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.