On Tuesday night, conservative editor Seth Barron went on Fox News to discuss Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Addressing a perceived “irony” about the congresswoman — that she sponsored the Green New Deal, but that streets in her district in northeast Queens and the eastern Bronx are not clean — Barron had a simple explanation for why a city that produces 12,000 tons of trash a day is dirty.
Carlson: We’re connoisseurs of irony on this show, but if you claim to care about the environment, you’d think that the little piece of America you’re responsible for and that you represent in the Congress would be clean but hers isn’t. Why?
Barron: Well, part of the reason is because her district is actually one of the least American districts in the country. And by that, I don’t mean that it’s not part of America, but it’s occupied by relatively few American citizens. A very high percentage of her district is, in fact, illegal aliens. Now, the way they inhabit housing there is such that they live in a lot of illegal spaces like basements, and many people live there, so they wind up producing a lot of garbage that the landlords don’t want thrown out normally. Hence, you wind up with a lot of garbage on the streets, you have illegal food vendors pouring their pig grease into the gutters. I worked out there, it can be a little gross.
The racist idea of an unclean immigrant is a tenet of xenophobic sentiment in the United States. As Erika Lee, a professor of immigration history at the University of Minnesota, told PRI earlier this year, the trope has been at the heart of anti-immigrant bigotry for centuries:
We know that whatever “immigrant menace” was the focus of xenophobes in the past — whether it be Irish Catholics in the 19th century, then later Chinese and other Asians, of course, Italians and Jews and other southern and eastern Europeans and Mexicans — the claim has always been that these groups were not only racially inferior, but that they brought particularly dangerous and contagious diseases that would end up harming the US native population …
It was one of the arguments that many people made in terms of how [immigrants] were not fit to be citizens: That they simply did not know how to live in sanitary conditions, that they themselves had come from uncivilized backgrounds, savage backgrounds, and that part of the process of becoming American, of assimilating them, was to really teach them from the ground up how to properly clean, how to cook and how to keep a sanitary household.
As Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham notes, Barron
“is an editor at the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal and a regular columnist at the New York Post, in case you’re wondering how mainstream these sentiments are becoming on the right.”
But one doesn’t need to look to the visitor’s chair on a Fox News set to find someone who has recently expressed xenophobic sentiments on immigrant hygiene: Earlier this year, Laura Ingraham said that “most of those people [migrants] could be bringing a variety of diseases into the country.” And in December 2018, Carlson himself claimed that immigrants were making America “poorer and dirtier.” He proved this on the segment by showing onscreen pictures of random piles of trash.