Do Pro-Enforcement Advocates Also Wish to Restrict Legal Immigration?

Nr. Navarrette is correct that people take offense at being called racist or nativist, particularly when they are not. But he is wrong in asserting that the terms aren’t important. For progressives, the terms are the debate, or at the very least, a means to deflect sincere debate. It’s also rather, well, racist, to imply the virtue of virtually unlimited immigration while suggesting that many Americans believe that America was a better country “when the population was whiter.”

I suspect that a great many Americans will read the comments that Mr. Navarrette finds to be deceptive and will instead find them unremarkable. But for Mr. Navarrette, those citizens concerned about illegal immigration become “immigration restrictionists,” who not only wish to control illegal immigration but to entirely eliminate legal immigration, and who are hiding their complete agenda.

One may reasonably argue that a given immigration law is ill-considered, that its unintended consequences outweigh its utility, or that it is unjust and ineffective, but Mr. Navarrette does not do that, at least not in this article. Instead, he seems to suggest that so beyond the pale are those who wish to enforce existing immigration laws that they must also desire no legal immigration. Hence, they hate foreigners, particularly those who are non-white. This line of reasoning is quite a stretch, and one for which he provides no real evidence, only innuendo about the “real” beliefs and intentions of others, beliefs and intentions not supported by his examples.

For most Americans, the debate is indeed about illegal immigration. And while I have no survey results to quote -- I’d be mildly surprised if competent, specific surveys on this particular issue had been done -- my readings, and my conversations with a wide range of people, including a great many of Hispanic descent, indicate that most Americans have little knowledge of, or specific concern about, legal immigration. Most seem to believe that immigration laws, like all others, should be enforced efficiently and uniformly, and if they’re bad laws, ought to be removed from the books.

Mr. Navarrette compounds his problem by implying that any discussion of legal immigration is also beyond the pale. This is a venerable progressive tactic. He seeks to control the debate by defining his opponents' beliefs, motives, and arguments before the debate begins, and trumps any attempt at clarification by declaring such attempts to be deceit that hide an anti-legal immigration agenda. Manifestly they are not. If America is truly sovereign, the Congress may pass laws relating to every facet of immigration, which includes specifying exactly who may or may not enter the nation, how long and under which conditions they may remain, and who may obtain the status of a permanent resident or citizen and how. Debate about the mere existence of such laws -- or of their content -- is certainly legitimate, particularly in America. Is this not why many wish to become Americans?

Arizona Senator Pearce’s comments are also unremarkable. Ensuring that people don’t overstay their visas, that proper and complete background checks be done, and that a moratorium on all immigration be in effect until “we get our arms around national security" sounds very much like common sense to most Americans, yet Mr. Navarrette quotes them as though they are prima facie evidence of all that is wrong in the immigration debate.

While I sympathize with anyone who comes to America from a corrupt, impoverished nation to provide for their family, work hard, assimilate, and obey the law, I also believe that the law must be enforced, or it must be repealed or changed. Skin color is irrelevant. I suspect that most Americans would find that equally unremarkable.

“Pining away for the days of Leave It To Beaver” may, rather than serving as a self-evident, anachronistic totem of jingoistic scorn, reveal Mr. Navarrette’s disconnect with the American public. The last two years of Obamistic enlightenment may well have most Americans longing for responsible adults in two-parent families who work hard, love each other, value the truth, believe in personal responsibility, and raise their children to do the same. Come to think of it, those sound like the qualities that one might hope to find in any American or immigrant family.

Those Mr. Navarrette holds up for scorn as “immigration restrictionists” are instead reasonable, sincere citizens who are attempting only to encourage Mr. Navarrette and others to honestly represent their belief that immigration laws should be enforced. This is clearly not the same thing as hating immigrants, opposing legal immigration, or hating foreigners. No doubt many legal immigrants would agree. Would Mr. Navarrette consider them “immigration restrictionists” too?

The only absurd claim here is that those who believe that illegal immigration should cease must also believe that all legal immigration should cease and are, for nefarious reasons, lying about it. Even if everyone who opposed illegal immigration also automatically opposed legal immigration, this is a matter for reasoned debate, not progressive attempts to short-circuit it.

Ultimately, I am led to ask: what part of national sovereignty and the rule of law don’t you understand, Mr. Navarrette?