The Yin and Yang of Immigration Debate Extremes

By Stanley Renshon and Stanley Renshon on January 7, 2011

Two recent pieces of commentary on the extremes of the immigration debate deserve recognition for casting light on immigration rhetoric that has no legitimate place in our discussions.

The first comes to us compliments of Ruben Navarrette, Jr., who has some advice for Republicans who want to woo Hispanics: "it would really help if Republicans stayed away from incendiary rhetoric that likens Latino immigrants – especially those from Mexico – to the cast of Animal Farm." He then quotes one egregious anti-Latino comment and several that are a real stretch to make his point. He quotes Tennessee state Rep. Curry Todd as complaining that illegal immigrants "can go out there like rats and multiply." Since many, though not all illegal immigrants are "Hispanic," his umbrage is on safe ground here.

Navarrette would be a more convincing moral crusader on this matter if he didn't refer to "Arizona's racial profiling law." Still, he is right; the comparison is repugnant. Civility is not inconsistent with having strong principled views.

The second example, from the other side of political spectrum comes to us compliments of the incomparable Victor David Hanson. Hanson's focus is on Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a relentless advocate for legalization, "comprehensive immigration reform," and most recently the DREAM Act. He is also repeated provocateur of ethnic chauvinism. Indeed he is to "Hispanic" ethnicity what Al Sharpton is to race.

Gutierrez is at the forefront of those, including President Obama, who have adapted what might be called the "punish the gringos" meme of immigrant political mobilization. Here is Gutierrez's take on the coming political apocalypse, if his fellow ethnic "sisters, cousins, best friends, boyfriends, and teammates" don't get what he says is their way:

Every year, an estimated 500,000 Latino U.S. citizens turn 18 and therefore become eligible to vote. Add the children and grandchildren of immigrants who identify strongly with their family's immigrant experience and add the naturalized immigrant adults and you have a sizable group of new voters waiting in the wings and stepping up to the ballot box with each passing year. A million more eligible young Latino voters will be in play by the time votes are cast in 2012. In every state of the union, they are becoming the newest voting constituents of every Senator and Congressman. Do you think they will forget who voted for and against the DREAM Act in two years? What about the two million newly eligible voters in four years? Believe me when I tell you they will remember who fought for – and against – deporting their sisters, cousins, best friends, boyfriends, and teammates .(emphasis added)

It's an easily step in the same direction for the president to tell an "Hispanic" audience that "If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, 'We're going to punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,' if they don't see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it's going to be harder and that's why I think it's so important that people focus on voting on November 2." (emphasis added)

Hanson wonders: "would Rep. Gutierrez be so animated an advocate for DREAM-Act amnesty should the matter had involved, say, hundreds of thousands of Asian illegal aliens?" The answer to that questions appears to be that to date he's given no sign of being able to extend his advocacy past his own ethnic group.

The appeal to ethnic victimhood, separateness, and retaliation is odious and pernicious, as is the use of harsh derogatory language to describe persons or groups with whom one has policy differences. Supporters of both political parties at every level have a responsibility to speak up and against the Curry Todds and Luis Gutierrezes of the immigration debate, and even, when warranted, the president.