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Opposing immigration bill is not bigotry
Scripps Howard News Service


June 06, 2007

It's long been expected that, when you get on the wrong side of a liberal's policy druthers, you're going to be called a bigot. But what's this with Bush administration honchos and other Republicans playing the same ad hominem game and worse?

No less a conservative star than Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan has spotted and decried the phenomenon, which has come into being as a way of fighting back against opponents of compromise legislation on illegal aliens. The opponents have had the audacity, you see, to argue that all but bits and pieces of the bill are a sham.

That's a lot of sham because the bill is 300-plus pages long. You get that much verbiage when you try to make everyone happy -- you put in something for everyone and then devise language to erase conflicts until you have a conglomeration as endless as it is confusing. What you wish is that Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security, had done more to confuse his meaning when he said of the bill and its opponents:

"I understand that some people think it's not tough enough. Maybe they want people thrown in jail for 10 years or they want people executed."

No, what the opponents want is not capital punishment, but respect for the law and the end of a system under which some 12 million people have come to this country illegally and done it serious harm. And what opponents deserve is more than Chertoff's supercilious snorts or what Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., ingratiatingly told a Hispanic audience: "We're going to tell the bigots to shut up."

My opposite message to the opponents is to shout and otherwise carry on, because the compromisers have it wrong with this bill, and they ought to cut out the bigotry charges unless they can answer the following questions.

-- Is it bigotry to point out that, under this bill, it would take no more than a simple subterfuge or two for virtually all those here illegally to pay a fine and thus get a chance to hang around until death do them part, or that those who choose not to pay the fine and keep on hiding out would likely get away with it?

-- Is it bigotry to calculate, as one think-tank expert has, that legalizing undereducated illegal aliens will qualify them for governmental benefits that they will then collect in amounts far greater than anything they will ever pay in taxes?

-- Is it bigotry to observe that it's a gross misconception that illegal aliens only take jobs native-born Americans refuse to do when, in fact, native-born Americans are 75 percent of those employed in the chief fields in which the illegal aliens work? Might we also note -- without bigotry -- that while the overall unemployment rate in this country is low, it is extremely high among the least-educated Americans, who have to compete with illegal aliens who will work for very little?

-- Is it bigotry to note that because these illegal aliens will work for so little that they drive wages down for low-income workers?

-- Is it bigotry to observe that illegal immigrants bring poverty to this country with them, and that along with low-skilled legal immigrants are the single most important cause of poverty increases, not by someone's guess, but by testimony of scholarly studies? Is it bigoted to ask why we would want to increase our poverty, or why anyone would make the indefensible argument that the overall economy benefits from illegal aliens?

-- Is it bigotry to observe that the illegal aliens themselves are exploited and cheated and that this practice lowers us, makes us less than what we could be, and that there's nary a prayer that this new legislation will stem the illegal tide, that chances are it will cause millions more to join those illegal aliens here now?

This bill is big enough to have a bit of good tucked in it here and there, such as moves to get tougher on employers of illegal aliens, but it would take a lot of amending to get the whole thing roughly right, and that will only happen if the opponents make themselves heard despite the bigotry insults from left, right and in between.


Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)

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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska