The ways white racism informs the so-called “immigration debate” are multiple, sometimes contradictory, and always complex. They have as much to do with the ways people define and conceive of “them” as they do with the ways they do the same for themselves–the myriad ways they construct “we.” Both processes are heavily reliant on the sets of meanings framed by historic processes to be assigned to people based on their “racial group” membership. Both are processes reliant on “race.”
Thinking about race is not a problem in and of itself. It is important to remember that even if people think of race in negative ways, that is only a problem for that person’s interpersonal relations. The danger lies in using these sets of meanings as the rationale for a larger legal, governmental, or economic system. The problem is when these “ideas” determine who has access to power, wealth, opportunity, and even visibility.
If you want a rich source of examples of the above, check out this post on the Washington Post. It is a short summary of some of the public web comments posted to a report about the exodus of immigrant families from Prince William County in Virginia, one of the hundreds of locales in the U.S. that has been experimenting with racist (yes, racist) restrictions against “illegal immigrants.” The inciting report can be found here.
Read these and ask yourself what assumptions about people (who “they” is and who “we” is) inform people’s ideas. about this heated issue.