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President Obama called last week for the Congress to deal with Immigration reform as a high priority for this year’s legislative agenda. He said, “The time is now for immigration reform.” The time’s been now for immigration reform. Nobody had the courage to take it on.

obama museum

What makes “now” the time? Political reality for the Republicans and political insurance for the Democrats.

Immigration reform is going to be an ugly fight, particularly during the discussion as to what should come first, the chicken or the egg. The chicken is twelve million immigrants that are already here and who will have to get in line, pay fines and demonstrate civility in order to stay here. The egg will be the roping off of the border to stop the rush of immigrants looking to get here before the immigration deal gets on.

Twelve million could be 20 million before the legislation is passed. Republicans want to build the wall first. Democrats want to tweak the rules first (reform immigration policy). There is a clear political and policy divide, as the recognition becomes even clearer that this is no longer a nation just for “old white men.” It doesn’t stop there.

The politics turn this Latino empowerment agenda negative, less sophisticated, and more territorial, as poor immigrants seek to carve out social spaces for themselves. This is where it gets damn near hypocritical as migrants, many who ain’t supposed to be here anyway - according to the law - try to tell other people they can’t live someplace. And suddenly Compton, a recently black enclave (Compton was white 50 years ago in the 1960s), has now become Howard Beach or Bensonhurst, where ethnic shifts are producing conflict.

Those once “straight outta’ Compton,” are now threatened with being run outta’ Compton. It ain’t gonna happen, but the conflicts of migration shifts just got real for this black community, and other black communities nationwide.

African Americans have long grumbled, underneath their proverbial breaths, about the negative effects Latino (and Asian) migration shifts have had on their communities.

Competition for jobs, houses, schools and business have made living in low and moderate income geographies somewhat complicated. The economic realities of shared demography in the last two decades have worn on the black community.

Immigrating without the proper documentation wasn’t really an issue for white people as long as immigrants could be exploited for their labor, providing a cultural contrast to African Americans. The identity politics of each group notwithstanding, neither posed any real threat to the political and economic status quo of this country - at least, not until the last two elections.

In 2008, it was difficult to separate identity politics in the excitement and emotionalism of the moment. History was being made, and the election of Barack Obama was being painted as a fluke of history… a combination of anti-intellectualism fatigue, mastery of technology social media and mistakes of the frontrunners that opened the door to a once-in-a-lifetime political phenomenon.

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However, when it happened again in 2012, the “powers that be” (and have been for over 200 years) realized that it wasn’t a fluke. Just as when Muhammad Ali beat Sonny Liston the second time, the second time was easier than the first and the knockout came a lot quicker. People couldn’t believe it. Mitt Romney still can’t believe, but reality has set in.

The world has changed and two decades of unconstrained immigration has taken its toll on the political system. Immigrating populations now represent the “tipping point” and America’s political future couldn’t be clearer.

The legitimization of resident alien illegitimacy, the impetus for much of the election and voter reform that had taken place in the years since the election of Obama, cemented the fate of racial ideologues in this country.

So now immigration reform is a high priority, but only as a political stopgap to the potential hazards of the mid-term elections of 2014 and, of course, the Presidential election of 2016.

What is real is that the pawns in the game can’t be engaged in the mass distractions of racial conflict while the political board is reset. Black racists have never been any better than white racists, and now we see Latino racists are not any better than the racists that preceded them.

Racism has always complicated political reality in America. It complicated public policy as well (see the Brown v Board decision). Immigration reform will not be just for the benefit of a new demography.

It is the start of a new political agenda that will compete for Latinos and Asians, concede African Americans (as long as they are willing to be conceded to one party) and reconstruct political reality in America, hopefully in the favor of those who have always held it. And it will be that way, if we’re distracted, and play blind and foolish. Latinos could learn from the lessons of African Americans as being a target (or targeted) population in America.

The negative politics of migrant shifts can’t be the grand distraction that distorts what the grand play is here. The Black-Brown racial conflict can’t be the manipulator that makes us all pawns in the game.


Immigration reform presents a great opportunity to talk about race relations reform in America. The politics of immigration reform doesn’t all have to be a negative conversation about who lives where and who gets what, when and how. However, it will be, if we’re not smart about it.

Anthony Samad

Saturday, 2 February 2013