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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

The immigration debate generation gap

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I started to notice this back in 2006 when the immigration debate was heating up in Washington. I was getting those annoying email forwards and this time they were of the Lou Dobbsian anti-immigrant variety. The surprising thing to me was that most of them were coming from older family members or acquaintances in the senior citizen set. And since then I've noticed that when I do presentations for civic groups or have observed focus groups on immigration, the older attendees seem to be more hostile. Certainly when one looks at the typical anti-immigrant activist showing up at a FAIR rally or making an anti-immigrant statement at a Tea Party event, the odds seem to be pretty good that the person is on the older side.

I have been a little uncomfortable raising this topic. But given that retirees are not worried about competition for a job, the chances are that the animosity stems from fears based on stereotypes. I hate to accuse seniors of simply being more racist, but there voting patterns and polling on issues of race seem to support the notion. I can tell you that here in the South, most younger people will tell you that there is definitely more racism amongst seniors who grew up during an era of segregation.

This morning, the New York Times examined this phenomenon at some length in an article entitled "The Immigration Gap" following a recent NYT/CBS poll that found that Americans older Americans were much more likely than younger ones to support the new Arizona law. Social scientists examining this phenomenon believe it stems in large part from the fact that older Americans that grew up in the pre-civil rights error encountered far fewer minority members and certainly far fewer immigrants. 1970 was the point in the last century with the lowest percentage of foreign born individuals living in the US. Just 4.7% of the population was foreign born compared to the 13-15% that was normal for much of the country's history. Today the number is back up to a "normal" 12.5%.

I'm sure I'm going to get some very hostile comments over this post, so I'll lighten the mood by linking to a clip that is actually relevant to this discussion from the recent Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Betty White. You'll hear the line in question about a minute and a half in.

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  1. Jim's Avatar
    I have observed similar things and I'll even go out and say that female elderly seems to be more "racist" or at least the more vocal ones.

    I also get your reluctance to say such things as people will usually right away accuse some one of ageism and even ageism+sexism if implying that elderly females seems to be more "racist" than their male counterparts like what I have been personally observing.

    However, such things needs to be said.

    In HC, the elderly nurses are also the ones being observed to be anti-international nurses while the younger ones are almost like begging for more younger co-workers to keep up with them and more willing to share harder shifts and rotations, more willing to do OT if needed and easier to call for an emergency shift if a co-worker suddenly do not show up for work. Some younger female nurses even likes to have a few male nurses or if she has tremendous luck prefers a unit or shift with more male nurses than female nurses because they *claim* that an all female shift or all female unit seems to degrade to the usual nurse issues such as back-stabbing, rumor mongering, passing the buck, etc..

    Point is... we should really point out if there are problems and not held hostage to accusations of ageism and sexism.
  2. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    That's because older people don't need anyone to cook for them, clean after them, take care of their health, and pay into the SS system.
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