Feathered Bastard

Ray Stevens' Dumb, Anti-Immigrant Song "Come To the U.S.A."

Nearly two million views and growing, Stevens' redneck anthem "Come To the U.S.A."

I'm sure everyone under the age of 45 is scratching their heads, going, "Ray, who?" But Ray Stevens was actually popular in the '70s for a second, crooning silly comedy songs about streaking and one called, believe it or not, "Ahab the Arab." And yes, he preferred the redneck pronunciation of Ay-rab for that track.

Now the former Hee-Haw regular has produced the idiotic new ditty "Come To the U.S.A." which trades on negative stereotypes of illegal immigrants, presenting the nativist view that America is wide-open for the undocumented, that they get free money from the state, and receive a host of welfare benefits to boot. 

So far, it's received nearly two-million views. The video doesn't really get into SB 1070, though it alludes to Arizona through photos.


Stevens prefers the tough immigration laws of North Korea, China, Sudan, and Mexico itself, jokingly, of course. Maybe he should go live in one of these countries, if their laws are preferred. According to Stevens, immigrants come to this country to start houses of prostitution and have so-called "anchor babies," otherwise known as American-born citizens, all the usual tripe. (I should point out that Stevens himself avoids the racist term.)

One particularly annoying lie that Stevens helps promulgate in his song is that illegal immigrants receive all sorts of free public benefits. Actually, they are barred from receiving all but emergency aid from federal coffers.

Even the nativist Federation for American Immigration Reform reluctantly admits as much on its Web site. Regarding the 1996 federal welfare reform act signed by President Clinton. FAIR has this to say:

Legal immigrants are barred from all federal means-tested public benefits for five years after entering the country and barred from SSI and food stamps until citizenship. They are also barred from all federal means-tested public benefits for five years.

Benefits available to immigrants include school lunch and breakfast programs, immunizations, emergency medical services, disaster relief, and others programs that are necessary to protect life and safety as identified by the attorney general, regardless of immigration status.

Illegal immigrants are barred from the following federal public benefits: grants, contracts, loans, licenses, retirement, welfare, health, disability, public or assisted housing, post secondary education, food assistance, and unemployment benefits. States are barred from providing state or locally funded benefits to illegal immigrants unless a state law is enacted granting such authority.

And please spare me the line about illegal immigrants getting benefits through their American-born children, who are eligible and should be eligible to receive assistance. Sorry, they're Americans. If you don't like it, amend the U.S. Constitution.

Plus, the cost is not what you would assume. As Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley wrote in his book on immigration Let Them In:

"Analyses of welfare use conducted by researchers at The Urban Institute have found that fewer than 1 percent of illegal immigration households nationwide receive benefits for the program most commonly associated with welfare -- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families -- versus 5 percent of households headed by U.S. citizens."

Yeah, I know, it's just a retarded redneck song. But nearly two million views deserves some sort of rebuttal, though I doubt it'll do much to beat back this myth that illegal immigrants soak up welfare. Just driving around Phoenix, have you ever seen a Mexican on a street corner asking for spare change? Those dudes are mostly white. Hispanics, on the contrary, have a work ethic.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons