Since the recession has dramatically reduced the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States, you’d think that hostility to immigrants would have somewhat declined. And maybe it has, in terms of Americans generally.
But as Daphne Eviatar explains today in the Washington Independent, immigrants seem to be a preoccupation among town hall protesters against health care reform:
As the heat gets turned up on the health care reform debate, anti-immigrant activists are using the issue to whip up fear and anger toward immigrants, portraying them as a costly and burdensome drain on any taxpayer-supported U.S. health care system. Angry questions about illegal immigrants getting health care at town hall meetings across the country have put many lawmakers on the defensive.
At his town hall meeting in Pennsylvania, for example, Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter had to assure protesters that illegal immigrants would not be covered. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has gone out of her way to make that point as well. Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) faced similar shouted questions at his town hall forum on Wednesday, and repeatedly emphasized that illegal immigrants are not covered by the House bill. President Obama has also made the point, although it’s not clear that the anti-reform activists have heard it.
Perhaps this is an indication that anger about levels of immigration, and about benefits obtained by immigrants, has become a semi-permanent feature of the conservative political landscape, complicating Republican efforts to improve their performance among Latino voters, among others.
Or maybe it’s yet another indication that the town hall protesters aren’t terribly representative of conservatives, much less the population as a whole.