Friday, February 3, 2012

Italian Americans and Todays Immigrants

This mornings Democracy Now! program included typical stories about racial profiling and harassment of Muslim and Latino immigrant groups in New York City and East Haven, Connecticut.  While I was watching this clip of the East Haven story, I saw either Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. or Police chief Leonard Gallo talk about their Italian roots in addition to comments on eating tacos which outraged protestors who were already mad about police treatment of Latinos.  Afterward protestors brought the Mayor a meal of tacos and he ducked out the back door.  Hearing this discussion of Italian roots made me want to do some profiling of the racial profilers.  

I have heard Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio talk about his Italian roots as his department is involved in rounding up for deportation suspected illegal immigrants and being accused of abusing them in the process.  He began his efforts in concert with then Governor Janet Napoletano who is now running the Department of Homeland Security which includes ICE (the immigration agency).

Likewise, Former Sen. and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum talks about his Italian grandfather, Pietro, escaping fascism (he doesn't mention that his nonno (grandfather in Italian) was a communist when he came here in the 1920s) in Italy to find a better life here while endorsing English as the official language of the US, attacking bilingual education, and also restricting bilingual education.  Santorum on Feb 2 received the endorsement of former Colorado congressman, 2008 Presidential candidate, and 2010 Independent Colorado Gubernatorial candidate (he finished 2nd) Tom Tancredo.  In addition to the usual restrictions on immigrants, Tancredo supports removing birthright citizenship from the 14th amendment of the US constitution, opposes adding Spanish books to public libraries, and requiring immigrants to renounce Sharia Law.  In 2006 Hazleton, PA Mayor Lou Barletta (now a US Congressman) passed a law that made English the official language of the town and prohibited residents from hiring or renting to illegal immigrants (it was struck down in the courts).

It indeed is a strange coincidence that so many prominent Italian American males are at the forefront of the movement to bash, assimilate, and stem (if not eliminate) the tide of immigrants.  Indeed, not all Italian American's are involved in this kind of bashing as can be seen in the clip above on the NYPD's spying on Muslims.  It was reported by reporter Matt Apuzzo.  His name sounds Italian.  He sort of looks Italian (they don't all look like the Snooki, neither do all Latinos).  Ergo (that's a Latin/Italian word right?) he fits the profile of Italian.

Looking back at the experiences of Italian, Irish, German and other mass immigrations we can find many similarities to the immigrant experiences of today.  Any time a new immigrant group comes to the US the older just established group feels threatened by the new perceived competition.  Also Italian immigrants of the generations before WWII were encouraged to forget their language, change either the spelling or the pronunciation of their names to make them sound more English to the point now that their descendants are now cut off from their roots.  Many of the aforementioned Italo-Americani are now feeling threatened the new generation of Latino immigrants.  As I see it, Italians are also Latino.


Santorum, while speaking to a newspaper that Puerto Rico should make English their official language if they want to become a state.  One of his delegates has quit over his statement.  While his campaign just handed this territory's 20 delegates to Mitt Romney this may help him in the rust belt and heartland voters.  Stephen Colbert skewers his trip to Puerto Rico below.

Santorum Campaign Still Dealing with Puerto Rico Statehood Backlash

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