Hispanic Media Decry Anti-Immigrant Sentiment Underlying Anti-Refugee Rhetoric

Leading voices in Hispanic journalism are condemning the rise of anti-refugee rhetoric following the terrorist attacks in Paris, pointing out how the underlying sentiment reflects conservative media's typical nativist and anti-immigrant bias that has effectively cast all immigrants as “terrorists and criminals, without reforming a system that would allow us to know” who among us poses an actual threat.

In the wake of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere, a number of Republican presidential candidates, governors, and media figures have used the Islamic State violence to fearmonger about Muslims and Islam. Many on the right are calling for the U.S. to deny entry to Muslim Syrian refugees, claiming they would pose a significant threat to the U.S., despite the fact that major media have slammed Republicans for “def[ying] what the nation stands for” and pushing divisive rhetoric that could “provide propaganda benefits to the Islamic State.”

In a November 17 column, La Opinión's editorial board condemned Republican presidential candidates and governors who “want to close the door on 10,000 Syrian refugees for fear of terrorist infiltrators,” explaining that this approach reflects the “Republican Party's nativist, anti-immigrant discourse,” while also ignoring evidence that most attackers are neither immigrants nor refugees. La Opinión -- one of the leading Latino daily newspapers in the U.S. -- also noted that "[t]his type of reaction does nothing but feed internal fears, granting a victory to terrorists, whose goal is precisely to shake the feeling of safety in free societies":

The Paris attacks carried out by ISIS are being used to sustain the Republican Party's nativist, anti-immigrant discourse.


It is sad to see that the reaction to terrorism is to build border walls and ignore a humanitarian crisis out of fear. Terrorism triumphs when it succeeds in intimidating governments and civilians. Leadership is shown by rising to challenges posed by the situation, not by taking advantage of them to feed existing fear and resentment against immigrants and foreigners among the electorate.

Maria Elena Salinas, co-anchor of the daily Univison's Noticiero Univision, drew a similar parallel, pointing out that “most states” whose governors have “reject[ed] Syrian refugees are the same ones that” sued President Obama for his executive action on immigration, managing to effectively block a policy that could have protected millions of immigrants from deportation.

Columnist Maribel Hastings also slammed the extremist exploitation of recent terrorist attacks in a November 16 article for Univision, writing that “extremist sectors cling to recent events to continue to push their fear agenda and look for scapegoats.” She argued that one effect of terrorism has been to obfuscate the debate about immigration reform, which gives anti-immigrant activists a powerful argumentative tool: to paint all immigrants with a broad brush, casting “all as terrorists and criminals” while opposing reforms to the system that would make it easier to single out those who are truly dangerous. Translated from Hastings' column:

It is to be expected that extremist sectors cling to recent events to continue to push their fear agenda and look for scape goats, without explaining, for example, how we got to this point.


Since then [9/11], to date, immigration reform through legislation has not progressed because anti-immigrants believe it's wiser to put all immigrants in the same basket, casting all as terrorists and criminals, without reforming a system that would allow us to know who is really among us, especially in these times of uncertainty, to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

It remains to be seen if terrorist attacks in Paris change the course of the electoral debate in the United States; if fear supposes the rise of radical politicians; if proposals to seal the borders gain traction without the implementation of an immigration system that allows us to distinguish between working, established immigrants and those who are here to cause damage; and where, as usual, innocents pay for the sins of others, especially refugees fleeing from the same terror of the Islamic State.