The Houston Chronicle, for reasons that I have never quite figured out, continues to run a blog by a former Houston ADA who moved to the Chicago area as somehow representative of GOP thought on issues. It's author, Chris Ladd, is a nice guy, but would generally be seen as outside the mainstream of GOP thought in Texas -- and based upon having lived nearly half my life in and around that state, I suspect he is outside of the mainstream in Illinois, too.
His most recent post is all about immigration, and contains some good points. But he falls into a trap when he goes this direction.
Is the mere presence of a large number of migrants from Latin America a problem, or are we trying to address the broader problem of illegal immigration? The reason we haven’t settled on an immigration reform scheme that we still aren’t being honest about our priorities.
There are good reasons why illegal immigration should be discouraged. Having a large pool of people who exist beyond the reach of basic legal protections – essentially outside of the social contract – is harmful. Even if it created no economic costs, and in reality illegal immigration probably benefits us far more economically than anyone wants to admit, there are social and moral consequences to this situation that we should not be willing to bear.
That said, when we debate immigration issues it can be difficult to separate authentic problems from cultural biases. Chicago, for example, has a very large population of illegal migrants from Latin America. It also has many from Poland. Guess which population gets the most attention from law enforcement and the public?
When someone says that we should address our immigration problems by first “securing the border” they tipping their hand. It’s gentle way of saying that their main concern is not whether people can come here but who is coming.(Bold added)
There we have it -- as Ladd often does when he disagrees with conservatives and agrees with liberals, he imputes racial animus to those who hold a different policy view. I would argue, however, that he is dead wrong in this case -- and I've said as much over at his blog.
The notion that those of us who talk about “securing the border” really mean “no more Mexicans” is wrong. It has to do with the sort of problems that come from having a relatively open southern border that people can more or less walk across without consequence. Arguing that it is about "who" rather than "what kind" and "how many" is to ignore the realities of illegal immigration.
For example, Ladd mentions the high number of Polish illegals in Chicago -- something I know about from having lived on the edge of a largely Polish community during my high school years. How did they get here? By and large by getting a visa, flying into the United States, and then not returning home. In other words, the government knows who they are — it simply becomes a matter of devoting the time and resources to finding them and returning them to Poland.
Now consider the issue with the average person coming across our southern border from Mexico or points south — they never had papers, there is no record of who they are, and they often cross into this country with the aid of organized crime. Add to this the criminal activity associated with their illegal border crossings against American citizens whose life an livelihood is in the area along the border and you have an entirely different set of problems created by illegal alien Juan Garcia than by illegal alien Stefan Kowalski.
How do we stop Stefan Kowalski? Easy — match those entering and those leaving the country and make a concerted effort to locate anyone from Category A who does not show up in Category B at the appointed time. Stopping and deporting Juan Garcia and those like him requires different methods -- including a stronger presence at the border. We have to stop him on the way in or he is harder to find and deport later.
By the way, there is one other reason that we have to focus on the Juan Garcias rather than the Stefan Kowalskis — it is numbers. The Pew Hispanic Research Center several years ago estimated that 57% of illegal aliens are Mexican nationals and another 24% come from the rest of Latin America. About 9% of illegals are from Asia while Europe and Canada contribute another 6%, with 4% coming from the Africa and other regions. If we rid ourselves of Stefan Kowalski, Sean O’Connor, Hans Klein, Chou Liu and Krishna Patel, we still barely make a dent in the illegal immigration problem — we have to focus on Juan Garcia and those like him who come here from Mexico and points south.. That isn’t racism — that is reality.