Obama's Aunt Zeituni: Symbol of Everything Wrong with the Immigration Debate
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With three days left until the election, this morning the Associated Press broke a story about Barack Obama's long-lost paternal aunt who apparently has been living in the country without proper immigration authorization.
The details couldn't be juicier for the right-wing, red-meat crowd. She over-stayed a visa. Attempted to get asylum status due to the tumultuous state of her native country but was denied. Lives in public housing and donated a small sum to her nephew's campaign. Presenting a veritable cornucopia of right-wing stereotypes and frames from which to attack Obama, the wingnuts appear to be having a field day.
From the left, the counter arguments have been varied. Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic argues Culture Kitchen and Zachary Roth of TMP Muckracker examine the grubby little hands of Rupert Murdoch and Karl Rove all over the smear campaign. At The Sanctuary, Kyle argues that the story will have little effect swaying independents towards McCain, while Liza Sabater of against the nativist framing in how the story's been presented and calls for Americans to stand up against intolerance.
All of these arguments are good ones, but they each only represent a single aspect of the big picture that is the story of Auntie Zeituni.
Obama's Aunt is emblematic of everything wrong with immigration, both systemically and as a political issue.
Without knowing the specifics of her case it's hard to say why in fact her status is what it is, but we do know that:
1. The authorities have know about her status for some time
2. DHS was ordered not to deport until after election
3. The second person to leak the story came out of the Administration
4. The timing of the story was orchestrated by Murdoch/Rove for maximum political effect.
Basically, the authorities have kept her under wraps until they could use her as a pawn for political gain.
And here is where I see her as symbol for the whole immigration debate.
The right wing has used 12 mil people as political pawns from the start of this current debate. If we look at everything they've done from passing HR4437, which they knew would never get through the Senate, to the failed CIR attempts, to the current fascists crackdowns…it's all been nothing more than political theater. played against the backdrop of real human suffering.
And now they wheel out Obama's Aunt.
They could have finished her case and deported her ages ago if that was in fact their intent. But it wasn't. They're intent was to keep her around to use as a pawn to whip up the base, and peel off independents.
And is that really any different from anything else that's been going on for the last few years to the rest of the migrant population?
Of course not.
They've been demonized, harassed and persecuted in an attempt to maintain political power.
All those on the right who have claimed to want to solve this "problem" with enforcement, and those who claim to want to "fix" the system, have in reality showed very little concern for accomplishing that task. They still believe that there's too much political gain from perpetuating the current situation. And Obama's aunt is a prime example of that. She's just another person of color stuck in a failed system, that doesn't work, who can be used at the appropriate time to beat down a political foe.
Duke is a co-founder of the Sanctuary.