Usually, I tend to laugh at kooky, go-nowhere bills offered by super-wingnutty state legislators. But lately, the winking at domestic terrorists and the feeding of paranoia that leads to violence makes it not funny anymore. This item from Think Progress, for instance. Texas Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, Republican of course, introduced a bill reading:
A law enforcement agency that has custody of an illegal immigrant to whom this article applies may:
(1) release or discharge the illegal immigrant at the office of a United States senator or United States representative during that office ’s normal business hours; and
(2) request an agent or employee of the United States senator or United States representative to sign a document acknowledging the release or discharge of the illegal immigrant at the senator ’s or representative ’s office.
The idea is clearly to harass federal legislators until they just get rid of all the undocumented immigrants, and sadly I don’t think Kolkhorst and folks like her care very much what it would take. They just don’t, as I’ve said before, want to hear anyone speaking Spanish at the grocery store ever again. Never mind that many legal immigrants and native-born Americans also speak Spanish, so really, even if Kolkhorst got her way, she still wouldn’t get her way.
But what worries me greatly about this bill is not that it’ll pass, but the implications of it. Kolkhorst is basically saying that she thinks immigrants—or immigrants from Mexico, since I highly doubt she’s thinking of Europeans that are living here without documents—are icky, and that if you’re exposed to them, too, you will also see that they’re icky and will come around to her point of view. And that point of view is frighteningly dehumanizing, for what I hope are obvious reasons.
The issue here is that a lot of white people hate Mexican immigrants and people of Mexican descent. They often hate with a burning, obsessive passion. And bills like this, even if they don’t pass, send the signal that their bigotry is shared by people in authority, and some of them will feel emboldened by this to do really awful and violent things. Like I noted yesterday at Double X:
But domestic terrorists are different. Many of them believe that they do have community support behind them, and that most of the community is just cowed by political correctness from speaking out.
That quote was in reference to Shawna Forde, who murdered a man and his daughter, and wounded his wife (American citizens, not that it should matter, but just adds another level of understanding of what happened) just because they were Hispanic, and she hated Hispanic people. People like Forde are emboldened when they see people in power signaling support for their virulent hatred. Remember that Scott Roeder decided to murder Dr. Tiller after he sat in on a trial where Phill Kline used his powers as a government official to witch hunt Dr. Tiller. For domestic terrorists, getting signals of support from people in government matters to them.
David Neiwert wrote movingly about the results of this kind of bigotry and the violence it breeds:
The people who broke into her home late at night while she was sleeping with her new puppy on the living-room couch and cold-bloodedly shot her in the face while she pleaded for her life were people who did not see her, or her father or mother, as human beings. They were people who had become so accustomed to dehumanizing Latinos that they didn’t care about the devastation they brought to Arivaca and the lives of this family. They were so consumed by hate that they had no humanity left themselves.
The dehumanizing language of scapegoating and eliminationism — the naming and targeting of other humans for the supposed social ills they incur, followed as always by words urging their excision from society, if not the world — is endemic on the American Right. And among right-wing extremists, it intensifies, grows and metastasizes into something lethal and monstrous.
This bill is built on eliminationist ideas, especially the assumption that the mere presence of an undocumented worker in the sight line of federal level politicians will upset them so much they decide to take action, action which is also eliminationist, in that it’s focused on “scrubbing” out a subsection of the American population with deportation. (Or, in a lot of cases, long jail sentences.) This sort of thing sends a signal to the Shawna Fordes of the world that their hatred is justified, and so are the things they do in the name of it, which in her case involved shooting a little girl in the head.
So, no, as wacky as this bill is, I don’t think it’s very funny at all.