05.21.2019

Suketu Mehta on Fear of Immigrants

Hari Sreenivasan speaks to Prof. Suketu Mehta, author of “This is Our Land,” who argues the West is being destroyed not by immigrants, but the fear of immigrants.

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UNITED STATES.

OUR NEXT GUEST SAYS THE WEST IS BEING DESTROYED NOT BY IMMIGRANTS, BUT BY THE FEAR OF IMMIGRANTS.

HE IS A JOURNALISM PROFESSOR AT NY YOU.

HE WAS BORN IN INDIA.

HE MOVED TO NEW YORK AS A TEENAGER.

IN HIS NEW BOOK THIS LAND IS OUR LAND HE EXPLAINS WHY COUNTRIES LIKE THE UNITED STATES WOULD BENEFIT FROM ACCEPTING EVEN MORE IMMIGRANTS.

HE SPOKE TO US.

THIS IS NOT IN ANY WAY LIKE YOUR PREVIOUS BOOK.

I WANT TO READ OUT AN EARLY PASSAGE.

YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT RICH COUNTRIES HERE.

HAVING BUILT UP THEIR ECONOMIES WITH OUR RAW MATERIALS AND LABOR THEY ASKED US TO GO BACK.

THEY STOLE OUR MINERALS AND CORRUPTED OUR GOVERNMENT SO CORPORATIONS COULD CONTINUE STEALING OUR RESOURCES.

THEY FOULED THE AIR ABOVE US AND THE WATERS AROUND US, MAKING OUR FARMS BARREN, OCEANS LIVELESS AND WERE AGHAST WHEN THE POOREST ARRIVED AT THEIR BORDERS NOT TO STEAL, BUT TO WORK, TO CLEAN THEIR [ BLEEP ] AND [ BLEEP ] THEIR MEN.

I MEAN, YOU LOOK AT THE MIGRATION ISSUE TODAY THROUGH THE LENS OF CREDITORS AND DEBTORS, BREAK THAT DOWN FOR US.

THIS IS AN ANGRY BOOK.

I WROTE THIS IN RESPONSE TO THE PRESIDENT EMERGENCIES IN THIS COUNTRY AND WORLDWIDE.

AND IT BEGINS WITH AN ANECDOTE THAT MY GRANDFATHER TOLD ME.

MY GRANDFATHER WAS BORN IN INDIA AND LIVED HIS LIFE IN COLONIAL KENYA AND HE RETIRED IN LONDON.

HE WAS SITTING IN A PARK IN LONDON ONE DAY MINDING HIS OWN BUSINESS.

A BRITISH GENT COMES UP TO HIM AND SAYS TO HIM, WHY ARE YOU HERE?

WHY DON'T YOU GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY?

MY GRANDFATHER, WHO WORKED MOST OF HIS LIFE AS A BUSINESSMAN, HE SAID BECAUSE WE ARE THE CREDITORS.

YOU CAME TO MY COUNTRY.

YOU ARE MY GOLD AND MY DIAMONDS.

WE HAVE COME HERE TO COLLECT.

WE ARE HERE BECAUSE YOU WERE THERE.

THE WHOLE DEBATE AROUND GLOBAL MIGRATION TODAY IS FROCKED WITH STAGGERING HYPOCRISY.

THE RICH COUNTRIES NEVER ASKED PERMISSION WHEN THEY WENT INTO OTHER COUNTRIES.

THEY NEVER EXPECTED ANY BORDERS.

NOW THEY ARE ASKING THESE PEOPLE, WHOSE FUTURES THEY HAVE STOLEN FOR COLONIALISM, INEQUALITY, WAR, AND CLIMATE CHANGE.

THEY ARE ASKING DESPERATE AND STARVING PEOPLE WHO ARE COMING NOT TO ROB AND RAPE, BUT TO WORK, TO DO WHAT ALL OF US WANT.

TO MAKE A BETTER LIFE FOR THE CHILDREN.

TO SEND MONEY BACK TO THEIR FAMILIES.

THEY ARE ASKING THEM NOT TO COME.

THEY ARE SAYING RESPECT OUR BORDERS.

STAY WHERE YOU ARE.

FOLLOW THE LAW.

AND FOR THE WHOLE HYPOCRISY OF THIS IS WHAT REALLY ANIMATED ME INTO WRITING THIS BOOK TODAY.

IT'S NOT JUST FOR THE PEOPLE WHO ARE COMING -- I AM AN AMERICAN CITIZEN.

I HAVE LIVED IN THIS COUNTRY OVER 40 YEARS.

AND I STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT IN AMERICA, LIKE IN EUROPE, THE FEAR OF MIGRANTS IS DOING LAABLY MORE DAMAGE.

I BREAK IT DOWN.

INEQUALITY IN THE WORLD.

TODAY THE EIGHT RICHEST PEOPLE ON THE PLANET, THEY ARE ALL MEN.

NO SURPRISE.

THEY OWN MORE THAN HALF OF THE PLANET COMBINED.

SO IN ALL OF THESE COUNTRIES IN THE COUNTRIES, AS WELL AS IN THE RICH COUNTRIES, PEOPLE ARE ANGRY.

AND THEY ARE LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO BLIEM BLAME.

ELITES IN THESE COUNTRIES BEING NO FOOLS KNOW THE PEASANTS WILL COME FOR THEM WITH PITCH FORKS.

THEY HAVE TO REDIRECT THEIR OUT RAGE ON TO SOMEONE ELSE.

WHO BETTER THAN THE NEWEST, THE WEAKEST, THE IMMIGRANTS?

YOU TRAVEL ALL OVER THE RESEARCHING THIS BOOK.

YOU MEET FAMILIES THAT ARE KIND OF ON THAT MIGRANT TRAIL OUT OF THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA INTO EUROPE.

TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT YOU MET.

I WAS IN TANGIER AT THE NORTHERN END OF MOROCCO.

YOU CAN STAND THERE BY THE BEACHFRONT AND LITERALLY SEE EUROPE, THE BOTTOM OF SPAIN.

IT'S ACROSS THE MEDITERRANEAN.

AND I SPOKE TO A YOUNG FAMILY FROM BEGUINEA WHO HAD THEIR FIR CHILD.

GUINEA HAS BEEN BANKRUPTED BY AMERICAN HEDGE FUNDS, THEY HAVE TAKEN ALL THEIR MINERALS, THEIR WA BAUXITE.

THERE IS NO LIFE POSSIBLE FOR THEM IN GUINEA.

THEY WERE GOING TO STARVE.

THEY HAD COME TO TANGIER TO TRY TO GET INTO SPAIN SOMEHOW SO THAT THEY COULD WORK.

IT WAS A MOTHER, FATHER, NEWBORN CHILD.

I HELD A 5 DAY OLD BABY IN MY ARMS.

THEY SAID THEY WERE GOING TO TRY TO GET ON A PLASTIC DINGHY, ESSENTIALLY.

NOT EVEN A LIFE BOAT.

LIKE A BEACH BOAT THAT KIDS PLAY ON.

AND THEY WERE GOING TO CROSS THIS VERY DANGEROUS CRATE WITH THE BABY.

THEY WERE GOING TO DRUG THIS LITTLE CHILD SO THE CHILD COULD STAY QUIET DURING THE VOYAGE.

AND TRY TO MAKE IT ACROSS.

I FEARED FOR THE BABY'S LIFE.

I TOLD THEM NOT TO DRUG THE BABY.

I GOT TO WONDERING WHAT IS MOTIVATING THIS FAMILY?

IT'S NOT THAT THEY HATED GUINEA, THEIR FAMILY, LIKE THE NATIVE LAND.

IT'S NO LIFE WAS POSSIBLE IN THESE COUNTRIES.

ACROSS MUCH OF SUB SAHARAN AFRICA, THERE IS HAVOC WREAKED ON AGRICULTURE.

THEIR MINERALS HAVE BEEN STOLEN.

THE GOVERNMENTS HAVE BEEN CORRUPTED.

THEY REPLACE THE OLD COLONIAL REGIMES.

YOU KNOW, AFTER THE SCENE WHERE YOU HAVE SPENT TIME WITH THIS FAMILY WHO IS NEGOTIATING PASSAGE ACROSS THIS STRAIT, YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOU COULD ESSENTIA ESSENTIALLY BOARD A FERRY AND BE IN EUROPE FOR THREE HOURS BECAUSE YOU HAVE THIS BLUE PASSBOOK.

YOU CITE A PHILOSOPHER.

THE GREATEST INEQUALITY OF TODAY'S WORLD, THAT OF CITIZENSHIP.

YOU SAY IN THE BOOK YOU ARE NOT ASKING FOR OPEN BORDERS, BUT OPEN HEARTS.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

I AM NOT PI PO LIT ISIS.

I'M A WRITER.

IN STORYTELLING, THERE ARE POPULISTS WHO SEEK TO PROVOKE PEOPLE IN THEIR COUNTRY, HUNGARY, TRUMP IN THE U.S., AND THEIR NARRATIVE OF MIGRANTS IS THAT THESE PEOPLE ARE COMING HERE TO TAKE FROM US.

THAT THEY ARE SOMEHOW NOT US.

THEY ARE LESSER THAN US AND WE NEED TO KEEP THEM OUT.

THE NARRATIVE THAT I WANT TO PRESENT IS, HAVE YOU GONE OUT AND SPOKE TO THESE MIGRANTS?

TRUMP HAS NOT.

THEY ARE JUST LIKE YOU AND ME.

THEY WANT WHAT YOU AND ME WANT.

A BETTER LIFE FOR THEIR KIDS.

THEY ARE COMING HERE TO WORK AND THEY ARE COMING HERE TO EITHER GIVE THEIR KIDS A BETTER LIFE BY BRINGING THEM HERE OR SEND MONEY BACK TO THEM WHEREVER THEY ARE.

IF WE CAN SOMEHOW LOOK AT THE WORLD FROM THE VIEWPOINT OF THESE MIGRANTS WHO ARE COMING INTO THE U.S. OR LATIN AMERICA, THEN I THINK EVERYONE BENEFITS BECAUSE MY BOOK ULTIMATELY HAS A HAPPY ENDING, AND THE HAPPY ENDING IS THAT WHEN THESE PEOPLE COME IN HERE, EVERYONE BENEFITS.

AND THIS IS THE NARRATIVE THAT I REALLY WANT TO PRESENT.

THE RICH COUNTRIES BENEFIT BECAUSE WE ARE NOT MAKING ENOUGH BABIES.

OUR OLD PEOPLE NEED YOUNGER PEOPLE TO COME IN AND WORK SO THEY CAN PAY INTO OUR SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM.

TAKE CARE OF A RAPIDLY AGING POPULATION.

THE IMMIGRANTS THEMSELVES BENEFIT THEIR STANDARD OF LIVING INCREASES BY AN AVERAGE OF FIVE FOLD.

AND THE COUNTRIES THAT THEY LEAVE BENEFIT FROM THE REMITTANCES ARE THE BEST AND MOST TARGETED WAY OF HELPING THE GLOBAL POOR.

SO IF WE REPLACE THIS FEAR MONGERING NARRATIVE ABOUT IMMIGRATION, YOU KNOW, CULTURALLY, ECONOMICALLY, THIS OTHER NARRATIVE THAT PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS MOVED DURING THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

YOU KNOW, IN THE 19th CENTURY, A QUARTER OF EUROPE EMPTIED AND MADE THEIR WAY TO THE UNITED STATES.

YOU KNOW, UNTIL RECENTLY WE WERE VERY HAPPY ABOUT THIS.

WE THOUGHT OF OURSELVES AS A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS.

RECENTLY THE DEPARTMENT OF CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICE REMOVED THAT PHRASE FROM ITS OFFICIAL LOGO.

SO WE HAVE TO COME BACK TO THINKING OF OURSELVES AS A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS BECAUSE THE EVIDENCE IS INCONTESTABLE.

IMMIGRANTS MAKE OUR LIVES BETTER IN ALL WAYS.

THEY COMMIT LESS CRIME.

THEY WORK HARDER.

THEY PAY MORE INTO THE SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM THAN THEY GET OUT OF IT.

AND THEY ARE ALSO ASSIMILATING QUICKER, ACTUALLY, THAN PREVIOUS GENERATIONS OF IMMIGRANTS.

YOU KNOW, THOSE IDEAS DON'T SEEM TO BE WINNING ELECTIONS RIGHT NOW BESIDES TRUMP, I MEAN, YOU LOOK AT THE BREXIT PARTY AND THE EU ELECTIONS, ITALY, BASICALLY THE RISE OF THE FAR RIGHT ACROSS PARTS OF EUROPE.

THE OTHER NARRATIVE THAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT SEEMS TO BE CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE IN A WAY THAT YOURS DOESN'T.

THAT'S WHY I WROTE THIS BOOK.

IT'S CONNECTING AGAIN, BECAUSE OF INEQUALITY, BECAUSE --

THAT PLAYS INTO THE SCAPEGOAT SNG.

EXACTLY.

THE MAJORITY OF THE POPULATION IN ITALY, IN HUNGARY, IN BRITAIN, IN THE URNS, THEY HAVEN'T -- IN THE UNITED STATES, THEY HAVEN'T BENEFITTED FROM THE ECONOMIC BOOM.

JUST THE 0.01%. DURING THE 2018 CRISIS THERE WAS A BAILOUT OF THE BANKS AND PEOPLE FELT THAT THEIR FUTURE T HAD BEEN STOLEN.

BUT THE ELITE HAVE SOMEHOW CHALLENGED THIS OUTRAGE AWAY FROM THEMSELVES ON TO THE MIGRANTS.

BUT THERE IS A BACKLASH.

DURING THE MIDTERMS TRUMP TRIED TO -- BY STOKING FEAR OF MIGRANTS.

DIDN'T HAPPEN.

DEMOCRATS STILL WON THE HOUSE.

NOW IT'S GOT SOME OF THE MOST STRONGEST PRO-IMMIGRATION WORKERS IN THE HOUSE.

PEOPLE LIKE ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ.

SO THERE IS HOPE WHICH I SAW FIRSTHAND.

I WENT DOWN TO RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, WHERE MY BROTHER-IN-LAW, A PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRAT, WAS UNDERTAKING HIS FIRST POLITICAL CAMPAIGN FOR STATE SENATE IN NORTH CAROLINA.

AND HE WAS IN A DISTRICT WITH 70% WHITE, YOU KNOW.

NONE OF US GAVE HIM MUCH OF A CHANCE.

SINCE HE WAS FAMILY, I WENT DOWN AND CAMPAIGNED FOR HIM.

MY TWO SONS WENT DOWN, CAMPAIGNED FOR HIM.

AND WE KNOCKED ON DOORS.

AND, YOU KNOW, MY SON HAD A GUN PULLED ON HIM.

I HAD THE DOGS SET ON ME, ALTHOUGH IT WAS A SMALL DOG, A POODLE.

CHEWY, YOU GET BACK HERE.

AND HE KNOCKED ON 10,000 DOORS.

AND HE TOOK HIS MESSAGE, WHICH WAS ABOUT MAKING THE SCHOOLS BETTER, AND HE WON IN A LANDSLIDE.

HE IS NOW THE DEMOCRATIC WHIP IN THE NORTH CAROLINA SENATE.

SO I SAW WHAT IS POSSIBLE IN THIS COUNTRY WHEN AN IMMIGRANT, AN IMMIGRANT SON, RUNS, YOU KNOW, FOR STATE SENATE IN A CONSERVATIVE STATE LIKE NORTH CAROLINA.

AND IF YOU, YOU KNOW, THE TRUTH HAS POWER.

SO A POPULIST LIKE TRUMP OR ORBIN ARE GIFTED STORYTELLERS.

THE WAY TO FIGHT A FALSE NARRATIVE WELL TOLD IS TO TELL A TRUE STORY AND TELL IT BETTER.

AND THAT'S WHAT MY BROTHER-IN-LAW DID.

THAT'S WHAT MANY OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT ON BEHALF OF IMMIGRANTS AROUND THE WORLD ARE DOING.

THERE IS A SECTION IN THE BOOK WHERE YOU TALK TO A BORDER PATROL OFFICER.

HIS RATIONALE IS THAT MANY OF THESE IMMIGRANTS ARE FRAUDS, THAT THEY HAVE BEEN COACHED ON EXACTLY WHAT TO SAY.

DREAMERS ARE CUTTING IN LINE.

I MEAN, A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO WENT TO THE POLLS AND ELECTED THE PRESIDENT AGREE WITH THAT.

DOES A NATION NOT HAVE A RIGHT TO CREATE A SET OF CRITERIA ON WHO THEY LET?

THE PRESIDENT SAYS WHAT IS A NATION WITHOUT BORDERS?

I WOULD LIKE US TO HAVE A COHERENT IMMIGRATION POLICY.

WE DON'T.

IT'S REALLY AD HOC AND IT'S MOTIVATED -- THE NATION'S IMMIGRATION POLICY IS NOT MOTIVATED BY ANY RATIONAL LOGIC, WHO SHOULD WE LET IN, HOW MANY OF THEM SHOULD WE LET IN, BUT IT'S MOTIVATED BY FEAR AND HATRED AND FALSE STORY TELLING.

ISN'T THAT SOMETHING THAT DEMOCRATS HAVE BEEN CHARGED OVER A PERIOD OF DECADES?

I MEAN, THEY WERE NOT ABLE TO COME UP WITH A SOUND IMMIGRATION POLICY JUST LIKE REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATIONS WEREN'T?

I MEAN, ONE OF THE ARGUMENTS IS ALWAYS, ALSO, THE DRAIN ON OUR RESOURCES RIGHT NOW, THESE FIRST-GENERATION, THEY HAVE COME IN, THEY ARE GOING TO NEED MORE PUBLIC HEALTH, THEY ARE GOING TO NEED HOSPITALS AND THEY ARE GOING TO NEED PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR THEIR KIDS, THAT WHERE THIS LIFE RAFT, THIS OASIS, AND AT SOME POINT TOO MANY PEOPLE WILL CLIMB ON BOARD AND WE ARE GOING TO SINK?

YES.

THAT'S THE POPULAR NARRATIVE.

IF YOU ACTUALLY UNPACK IT, I SPENT A LONG TIME SPEAKING TO ECONOMISTS, IT DOESN'T REALLY HOLD WATER.

WE COULD LET IN TRIPLE THE NUMBER OF IMMIGRANTS WE LET IN.

IT WOULDN'T MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

IN FACT, IT WOULD MAKE THE COUNTRY BETTER.

OUR GIANT NORTHERN NEIGHBOR CANADA ACTUALLY HIRED A CONSULTING COMPANY TO SHOW THEM HOW TO INCREASE THEIR IMMIGRATION INSTAKETAKE THREEFO.

CITIES LIKE SCHENECTADY AND UTICA IN NEW YORK.

THEY WERE DOWN ON THEIR LUCK, INDUSTRIAL TOWN IN UPSTATE NEW YORK.

THEY DECIDED TO BRING IN THEN THOUSAND PEOPLE AND THE CITY TURNED AROUND.

THEY ARE FLOURISHING GROUPS IN OTHER PLACES LIKE DETROIT.

WE HAVE LOTS OF LAND.

WE HAVE LOTS OF SPACE IN THE COUNTRY.

BUT IT'S ALSO TRUE THAT WE CAN'T JUST BRING IN LARGE GROUPS OF PEOPLE, PARTICULARLY IN AREAS ALONG THE BORDER, AND JUST THROW THEM IN THERE WITHOUT SERVICES.

SO THERE ARE INTELLIGENT WAYS TO DEAL WITH THIS.

ONE IS EXPANSION OF THE EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT WHICH WOULD HELP BOTH THE HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUTS WHO, IF THERE IS AN ECONOMIC CASE TO BE MADE, THAT A SEGMENT OF THE AMERICAN POPULATION SUFFERS FROM INCREASED IMMIGRATION.

ALSO ANOTHER SOLUTION TO KEEP MORE PEOPLE IN HIGH SCHOOL.

THERE COULD BE A TAX THAT, FOR EXAMPLE, TECH COMPANIES WHO BENEFIT BY THE H-1B PROGRAM COULD PAY AND WHICH COULD BE DIRECTED TOWARDS SOME OF THE BORDER COMMUNITIES THAT BEAR THE BRUNT OF THIS.

SO THIS TAX COULD GO TO SUPPORTING HOSPITALS AND SCHOOLS IN THESE COMMUNITIES.

THERE ARE INTELLIGENT WAYS OF REDISTRIBUTING INCOME.

WHAT IS NOT INTELLIGENT IS SAYING WE ARE GOING TO PUT UP A GIANT WALL ACROSS THE BORDER TO KEEP THESE PEOPLE OUT.

YOU KNOW, NOTHING WILL KEEP THESE PEOPLE OUT BECAUSE THEY ARE SO DESPERATE AND SO STARVING.

FOR SOME OF THEM, IT'S LITERALLY A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH.

I REMEMBER SPEAKING TO A 23-YEAR-OLD HONDURAN MOTHER IN A WOMEN'S SHELTER IN TIJUANA.

SHE HAD A BAREAUTIFUL 18-MONTH-D BOY.

SHE WAS GOING TO TRY TO GO ACROSS AND CLAIM ASYLUM BECAUSE HER HUSBAND HAD BEEN MURDERED.

SO THEY WERE GOING TO KILL THE ENTIRE FAMILY.

THEY HAD COME TO HER AND SAID THAT THEY WOULD TAKE THE BOY AND IN A FEW YEARS INDUGT HIM INTO THE GANG.

I SAID, LISTEN, YOU ARE GOING TO CLAIM ASYLUM.

YOU KNOW THEY WILL PROBABLY TAKE YOUR BOY FROM YOU?

SHE SAID, THIS IS WHAT A MOTHER'S LOVE IS.

I MIGHT NEVER SEE HIM AGAIN, BUT AT LEAST I KNOW HE IS ALIVE SOMEWHERE AND I HAVE A HOPE OF SEEING HIM SOMEDAY.

AND THAT IS BETTER THAN HAVING TO PUT HIM IN A BOX UNDER THE GROUND WHERE THEY COME FROM AND KNOWING THAT I WILL NEVER SEE HIM AGAIN.

I THOUGHT IF I WERE A FATHER AND THIS WAS THE CHOICE I WAS FACED WITH, I WOULD DO ANYTHING.

I WOULD CLIMB ANY WALL TO GET MY KIDS TO SAFETY.

AND I ALSO THOUGHT WHEN SHE IS COMING HERE BECAUSE WE WERE THERE, BECAUSE WE PUT 1.8 MILLION GUNS INTO HONDURAS TO ARM THE CONTRAS.

WE EMPTIED OUR PRESENCE AND FLOODED THE COUNTRY WITH CRIMINALS, AND NOW WE BUY THE MAIN PRODUCT THEY HAVE LEFT TO FILL, WHICH IS THEIR DRUGS.

DEVASTATED THE COUNTRY.

WE OWE IT TO THEM.

A SECTION OF MY BOOK CALLS FOR IMMIGRATION AS REPARATIONS.

IF THERE WAS ANY NATURAL JUSTICE, 1,600 ACRE BUSH RANCH IN TEXAS WOULD BE FELT WITH TENTS, HOUSING IRAQI REFUGEES.

WE WENT IN THERE, MOUNTED AN ILLEGAL AND UNNECESSARY WAR.

FOUR MILLION CIVILIANS ARE ON THE ROAD.

WHY?

BECAUSE CLIMATE CHANGE AND THIS WAR HAS MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEM TO LIVE IN THEIR COUNTRIES.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with Gen. David Patraeus about Iran; and chef José Andrés about the role of meat in climate change. Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Suketu Mehta, who says the West is being destroyed not by immigrants, but the fear of immigrants.

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