Nuance Escapes Both Supporters and Foes of Illegal Immigration

What a cliché. It’s too bad that, in my case, the sombrero doesn’t fit. For these PJM pages, and elsewhere, I’ve written many times that I support deporting illegal immigrants, raiding workplaces, and beefing up the ranks of the Border Patrol.

Yet, I won’t hold my tongue about the boneheaded and often offensive way in which many Republicans instinctively approach the immigration debate. They always make the same mistakes: pitching simple solutions to a complicated problem; framing the debate as a battle between “us” and “them”; pandering to racism and nativism to rev up the GOP base; assuming illegal immigration can be stopped with border enforcement alone; giving employers of illegal immigrants a pass; making the debate about changing demographics and the cultural landscape; getting distracted by sideshows like whether to override the 14th Amendment to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants; refusing to admit that the U.S. economy needs illegal immigrants because Americans have raised at least three generations of young people who won’t do the jobs that illegal immigrants do, etc.

But, whenever I write any of those things, readers forget everything I’ve said previously about opposing illegal immigration and supporting reasonable enforcement measures to curb it. Some don’t even have to read what I’ve written. They stop at my surname and draw their conclusions from there.

And that’s what happened on the radio show. Caller after caller accused me of supporting illegal immigration and labeling anyone who disagreed with me a racist.

Neither is true. As anyone who has read -- really read and understood -- some of the hundreds of columns I’ve written about immigration over the last 20 years could tell you, my position on the issue is a lot more nuanced than that.

Unfortunately for an industry I know firsthand and still hold dear, nuance and a lot of what you hear on talk radio these days aren’t on the same frequency.