Putting new face on Mexican immigration
By Jose de la Isla
When Mitt Romney addressed the recent Latino Coalition's Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C., the Republican presidential candidate did not touch on the touchy immigration issue.
Here's my take on why: Illegal entrances by low-income people over unauthorized border crossing are net zero.
Mexican workers have snuffed out the issue that had passed as "immigration," an issue previously dealt with in the same fundamentally mistaken way as Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction."
Why is that?
After 9/11, Mexican unauthorized migration served as a means to channel public angst and fuel fringe groups. Poor migrants became about as welcome as the large, humanoid robot Gort in the sci-fi movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still."
The frenzy caused U.S. citizens to believe there was potential harm to this "immigration," and those caught up in it deserved no sympathy.
But now, with net-zero Mexican immigration and Gort gone, Mitt Romney is famously flummoxed about how he can heroically solve a problem that doesn't exist.
Romney has no coherent perspective or policy. He has already supported wholesale ethnic profiling and repression (as is in Arizona), promoted self-exile, opposed undocumented kids getting admitted to U.S. colleges. (By the way, Romney is entitled to Mexican nationality because it was his father's birthplace.)
Bettina Inclan, Hispanic outreach director for the Republican National Committee, said Romney is "still deciding what his position on immigration is."
That was the take-off remark for C. Stewart Verdery Jr.'s New York Times opinion piece May 24, trying to frame Romney's avoidance as a stroke of genius. Verdery is a former assistant secretary at Homeland Security who later advised Rudy Giuliani on immigration during his 2008 presidential run.
Verdery proposes ― get this ― the following:
Turn the migration of low-income, willing-to-work people into a program to recruit Ph.D.s. Let's cherry pick and tell those ladies with children and the farmhands willing to walk here that we are only interested in engineers and scientists.
That means all of us, of course, will have to cut down to zero our consumption of domestic fruits and vegetables, dairy and animal protein. What the hey, we'll get science in exchange and illegal immigration will start all over again.
Then, Verdery writes, those qualifying to get into the United States should have a shorter wait time by immigration authorities allowing video-conferencing interviews. And we should fast-track entry for tourists and business travelers who visit to buy goods, attend trade shows and seek medical treatment.
He then proposes a "good neighbor" visa program, one that would substitute for the Democrats' Dream Act. The visa would be of unlimited duration for "good neighbors" who have clean criminal records or work in the military, law enforcement, as a first responder, run businesses with at least 10 employees, or serve as clergy members or teachers.
In other words, it is not for undocumented kids to get further higher education, but we do want foreigners to get visas to come here for an education.
Verdery also has recommended doing more with the failing E-Verify program, the government-run Instant Verification of Work Authorization. But the real hoot is his call for an "American Dream" constitutional amendment. Verdery says it shouldn't matter where a person is born ― the Constitution now requires that presidents be born on U.S. soil ― but only that the person hold U.S. citizenship.
What does all this have to do with immigration? And how does that reduce the anti-Mexican attitudes underlying what passes for immigration concerns?
With policy advice like this, it won't be long before a graffiti artist climbs the Statue of Liberty. Where it says, "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" he will substitute "Give me your Ph.D.s, your businesspeople, your sick with money, and tourists yearning to spend."
Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. For more stories, visit Scripps Howard News Service (www.scrippsnews.com).