Fanning the Flames of Prejudice

John McCain said there was ‘substantial evidence’ linking wildfires in Arizona to illegal immigrants. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Does it surprise anyone that Arizona Senator John McCain has blamed undocumented immigrants for the wildfires in his state?

Hard economic times drives desperate people to do desperate things. Throw in the subject of immigration and a little bit of xenophobia ? and shazzam! You have the recipe for a political ideology: blame the Mexicans! Send that recipe into Arizona and you have the perfect storm:

? Uneducated and unable to find a [high-paying] job? Blame the Mexicans.

? Social security and Medicare going broke? Yup, it’s the Mexicans.

? Terrorism in the Middle East has you up at night? Blame the Mexicans for your insomnia, send troops and wall the US-Mexico border.

? Crime, drug usage and communicable diseases on the rise? You know the answer.

Blaming Mexicans, or “illegal aliens”, is a tradition here; and in Georgia and Alabama, too ? the whole country, really. Last year, McCain claimed that “illegal aliens” were intentionally causing accidents on freeways.

McCain’s charges read like comedy but here in Arizona, immigration is serious business ? and so is scapegoating. It is [Sheriff Joe] Arpaio country, where racial profiling is American as apple pie. It is this state that gave us SB 1070 ? based in large part on the unproven allegation that Arizona rancher Robert Krentz was killed by “illegal aliens”. Amazingly, another whopper was conjured up one week after SB 1070 was signed ? that a Pinal County sheriff’s deputy had been shot by Mexican drug smugglers (the incident was self-inflicted). And two weeks before SB 1070 was set to go into effect, Governor Jan Brewer began to warn people about finding headless bodies in the Arizona desert. But the fantastical tales don’t end there: in this state, it’s not even that Mexican migrants are falsely blamed for real problems; they are also blamed for invented problems. Dana Milbank from the Washington Post writes about this:

“Border violence on the rise? Phoenix becoming the world’s No 2 kidnapping capital? Illegal immigrants responsible for most police killings? The majority of those crossing the border are drug mules? All wrong.”

Per the FBI, we know that the border region is safer than it was a decade ago, and that many of the safest US cities are along the US-Mexico border. But when it comes to fueling xenophobia in this country, facts never get in the way.

For example, Tucson’s highly successful Mexican American Studies programme is on the verge of being eliminated because our current attorney general, Tom Horne, has long maintained that the classes foment revolution (“Viva Che!”). A recent independent audit found all the charges against the programme to be false.

“Illegal aliens” causing Arizona wildfires? While the US Forest Service has made no such claim, McCain and his ideological supporters would have us accept his speculation as fact. What’s next? Blaming Mexicans for increased sun spot activity?

Roberto Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona.He can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com



More articles by:
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It