Xenophobic bigot Steve Bannon got quite upset during his interview with Charlie Rose the other day at the idea that immigrants largely built America. He started sputtering on, telling Rose that claim was “beneath him” and that American citizens were the ones who did the work to build the country.
CHARLIE ROSE: We interviewed Steve Bannon Wednesday at his home in Washington, which doubles as the headquarters of Breitbart News. The interview was a day after the Trump administration announced it would end DACA, the program that provides legal protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. President Trump gave Congress six months to sort it out, but Bannon believed the program should be abolished.
STEVE BANNON: I’m worried about losing the House now because of this — because of DACA. And my fear is that with this six months down range, if we have another huge — if this goes all the way down to its logical conclusion, in February and March, it will be a civil war inside the Republican Party that will be every bit as vitriolic as 2013. And to me, doing that in the springboard of primary season for 2018 is extremely unwise.
ROSE: President made the wrong decision?
BANNON: I think —
ROSE: The president made the wrong decision? You wanted him to go full bore?
BANNON: I think what we have to do is focus on the American citizens. I think we have to focus on American citizens —
ROSE: So what would you do to people who came here as children?
BANNON: I think that you saw the memo, you saw the memo.
ROSE: But just tell me what you would do. That’s all I’m asking. What would you do?
BANNON: I think as the work permits — as the work permits run out, they self-deport.
ROSE: They self-deport?
BANNON: Yes. I am absolutely —
ROSE: That’s being deported.
BANNON: There’s no path to citizenship, no path to a green card, and no amnesty. Amnesty is non-negotiable.
ROSE: America was, in the eyes of so many people, and it’s what people respect America for, it is people have been able to come here, find a place, contribute to the economy. That’s what immigration has been in America. And you seem to want to turn it around and stop it.
BANNON: You couldn’t be more dead wrong. America was built on her citizens.
ROSE: We’re all immigrants.
BANNON: America was built on her —
ROSE: Except the Native Americans who were here —
BANNON: Don’t give me — this is the thing of the leftists [INAUDIBLE]. Charlie, that’s beneath you. America’s built on our — on our citizens.
Absolute nonsense. Let’s start with slavery, which was the basis for the entire Southern economy both before the revolution and for nearly a century afterward. That isn’t just immigration, it’s forced immigration along with massive brutality and violations of human rights. Who built the railroads? Chinese immigrants, mostly. And for their efforts they were discriminated against and victimized by both legal and extra-legal systems of oppression, not to mention how many of them died in unsafe working conditions.
The story of the American industrial revolution from 1880 to 1920 is almost entirely one of immigration. The newly built factories were staffed by waves of immigrants — Irish, German, Polish, Scandinavian and others. During that time period, a third of the entire population was made up of first and second generation immigrants, around 37 million of them. The auto industry would have been impossible without them. To this day, our agricultural system is built on immigrant labor, much of it undocumented. There are more immigrants in the construction industry in the South than there are native-born Americans. The same is true of much of the restaurant industry.
So yes, Steve Bannon, this country was built largely by immigrants. And each new set of immigrants faces exactly the same bigotry and discrimination from nativist xenophobes like you, even when your own ancestors came here for the same reasons the people you hate did, to have the opportunity to provide for their families. We should be thanking them and welcoming them, not trying to get them out.