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The Republican debate on November 22 proved to be an eye-opener as presidential hopefuls debated the often factious issue of illegal immigration.  Typically, candidates in GOP primaries move rightward as they try to prove their right wing credentials.  Only when the primary is over, the nominee will try to reach independents at the center of the political spectrum.

During the televised debate, three views on illegal immigration had emerged.  All the candidates agreed that building a stronger border fence was a surety of any serious immigration proposal, but they disagreed about what to do with an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country.

The Three Views

Rep. Michele Bachmann presented a position furthest to the right advocating the mass deportation of all undocumented immigrants and rejecting any pathway to citizenship as amnesty.  Bachmann summarized her view succinctly here.   It's a hope-and-pray model where you bury your head in the sand hoping illegal immigrants come forward to deport themselves out of respect for the "rule of law."  Never mind that it's a lofty expectation that even citizens don't follow, including those who have yet to turn themselves in for exceeding speed limits or breaking various traffic laws.

Governor Mitt Romney, on the other hand, didn't want to concede he believed in mass deportation.  He refused to draw a line in the sand about who gets to stay and who has to leave.  In the past, he has rejected mass deportation saying illegal immigrants should be able to stay and sign up for permanent residency or citizenship.  However, his position has hardened over the years.  He now believes they should volunteer to go home for the application process.

Gingrich provided probably the most comprehensive immigration plan on the platform that night - one which he was prepared to take some heat.  Gingrich supported deporting illegal immigrants recently arriving to the country, but rejected uprooting those who've been in place for 25+ years for obvious reasons.

Gingrich prefers a guest worker program that uses a smart card system that tracks temporary workers.  This is how it would work: private employers would set up satellite offices in foreign countries to recruit workers for American projects.  Employers would conduct criminal background checks on workers assisted by the county of their national origin.  Red cards with embedded microchips containing photographs, fingerprints, and other biometric data would be distributed to border patrol to facilitate the process.

In theory, the incentive to work in the country legally should be powerful enough to shrink the illegal workers' market, thus crowding out illegal workers and reducing the overall number of illegal immigrants.  The Bracero Program of the 1960s - replete with its many labor abuses - was effective at reducing border apprehensions by 95%, and therefore showing that guest worker programs do work.

Thoughts

Newt Gingrich was right.  He took lumps from the anti-immigrant crowd. But Gingrich made an astute point during the debate that should be stressed here.  Republicans espouse a pro-family platform, yet many of them do not hesitate to promote a policy that would displace good families over a civil misdemeanor.  For an infraction carrying the legal weight of a speeding violation, some Republicans are willing to dismember entire families to make a point.  And what is that point really?

We're told that the United States is a nation of laws.  We cannot turn a blind eye to lawbreaking while rewarding illegals with pathways to legal residency or citizenship.  Yet, law enforcement officers routinely turn a blind eye to traffic violators every time they let drivers go with warnings.  Are we a nation of laws or not?

What would the "nation of laws" crowd say about the failed prohibition policy of the 1920s?  In 1920, Congress passed a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting the manufacturing, sales, and transportation of intoxicating liquors.  It was reversed, however, when the realization set in that the policy was misguided and ineffective.

If we were to use the logic in the 20s that Republicans use today, alcohol would still be prohibited and underground liquor sales would be one more reason our prisons are overcrowded.  Like Prohibition, today's immigration policies aren't working and haven't worked for decades.  Do we hide behind the "nation of laws" catchphrase, or do we problem-solve our way to comprehensive reform?

Conclusion

We've said before: the GOP needs to adopt a plan that doesn't substantially disrupt an already fiscally fragile economy.  Rejecting thoughtful alternatives out-of-hand as amnesty reveals a xenophobic prejudice closing the mind to workable solutions and off-putting  the problem to subsequent generations.

The GOP is on a current collision course with a rapidly growing Hispanic community.  By 2020, Hispanics will make up more than 50% of the Texan population.  Waging battle against the largest and fastest growing minority group in the country may result in the loss of Texas and the thirty-four electoral votes that go with it.  Think about it.

 

Comments (16)
  • Robin  - Immigration: Then and now...

    My only problem with what you've said here is that you don't seem to address most Americans' concerns about why they're for mass deportation...

    For the first time in our country's history are we dealing with immigrants who refuse to become Americans. They want to retain their language and all of their customs. They also send a LOT of money out of the country and are perfectly happy working for cash under the table and not paying taxes. Regardless of what your personal insight is to these accusations, this is what the rest of the purported "mass deportation, anti-family" conservatives see, including myself.

    Every other immigrant population who has immigrated (legally or not) in the past 200 years learned and taught their children English, adopted American traditions and wanted their kids to become Americans. They fly the American flag first and their "homeland's" flag under it, if they fly the homeland flag at all. I have no problem with preserving a heritage and keeping some ethnic traditions as my family is from Poland (I'm 4th generation American). But I'm living in suburban Chicago, IL, which is one of the alleged "sanctuary" states.

    Now just hear me out...

    Here it's like the immigrants, including the 1st & 2nd generations of Mexican-Americans, are still living in Mexico. They don't speak much English, if any, they fly Mexican flags on their homes and cars, and they put stickers saying "Michoacan," etc. in their cars' rear windows. They expect the school districts to cater to them, including language and in my area, there are more Spanish speaking schools than English.

    Now, let's contrast this from where I grew up, in Mesa, AZ, which is roughly 200 miles from the border. The hispanic population there was far more Americanized because they were mostly legal, and the illegal immigrants blended in as best they could so they wouldn't be suspected and get deported.

    No, I don't want to split up families. Yes, I'd love some serious immigration reform. Yes, I'd love e-verify and a better "fence" to keep our borders secure. But even more than that, knowing that we are a nation of immigrants, I'd just like to see some interest in Mexicans becoming Americans, to live alongside and participate as citizens with the rest of us instead of isolating themselves and being a burden to our medical and educational facilities.

    Is that so much to ask?

  • Christopher  - Should Immigrants Want to Become Americans?

    You make some good points. Your point of view is not the one I usually hear.

    I don't have a problem with first generation not thinking of themselves as American. I do have a problem with the tax evasion. But seriously, how can they possibly pay income taxes?

    I am willing to have a discussion of the advantages of aliens vs. citizens. I am not willing to deport good neighbors because they come to avoid the dreadful conditions in their home countries. Some illegals are illegal because our immigration system is broken.

  • Robin

    I don't think it's fair that anyone can sneak into this country illegally, have a child and take for granted that they can stay and collect medical and educational benefits for their children under the guise of the "dreadful conditions" of their home countries. That's a cop out.

    Hello? Poland under communist rule in the 70's? Martial law? Food rationing? How quickly we forget... yet the Polish people patiently waited for each of their names to come up in the immigration lotteries. I know many of them. They also learnt our country's language and started paying taxes immediately. They also didn't expect the government to take care of them or their children. They worked really hard, obtained citizenship, opened their own businesses and felt it was shameful to accept any government aid, knowing what happens when the government gives you money (i.e. socialism/communism).

    How about the droves of Indians who come here? Their home country has a horrible class system including the labeling of an entire caste of people (ironically, the majority) who are considered to not be people at all? Yet again, they do not break the law to immigrate here, either?

    Our system is not broken. Unless you consider that system of allowing people to sneak in and collect taxpayer benefits when they're not actually taxpayers.

    Our system is simply unfair to the people who play by the rules.

  • Brett

    "For the first time in our country's history are we dealing with immigrants who refuse to become Americans. They want to retain their language and all of their customs."

    That's not correct though.

    Hispanic, particularly Mexican, immigrants have shed their language faster than any previous non-English speaking immigrant wave. Their children are rarely Spanish language isolated while their grandchildren do not even speak Spanish.

    Compare that to the German wave which retained language isolation for nearly 4 generations, or the Italian wave which still has the highest elderly language isolation rate of any immigrant group even today.

    Hispanics have intermarriage rates that blow away anything experienced with previous immigrant groups (over 80% intermarry outside the ethnic group!)

  • Aaron M. Rodriguez

    Christopher,

    A good guest worker program will attempt to capture tax revenue generated by legal temporary workers. Right now, I believe that undocumented workers would gladly trade tax payments 7 days a week and twice on Friday for a dose of normalcy.

  • Aaron M. Rodriguez

    Robin,

    I don't think expecting Hispanic immigrants to become more Americanized is too much to ask. The think there is a difference between forfeiting one's culture and acclimating to a new one. Finding that good balance seems more difficult with Hispanic immigrants than with immigrants of the European sort.

    Do you have a working theory as to why there is a resistance to learning American culture?

  • Robin

    Hmmm... I've never really even considered a "why" before.

    Maybe it's because they feel that this is all owed to them; because Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California once belonged to Mexico in the first place? Maybe this is their way of taking it all back? I dunno... that sounds far too much like a conspiracy, so I'm not saying that's my theory, just thinking out loud, so to speak.

    And why would the immigrants in AZ be so much more Americanized than the ones who live all around me in IL? Talk about a culture shock when I moved farther north! Could it just be the more lenient laws here in IL rather than the strict immigration policies in AZ?

    Again, I think the majority of conservatives would never ask an immigrant to completely forfeit their own culture if they choose to become citizens. I can't imagine what a boring country this would be if we were all exactly the same. In fact, I've heard from many other people from the "old countries" that this is what they love about America the most... our variety of cultures!

    Being Hispanic yourself, do you have a theory? If so, I'd love to hear it.

  • John Lopez

    Robin, there is are many aspects to this first. the southwest was mexico but only for 19 years for over 200 years before that it was spain here in new mexico peoples consider theyselves to be of spainish decent. I am personaly split my mothers family was from northern new mexico and has been about 200 years on my fathers side my grandparents came here during the mexican civil war. bye the way my father was POW during world war II and gave me a firm scoulding when I came back from california saying I was latino. We are hispanos. As far as they southwestern hispanics being more americanized it is relitive to time. that is like saying first generation poles should be as americanized as 6 generation imigrants from england. I hate to tell you and I don't believe you mean anything bad by it but it is ignorance it is paintiing all brown people with the same brush we have various backrounds just like the english the french the germans and the poles. I say to you to aron also to understand the problem of immigration we really need to look it in all its parts as real problem not as the democrates as political tool. I believe a place is the place where we should discuss the problem.

  • Aaron M. Rodriguez

    Robin,

    I think you have a misguided conception of undocumented immigrants, or in the very least, you stereotype them too casually.

    The vast majority of undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. because of supply and demand. Until America realizes this, inventing contraptions to fight the free market rather than work with it will not solve the problem.

    Your post presupposes that undocumented immigrants come here for entitlements, which studies show to be far from the truth. Jason Riley, an editorial board member of the Wall Street Journal, showed that states with the fewest entitlement programs have attracted the most undocumented immigrants precisely because jobs are attracting them, not handouts. Do they collect benefits from our country? Certainly. But perhaps the problem is not with them, but with states that offer an excess of entitlement programs.

    So no, I don't think they expect the government to take care of them. Most undocumented immigrants are young, male, healthy, and very mobile. This is not the demographic that sits on their butt and accepts welfare. In fact, the undocumented Mexican male is the highest employed demographic in the nation at 94%.

    Also, I think the more one compares Mexican immigrants to European immigrants, the more comparisons will begin to break down. There is a lot more bureaucracy now then there was a century ago - so much so that it sometimes takes Mexican immigrants 15 years to gain citizenship.

    The system is very broken. The border is too porous and too unprotected, our government provides too few visas, there are no incentives for undocumented immigrants to go home and apply for permanent residency or citizenship, and there is no apparatus in place to maximize tax revenues we could generate from immigrants through efficient guest worker programs. Yes, the system is very much broken because it openly ignores the free market, which quite frankly is not conservative at all.

  • Robin

    Aaron, I'm not sure where you live, but where I live I am surrounded by "undocumented" immigrants. While you give these statistics, I'm not doing research except what I see in my own community.

    You say that most undocumented immigrants are young, male, healthy and mobile. What I see are ERs filled with women (who can't speak English) and their children who have colds but the mothers know they won't be turned away because of our broken system here in IL. So the American who is in pain and has a gash or a broken bone has to wait until the child with a sniffle can be seen. Does this sound heartless? Perhaps. I'm just telling you what I see every day.

    I also see the same women using IL LINK (food stamps) cards in line at the local grocery store because she has 2-3 young children, none of which speak a lick of English. And they go to schools where teachers speak Spanish so the parents don't have to learn, and the students are not even taught English or about our American heritage.

    Again, I concede that the IL system is broken, but please don't say that I'm stereotyping too casually.

    I can't see how anyone can say that the majority of "undocumented" immigrants are anything because they are just that... undocumented.

    I think we agree on most points, but I'm trying to provide to you a P.O.V. that you may not have ever considered because you may be too close to the source. This is why we have Mrs. Bachmann talking about mass deportation. The American people have had enough. What I've listed here is what we see. I do not want families to be split up, I do not want mass deportations, but I have a feeling that if there is a mass amnesty for people who come forward, that many of those people will prefer to be be left in the shadows if the system of entitlements isn't fixed along with it.

  • Aaron Rodriguez

    You live in Illinois. They have a large Latino population, so it makes sense you will see Latinos in the ER. What you should understand, Robin, is that plugging up ERs is typically not a trait associated with the Hispanic populous as a whole. Perhaps in border cities, but this is not a problem nation-wide.

    I'm a paramedic in Wisconsin; plugging up ERs happens everywhere irrespective of ethnicity. It's a result of entitlement programs with poor regulation. A thumb injury can tie up a paramedic ambulance while a man down the block could be having the big one. It's a deficiency in the system. Where I work, we don't pick up a lot of Latinos. They don't clog our ERs - other ethnicities do.

    The best way to deal with undocumented immigrants is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Develop a program that identifies those who want to work, that pass FBI background checks, that pay a fine and back-taxes, and that can prove a proficiency in English. Those who don't follow these conditions can be deported. They were given a chance to succeed, and they refused to take it. This system will also untie the hands of the federal government to be more efficient and focus on a smaller segment of the unauthorized population.

  • Aaron M. Rodriguez

    Robin,

    I'm not exactly sure myself. I know that Italians and the Irish didn't exactly adjust quickly to American culture. They formed their own enclaves "little Italies" for example to protect themselves from religious discrimination.

    Perhaps Latinos aren't adjusting well because there are so many of us and therefore less need to be immersed in the culture. I also think that liberalism can slow down the acclimation process. Consider bilingual programs in schools versus immersion programs. Which program promotes adaptation faster?

  • Tanya Solis Padilla

    I'm Puerto Rican & Taino Indian, and was born in United States to Hispanic mother and a non-hispanic father. It used to mean something to immigrate to this country. It doesn't anymore. Perhaps because we just let illegal immigration continue for so long it seems we don't care. Maybe it's our climate of entitlement thinking. I welcome the richness of our "tossed salad" culture--many people, many colors, many languages and cultures--but I think there is a difference between acceptable and unacceptable methods of preserving and defending a group's cultural rights. The wrong way is to insult us, hang our flag upside down or burn it, and tell us you don't need to conform. If I did any of those things in Mexico, I'd be tossed in jail no matter how good my spanish is! Lawlessness and disrespect for the very country a person is in, especially if they are not here legally, is not the way to encourage a welcome from those of us already here.

    That's the main problem I have. Follow the same rules that I must in order to live here. Please respect the flag of my country, I am a United States citizen and still proud of it. Please learn to understand our culture also, and learn to read & speak & write our language--we even will teach you for FREE--encourage your own family members to embrace both the new and the old culture. Don't make enemies in your own camp, build a stronger nation by capitalizing on our strengths, not our differences...but remember it is still this country you've come to, you have chosen to leave your own. Does that make sense? Please meet us in the middle here...
    >>and oh my: if 94% of mexican males are employed, maybe that is why I cannot get a job... :(

  • Zeus Rodriguez  - What's with American women and Mexican immigrants?

    There is absolutely no evidence that Mexicans hold on to their native language any longer than European immigrants. Over 90% of Hispanics born in America, to immigrant parents, speak FLUENT English.

    While I could sit here for hours and educate on all the other points made I will not, since I have 4 jobs to do today.

    What I do want to know is why are women the most vocal and ignorant about the facts on immigration? EVERY single time I read a blog or Facebook discussion on immigration it's dominated by women. It's an interesting phenomenon that I don't quite understand.

    Either way, as Aaron alluded to, if you want FACTS and not just useless bumper sticker slogans to repeat, read Jason Riley's book, "Let them in". He is on the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, a very conservative publication who have taken the factual road toward immigration policy.

    Until then, you might want to stay quiet.

  • drgoodie

    Zeus, I don't want to stay quiet, even though I am a woman, don't know all the facts, haven't read Jason Riley's book, and am not even hispanic. Thanks for recommending Riley's book.

    My P.O.V.: I thought Gingrich's proposal regarding illegal immigrants is the best one I have heard so far. However, I don't think there should be any hard and fast rule regarding how long one has been here. At least not one as restrictive as a "20 to 25 year" ruling.

    A woman I know immigrated from El Salvador, whether legally or illegally I don't know. She became an American citizen and the mother of five children born in the U.S. Her husband died and she reared the children as a single mother for years. A man who here illegally married her and is a good husband and father to the children. He has worked as a welder for 18 years, paying U.S. taxes. He is a good neighbor. He should not be deported under any "solution" to the illegal immigrant "problem."

    Aaron Rodriguez said it best - "separate the wheat from the chaff." What if the man I described had only been here five years? four? three? He is an asset to this country, his community, and most of all he is a precious part of one of the most wonderful families I have ever known. The program or plan of deportation must be carefully thought out. It must not allow the anger some feel toward illegal immigrants to override common sense and compassion.

    I will read Let Them In. Thanks again for recommending it.

    Aaron, I really enjoyed reading your posts and appreciate your analytical viewpoint. And Tanya Solis Padillo, I wish everyone in the country could read your post. I hope you repeat it often and everywhere.

  • Aaron Rodriguez

    Dr. Goodie,

    People will think I paid you to say those things. :cheer:

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