byzantine armies and brought about the empire's decline and fall. What transpired was not a dramatic transfer of populations, or a replacement of human genetic material, but rather a cultural replacement; as the land of monasteries became the land of madrassas, and the Greek language spoken by the Byzantines was ousted by the non-Indo-European Turkish tongue, Hellenic Anatolia was reinvented as a Muslim, Turkish caliphate.
Today we view Turkey as a Middle Eastern nation, but if not for the cultural transformation occasioned by the waves of migrants following the Byzantine defeat, we would view the Anatolian Peninsula as a part of Europe.
Because we are bound together by a set of principles that transcend race, ethnicity, and national origin, our national unity requires an absolute fidelity to the covenant of American citizenship. For immigrants, entry into the covenant begins with passage through our borders on terms set by the American people and codified under our immigration laws.
Contrary to what some advocates of immigration reform and amnesty allege, opposition is not founded upon xenophobia or bigotry.
Only by maintaining an orderly and honorable process of immigration can we preserve the American Dream that served generations of immigrants in the past.
Only by protecting our cultural foundation, embodied by shared traditions, ethics, and language, with neither racial prejudice nor racial passion, can we continually be ready for "the tremendous tasks of both war and peace."
Dean Malik was a candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania's 8th District in 2010. He is an Iraq War veteran and former assistant district attorney in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.