Is ‘border security’ code for racism?

'œSome people just don't like Mexicans,' said Linda Chavez in National Review Online. Most of the radio hosts, TV pundits, politicians, and angry activists who rail against illegal immigration know better than to say it out loud, confining themselves to the reasonable-sounding argument that this is a nation of laws and that illegal immigrants, by definition, are breaking those laws. But in the anonymous safety of Internet chat rooms and columnist hate-mail, one gets a clearer sense of what this debate, 'œstripped bare,' is all about. Many Americans think 'œLatinos are dirty, diseased, indolent,' crime-prone freeloaders who have too many babies, defraud the welfare system, and are too lazy to learn English. If it's really only the illegality of illegal immigrants that bothers people, said Joe Garcia in The Arizona Republic, an easy solution is at hand. We could change the law to allow far more Mexicans and Salvadorans to immigrate legally and gain citizenship, the way millions of Italians, Irish, and Jews did in previous generations. Unless, of course, this really is about not liking 'œsomeone's skin color or non-European background.'

It's not, said Victor Davis Hanson in the Chicago Tribune. But it's easy for journalists, academics, and other white-collar elitists to throw around the words 'œracist' and 'œnativist,' since they don't have to worry that illegals earning $10 an hour will take their jobs away or depress their incomes. Nor, for the most part, do these affluent liberals live in rural and small-town 'œcommunities altered by huge influxes of illegal aliens.' Nor do their children 'œstruggle with school curricula altered to the needs of students who speak only Spanish.' But many fair-minded people do, and it isn't 'œracist' of them to fear that our country cannot assimilate millions of people pouring unchecked across the border.

We need a new way of looking at this rancorous debate, said David Brooks in The New York Times. The immigration standoff has opened a rift not between races, or between conservatives and liberals, or between blue states and red states, but between an 'œeducated class' that believes in diversity and the power of the individual and a less cosmopolitan class that believes in 'œneighborhood values.' These 'œrooted nationalists' believe it's the duty of every individual, regardless of race, to assimilate'”to adopt traditional American customs, language, and values, and fit into the larger community. It's a valid philosophy, and if smug 'œcosmopolitans' would stop accusing more traditional Americans of racism, we might have an intelligent national conversation about immigration, and work out a compromise.

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