[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Oppenheimer Loses Touch

Monday, January 14, 2008

Oppenheimer Loses Touch

Andres Oppenheimer's latest anti anti-illegal immigration column is up at The Miami Herald. Unfortunately, instead of adding to the complex debate, it really dumbs down the issue to a huge populist pulp that's impossible to swallow.

Oppenheimer mentions 5 myths of anti-illegal immigration talk.

- Myth No. 1: ''We are only against illegal immigration. Undocumented immigrants should get in line for visas.'' That's deceptive because you can't demand that people get into line when, for the most part, there is no line to get into.

While the U.S. labor market is demanding 1.5 million mostly low-skilled immigrants a year -- and will demand many more in coming years, as the U.S. population becomes increasingly educated -- the current immigration system allows into the U.S. an average of one million legal immigrants a year, and most of them are already here.

''There is a huge mismatch between what the U.S. labor market needs and the supply of immigration visas,'' says Frank Sharry, head of the National Immigration Forum, which advocates both secure borders and a path to legal residence for many of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

On top of that, most anti-immigration groups want to reduce legal immigration. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a favorite of radio and cable television Hispanic immigrant-bashing news shows, wants to reduce legal immigration from the current 1 million a year to about 300,000, with a 20-year cooling-off period.

Oppenheimer ought to be smart enough to know the difference between someone being against people entering the country illegally and being in favor of people going through the proper procedure to enter and stay in a country. What part of "respect the law" doesn't he understand? All reasonable Americans want is for people to follow the proper procedures and play by the rules. It doesn't make on "anti-immigrant".

Myth No. 2: ''Anti-immigration advocates are not anti-Hispanic.'' Maybe many aren't, but when was the last time you heard anti-immigration Republican hopefuls or cable television talk show hosts lashing out against illegal immigrants from Canada?

In addition, the escalating immigration hysteria has created an ugly environment that affects all Hispanics -- both legal and undocumented -- in many parts of the country, as recent studies by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have shown.

''We are seeing more discrimination and harassment,'' says Michele Waslin, of the Immigration Policy Center. ``Anybody who is Hispanic-looking or has an Hispanic last name is being treated as an undocumented immigrant.''

This one left me amazed. Andres, open your eyes! The traffic is pretty much one-way here, and it sure as hell ain't from Canada! For the rest of the debunking of this myth, please see Myth of Myth 1.

Myth No. 3: ''We are a nation of laws, and the law says you have to enter the country legally.'' Yes, but we are also a nation of immigrants. And, by the way, nearly half of all undocumented immigrants enter the country legally, and overstay their visas.

If Myth 2 made me scratch my head, Myth 3 made me fall off my chair. You have got to be kidding me. The first sentence should have ended after "enter the country legally". We are a nation of immigrants who abide by and respect the law. Overstaying visas is even worse than crossing the border because it takes advantage of the generosity of the host country. This is unbelieveable that this point has to even be brought up.

Myth No. 4: ''Building a border fence will solve the problem.'' Wrong. As long as the per capita income in the United States is five times bigger than that of Mexico, and as long as U.S. labor market demands millions of low-skilled jobs that Americans won't fill, people will jump over the fence, dig tunnels under it or come through Canada.

Anything that makes it harder for illegals to cross the border works for me. Have you ever heard of a deterrent. Sure, some will try to sneak across the fence, but good luck to them.

Myth No. 5: Those of us who criticize anti-immigration groups are ''amnesty'' and ''open borders'' supporters. Baloney. I, for one, support both border protection and an earned path to legalization for millions of undocumented workers who pay taxes and are willing to learn English.

Mr. Oppenheimer, if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it must be a duck. Just admit that you're for open borders and amnesty, and we can hash out the other details.

I won't go as far as people such as Tom "Miami is Third World" Tancredo who wants to round up all 12 or 20 million illegals and ship them back immediately. Nor will I go as far as Mike Huckabee's latest stance which includes shipping children of illegals back with their parents (whatever happened to giving them a shot at college scholarships, Mr. Governor?). Kids of illegals shouldn't be punished for the sins of their parents, plain and simple. And to say that the practical task of rounding up and sending 12 to 20 million people back home is daunting is like saying that the North Pole is cold in January.

Do I support an earned path to legal status? You know what... I do, but only under one condition: that ALL current legal applicants are processed. Fine 'em and fine 'em hard too. Fine companies that willingly hire illegals. Make them learn English. Do I support more visas for legal immigrants? Yes. My ideas are most certainly flawed in some ways and unpractical, but it hardly sounds like a xenophobe, right? Since when did respect for the law turn into being a racist? Only in the world of Andres Oppenheimer, who unfortunately has had to fall for the same demagogue-laced arguments he accuses anti-illegal immigration folks of.

Mr. Oppenheimer: If you're going to accuse all those who are against the failed immigration bill as anti-immigration and xenophobes, then I can turn around and call you someone who doesn't respect the laws of a sovereign nation. Don't like it, right? The fact is, there are just as many illegals who hate the United States and wish for a Mexican invasion as those who are truly bigoted and racist against Hispanics. The vast majority of people want immigrants to play by the rules. How do you think those who are trying to enter legally would feel if they got skipped in line by someone who felt like overstaying their visa? You would be mad as hell, right? Once you realize this, then you start to understand how most mainstream Americans feel.

The column feels like someone who's run out of intellectual arguments and is running on fumes.



Blogger Henry Gomez said...

Robert, I'm afraid I have to agree with Oppenheimer.

The anti-immigration segment IS fed by appeals to people's lesser angels. Most Americanos have never had a conversation with an illegal immigrant, yet they seem to know all about them and how they want to come here to commit crimes and sponge off of the welfare state. I think you're being naive about the latent racism in these arguments. And the economics don't lie. We have an illegal immigrant problem because the demand for unskilled laborers is outstripping supply.

It's easy to say we're a nation of laws and all these "Americans" came here legally but there was no INS, no quotas and the like when we had hordes of Italians, Poles, Irish, and Jews coming to America. They arrived here and now after 3 or four generation have decided to close the gate behind them in the name of "Americanism".

Seriously, you're supposed to be the reasonable one.

10:44 PM, January 14, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...


I going to try to sound reasonable here since apparently that's what I'm supposed to be.

I travel a lot, as you do, all across Florida and the country. The majority of the people I come in contact with on a daily basis are non-Hispanic. I can tell you with complete honesty and confidence that most normal Americans aren't racist. They don't care where people are from. Perhaps it IS naive to demand fairness, but what Americans want is for immigrants to follow the established procedures and not have to have fake SS numbers and the like. The fact that the vast majority of illegals come from Latin America is just part of the facts of the situation, not an excuse for most reasonable people to bash on Hispanics.

I think you're putting a bit too much into the latent racism. If stereotyping is considered racism, then we're all guilty. Hispanics have made their mark all across this country. Practically every medium to large size city in this nation has at least one Spanish radio station, not to mention Univision and Telemundo. Every town in America has a Mexican restaurant. I'm sorry Henry, but the racism argument doesn't compute.

I'm not denying that are true racists out there, and I would include Tom Tancredo in those ranks. But those that use these people as the example of the anti-illegal immigration crowd are just as naive as I am. I can easily turn around and point to all the militant Mexican nativist groups
out there who want to reclaim the SW United States, but I don't because I'm grounded in reality.

Your example of the immigrants of the early 20th century not having quotas, INS, etc etc and comparing it to today is like comparing apples and oranges. First of all, just because the system "worked" back then doesn't mean it works today. I think you're smart enough to not apply the same principles to something that occurred 100 years ago. Times are different, there are many more people we have to deal with compared to 100 years ago.

I know most illegals come with the best of intentions. They don't want to screw others over. They're decent, hard-working people. However, if you know that you're in a place without proper documentation, with an invalid SS number, wouldn't you feel at least a little guilty? I sure as hell would! I realize that the demand for unskilled laborers is high. So is that a valid excuse to admit illegals in? Please tell me how that's fair to those who are attempting to come LEGALLY, and those who have been waiting for years for our inept system to process them. I want to hear how somehow it's OK for those people to get skipped over while others come here, overstay their visas, and take advantage of this country's generosity.

My overall concept is very idealistic and if you want to call it naive, I can handle it. I also know that you're a person of principle and must realize that all sound policies, the foundation of a good society, is based on fairness and the following of laws and procedures. Given the choice between following laws and procedures, and winging it as a form of practicality, my conscience tells me to go with the first.

10:21 AM, January 15, 2008  
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4:56 PM, January 18, 2008  
Blogger Adam said...

We could always just legalize immigration. I mean, if the only problem with immigrants is that they are here illegally, then bring em on.

9:56 PM, January 19, 2008  

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