Oh say can you…sí?

By Andy Urban, PhD candidate in History at the University of Minnesota and member of the IHRC Advisory Council

Not surprisingly, this week’s media coverage of immigration was dominated by the nationwide rallies organized by immigrant advocacy groups, protesting the recently passed House of Representatives’ Bill that seeks to harden the policing of the border and to increasingly criminalize undocumented immigration. The rallies reached a pinnacle on Monday, when hundreds of thousands of immigrants in cities large and small ("Hispanic residents quietly show muscle in St. James" The Star Tribune) boycotted work and school in order to demonstrate their importance to the US economy.

If as scholars such as Liz Cohen have argued in recent years, citizenship and rights in the US are increasingly articulated through individuals and groups’ roles as consumers, immigrant protesters have keenly heeded this trend. By demonstrating that their positions as workers and consumers are integral to the US’s material well-being, immigrants used their absence from economic activities to show how they are part of the nation. This article ("Rallies held nationwide to show economic clout" The Star Tribune) also illustrates how many people around the world see the US’s response to undocumented immigration as being hypocritical in light of the US’s involvement in other aspects of globalization. In short, why is Wal-Mart privileged in being allowed to cross the Mexico-US border without hindrance, while human travelers are subject to myriad barriers and stigmatized as dangerous?

Critics of this week’s rallies have seemed to focus mainly on the symbolism of the events, and not the substance of the issues themselves. What garnered the most attention from critics was the fact that some of the demonstrators sang a version of the “Star-Spangled Banner? in Spanish. Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo seemed to believe that the protests would backfire because of their sacrilegious symbolism, commenting that, “My guess is that Americans are going to say ‘What are those people doing waving all those other flags and what's this about changing the national anthem into Spanish?’? ("Republican leader predicts immigration backlash" Reuters.com) For a more humorous and ironically accurate look at the significance of the “Star-Spangled Banner,? Jacob Weisberg ("The Irrational Anthem" Slate.com) points out that barely anyone, native-born Americans included, really knows this bizarre and convoluted anthem.

On a more serious note, lest we forget what happens when patriotism, English-only politics, and public vigilance intersect, an article in the New York Times ("Mont. Governor Pardons 78 in Sedition Case" New York Times) looks at the recent posthumous pardon of German Americans in Montana who the state imprisoned during World War I because their loyalty had been called into suspicion. One can only hope that we take a more nuanced approach to what it means to be an “American? in the present day.
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Andy is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Minnesota, and a member of the IHRC Advisory Council. His research focuses on Irish and Chinese domestic servants in the late-nineteenth century United States.
Contact Information: urba0090@umn.edu

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This page contains a single entry by Immigration History Research Center published on May 26, 2006 11:45 AM.

Immigration: Federal Policies, Local Conflicts is the next entry in this blog.

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