Immigration Reform 2013: Will the "Take Back Our Country" Movement Kill the Bill?


Immigration reform is starting to look like it will be a casualty of the "take our country back" conservative movement. Even as the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that it had released the bill to the full Senate, its counterpart in the House had hit a logjam.

Immigration, same-sex marriage, feminism, the economy and radical Islam are challenging the notion of Americans being open, tolerant, and caring. In fact, what we are beginning to see creep back into the dialogue is a longing for a bygone era when the country was predominately run and controlled by people who believed that America is a nation for white Christians preferably of the Anglo-Saxon male persuasion. The "take our country back" people have to be stopped before they take us back to a time when civil liberties were openly suppressed and separate but equal was the law.

One of the most pernicious examples of this growing penchant for a bygone era in American history is the argument against immigration reform. Conservatives, such as Ann Coulter, have rhetorically asked, "why can't the country be more or less the ethnic composition it always was?" Coulter would prefer to see more immigrants from Great Britain, Canada and Australia rather than South and Central America. She exclaimed, "we have been taking in more immigrants from Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Colombia, individually, than from England, our mother country." She seems to believe that the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States are not "our kind of people." "Was there a vote when the country decided to turn itself into Mexico?" declared Coulter.

It would be easy to blow off Coulter's latest rant as just another example of her self-serving, narcissistic bloviating style if there weren't other elements at play that indicate a nascent rise in a wish to return the country to a time when straight, white Christian men ruled and everyone else simply followed.

Take for instance the rise in hate crimes against LGBT people at a time when the country is moving inexorably towards legalizing same sex marriage. Or the vitriol tossed towards feminists who are simply fighting for gender equality and the right to self-determination for women.

Business Insider reported, "New York's police commissioner Ray Kelly said anti-gay hate crime in New York has spiked 70% this year." According to FBI statistics, hate crimes against every demographic is down except for those committed against gay men.

Opponents to same sex marriage and feminism cite both as examples of a deteriorating moral standard that will lead to destruction of American values. These "take back our country" folks ignore the fact that gay people and women are Americans as well and they have a set of values that are somewhat protected by the law. They have no wish to go back to a time when gay people had to stay closeted for safety reasons and women were expected to be subservient to men.

The increase in racial profiling, for example "stop and frisk" practices and "show me your papers" laws are two more examples of what many consider a trend towards intolerance. U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow recently ruled that conservative Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio violated the constitutional rights of Latinos in his overzealous effort to crack down on illegal immigration. The New York Times found that from the period 2006 to 2010 the police chose "other" as the reason for making one in every five stop and frisk encounters. Eighty eight percent of the people stopped were black or Latino.

Radical Islam has led some to openly advocate for closing our borders to Muslims, establishing a national religion and asking for Muslim immigrants to renounce parts of their faith as a pre-condition for immigration. This level of xenophobia harkens back to a time when Americans wanted to close the borders to Irish, Japanese, and Catholics.

Some of the "take our country back" folks want to go back to the late 18th century/early 20th century. This was a period of unprecedented growth and unfettered abuse by the captains of industry. It was a period where the barriers of entry were set so high in the transportation, steel, oil, etc. industries that there was virtually no competition. Price fixing was rampant and labor practices were abhorrent. It was a less complex time largely because only one demographic was given the full freedom and liberty afforded by the law to succeed.

The danger of the "take back our country" movement is best epitomized by conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly. In an interview with PolicyMic pundit Sagar Jethani she expounded on the dangers of feminism, immigration, same sex marriage and the social framework of America as well as advocating for the re-institution of the House Un-American Activities Committee. All of it sounded very reminiscent of a foregone era in American history; one that needs to be left in the past where it belongs.