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Ken Cuccinelli recently said out loud what most supporters of a wall along the U.S. southern border have already shown they believe. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director told reporters that the famous poem by Emma Lazarus on the base of the Statue of Liberty only applied to Europeans. They are therefore, he implied, the only acceptable immigrants to our country. But that really begs an obvious question—aren’t Mexicans and other Latin American immigrants largely of European descent?

Only European Immigrants

Latin American peoples clearly descend from three main groups. Most countries south of the U.S. border are Spanish-speaking because of the heavy Spanish influx in their past. Brazil, of course, had a large Portuguese influence. No one should have to point out that Spain and Portugal are European nations. So why aren’t those European people acceptable?

The other large component of Latin American DNA is, of course, indigenous Native Americans.

It feels like a stretch to say that Americans are unacceptable immigrants to America. Mexico is, after all, part of North America. Immigrants from Guatemala and Honduras and El Salvador are from Central America. Immigrants from Colombia and Venezuela and countries farther south are from South America.

All are, by definition, Americans. You’d think that would count for as much as being descended from Cossacks or Nazis or Vikings. Even Belgians, who we often associate with Hercule Poirot or the lovely city of Bruges, led a murderous regime that killed over ten million people.

Of course, the ten million killed were dark-skinned people in the Congo, so apparently Belgian immigrants get a pass.

Even if we consider The United States of America the only real America, surely we know that a huge portion of the present-day western and southwestern United States belonged to Mexico before it belonged to the U.S. The battle of the Alamo happened in Mexico, not the U.S. Mormons immigrated to Mexico to establish Salt Lake City, not to “Utah.” Florida and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana belonged to Spain before they belonged to the U.S. The French Quarter of New Orleans was not always French.

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Are we splitting hairs—or DNA strands—to insist that only the darker Europeans or their descendants don’t qualify as “real” Europeans?

If we’re more worried that they’re freeloaders who don’t want jobs in the first place, why are we raiding workplaces in order to round them up for deportation?

Most white Americans today aren’t European, either. They’re descendants of Europeans, just like many of the people entering the country across our southern border through our official ports of entry.

Cuccinelli didn’t stop there with his rewriting of both poetry and history. He pointed out that “The New Colossus” wasn’t affixed to the Statue of Liberty until after a law was established requiring that all new immigrants be able to “stand on their own two feet” with no public support before being allowed into the country.

Anti-immigrants fail to recognize the questions this assertion raises as well. If we require immigrants to support themselves, why are we so insistent they not be given jobs? And if we’re more worried that they’re freeloaders who don’t want jobs in the first place, why are we raiding workplaces in order to round them up for deportation?

The faulty logic in these arguments points to the real forces behind anti-immigrant animosity—scapegoating and bigotry.

Unfortunately, logic doesn’t engage the masses. Emotion does. And given the coldness with which many anti-immigrant voters react to the photos of children in cages, of ICE agents tearing fathers from their families, of immigrants drowning in their attempt to reach our country, of immigrants (and Mexican shoppers only in town briefly to pick up a few things at Walmart) being gunned down as they shield their children, it’s going to be a task of monumental proportions to revive a functioning conscience in many of them.

Because even reading this, their hearts are not touched but seem to only grow colder.

Johnny Townsend

Johnny Townsend