Name-calling is not debate

Recently in these op-ed pages, Univision political analyst Fernando Espuelas let loose a flare-up of invective against Iowa Congressman Steve King (R) over his apparently controversial view that Birthright Citizenship may actually be leading to more illegal immigration into the country. For anyone willing to tread through Espuelas’s piece, they’ll find it rage-filled and reason-free, all point and splutter without a single measured argument throughout.   

In just 600 words, Espuelas manages to label the five-time congressman as “radical”, “outlandish”, “shrill”, “obsessed”, that he’s “contemptuous of the Hispanic community” and that he’s “repeatedly shown pure contempt for Latino immigrants and their children” and finally, not to be outdone, that he’s a supporter of “apartheid.” Needless to say, there wasn’t enough space in his column to actually quote the Congressman’s position on the immigration issue or refute a single one of his arguments. Although Espuelas’s showing was certainly exceptional, this level of cardiac apoplexy is unfortunately approaching the norm in current immigration discourse. 

{mosads}Espuelas was responding to a hearing that King’s House Immigration Subcommittee recently held on Birthright Citizenship (which I attended). It’s unclear whether Espuelas actually watched the hearing. If he did, he would have heard rather sensible and nonpartisan arguments for reforming the policy. Law Professor and immigration expert John Eastman called Birthright Citizenship “one of the three magnets of illegal immigration”—The other two being, higher wages and welfare benefits.

Jon Feere of the Center for Immigration Studies explained that government after government in the OECD and elsewhere (including every single European country) has decided to end Birthright Citizenship after watching it lead to high rates of illegal immigration. Is it “radical” to support the ending of a policy that countries as diverse as Ireland and India think is a bad idea?

And how’s this for perverse. Every year 400,000 children born to illegal immigrants are given automatic citizenship despite laws that simultaneously make unauthorized entry into the country a criminal offense. Or this: 40,000 kids a year are born in this country to so-called ‘birth tourists’, mostly Chinese nationals who fly in solely to give birth in our hospitals. Does Espuelas not THINK this is a perverse policy result? The people of Hong Kong seemed to think so. In 2012, they took to the streets and recently forced their government to curb the same practice after their hospital system became completely overwhelmed with pregnant Chinese mothers-to-be coming over the border from the mainland. 

Like the Democrats at the hearing, Espuelas refuses to engage the topic. The questions he refuses to answer are a) Does he agree that Birthright Citizenship is a magnet for people to enter the country illegally, and b) does he think illegal immigration is a problem. It’s as simple as that.  

Have smears and slogans really taken over good and honest debate in this country? For immigration policy, that’s certainly the case. This is a terrible shame, considering its effects touch every American life, from our children who have their social security numbers compromised by illegal aliens, to nature-lovers who watch urban sprawl endlessly swallow up our beautiful landscapes and put more and more plant and animal species on the endangered list.  

In Espuelas’s attack, he served up the kind sensationalist drivel that’s come to typify Democrat debate on the issue. But the mandatory groupthink amongst the contemporary Left on immigration is actually a new development. Some of the finest voices who’ve advocated for a saner, governable, non-corporatized immigration system have come from the left-side of the aisle. People like, the father of modern unionism, Samuel Gompers, prominent African-American union man, Philip Randolph, former Democratic congresswoman Barbara Jordan, former United Farm Workers leader, Cesar Chavez and consumer advocate Ralph Nader—Even Glenn Greenwald, before he shifted his position—all of these individuals put the American worker first and foremost and didn’t believe illegally immigrating into the country was a right. What would these people call liberals of today, like Espuelas? 

One evidence-free argument Espuelas makes is that Hispanics think having open-borders is about “respect.” But Hispanic-Americans, being disproportionately among the working class, are the first ones to get hit from the effects of excessive immigration. Just ask Cesar Chavez who along with his supporters guarded the border with billy clubs to force back busloads of “scab” laborers arranged by ‘Big Ag’ interests. Espuelas’s claim is a perfect example of the modern liberal disease of speaking in amorphous and abstract phrases which can’t be argued with because they simply don’t mean anything. Like what Robert Frost said about writing free verse: it’s “like playing tennis with the net down.”

Maybe it’s time for the American worker to start demanding some “respect.” Respect from the corporate class, respect from the media class, and respect from the “political analysts” whose livelihoods aren’t affected from the hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers that get imported into this country annually at the behest of the cheap labor lobby. At the very least, let’s get back to respecting civil debate.

Smith works for the Immigration Reform Law Institute.


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