C-SPAN Callers and Justice Kennedy's Call for "Rational Civic Discourse"

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on June 27, 2012

As someone who lived in Arizona for much of my adult life and covered immigration for many years as a reporter, I have closely followed the controversy involving S.B. 1070. Yesterday's "Washington Journal" program on C-SPAN included comments that were striking from two distinct points of view.

One expressed the frustration and anger of ordinary Americans with what they see as the federal government's inability to protect them from the disorder and generalized disrespect for law that result from illegal immigration. The other, which was given voice by C-SPAN guest Rep. Silvestre Reyes, (D-Texas) and by a Latino veteran, expressed the resentment and hurt of Latinos who say that because of the uproar over illegal immigration they are routinely targeted for racial profiling by those who doubt their right to be in the country.

Both points of view are rooted in an aggrieved sense of disillusionment with government that appears to be growing, weakening the body politic and its ability to perform the difficult work of immigration reform. Both points of view should receive deep consideration if the federal government is to fulfill the duty laid before it Monday by Justice Anthony Kennedy. In writing for the court's majority, Kennedy said this: "The sound exercise of national power over immigration depends on the nation's meeting its responsibility to base its laws on a political will informed by searching, thoughtful, rational civic discourse."

Here are brief excerpts from the "Washington Journal" callers.

A caller from California who said her children are half Hispanic: "My son just graduated from high school in a class of 692 children. Over one third of them were illegals — 269, I think they counted .... The illegals are flooding our system. They're flooding our schools."

A man from Wisconsin: "When I lived in Chicago I worked at a company that had a few — the majority of workers were illegal immigrants. And the owner of the company would deduct withholding … the boss was withholding money from their checks and then not paying it in to the government."

"If I go into an emergency room for a treatment, instead of getting billed by the emergency room doctors and stuff, can't I just say. 'I'm here illegally, you have to treat me and I really have no address for you.'"

A Woman from Texas: "They talk like these are all just wonderful, everyone's a valedictorian everyone is — how many of them are gang members? How many of them have three or four children by the time they're 16 that we're taking care of?"

Rep. Reyes: "The big concern we have is the issue of racial profiling. We know it goes on .... I have three sisters that live in the greater Phoenix area, so I get a chance to go there often. And they and their friends tell me that they experience this racial profiling."

A Latino Veteran: "I used to serve in Fort Bliss, Texas. It was amazing to see that as I traveled even to NEW Mexico, traveling with white soldiers, going through the border, only I would get, you know, asked for my identification."