View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Rocky Does Immigration

It's ought to be a party game. How quickly, after someone brings up some social topic, does it take for someone to use the "r" word? In conversation, you can either count exchanges, sentences, or, in particularly civilized company, minutes. In this case, they made it all the way to the end of the subhead.

Congressman "Lonely" Tom Tancredo has proposed a Constitutional Amendment denying government services to illegal aliens. The Rocky's coverage of the story, along with the arguments used against it, are pretty much par for the course.

Julissa Molina Soto knows all too well the health-care needs of illegal immigrants, struggling to eke out a living in the land of opportunity....

"Life in the United States is a hassle for undocumented immigrants," said Molina Soto, director of multicultural outreach for HEP C Connection, a nonprofit that helps illegal immigrants. "It's a whole different culture where you have little choice and limited access to services. What Tom Tancredo is doing to immigrants will only add to our misery."

Oh, the irony! People who are here against the law are having a hard time making ends meet. Calculated to make you feel sorry for them. News Flash: I do feel sorry for them. I feel sorry that they come from countries that are so unable to piece together competent or uncorrupt governments long enough to get anyone other than day tourists from the Carnival Cruise boat to spend money there. Sorry enough to pull a Minnesota and pay for a one-way bus ticket back to where life was simple, and they understood the language.

"We really consider this to be racist public policy at its worse," said Bill Vandenberg, co-director of Colorado Progressive Coalition, a network of civil rights organizations.

Racist. Of course. Look, Bill, the only reason there are so many more illegal Mexicans here than anyone else is that the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are a hell of a lot wider than the Rio Grande. I'm with Medved on this one: there is no such thing as a "hispanic" race. Batista was black; Castro is pretty white. You calling Castro a racist? I didn't think so.

I think that to you, Dutch, anyone with brown skin who speaks Spanish looks pretty much the same. Last quarter, in marketing, one of the two hispanic students took great issue with the notion of "hispanics" as a market segment. Puerto Ricans don't think like Mexicans don't think like Cubans. On a recent flight, I sat next to a Puerto Rican. He had done time in Mexico City, and when I asked him what that was like, he said he got used to it. He seemed a lot happier here in Denver, living in my neighborhood among whites, than with his fellow "hispanics" in their native habitat. When you can explain to me the specific racial characteristics that make a Guatemalan different from a Mexican, come back and I'll listen. I don't think there are any.

Backers must collect thousands of signatures in the next few months to get the initiative on the ballot. Carlos Espinosa, a spokesman for the Littleton congressman, denied assertions of racism....

"It has nothing to do with race. It's a purely fiscal policy," Espinosa said. "The federal government shelled out $800 billion to fund emergency health services alone last year because of illegal immigrants coming into the country. That's outrageous."

Imagine that. Carlos Espinosa denied that his boss was racist. One of Tancredo's front-page issues has always been the budget. It doesn't surprise me that he'd piggy-back immigration onto its costs.

It would suprise the hell out of me, though, to find out that half the nation's health-care spending was emergency care to illegals provided by the federal government. The nation's entire economy last year was about $12 trillion. Health care accounts for about 14% of the economy, or $1.6 trillion. Half of that is $800 billion. This has to be millions. Tancredo's website has a speech with credible numbers. So it's possible that the reporter misheard. What's unbelievable is that any fact-checker who doesn't work for the New York Times could have let this slip.

Proposition 187, a similar initiative passed overwhelmingly by California voters in 1994, offers a glimpse of the future, Duran said.

"The effect of Prop. 187 was felt in the sharp upswing of racist treatment," Duran said. "People were afraid to send their children to school. People were afraid to call the police for fear they wouldn't protect them. Such measures send such a strong message of who is deserving and who is undeserving."

I don't know that any of this is true. I don't know that anyone was more inclined to act offensively towards hispanics after Prop 187 was passed. I know there was a lot of talk about illegals not wanting to get caught. I know there was a lot of anecdotal evidence, told through a translator to sympathetic NPR microphones, about the fear that many illegals felt. I also know that these kids, whose parents weren't paying state income tax, were substantially increasing the student-teacher ratio in southern California classrooms.

Look, I've said it before, I'll say it again. I'm pro-immigration. This country benefits from immigrants who come here to learn the language and work hard. People who come here from south of Mexico have done an especially brave thing. You want to let those who are here stay, and then call in the Israelis to build us a fence? Perfect. You want to revive the bracero program? Be my guest. But a country has to have control of its borders. It can't let its territory become a safety valve for a country too weak-kneed to confront its own problems. It has to demand loyalty from those who stay. Just like we expect from every other immigrant of every other race, Dutch.

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