Anti-Immigration Groups Are On The Wrong Side Of History


Anti-immigration protesters line a bridge over I-81 in Verona, VA on July 19th, 2014. Image courtesy of

In Augusta County, Virginia, a couple dozen anti-immigration protesters stood on an interstate overpass the other day to hold signs voicing their displeasure with immigration and of course, President Obama. What was really grinding their gears was the fact some Central American refugee children were being held at a local juvenile detention center while the government decided whether or not to send them back or grant them asylum.

Augusta County and the surrounding area in the Shenandoah Valley is where I grew up. It’s a truly beautiful part of Virginia with rolling hills, farm land with herds of dairy cows and spectacular fall foliage as the days grow shorter. 150 years ago, it was the location of some of the most famous battles of the Civil War. Soldiers on both sides marched up and down both forks of the Shenandoah River which slowly curve through quiet farms and sleepy towns, and eventually meets the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry, the site of John Brown’s 1859 raid that helped start the whole bloody affair.

Like the rest of the Shenandoah Valley, the demographics of Augusta County are overwhelmingly white, and it’s also extremely conservative with 70% of the votes in the 2012 election going to Mitt Romney. Augusta County’s over 65 population is about 50% higher than the rest of Virginia. Combine these factors and you have the perfect location for racism and xenophobia. Don’t believe me? Just consider the fact that the Staunton area has one of the only four active chapters of the KKK in the entire state.

Obviously, I’m not necessarily lumping the misguided people who showed up to protest the federal government holding a couple dozen foreign refugees at the local juvenile detention center in with the KKK. I am holding them up as a prime example of the current right-wing conservative hatred and xenophobia held by anti-immigration groups that are prevalent in the Republican Party right now.

Needless to say, I was both shocked and happily surprised when the News Leader, the main local paper, published this editorial titled “The real threat to America.” Here’s a snippet, and you can read the rest at the enclosed link:

The bigger threat to our country comes not from these kids but from people who demonize them, whether out of ignorance, bigotry or paranoia.

Our immigration system is broken and has been for years. We are long overdue for an intelligent, civil conversation that leads to real reform.

But none of that is possible, so long as we allow our political dialogue to be dominated by people who insist that this tragic influx of unaccompanied minors is part of President Obama’s “grand plan to destroy the country.”

These days, the shrill voices often drown out more thoughtful ones. At The News Leader, we get the phone calls and emails insisting that this country must throw these children — some of them younger than 10 — back across the border immediately. (Read the rest here)

The members of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party as well as other anti-immigration groups across the nation protesting the due process given to these children under the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 have lost sight of what has made America great. Their paranoia of some secret plot by President Obama to flood their lily-white communities with brown people from south of the border is not only ridiculous, but it’s also eerily similar to the days of the Know Nothings who believed the influx of Irish immigrants was a plot by the Pope to take over the United States.

Two hundred, three hundred, or four hundred years ago, these people had ancestors who came to America in search of a better life. Whether it was to escape famine, in search of financial opportunity or to practice their religious beliefs without persecution – the common thread is they were all immigrants as well. Anti-immigration groups have chosen to ignore that America was built over the centuries by wave after wave of individuals from all over the world, with or without papers.

Another common complaint from these anti-immigration groups is “why are we taking care of these people, we need to take care of Americans.” Yet, over and over again, they have voted for politicians who refuse to take care of veterans. Over and over again, they’ve said that taking care of our own poor is not their problem, that the poor have it easy, and that it’s not the government’s job to help. These are people who booed a gay soldier and shouted “let him die” when asked during the 2012 Republican primary debates what should happen to someone who didn’t buy health insurance.

This isn’t about patriotism or a concern for the process of law, it’s about selfishness. Those who are angrily screaming about the border are part of the ever-shrinking demographic of those who opposed desegregation and saw MLK as a threat to their way of life.

Time will eventually swallow up and silence these shrill voices of hatred and hypocrisy – and America will go on without them. Like the ghosts of the gray-clad ranks that once marched up and down this great valley under the battle flag of the Confederacy, they will be forever remembered as being on the wrong side of American history.


Facebook comments

  • RayandFannie Esparza

    Too many people not knowing history,ignoring history or just plain racist….Far too many….

  • William H. Fite

    I believe the author of this article needs to do a little research on history. First of all the country is only 238 years old. So any reference to anyone coming prior is irrelevant, period. Since then we have put laws into place how immigration works. The way these kids are coming across is illegal. Now Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barak H. Obama have signed and extended the laws on what to do with these people. We have a president who has signed Executive Orders concerning immigration and has made speeches concerning immigration. Per different articles on the Internet Obama has known about this happening for sometime now and has done nothing.

    And by the way yes you intended to indirectly say the protestors are racist. If you did not, you would not even brought it up.

    • Eg Kbbs

      You do realize that for each of these 3 presidents you list to sign, the bill had to first be passed by the House and Senate ?

      And do you remember the TV ads late last year on how the repubs were going to tackle immigration ? Even earlier, about a year and a half ago, President Obama gave a recommended bill to the House where nothing has happened.

      • William Fite

        You are right about the laws and who has to pass them first. So let’s tackle that first. The liberals are blaming Bush for this mess and the conservatives are blaming Obama. In 2008, when the law was extended and amended to include the portion concerning how to handle immigrants from countries other than Mexico and Canada, who was in control of both chambers of Congress? Democrats.

        And who passed the DREAM Act and who wanted to push the agenda further? Obama. Who has been screaming the loudest lately about immigration reform? Democrats.

      • Stephen Barlow

        I wonder whose Political Action Committee is seeding Central America with buss and train tickets for all these kids to come up here just before a crucial election for the REDS? Romney and his family are from the region, have extensive business ties in the region and Romney himself has many CLIENTS in the region.

        HUMN? $2000 is a year earnings for most of these kids parents. Wonder how the economy is doing since the NEW Romney investment strategy began?

        Anybody figure out WHY all of a sudden this exodus seems like a great idea, even though it was just as viable an option for survival 6 years ago. 12 years ago.

      • William Fite

        You really have no clue do you? You blame Romney and how can he make law in the US. He has NEVER been president or been in Congress.

        You are too ignorant to debate the issue.

      • Stephen Barlow

        NO, I don’t. But an investigation might reveal some VERY shady shenanegans.

      • William Fite

        Yes it would, which is being done right now and everything turns up against Obama and his policies.

      • Stephen Barlow

        WHAT exactly??


        HIS “Criminal Policies”?

        FLATOUT honest “CHARGES”

    • Stephen Barlow

      So all the Pilgrims, Quakers, Amish, Mennonite and Catholics who came BEFORE their children signed the Declaration of Independence are irrelevant?

      And what about ALL the French and Hispanic immigrants who landed in America BEFORE the Jamestown? What about the Vikings from 500 years before that?

      Then I guess in your REDNECK RACIST mind, all those ‘NATIVE Americans’ deserve ZERO rights to citizenship too.

      Pot was legal before 1932 and BEER was a crime. Then the law changed to meet the needs of the people. Sort of. Marriage between inter racial couples was a JAIL TIME CRIME before 1964. Women we denied the vote Before 1920. Only Men could OWN land until after 1800.

      ALL those laws were changed when when they were deemed as equally wrong as you are today. 11 million untaxed workers, most cleaning up your messes and putting food on your table… and you wanna deny them the rights your arrogant ancestors demanded.

      What breed of mutt are you Billy?

      • William Fite

        Stevie, I guess you did not know that the US was not a country prior to 238 years. So how can they be even considered legal or illegal prior. That is my point. The author claims they were legal and illegal. It is irrelevant to this debate. The US was not a country, therefore did not have immigration laws we follow or have amended.

        Your other arguments are pure BS, has nothing to do with the debate of this article. You will argue laws always change. Guess what immigration laws change constantly.

        And I guess you are one of those liberals that cannot debate honestly. You have to throw out the racist card. You know nothing about me. You have no clue if I am a redneck racist. If you want to debate an issue, let’s debate it. Don’t turn to the name calling. Makes you look childish.

      • Stephen Barlow

        SO you are invalidating all the marriages, births of all those who BECAME citizens in 1789?

        WHERE did THOSE people earn the right to be citizens?

        Simply by decree. Which is exactly what passing Immigration Reform would be. Which is EXACTLY what Reagan’s immigration pardon’s was.

        Why is it OK for an old White Racist to pardon illegals, and NOT OK for a young BLACK humanitarian businessman?

      • William Fite

        Yes Reagan signed an amnesty Bill, but the liberal democrats in Congress did not fund the whole Bill. You know the one part about a fence.

        And again you have to call someone a white racist when that distinction is not deserved or called for. Don’t get me started about the racist liberals in this country.

  • Stephen Barlow

    Why are theses people, who are so ADAMANT that 11 million peaceful, hard working, harmless people have ‘the proper papers’ (Too Gestapo for My taste) but INSIST that the 400 MILLION firearms in the country be UNREGISTERED?

    • William Fite

      Showing your ignorance again. Where in the Constitution does it allow for people to come to the US illegally.

      • Stephen Barlow

        You missed the point. They wanna register a few people, but they REFUSE to document 400 million TOOLs to KILL them.

      • William Fite

        No you are missing the point, the Constitution gives us the right to own guns. It does not say anything about regulating people and the guns. But I do not have a problem with that. I have a problem with the politics by the left to use a tragedy that has nothing to do with legal gun ownership being pushed down our throats. In actuality, since there are more guns, gun violence has gone down.

      • Stephen Barlow

        NO! The Constitution gives US the right to form a well regulated militia.,. which you MUST join to have uninfringed rights to bear arms.

  • strayaway

    “Two hundred, three hundred, or four hundred years ago, these people had ancestors who came to America in search of a better life.”

    They are still coming.

    With no immigration, US population is estimated to increase to 336M by 2050.
    At present immigration levels, US population is estimated to be 420M by 2050.

    Think of all the new highways, shopping centers, new land fills, and paving this represents. Think of all the Caterpillar ready jobs. Why Bill Gates, himself, although he just laid off 18,000 worldwide, is still lobbying to import more US guest workers. It’s not just liberal billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who want more cheap labor. Sheldon Adelson and the US Chamber of Commerce are demanding more. The 1% have a good life and want to keep it. It isn’t as if we don’t have enough of our own unemployed teens, undereducated, and unskilled workers. The 1% wants to further suppress wages by increasing the supply of labor. It isn’t as if Americans aren’t smart enough to major in computers. Planeloads of Pakistani programers are cheaper. Advocating for high levels of immigration, legal and otherwise, is advocation for suppressed wages and urban sprawl but, at least, it’s good for the 1%.

    • Stephen Barlow

      And how can the RIGHT claim this is an “Obama Conspiracy?”

      This isn’t a conspiracy at all, it’s a circumstance, that the BILL on Beohner’s desk, if put to a floor vote, would SOLVE!!!

      And the other 250+ bills for Jobs, Infrastructure Repair and development, Highways, Veteran’s, Financial Market Reform…. ALL of those would solve the problems the REDS are blaming the Black Guy for.

      • Stephen Barlow


  • Matthew Reece

    “Like the rest of the Shenandoah Valley, the demographics of Augusta County are overwhelmingly white, and it’s also extremely conservative with 70% of the votes in the 2012 election going to Mitt Romney.”
    I wouldn’t go by that, as Mitt Romney is a fake conservative.

    • Stephen Barlow

      Honky Honky HonkyHonky