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October 17, 2000

   Who Are You Calling "Illegal"?


However inured I think I am to the hypocrisy in American political discourse, media coverage of the immigration issue still takes my breath away. There was a prime example this last weekend in Newsday, the main newspaper out here where I live in Suffolk County on New York's Long Island. Newsday has a left-liberal editorial line, and I do not subscribe to the daily edition as a matter of principle — I just want to make this perfectly clear — but my wife likes the Sunday version because of the coupons that come with it.

So here we are on page A8 of last Sunday's Newsday. Headline: Event Slams "Illegal Aliens". Note those quotation marks. If you read no further than the headline, you would presume that some event had been held — a public meeting, you could hardly help but infer, since there is an accompanying picture of a speaker on a podium — at which some group of people had been wrongly identified as illegal aliens; had been, in headline jargon, slammed as "illegal aliens."

Who was this group, so unfairly characterized as "illegal aliens"? Well, it was … illegal aliens. The event, held at a local VFW post, was organized by a local citizens group fed up with the presence of hundreds of Mexican day laborers in the town of Farmingville. Guest speaker was Glenn Spencer of the California-based "Voices of Citizens Together," a noisy but entirely respectable group that lobbies against illegal immigration. Over to Newsday:

But Spencer's presence on Long Island set off alarm bells among national civil and immigrant rights groups that call his organization a "hate group" and charge that it encourages vigilantism.

Newsday further reported that the 200 people who assembled to hear Mr. Spencer speak carried signs with legends like: "Illegal Aliens are Criminals … Not Immigrants!!!!" and "Peaceful Solutions through Deportation." From the tone of the piece, I think we are supposed to find this shocking. And this, too: "A video put out by his [i.e. Spencer's] group summarizes the history of Mexico partly by saying the Aztec Indians practiced human sacrifice and cannibalism." Now, it's been a while since I read Bernal Diaz's Conquest of New Spain and Prescott's Conquest of Mexico, but if I recall correctly, the Aztecs did indeed practice those two things, with great gusto in both cases. So what point is Newsday making by telling us about this video? That Spencer's group tells the truth? Well, for sure they do a better job of it than the sub-editors of Newsweek, with their mysteriously misplaced quotation marks. Yo, guys: illegal immigration is I-L-L-E-G-A-L.

The Gray Lady covered the event, too. She quoted a member of the organizing group as stating the facts, well known locally, that the 1,500 Mexicans in Farmingville were all illegals, and that they live in grossly overcrowded conditions and pay no taxes. The other point of view — by which I suppose I mean the point of view that believes illegal immigrants have every right in the world to live here, violate housing ordinances and evade taxes — was put to the Times by a local pastor, the Rev. Allan B. Ramirez (uh-huh). Rev. Ramirez looked on the bright side, observing that opinions as unspeakably vile as Mr. Spencer's ("Peaceful Solutions through Deportation") might open the eyes of local people as to what their citizens' group was really up to: "We know the kind of hate rhetoric that is spewed from individuals like him, and perhaps in some odd way it will be good." (Why is "hate rhetoric" always "spewed"? Except when it's "spouted"? What is it with liberals and these "sp—" verbs?)

A counter-rally — that is, in support of the illegal immigrants — has been organized by Paul Tonna, presiding officer of the Suffolk County legislature. Let me say that one more time: the man charged with supervising the crafting of laws for my county will march to defend the rights of foreigners to break the law with impunity. Mr. Tonna said the goal of the Sunday rally was to encourage elected officials to deal with the laborers' problems. "Any solution has to start with affirming the dignity of all human beings," he said. Well, yay for the dignity of all human beings; but what about RESPECT FOR THE LAW? How about "dealing with the laborers' problems" by sending them back where the hell they, ILLEGALLY, came from?

This lunacy has even affected the Higher Journalism. The current (Sept/Oct 2000) issue of Foreign Affairs has a piece titled "Out-of-Control Immigration" by one James Goldsborough, bylined as "Foreign Affairs Columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune." Mr. Goldsborough takes us through all the idiocy of current immigration practice (there doesn't seem much point to saying "law"), and gives a grim picture of the prospects for massive civil disorder if the economy takes a downturn and all those aliens suddenly have no jobs. After all this good sense, he concludes as follows.

If Congress and the next president do not come up with reasonable solutions along the lines proposed by the Jordan Commission, the field will be clear for the unreasonable solutions advanced by politicians such as Pete Wilson and Patrick Buchanan and discriminatory initiatives like Proposition 187.

Those "unreasonable" solutions and "discriminatory" initiatives include such measures as denying welfare services to illegal aliens and free public education to their children. Patrick Buchanan favors — oh, my God! — arresting illegal aliens and deporting them.

So here we are. Illegal immigration can be referred to only in quotation marks. To object to it is "racist." Citizens who band together to clear these foreign scofflaws and freeloaders out of their neighborhoods are "hate groups." The attempt to deny taxpayer-funded welfare services to tax-evading foreign law-breakers is "discriminatory." Proposals to arrest illegal aliens — oops, sorry, I mean "illegal aliens" — and deport them are "unreasonable."

Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.