But what seem to be a relative few, like the Latino reader who wrote me recently to criticize some of my positions, appear to be sorting through conflicting loyalties.
“I get the sense you are proud to be Latino and defend Latinos when they are unnecessarily attacked,” he wrote. “But I am confused as to why you are against illegal immigration. In one of your articles you state that you support ‘speedy deportations and raids.’ As someone who has relatives who have come to this country illegally, I don’t think I have it in me to say some of the things you have said — like supporting raids and deportations. I do not think it looks and sounds good to say things like that, especially coming from someone who is of Mexican ancestry.”
I had to respond.
“I’m not only the grandson of a Mexican immigrant but also the son of a retired cop,” I wrote. “Opposing illegal anything comes easy, because it’s ‘illegal.’ The better question is why so many Latinos are willing to excuse this one kind of illegal behavior because they have family members who’ve engaged in it. I have cousins in San Quentin, born in the U.S., who engaged in other kinds of illegal behavior and I don’t feel compelled to defend them. Family ties only get you so far. Lastly, I believe people have to take responsibility for their actions. If you love the people who make up your community, you’ll stop coddling them and start treating them like adults. ”
Conservatives might be surprised to learn of that exchange. In the minds of many of them, I have three strikes that lead them to think that I condone illegal immigration — my surname, my support for comprehensive reform, and my opposition to half-baked, harebrained anti-illegal immigration measures that never work and only succeed in dividing people. But if they think I lean too far to the left, they should get a look at some of those who criticize me for leaning too far to the right.
Here’s the bargain that needs striking. U.S.-born Latinos have to stand up against illegal immigration, even as they continue to support comprehensive immigration reform and condemn bigotry and stupidity wherever it surfaces. And, at the same time, other U.S. citizens have to give them the benefit of the doubt and stop assuming that their loyalties lie elsewhere.
They may be working through a few things, like other groups of Americans have for the last couple hundred years. But they’ll find their way home.