Thom Tillis inundates Senate budget resolution with anti-immigrant amendments
Immigration took center stage again last week in Washington as U.S. Senate Democrats included funding for a proposed path to citizenship for many immigrants in the budget resolution that won approval. Unfortunately, during the process in which the legislation was developed, North Carolina’s Senator Thom Tillis proposed nearly 300 amendments, the great majority of which featured anti-immigrant measures.
Tillis’s proposed amendments included several jaw-dropping proposals, including one that would have required the “mandatory detention” of every undocumented immigrant in the U.S. — a proposal that would manage to be astronomically expensive, constitutionally suspect, and incredibly inhumane at the same time.
Not surprisingly, Tillis was far from the only politician of the right to stake out an anti-immigrant stance last week. At the same time that the Senate was grappling with the most serious effort at moving immigration reform forward that we’ve seen in years, several politicians around the country mouthed a sadly familiar talking point regarding the COVID-19 crisis: blame the immigrants.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and many others joined the chorus of those blaming immigrants, especially those crossing the southern border, for rising COVID case numbers. Never mind that both Abbott and DeSantis have stridently opposed mask mandates — a common sense public health intervention that is almost universally agreed to reduce COVID-19 transmission.
Senator Tillis was an early adopter of the “Hispanics are to blame for COVID” theory, although perhaps ironically in light of his Republican colleagues’ opposition to mask mandates, he cited “less consistent adherence to social distancing and wearing a mask” in support of his allegations.
Blaming immigrants for spreading disease is a well-worn trope in nativist politics, going back to the nineteenth century or before. Nativists have consistently spread the false message that immigrants are unclean, unsanitary, unhealthy, and a safety risk to Americans. That rhetoric made its way into the earliest immigration laws that our nation passed; for example, the Immigration Act of 1891 banned immigrants “suffering from a loathsome or a dangerous contagious disease” from being admitted to the United States. Variations on that theme have been consistent throughout all of immigration law since, and aspiring immigrants today are still subjected to medical exams and health requirements. Read more