Immigration and the Bulldozing of Arcadia

It’s a marketing problem worthy of a case study in an MBA program: How do you market anti-immigration bigotry to an upscale liberal demographic.

Now we know. Simply conflate immigration and environmental degradation. At least this is the approach taken a half-page ad in last week’s New York Times.

The reason our pristine forests and bucolic farmland is being torn up to build even more shopping malls is because of all those Mexicans pouring over our borders. That’s why, according to the ad, the bulldozer is America’s bestselling vehicle.

This takes a load off my mind because I’d always thought that all this building was the creation of greedy developers who saw nature as a commodity to be exploited. I should have known the Latinos were to blame.

The ad doesn’t give us an exact ratio of how many “illegals” have to slip into the country before another mall is put up, but given the number behemoths that are cropping up, there must be a solid stream going over our walls faster than we can build them.

The ad was paid for by “America’s Leadership Team for Long Range Population-Immigration-Resource Planning.” The “team” is a consortium of five organizations that care deeply about preserving the purity of America’s wilderness.

To support their arguments, one of the organizations, Numbers USA juggles the numbers to tell us that from 1776-1976 the influx of immigrants to the United States averaged 250,000 a year. Since 1990, the group tells us, the number has jumped to 1.8 million immigrants, annually. (Who knows what happened to the 1977-1989 period. Maybe it diluted the average.

This is quite a statistical accomplishment since immigration data only goes back to 1821. I assume the 250,000 annual average cited by the group includes the entire range of immigration from the 143,439 that immigrated in the 1821-30 decade to the 8,795,386 that showed up in the 1901-10 decade.

It’s nice to see bigotry going upscale. For too long it has been monopolized by beer-swilling rednecks. I’m sure the addition of the latte-sipping demographic will give it some well-needed class. Intolerance flourishes when spoken in the measured and reasoned tones of the pampered and educated class.

Now, I admit to having a suspicious nature, and for some reason it has flourished in the last eight years. But I kind of, sort of, wonder if the anti-Latino bigotry that is being spewed by our political leaders might not have something to do with the leftward movement of our Latin American neighbors. Just think of the contagions they could bring over the border with them: the Bolivarian Revolution, liberation theology and the writings of Subcomandante Marcos. It’s enough to give a corporatist nightmares.

But hell, if I keep thinking like that, I’ll end up believing that every new mall represents 186,375 new Latinos who have slipped across our border.

Case Wagenvoord is a political satirist who lives in New Jersey with his wife and two cats. You may contact him at Read other articles by Case, or visit Case's website.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Sam said on July 21st, 2008 at 2:41pm #

    The article uses the language “illegals” which I find offensive. No human being is “illegal” or an “alien” regardless of where on the planet a person comes from.

    Other than that, I appreciate the tone of the article.

    It doesn’t matter where I go, I read so much hatred and bigotry directed at Latinos/Hispanics. No other immigrant group. Just Latinos/Hispanics. Even on so-called “progressive” sites I read this hatred. Most people seem to need somebody to hate, even so-called “progressives.” And some/many newspapers are using hate to try to increase their circulation and website hits.

    I live in a very liberal city but the newspaper for the city has always been right-wing and the rabids from the suburbs who hate the city and anything about it pretty much saturate their forum with their hate especially towards undocumented immigrants. And my city is a Sanctuary City. So this newspaper pumps out articles as often as they can railing against undocumented immigrants, the homeless, bicyclists, our mayor, the liberal board of supervisors, among other topics using all of that as bait for the rabid haters to pour on the site—most likely after they listen to Michael Savage and his “Hate Talk”—to give the site hits so they can tell their advertisers that their website gets so many hits to merit the advertising rates.

    I am so tired of the hate. If it weren’t undocumented immigrants it would be someone else that people need to hate.

    Not long ago the California governor sat before a Latino/Hispanic audience which included the Spanish language television networks. He had the gall to tell Latinos/Hispanics to turn OFF Spanish language television and learn English, when the man can barely speak English himself. I don’t know how this nut thought that Latinos/Hispanics were supposed to stay informed on a day-to-day basis by turning off the Spanish networks, even if they are in the process of learning English, since one doesn’t learn a language overnight.

    Since the California governor said that, I have since turned ON the Spanish language networks (television and internet radio) and I’m slowly learning Spanish. And at some point in the near future, I plan to study Spanish at my local city college.

    Libertad y Paz.

  2. Sunil Sharma said on July 21st, 2008 at 3:12pm #

    Hi Sam,

    We agree that the term “illegals” is offensive, and meant to have the word in quotation marks, which I’ve now corrected.


    — Sunil

  3. stephan geras said on July 21st, 2008 at 9:04pm #

    There is in this country a twisted, almost pathological duality, hypocrisy. I wonder why crossing the borders of the USA without papers and earning money by working for slave wages just to live well with quadruple the value of one hour’s work in country of origin is any different from crossing borders anywhere in the workl without papers or authorization to work, even if authorization is a scam to swindle money, like in mexico. The Russian government has opened borders to poorer workers from Central Asian countries whose revolutions have been supported by the USA (which alienated USA from the dictatorial idiots who want to cling to power there-very starnge); same situation, cheap labor, Realpolitic, a controlled migrant workforce which could just as easily be shut down when Putin et all are finished using them. Rational oversight means rational strategies for managing production and labor which do more than just satisfy a ravenous desire to own, to aquire, to have what the jone’s have. But how could we live with democracy then? Mexicans are nice people-just don’t have a clue.

  4. Case Wagenvoord said on July 22nd, 2008 at 3:26am #

    The influx of undocumented Latinos into the United States is the direct result of our misguided policies. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) decimated agriculture in Mexico. Since its inception in 1994, an average of 600 Mexican farmers, daily, have been forced off their land. So, what are they going to do, watch their families go hungry or head north?

    An excellent overview of the problem can be found at

  5. stephan geras said on July 22nd, 2008 at 8:39am #

    Well, lets say unenlightened self interest has twisted all policy, foreign and domestic and pretty much twisted human thinking.
    And so the answer to your question is, logically—Head north. So now tell me, since you insist on following this algorhythm of oppressive necessity as a determining factor, why isn’t necessity forcing you to go south to work? As an enlightened idealist, is necessity not a factor? Is choice only possible where there is economic priviledge? Is writing a priviledged activity? What would you say about labour pools in NYC that supply cheap labour to non-profits or news media?
    So say you chose to move south, I believe you could make some difference. Maybe you could help folks to avoid the traps that every smart immigrant has come to realize wait for her/him in the USA. You may even observe that all the fancy bells and whistles we take for granted in the USA quickly lose their importance. I’ve met people who’ve gone to Latin America and from nothing, started small co-operative businesses with locals who didn’t have the confidence, money, or organizational ability. And they succesfully export products to the USA. End of slavery– beginning of self determination and choice.

  6. stephan geras said on July 22nd, 2008 at 1:53pm #

    true, but in fact the greatest numbers of people come from Mexico.
    I’m not “implying” anything, I clearly stated that unenlightened self-interest is the main reason why people make certain “choices” while Mr Wagenvoord argues that people can’t make choices because they are driven by circumstances and political manipulation, so he blames NAFTA. Let’s try to keep this discussion rational.