The Polish Undocumented

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

There are an estimated 40,000 Polish undocumented living in the Chicago area. The number of Polish undocumented in the Chicago area is the second largest only after the number of Mexican undocumented. However, when the subject of the undocumented is brought up, there is little to no mention of the Polish undocumented. This should come as no surprise—they are an invisible group in the eyes of most Americans, and unlike the Mexicans are not seen as a “threat.” We do not hear any of the Republican presidential candidates call the Polish undocumented “murderers,” “rapists,” or “not the best from Poland.”

This simply just does not happen. Why is not hard to figure out. There are an estimated 200,000 legal Polish immigrants in Chicago alone. An estimated 1.5 million people in the Chicago area claim Polish descent. This does not include how many Polish Americans there are who sit in local public office and the number of Polish American organizations there are in the Chicago area. These numbers translate out in votes, and any politician who tries to attack the Polish undocumented will find their careers cut quite short. For many Americans, the Polish undocumented are white Europeans—culturally, socially and racially the same as white non-Hispanic Americans.

Because of all this, the Polish undocumented become more “acceptable.” One is not likely to see any attacks or any denigration of the Polish undocumented. It is sad but true—racism is still very much alive and well in the United States. We must remember that it has been only been 40 to 50 years since the end of the racist laws of discrimination were struck down in most parts of the United States. Racist laws and racist social attitudes have been around in America for 300 plus years, and there are still people who remember what it was like back in the 1950’s and 1960’s when there was a racial legal divide. In one category, that of employment, racism still does play a part in who gets hired first and fired last (or hired last and fired first depending on which side of the racial divide you are on). Hence, the attitudes of who are the “illegals” is as much fraught with racism and prejudice as anything I can imagine.

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