Is American opposition to illegal immigration partly driven by racism?

I find a lot of sense in the writings of Ruben Navarrette Jr. and I agree with much that he says in the article below. One thing he says below, albeit with unusual politeness, is however very contentious: That opposition to illegal immigration is at least in part driven by racism. I would argue that it driven by concerns about the quality of the immigrants but that race, very broadly conceived, can in the present circumstances play a role in evaluating that. Present-day illegals entering the USA usually have very low skills and their children in particular have very high rates of criminality so concerns about quality are clearly realistic.

If immigration were under proper control, immigrants could be treated as they should be: as individuals. Regardless of your race, your own personal qualities could determine your acceptability or otherwise. Where immigration is uncontrolled, however, one has no choice but to look at what is happening from a group perspective. What do we know about the groups that are entering the USA? And, as a group, Hispanics clearly are a low-quality group. Their levels of education and productivity are low, their criminality is high and they almost invariably support populist political policies that usually produce Fascist or near-Fascist governments. Would any reasonable person want unselected members of that group allowed into their country?

Navarette points out, as many do, that the USA for a long time allowed unselected immigration from places like Ireland, Germany. Italy and China and that those groups turned out OK. But China has had a continuous record of civilization longer than any other, Germany has long been (with only one notable lapse) one of the most civilized places in Europe, Italy gave us both the Roman empire and the Renaissance and Ireland was an integral part of the then most dominant polity on earth: The British empire. So it is no wonder that people of such distinguished origins turned out to be generally OK. But what distinction does Mexico and the rest of Latin-America have in contrast with the four countries just mentioned? Chaos, corruption, poverty and near-unbelievable crime-rates are all that I see.
Race and ethnicity must be part of immigration debate

By Ruben Navarrette Jr.

A month ago, before most Americans had ever heard of Sonia Sotomayor, I predicted to a group of friends that Latinos would get either a Supreme Court justice or immigration reform — but not both. My theory: The political gurus in the Obama White House know that many Americans think the country does too much to accommodate the nation's largest minority as it is. Asking for more would seem gluttonous.

Still, with the administration promising to at least restart the debate on comprehensive immigration reform this year — although apparently waiting for Congress to act first — advocates are now convening in symposiums or conference calls to search for a new strategy to persuade Americans that it's time to fix a broken system.

As someone who tries to travel down the middle on immigration — for instance, favoring both a path to legalization for illegal immigrants and stringent conditions on how to earn that privilege — I've been invited to participate in a few of these sessions.

Some of what is being said — sprinkled with research and results from focus groups — is insightful. Other parts of the dialogue are frustrating. For me, one thing that is especially hard to swallow is that so many enlightened and well-meaning immigration reform advocates are so eager to run away from the race issue. They believe that, once anyone on their side even hints that racism is part of the immigration debate, the conversation is over.

And so, they say, the best way to increase the chances for reform is to avoid that kind of talk and concentrate on arguments that might actually convince people. Talk about personal responsibility, they say — about how those who are in the country illegally must acknowledge wrongdoing, make amends, learn English and otherwise assimilate. And, they say, avoid making any demands on U.S. citizens — most of whom don't accept that they share any responsibility for the current situation.

Still, I'm in no hurry to let go of the racial angle. A big part of the anxiety that many Americans currently feel about increased immigration levels fits a historical pattern. What worries people most is what they see as the inferior quality of the immigrants coming ashore — or, if you prefer, crossing the border.

After all, that's one way that racism typically manifests itself — through a sense of superiority. It can also come through fear or animosity. Some Americans dispute this and insist that race and ethnicity have nothing to do with concerns over illegal immigration. Rather, what has so many people upset, they claim, is that it is — hello — illegal.

Rubbish. If that were true, the debate wouldn't lapse so quickly into talk of limiting legal immigration as well. After all, the Germans, Chinese, Irish, and Italians who entered the country in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries were mistreated in much the same way that subsequent waves from other parts of the world would be. Why? It's because, as foreigners, they were believed to be inferior.

Which brings us to why it's important to be honest about racism in the immigration debate: Acknowledging it allows Americans, the children of immigrants, to empathize with new arrivals who suffer many of the same trials as those who came before them.

Still, some maintain that the best strategy for getting comprehensive immigration reform is to downplay racism because it makes some people feel uncomfortable. Yes, I know. The truth has a way of doing that. And any campaign that asks Americans to deny the truth to achieve a political goal asks too much.


Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here

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