Virginia’s Modern Day “Know Nothings”

Here’s some important news from the Pew Hispanic Center.
The center reports that the number of immigrants entering the United States illegally fell by nearly two-thirds between 2005 to 2009. In the first part of the past decade, the number of undocumented people coming into the country was about 850,000 a year. With recession and harsh laws targeting immigrants, it fell to 300,000 a year between 2007 and 2009. The number of undocumented immigrants estimated to be in the country fell by 1 million to about 11 million, the report says.
Among states, the biggest declines were in Virginia, Florida and Nevada. In Virginia, the number fell by 60,000 from 2008 to 2009, to an estimated 240,000.
So, one has to ask: If the number of undocumented workers is falling because of the recession, the crash in housing construction and oppressive laws such as the one Prince William County adopted in 2007, why is there suddenly such a big need for a statewide push against immigrants here illegally?
Corey A. Stewart, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors chairman who backed his county’s legislation and is leading the charge for a statewide law, has said he is “proud” of the statistics.
But once again, if the number of undocumented foreigners arriving is dropping, why does Virginia suddenly need to be the next Arizona? Stewart says that if you let up on the pressure, they’ll just come back. This plays well at Glenn Beck rallies.
It’s hard to fathom this hatred of the foreign-born. It smacks of the “Know-Nothing” movement of the 1840s and 1850s, in which Anglo-Saxon Protestants tried to curb immigration of Catholic Germans and Irish. The newcomers, they said, were unwashed, did not hold American values and committed crimes. Plus, they were controlled by the pope in Rome.
At one point, the Know-Nothings commanded considerable clout and got the upper hand in elections in northern cities, such as Boston and Salem, Mass., that immigrants favored, and they sometimes resorted to violence. Eventually, they ran out of steam.
You can see the effects of Prince William’s law. I happened to be in Manassas recently and stopped by Mi Barrio, a Salvadoran-Mexican eatery on Prescott Avenue that caters to Latinos. The owner, Luis Gomez, told me that after the law took effect in 2007, he had to shut down for six months. His customers were afraid to come to the county.
The law, which authorizes county police to stop anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant, resulted in the rousting of dark-skinned people in cars, Gomez said. “If they saw three Spanish-looking people in a car, they’d look for a reason to stop them and then check their IDs,” he said. Eventually, the cops let up, and Gomez returned to his normal operating times.
It is distressing to think that a county or a state would enact laws designed by their very nature to profile by race and color. Even more absurd is the fact that they are being proposed while the supposed need for a statewide law is going away.
But who knows, maybe the modern-day nativist movement will go the way of the Know-Nothings.
Peter Galuszka

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19 responses to “Virginia’s Modern Day “Know Nothings””

  1. We can learn a lot from the past.

    Why not take the concept of the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island and all it stands for and create the same thing on our Southern border….with a 21st century twist?

    Rather than grant all out citizenship the border crossing could be a place where guest workers enter the country legally.

    They would/should be required to get photographed, finger printed, tested for diseases, and obtain documents and identification that allow them to work legally in the U.S. so they become tax-paying members of the economy.

  2. Makes sense to me.

    When it takes years and years to get (or not get, even) a guest wrker visa, then you cannot very well expect people to obey the law.

  3. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    "It's hard to fathom this hatred of the foreign-born."

    Maybe it's hard to fathom because there is no "hatred" of the foreign born. Maybe "hatred" is another one of those bogey-man, there-is-a-racist-under-bed canards of the left. If "hatred" exists, it is liberals hating those whom they accuse of hatred.

    Is there frustration, concern and alarm about the vast population of illegal aliens in this country and the social and fiscal problesm they create? Of course.

    But, Peter, you have never shown one iota of evidence that negative feelings extend to the "foreign-born" who live in this country *legally*. Indeed, I would submit that the vast majority of foreign-born who live in this country legally feel very welcome here.

    One of the things I love about liberals is how they they point to the example of the oh-so-enlightened European countries for their policies regarding health care and other social security programs. But liberals invariably fall silent when it comes to European policies on immigration. There is no advanced country on the face of the planet that permits unrestricted immigration into their nation! Most European countries (and descendents of European countries like Australia, New Zealand, etc.) have much stricter policies than the U.S. regarding both the control of their borders and control over whom they will admit legally into their countries.

    Are they all ignorant, hate-filled no-nothings as well?

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    The double standard that liberals use on illegal immigration is quite outrageous. Essentially, most liberals want open boarders so that they can maintain and expand social programs that keep the professional caring class employed (people with advanced degrees, many who work for government agencies and nonprofits). And, of course, they want amnesty for more voters.

    Why is the U.S.'s immigration policy racist, when the must stricter Mexican immigration policy is not?

    Enforce the laws. Cracking down on employers will reduce the attractiveness for those outside the country and create economic pressure for those already here. Attrition works.


  5. Anonymous Avatar

    "why is there suddenly such a big need for a statewide push against immigrants here illegally?"

    Maybe because the Fed numbers are garbage?

    One single trail, averaging 17 people a day or 6200 a year. This Year. 2010.

    You are a reporter. Why not ask the website owners to provide the footage of all the people heading back into Mexico on this trail?

    But that's not how it works is it? When they want to return to Mexico, they just drive through the border crossings because the border patrol doesn't check anything. That's Mexico's job. The US has no idea how many were illegally in the country.

  6. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    You are setting up straw men here and knocking them down while shouting "Liberal!, Liberal!" Ditto anonymous.
    The word we want is "undocumented" not "illegal." Staying here over a visa deadline or entering without papers is a "civil" not a "criminal" violation. Big difference.
    As for your canard about Europe, I never said I looked to Europe for immigration guidance. And, unlike you, I have actually lived in Europe for a few years.
    So please don't put words in my mouth or attribute thoughts to me that aren't mine.

    Peter Galuszka

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Migration is a universal GOD given human right. As Jefferson would have said, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”

    In fact, Jefferson complained that the King was interfering with migration! Quoting from the Declaration, “He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither…”. Most people have never actually read that far into the document.

    (Actual voting citizenship is another issue for another day, and requirements for that are perfectly legitimate.)

    But the whole illegal undocumented debate is just another example of how socialism screws the world's working poor.

    If we (or any country) did not have a social welfare state including free government run schools, free medical care, social security, etc., who could possibly care how many hard working poor people came here to work?

    Europeans are more socialist, so of course they are more unwelcoming.

    I frankly think the housing crisis is cosmic justice on us for becoming an unwelcoming country.

    We have too many vacant houses. Why wouldn't we want hard working Central and South American Catholic families to come and rent or buy them?

    There are so many warnings in the Bible about being kind to strangers in the land.

    Here is Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV):

    "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God."

    Got that – treat them as natives not illegals!

    Bacon, there would be no fiscal problems without the socialism. You know socialism is theft. So those undocumented workers might bankrupt the socialist state sooner! Good! Then we might get our freedom back sooner.

    Just a fed up Christian Protestant Conservative Republican too embarrassed by the nativist hysteria to want to use any labels anymore!

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    "If we (or any country) did not have a social welfare state including free government run schools, free medical care, social security, etc., who could possibly care how many hard working poor people came here to work?"

    And if the world turned in the other direction on its axis, we'd have California's climate. We need to deal with the country we have.

    Importing poverty increases the cost of government and keeps down wages for those with lesser education and skills.


  9. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    Peter, Read first, then write. I did *not* say that you said you looked to Europe for immigration guidance. I said that liberals look to Europe for inspiration for health care policy but that they ignore European policy toward immigration and border protection — pretty much diametrically the opposite from what you thought I said.

  10. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    Huh? I am sorry but I am completely missing your point about Europe. I didn't say anything about Europe either in terms of health care or immigration.
    Meanwhile, you faily utterly to respond to the major point of my piece — if the Pew Center reports that the levels of undocumented Hispanic immigrants, why is it necessary to follow Corey Stewart into an Arizona-style immigration law n Virginia.
    You have a habit of avoiding the major point and throwing out little ones that sidetrack from the maintain issue.
    There's a word for that: Obfuscation.
    So, do you support Stewart's idea or not?

    Peter Galuszka

  11. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Students from Eastern Europe flood the east coast every summer on a work visa program that allows hotels and tourist stuff to hire them at low wages. Most employers say they prefer the students over locals.

    Funny thing happened this year. The students arrived, gained entry to the country based on an offer of employment, and then ended up eating in food kitchens and sleeping on the street because the employers didn't follow through with jobs.

    It seems to me that if there are going to be laws, the first place to start is in the labor area. Followed by immigrant workers law. And then deportation law. The way things are now, we have none of that because there is no enforcement of the current regulations by the feds.

    So we end up with illegal trash dumps in the desert, legal foreign students getting screwed, and state politicians manning the bulwark with blunderbuss legislation.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    A lot of rocks at empty pigeon holes here.


  13. Anonymous Avatar

    The holes have pidgeons in them, at least in Fairfax County. Both the county and the school budget are significantly larger because of the need to provide expensive services to illegal immigrants and their families. TMT

  14. " Both the county and the school budget are significantly larger because of the need to provide expensive services to illegal immigrants and their families. TMT"


    The county gets its money from real estate and sales taxes. Where do illegal immigrants live and spend?

    If the problem is that these services to immigrants (legal and illegal) are too expensive, maybe the County can lower its costs by hiring more immigrants to provide them and fewer unionized teachers with expensive theoretical and language degrees.

  15. " Importing poverty increases the cost of government and keeps down wages for those with lesser education and skills. "


    You are kidding yourself if you think that putting up a poverty trade barrier will make our government any cheaper.

  16. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    I think you are off base with the pigeon thing. We are facing a new Jim Crow in Virgina. It may not fit neatly into elite theories on urban planning but it is an extremely important subject.

    Peter Galuszka

  17. "It's hard to fathom this hatred of the foreign-born."

    Maybe it's hard to fathom because there is no "hatred" of the foreign born.


    I have had seeral people tell me this, here in Arizona. On an individual basis everyone seems to accept and work with the latinos like everyone else.

    Yet they do see a COLLECTIVE problem, and this problem they do not like. Political activists then take this situation and use it to drum up artificial or media driven bigotry that does not actually exist on the personal level, for the most part.

  18. "…how socialism screws the world's working poor….."


    No doubt socialism screws the working poor, but the record of capitalism is not so hot in this regard, either.

    What we are taliking about is a question of degree, not direction.

  19. Who benefits from the ruckus and fear kicked up over immigration? For private prison companies like Corrections Corporation of America, (CCA) that need prisoners to make money, legislation such as SB1070 would be a boon. CCA has close ties to Gov Brewer, having donated $1,780 to her campaign.

    In Virginia, we have a Governor who is actively striving to privatize the liquor business. Perhaps prisons are next on his list.

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