Friday, November 30, 2012

History Repeating Itself in Texas with 'Illegal Immigrants' and Secession

People with a predisposition to violence or oppression always have short memories. Take Texas. From the anger conservatives hold towards Mexican 'illegal' immigrants, anybody would think Texas has always belonged to Americans. But it hasn’t and I’m not just talking about it being stolen from American Indians. Once Europeans had done that, Americans were in fact the original illegal immigrants in Texas. And they disobeyed the law.

By 1803 the Louisiana Territory (15 current states including northern Texas) ‘belonged’ to the French and Napoleon sold it to the United States. Texas was included in the deal. A new boundary was set between it and New Spain to the west, which was ignored by US settlers wanting to push west. So they were the first illegal immigrants with no respect for the local law. 

They were a minority at that point. 21 years later Mexico took over that Spanish part of Texas and to increase the population, the Mexican government relaxed immigration laws, granting land to empresarios who recruited settlers from the US, Europe and Mexico. By 1825 the population of Texas was about 3,500, most of them Mexican, but within 9 years it had grown to around 37,800, and only 20% were of Mexican descent. 

Many American Texans openly flouted Mexican law, particularly the prohibition against slavery. So in 1830 Mexico prohibited further immigration from the US, and imposed stringent customs duties. The latter of course angered everybody, not just the US immigrants. And thus began the Texan fight for independence from Mexico. In part because the Mexican government abhorred slavery and the American Texans found it useful.

Considering Texan history, the conservative resentment of Mexicans is absurd. It’s common knowledge that ‘illegal immigrants’ prop up the Texan economy. I wonder how much of the desire to secede from the US is driven by this racism. As always racism sows the seeds of its holder’s destruction. This is what ultra conservatives always do. Ignore reality. Ignore the facts. Fabricate whatever supports your prejudice. 

This is how I envision life would be in an independent Texas. No more government aid. No more cheap labour. Higher taxes for the middle class because of course the wealthy wouldn’t pay. And that’s the middle class who’d be doing the work they think is beneath them. Hardly a recipe for a strong economy and happy citizens. Then there are all the guns. Well you can’t shoot yourself out of a flagging economy. 

And besides, who would they shoot? All their enemies would be gone. They’d have to shoot each other. Conservative Texans who want stricter immigration laws and want to secede from the United States would do well to read their history books, take some lessons in the value of human rights and be done with fabricating. They should get rid of their guns too. 

The hatred of illegal immigrants is tragic and the whole scenario of secession is so absurd it’s hard to take it seriously. But when you add the guns, the fear of Mexican immigrants and disregard for their human rights, the propensity to rationalise with twisted logic and absence of truth, you’ve got a mix that could be lethal. The Middle East doesn’t have the monopoly on violent liberation organizations. 

Could it happen in America? Surely not. I hope not. The light in the tunnel here is that, just as in the 1800’s American immigrant population that started out as a minority quickly became a majority, it’s happening in Texas too, the other way round. Ironic.