POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY THE DAILY TELEGRAPH'S TOBY HARNDEN
Toby, I think you underestimate considerably the negative and partly uninformed nature of Chertoff's remarks.
First, you credit Americans too much with accepting immigrants. This may be true in middle-class circles in Washington or New York. It most certainly is not true in general.
Immigrants aren't even called 'immigrants' in the U.S. They are 'resident aliens' and it says that quite explicitly on all their documentation.
Many state and federal laws discriminate against aliens in America. They certainly do not receive the same support and benefits as citizens despite all the hoops through which they jump to gain their status (literally an inch-thick pile of papers and photos and fingerprints and police checks and medical reports and other items that costs the individual a good deal of money to process).
If they continue to live in the U.S. with their foreign citizenship past the time they qualify for American citizenship (a perfectly legal option), they will definitely received politely rude questions from Americans who are aware of it.
America's easily-observed lack of interest in other places (except as possible tourist destinations) does translate into everyday attitudes on the street.
Remember, Bush actually bragged in his 2000 campaign about never reading the international section of his newspaper.
Please recall the recent large and unpleasant reaction in America to the national anthem being sung in Spanish and played on the radio. The descendant of Francis Key, who wrote the words during the War of 1812, made some extremely unpleasant remarks along with many others. Idiot Bush even jumped in with obtuse remarks.
Don't forget the overwhelming existence of Hate Radio in America. It is everywhere, and the attitudes constantly broadcast are anything but friendly to immigrants and other lands.
Chertoff's remarks about the type of immigrants in Europe are particularly dark. Remember, America is likely the least generous of all advanced countries in giving asylum to refugees. Europe and Canada have tried hard to do a conscientious job on this growing problem in the world, and to some extent they end up with more problems to solve. The point is they try. The U.S. really does not.
You also may not be aware, Toby, of the lack of generosity in American foreign assistance, a real measure of xenophobic leanings.
The richest country in the world gives the smallest share of its GDP of any advanced state. Yes, its absolute amount looks large at first, but relative to the size of its economy, it is peanuts.
And the lion's share of this assistance goes to an advanced state, Israel, a geopolitical consideration that has nothing to do with the principle of helping the world's struggling.
Last, although I could continue offering more support for my view, the gross over-reaction to 9/11 is clearly xenophobic. Despite that crime, the odds for an American to die of terror almost do not exist. Americans murdering Americans kill that many about every month and a half.
Yet the country has started two wars, established ugly restrictions and spying on its residents and visiters, pressured others to do the same, begun open assassinations, spent tens of billions more on dark intelligence and military capabilities, created a CIA international torture gulag, and many more ugly acts.
And just look at Guantanamo. With all its vaunted Bill of Rights, once you step off U.S, soil, it becomes a nullity and you are entitled to do pretty much as you like.
Chertoff's remarks are, I think, rather insidious and threatening in fact.