Richard Rodriguez on the Terrorist-Illegal Immigrant Connection

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Richard Rodriguez has a characteristically brilliant, haunting, and elliptical essay up over at Cato Unbound. In discussing "Mexicans in America," he zeroes in on the weird conflation of illegal immigrants willing to work their asses off in the pre-dawn hours with Islamic terrorists:

The fear of illegal immigrants along America's southern border has increased proportionally as America's support for the war in Iraq has waned. Americans feel a need to cleanse the country of illegality. September 11th makes that dream of cleansing urgent. We went to war in Iraq to play the actor in history rather than the victim. The wounded nation wanted a war movie with screeching skies and exploding earth and apocalyptic diction. But with the passage of years, after the daily news of car bombings, IED's, the growing tally of war dead and maimed, and with images of hateful, ungrateful brown mobs protesting America's presence in their cinderblock neighborhoods, Americans have grown skeptical of our ability to will a democracy onto a landscape we do not understand.

So we resort to our own desert. The anger we lately tapped to hunt the Arab terrorist, we now direct toward the migrant worker. The illegal immigrant becomes bin-Laden's doppelganger. In order to turn our familiar use of the Mexican peasant into a fear of the Mexican peasant we have had to internationalize him. The migrant has illegally crossed an international border, we say.

The whole thing, which includes many other fascinating insights (he even manages to make John Steinbeck look good!), here.

Bonus: The first respondent to Rodriguez is Victor Davis Hanson, whom RR calls "ungenerous" in his opening bit. Hanson lays into what he calls Rodriguez's "baffling obsession with skin color" as "yet more evidence of the astonishing decline of a once insightful writer." That's here.

A decade ago (!), Reason interviewed Rodriguez about race, bilingual education, affirmative action, Catholicism, and capitalism here.

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  1. You gotta love the “you’re a racist for noticing my racism” argument.

    Yeah, you write piece after piece about how Mexicans don’t fit into glorious American culture and demonize their communities, and it’s the guy who suspects that their ethnic background is part of what you object to who’s the racist.

    Go back to explaining that Iraq failed because we just weren’t brutal enough, Hansen.

  2. “illegal immigrants willing to work their asses off in the pre-dawn hours with Islamic terrorists”

    Which illegal immigrants are working their asses off with Islamic terrorists, pre-dawn or otherwise?

  3. These last two threads are like the blind men trying to describe an elephant, and it’s sounding much more like a giraffe.

  4. The anger we lately tapped to hunt the Arab terrorist, we now direct toward the migrant worker. The illegal immigrant becomes bin-Laden’s doppelganger.

    However much I probably agree with his political positions on things, I can’t believe you quoted some guy who psychologizes an entire nation of individuals!

    There’s one word for that: tool

  5. Ayn Randian,

    Agreed.

    Indeed, it is Rodriguez who conflates the Iraqi insurgents and Mexican migrants. Hanson’s point about Rodriguez’ obsession with skin color is spot-on.

  6. Somehow a rant on Iraq makes its way into this blur, with its screeching skies and exploding earth and the illegal immigrant becomes bin-Laden’s doppelganger, whatever that means. -Hanson

    Yep, all roads lead to Iraq these days.

  7. Richard Rodriguez has a characteristically brilliant, haunting, and elliptical essay

    Disagree Nick. Just read the essay and it’s not ‘haunting’ in the slightest.

    There’s not even one mention of ghosts, ghoulies or even a comedy type Ghostbusters vibe. In short, it’s about as haunting as going to a hospital and watching kids getting born = the COMPLETE opposite of old people dying and haunting stuff.

  8. Ruthless,

    But maybe it is a giraffe after all…

  9. “So we resort to our own desert. The anger we lately tapped to hunt the Arab terrorist, we now direct toward the migrant worker. The illegal immigrant becomes bin-Laden’s doppelganger.”

    That has got to be the most ridiculous overblown piece of hyperbolic crap I have ever read in my life. There is good evidence that the huge numbers of illegal immigrants have hurt the real living standards and pay of lower skilled native workers. There are real arguments for and against immigration. Gee, there are large numbers of people who seem to want to come to the United States and kill us. Perhaps we should maybe take better control of our borders in Rodriguez land becomes “you are just making Mexicans into Bin Laden”. What a fucking looser. Rodriquez is pathetic. I can respect the economic arguments and the humanitarian arguments for immigration. I don?t always agree with them, but they are reasonable arguments. But I have no respect for this kind histrionic La Raza bullshit.

  10. John,

    There is good evidence that the huge numbers of illegal immigrants have hurt the real living standards and pay of lower skilled native workers.

    Cite the studies please.

  11. Cite the studies please.

    I think you’ll find a complete dessing down of the Immigration issue at the following:

    http://www.realultimatepower.net

  12. Phileleutherus Lipsiensis,

    Your wish is my command. The fact is that there is no clear answer to whether and how much immigration affects wages. It is a hotly debated topic among economists. However I would point to the following findings in this study by Dr. George Borjas of the Kennedy School of Government

    http://www.cis.org/articles/2004/back504.html

    ? By increasing the supply of labor between 1980 and 2000, immigration reduced the average annual earnings of native-born men by an estimated $1,700 or roughly 4 percent.

    ? Among natives without a high school education, who roughly correspond to the poorest tenth of the workforce, the estimated impact was even larger, reducing their wages by 7.4 percent.

    ? The 10 million native-born workers without a high school degree face the most competition from immigrants, as do the eight million younger natives with only a high school education and 12 million younger college graduates.

    ? The negative effect on native-born black and Hispanic workers is significantly larger than on whites because a much larger share of minorities are in direct competition with immigrants.

    ? The reduction in earnings occurs regardless of whether the immigrants are legal or illegal, permanent

    or temporary. It is the presence of additional workers that reduces wages, not their legal status.

    Some economists would take issue with this. I am not claiming this to be the end all be all. My point is, however, there is real evidence and it is far from settled that immigration doesn’t harm natives.

    I would also point to this excellent article by Heather McDonald in City Journal talking about the huge cultural costs associated with the surge in illegal immigration from Mexico.

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/16_3_immigration_reform.html

    Some of the highlights

    From 1990 to 2004, the number of Hispanics in poverty rose 52 percent, accounting for 92 percent of the increase in poor people. The number of poor Hispanic children rose 43 percent, reports Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson.

    Half of all children born to Hispanic Americans in 2002 were illegitimate, twice the rate for American whites and 42 percent higher than the overall American rate. The birthrate for Hispanic teens is higher than that for black teens. In Santa Ana, California, which has the highest proportion of people who speak Spanish at home of any large U.S. city?74 percent?the teen birthrate was twice the national teen average in 2000.

    It would be useful for open-borders optimists to spend some time in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is 73 percent Hispanic, and where just 40 percent of Hispanic students graduate. (Nationwide, 53 percent of Hispanics graduate from high school, according to the Manhattan Institute?s Jay Greene?the lowest rate among all ethnic groups.) Of those Hispanic students who do graduate, just 22 percent have completed the course work necessary for admission to a four-year state college?which means that of all Hispanic students who enter in ninth grade, fewer than 15 percent will graduate ready for college. Immigrant advocates have fiercely opposed in court a long-deferred California high school exit exam, which would require students to answer just over 50 percent of questions testing eighth-grade-level math and ninth-grade-level English. The California Research Bureau predicts that if the exam becomes a reality, Hispanic graduation rates would drop well below 30 percent.

    California, with one-quarter of the nation?s immigrants and its greatest concentration of Mexicans and Central Americans, is the bellwether state for all things relating to unbridled Hispanic immigration, including crime. The Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study, conducted by sociologists Alejandro Portes of Princeton and Rub?n G. Rumbaut of the University of California, Irvine, followed the children of immigrants in San Diego and Miami from 1992 to 2003. A whopping 28 percent of Mexican-American males between the ages of 18 and 24 reported having been arrested since 1995, and 20 percent reported having been incarcerated?a rate twice that of other immigrant groups. Anyone who speaks to Hispanic students in immigrant-saturated schools in Southern California will invariably hear the estimate that 50 percent of a student?s peers have ended up in gangs or other criminal activities.”

    Maybe some of these problems are being driven by the lack of access to legal residence. Maybe there are other sollutions to the problem than just building a wall and deporting 11 million or more illegals. The point is that open borders advocates are incredibly polyanaish. There are real problems associated with illegal immigration that no one seems to be willing to acknowledge.

  13. John,

    There are real problems associated with illegal immigration that no one seems to be willing to acknowledge.

    That’s why we want to change the current system. Most of the problems associated with illegal immigration are directly a result of the current mercantilist system we have in place. So yes, I am more than willing to acknowledge the problems with illegal immigration; that’;s why I support open borders.

  14. John, you forget that when wages go down, stuff gets cheaper, which is good for me, so why should I care that competition is driving down the price of labor? The fact that you’re willing to pay more for stuff just to see ‘Merikuns getting all the “good” jobs makes you a slobbering mouthbreather; what, do you think all of that stuff from China and Bangladesh is cheap ’cause they make 10 bucks an hour?
    And if you’re a native-born worker in this day and age that doesn’t have some form of secondary education, what does that say about you? The government gives it away, for galt’s sake.

    Secondly, do children come with a certificate or something? I mean, since clearly some are legit and some are illegitimate: what an outmoded way of thinking.

    As to the crime and all that other garbage you spewed: Maybe some of these problems are being driven by the lack of access to legal residence.

    Noooo, do you think???

  15. Protectionism for labor is still protectionism.

  16. Yes Ayn, there are no social problems with unwed teenage mothers. Not at all. What the hell kind of 60s timewarp do you live in? No not all of these problems are from lack of residency. You can’t import millions of poor uneducated workers from broken societies all over the world and not expect them to bring their problems with them and adopt a few of your own for good measure.

    Wages going down does not produce generally cheaper stuff. It produces cheaper stuff is you are rich suburbanite in L.A. wanting your deck redone or government subsidized tomato farmer in the valley, but it doesn’t produce cheaper goods that require higher skilled labor to make.

    People live in this PC fantasy world. The George Bush’s of the immigration debate live in their rich suburbs hire their immigrant slaves to come work on their ranches and keep their children and send them back to their side of town at the end of the day thinking “isn’t immigration wonderful?” Well, they never go over to the other side of town and see the kind of poverty, crime and social problems there and too God damned rich to care about the costs their immigrant slave labor imposes on the rest of us.

    In the end that is really what this is about. Wealthy people love immigration because it means they can hire someone to mow their yard or keep their kids for practically nothing. Try to bring in an Indian or European who might actually be qualified for a good job and you get pounded. Open borders means all Mexicans all the time. Why? Because Mexicans don’t take good jobs from the elite. I am starting to be convinced that the rich of this country are envious of the elites in Mexico and want to replace the pesky Americans who they loath and have the nerve to move up in society with more pliant Mexican whom they can ghettoize. Working people who can’t afford such luxuries and feel the tax bite associated with paying for schools, welfare, healthcare and the like object. I guess I don’t blame the rich for wanting to have Pedro come mow their yard for 50 bucks. What I do blame them for is when anyone else points out the externalities associated with their slave labor they are accused of “spewing out garbage”. Yeah right.

  17. Jeez, Im agreeing with John 2x today…..the other on the “Death of Lib” thread.
    I actually LIVE in San Diego. Before that, Phoenix.
    Semi retired, I still make $ plying my main trade: housepainting.
    In the mid 80s, in Wisconsin (no hordes of unskilled labor on every corner) I made $13/hr, clear. Not bad for then.
    In San Diego, as in Phoenix, housepainters- thousands of them, a certain proportion competant- can be had for 6-9 bucks an hour.
    Jails are packed with petty crminals, hospitals are going bankrupt, E rooms closing down, school standards- never high here- being drug into the basement by the tens and tens of thousands of kids from corrupt , vile oligarchies S of the border.
    Cant blame folks for fleeing those places. I CAN, and DO, blame follks for calling US taxpayer funded in competant brutal police states “free market” economies.
    The only immigrants Id accept at this point are those fleeing political & religeous prosecution. We desperatly need more troublemakers. And no, I dont buy into the “war on terror”.

  18. Sorry, not brilliant. More of a wandering whine, and rather than address or attempt to disprove legitimate concerns about illegal immigration, he just writes them off as racisim.

  19. Try to bring in an Indian or European who might actually be qualified for a good job and you get pounded.

    John, you obviously don’t work in the software industry.

  20. aww, poor MUTT, you failed to keep up and now you’re whining; want us to draft a “protect MUTT from competition” bill? We’ll bail you out like the airlines and the auto industry and you whine all you like then.

    Seriously, just because your life sucks because people get to live where they want is no reason to restrict liberties.

    The only immigrants Id accept at this point are those fleeing political & religeous prosecution.

    Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know nations were exclusive country clubs where “redneck snobs” such as yourself get to decide to keep out the Brown “hordes of unskilled labor”.

  21. Try to bring in an Indian or European who might actually be qualified for a good job and you get pounded.

    John, you obviously don’t work in the software industry.

    Or perhaps he does. The number of visas (H-1B and the like) is pathetically small. This year the H-1B quota was exhausted in under 2 months — 4 months before the visas become effective — representing a severe hampering of software and other high tech industries.

    Nonetheless, John’s point is somewhat out of place on this forum. Everyone here who is pro-immigration wants unrestricted high-skill immigration as well as unrestricted low-skill immigration.

  22. John, I’m with you on this. I am an ‘Anglo’ american living and working in Mexico for a major computer manufacturer. I have lived here for three years. The brutal disparity in lifestyles between the wealthy white mexicans and the vast majority of mestizo commoners is shocking and demoralizing. The crony capitalist government is predicated on maintaining the concentration of wealth in the hands of the patrician class. They ABSOLUTELY use the flood of immigration to the north as a safety valve to ensure the status quo. The blatant, shameless, and inhuman way with which Mexico treats illegal aliens here (see below for link)and then clamors for “justice and equality” for their discarded countrymen in our country is galling. They bray about our racism and theft of their country while doing everything to assure that upward mobility in mexican society is a virtual impossibility. Who can blame these folks for coming to our land considering their options here. However that does not make the United States morally responsible to provide for foreign citizens what Mexico will not. The relentless servile wheedling of the open borders crowd is despicable. We are not racists for expecting control over our own borders. We are not racists for truthfully stating (with citations no less)the negative influences unchecked illegal immigration has on our society and economy. The point of demanding border security is that if waves of impoverished and desperate immigrants can cross our borders then well prepared and determined terrorists could as well. You know, I am a socially liberal fiscally conservative independant but I cannot stand the PC bullshit anymore. Tell the truth and you’re a racist. It’s neat little tactic for the cravenly PC elites. It stifles all debate.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13006798/site/newsweek/

  23. So, T1, you firmly believe that it makes a difference if I offer one of my apartment units to a Californian as opposed to a Mexican?

    They are my apartments, (MUTT, T1, John), if I want to rent them to a *gasp* Mexican, why do you get to stop me?

  24. So, T1, you firmly believe that it makes a difference if I offer one of my apartment units to a Californian as opposed to a Mexican?

    They are my apartments, (MUTT, T1, John), if I want to rent them to a *gasp* Mexican, why do you get to stop me?

    You are the person who owns the appartment not the person who works there. What a surprise Ayn. I don’t see why the country should have to surrender its national sovereignty and control of its borders and I should have to pay higher taxes for more police schools and healthcare, so you can have slave labor from Mexico to paint your appartments.

  25. So, T1, you firmly believe that it makes a difference if I offer one of my apartment units to a Californian as opposed to a Mexican?

    They are my apartments, (MUTT, T1, John), if I want to rent them to a *gasp* Mexican, why do you get to stop me?

    You are the person who owns the appartment not the person who works there. What a surprise Ayn. I don’t see why the country should have to surrender its national sovereignty and control of its borders and I should have to pay higher taxes for more police schools and healthcare, so you can have slave labor from Mexico to paint your appartments.

  26. …so you can have slave labor from Mexico to paint your appartments.

    Yeah, AR, quit going down to Mexico and rounding up those greasers at gunpoint and forcing them to work for you.

  27. I don’t see why the country should have to surrender its national sovereignty and control of its borders and I should have to pay higher taxes for more police schools and healthcare, so you can have slave labor from Mexico to paint your appartments.

    You know John, a little Prozac will help with those feelings of persecution.

  28. So, T1, you firmly believe that it makes a difference if I offer one of my apartment units to a Californian as opposed to a Mexican?

    Funny this should be mentioned; a couple of days ago I found some disturbing news articles (which I think should be getting national coverage, but they’re not) about the mayor of a small town who decided to fight the unwashed Mexican hordes by fining landlords who rent to illegals–$1,000 plus $100 for every additional day the renters stay there.

    After people protested that this might result in discrimination against Hispanics, the mayor changed his mind–now he will merely require anybody who wants to rent an apartment to first register with city hall and buy a permit, and the landlords will merely be fined for not checking to make sure all renters have permits.

    Before you spend too much time screaming about the illegals, think long and hard about what a serious crackdown would actually entail. You’ll find the story and links if you click on my name.

  29. John-

    do you read? I said live John, L-I-V-E. And I know that MUTT has come on here all Hoppe-style and said that in a truly libertarian nation we would all have private property and we could just invite who we wanted. Well, what if I flew down to Mexico in a helicopter, picked up some Mexicans, and rented apartments to them? Can we all agree that doesn’t sound that odious? And yet, this makes me a criminal, whereas flying down to say, some sleepy town north of the Grande and picking up Americans and asking them to live in my apartments is somehow just dandylicious.

    What kind of twisted pretzel logic do you have to use to come up with that?

  30. Ayn,
    John pretty much gives himself away when half way through his 11:14 AM post he stops talking about illegal immigrants and starts talking about Hispanics in general. The whole employment schtick is just part of the kettle logic that John uses to cover up his real reasons. Don’t expect him to be consistent with it.

  31. Hansen is a dick. Tancredo is a dick. The Minutemen are all a bunch of dicks. All those chickenshit squawk hosts who pander to the nativists are dicks. Did I leave anyone out? Well…they’re dicks too…

  32. Give me your computer programmers, your smart doctors and Indian lawyers, yearning to make us richer…hey! no one said anything about you, teeming masses. I’ll burn you with this golden lamp, so help me…

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