This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

A Peek Inside the Anti-Immigrant Movement in the South

The LA Times has been publishing a series of articles on the flow of Latino immigrants into the southern states of the US. This new migration stream has caused a backlash most famously in Alabama, but the LA Times provides insight into Alabama's next door neighbor, Mississippi. The story reveals the impact that one highly motivated person can have--in this case a white conservative Republican physician, Rodney Hunt.
Latinos have moved to the South in growing numbers over the last decade, and their presence has been accompanied by growing anger and resentment aimed at illegal immigrants. If Hunt gets his way, Mississippi will become the latest Southern state to pass a law aimed at driving illegal immigrants out — establishing the Deep South as the U.S. region with the most-stringent restrictions on illegal immigrants.
In Mississippi, there's a struggle that goes beyond immigration. Latinos, regardless of legal status, are part of a grand contest to define the state's future.
Blacks, who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, make up 37% of Mississippi's population, the highest percentage of any state. Latinos, if they vote Democratic, could one day tip the balance of power in a state where whites — that is, white Republicans — have the upper hand.When Hunt describes this dynamic, it is not in racial terms — because, he says, these are not the terms he thinks in. Though he is a white Mississippian raised in the '60s, he says, "I changed, along with most of the people in my generation. We try to accept people as they are, and not by the color of their skin."
Not everyone buys the idea that this has nothing to do with racism, however.
Mississippi liberals suspect the anxiety is fueled by old-school bigotry. "Remnants of George Wallace, Lester Maddox, Bull Connor" is the blunt assessment of Democratic Rep. Jim Evans, an African American and president of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, the state's main pro-immigrant group.
Regardless of the motive, the result is going to be the same as in Alabama--fear among Latino immigrants and empty fields where crops await workers. None of this is likely to help the state's economy, but the battle seems to be about politics, not economics.

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