Thursday, July 10, 2008
The Modern Sundown Towns
We have previously reported about the efforts of Prince William County, Virginia to crack down on immigration. It has become clear that Latino immigrants and citizens are leaving the county, to the dismay of some businesses and the cheers of some white residents.
Supporters of the local immigration measures have claimed that the laws will promote self-deportation and promote adherence to the federal immigration laws. But the Latinos moving out of Prince William County seem to be moving to neighboring localities and states. So much for enforcing the U.S. immigration laws! But perhaps the real aim of these laws is ethnic cleansing a la Prince William County, VA and Hazleton, PA? Head 'em up, move 'em out!
The end result, I bet, is a new-if-not improved "sundown town." Sundown towns were communities in the United States that emerged after the Civil War in which non-whites — especially African Americans — were systematically excluded from town after the sun set. This allowed maids and workers to provide services during the day without them living in town. De facto sundown towns existed at least into the 1970s. James W. Lowen's excellent book Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism (2005) offers a comprehensive history of sundown towns.
The new sundown town will have Latina/o immigrant workers by day but a white-dominated town at night. Sad but, I fear, true -- at least if cities and counties are allowed to enact anti-immigrant laws.
UPDATE Anna Gorman in the July 13 L.A. Times offers another example of an effort to create a modern sundown town. The story outlines how the city of Escondido, California, not that many miles from the U.S./Mexico border, has tried to rid itself of undocumented immigrants through immigration sweeps, driver's license checkpoints, city codes and other policies.
'But the Latinos moving out of Prince William County seem to be moving to neighboring localities and states.'
So? That's at least partially the case with various neighborhood programs. I find 'it will just somewhere else' excuse a weak rationalization for turning a blind eye to law and letting chaos predominate. I know you think the motivation of people is pure racism, but the people interviewed sound like they approach it more from Broken Windows theory. Then I'm sure a lot of people resent the fact that these new arrivals are not even supposed to be in the country! That makes a big difference to most people.
'Stewart said he believes the debate over illegal immigration has empowered residents to speak up after "stewing" in frustration for years.'
And some people play the race card to try to keep them from speaking up, do nothing, and just keep stewing.
Comparing these current actions to past treatment of blacks leaves out the little detail that those were citizens being excluded from places they had an absolute, complete right to be. Conversely, illegal aliens have no legal right to be in PWC or the U.S. Total vs. None. Denying rights under law vs. attempting to restore accountability to law, same difference, KJ? Does wanting things the way our laws say they're supposed to be really deserve an accusation of 'ethnic cleansing'?
I know 'What part of illegal don't you understand?' is a peeve of yours. Those of your persuasion like to say 'It's more complicated than that'. But at root, they can't get around that simple 'It's illegal!' fact so it makes sense for the anti-law enforcement side to obfuscate. If citizens or legal residents are systematically excluded, we should all be outraged. I don't think too many people would equate their treatment with that of illegal aliens. I know a lot of blacks find such a comparison downright offensive.
Posted by: Jack | Jul 11, 2008 8:42:20 PM