Skin-Deep Immigration Blues

America’s immigration policies are a mess. So many unfair distinctions exist that I couldn’t possibly discuss them all in a blog. Reform has been out of reach for decades, despite protests and proclamations, politicians’ promises and presidents’ speeches. Yet the main stumbling block is only skin deep.

I read this morning that some Republican leaders concede racism is involved in their party’s opposition to proposed immigration reforms. I am not surprised.

Let’s face it. Too many Americans don’t want dark-skinned people in America.

The different policies on Cuba and Haiti are one stark example of this disturbing racism. When Castro kicked out Batista (and the American mob) back in 1959, he turned on the middle class in a bloody rage, machine gunning his country’s lawyers, doctors, merchants and so on, and stripping them of their possessions.  Thousands of them – the lucky ones – fled to nearby Florida.

In those days, the middle class throughout the Caribbean was overwhelmingly light-skinned, and the Cuban refugees looked quite acceptable to racially sensitive Americans. The politicians decreed that any Cuban who reached the US shore could stay.

Fast-forward to the series of revolutions that have ravaged Haiti, sending boatloads of refugees toward America’s coast. Could they stay in the US legally once they got ashore? Are you kidding? Can’t you see how dark-skinned those Haitians are?

I am convinced that skin color is one reason for the hostility toward migrants who come across the Mexican border.

When American politicians talk about Hispanics, they don’t mean people who speak Spanish, which is the real meaning of the word. They mean people from Latin America. And most people in Latin America are dark-skinned. In addition to Spanish and Portuguese, the populations include various indigenous races as well as descendants of African slaves. A lot of the so-called Hispanics don’t look white (see photo above).

In addition to devising a compassionate accommodation for undocumented families who have been in America for years – even decades – comprehensive reform of America’s immigration policies should address race based injustices.

That could mean groups such as the Cuban refugees would lose their special status. Consider this excerpt from a Reuters article:

Even traditional defenders of the Cuban Adjustment Act in the nation’s large Cuban American community, concentrated mostly in South Florida, say the law is out-dated and may need adjusting.

“I’m not sure we’re going to be able to avoid, as part of any comprehensive approach to immigration, a conversation about the Cuban Adjustment Act,” Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants, told reporters last month.

The handwriting is on the wall.

Click for the article on racism and immigration reform.

Click for Cubans, Haitians disparities.

Click for more on Cubans’ special status.

Click for race and immigration reform.

Click for the mob in Havana.