06/29/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Anti-Immigrant Prejudice: If You're not 100% Native American, Go Home

One of the great paradoxes of America is that the country as we know it is completely the product of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, the National Anthem (and we could go on and on) were all conceived and written by immigrants or their descendants. Every single president and an overwhelming majority of legislators at the national, state, and local level were immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Add to the list almost everything we can call "American Culture," whether that is regional or national, all our national treasures including the Statue of Liberty, our most treasured music and literature.

Early immigrants and their immediate descendants worked systematically to create an America that started in the 16th Century, disconnected from anything that might have been here before European colonists arrived. Very little of Native American culture survives except for a few pockets, most notably in Alaska and Hawai'i, but unless you are 100% Native American in your family history, your people came here from somewhere - long ago or recently, but you are a descendants of immigrants.

The paradox comes when these same descendants of immigrants somehow claim for their own the mantle of "real Americans" and take it as their right and duty to be sure that this culture, which is an amalgam of all the cultural strains that have gone into it over the past 500 years, isn't contaminated by any current input. When they want to close the borders to people who, but for the grace of God and timing, could be their grandparents.

Like many Incline residents, I spend a lot of time in Arizona - working there. I don't find Arizonans, at least in Phoenix and Tucson where I hang out, to be very different from people I meet elsewhere in the country. Nonetheless, they seem to have a predilection for going out on some fairly loony limbs. They keep electing Joe Arpaio Sheriff in Maricopa County, for example, despite the fact that in any other state the only thing he'd be a candidate for is a rubber room. Now they've passed a law making it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant, requiring that immigrants carry proof of their legality at all times (I'm pretty sure these same folks would reach for their guns if anyone suggested a required national ID card), and allowing police to stop anyone at any time if they suspect they might be an illegal alien.

So now in addition to the nationwide unwritten law making DWB (driving while Black) cause for random stops and searches, we have in one state legislated WWH (working while Hispanic). We could, I suppose, write it off to one more bit of Arizona craziness - the Right has AZ, the left has CA, and leave it at that. But TV stations in Las Vegas (channel 5) and Reno (channel 4) are conducting online polls, and as of now both show majorities (very strong in LV and substantial in Reno) of those responding approving of the Arizona law.

Lots of folks aren't going to like my saying this, but just as poll taxes and "literacy tests" were ostensibly aimed at unqualified voters but were really attempts to keep any African-Americans from voting, and same-sex marriage bans are ostensibly to protect the "sanctity of marriage" but are really an expression of homophobia, the fuss over illegal immigration has at its roots anti-Hispanic racism. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's ostensibly about their not paying taxes (catch-22: they can't pay taxes because if they did we'd know they were here) and overtaxing services (which mostly they don't do for the same reason) but I don't buy it any more than I bought that the reason country clubs didn't allow Jews was because they didn't mix well and were pushy.

The Roman Empire operated on the principle that the way to world peace and order was to (a) conquer everybody else and (b) make them become Romans. It didn't turn out well for them and it's unlikely to turn out well for the US.