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Name-calling doesn’t encourage sensible talk on immigration

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Posted: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 5:55 am, Tue Nov 8, 2011.

Immigration is a tough topic. People get irate. Everyone has some sort of opinion on at least some elements of the debate. And there are strange bedfellows in the discussion. You find conservationists, nominally liberals, being anti-immigration. You find businessmen and farmers strongly for immigration increases, at least for certain categories.

My reading group recently read "Not Fit for Our Society" by Peter Schraag. It is a history of immigration and nativitism in the United States. This group reads only non-fiction and has been meeting for a long time.

The discussion was interesting, but much of the time the discussion was formless. There was sympathy and antipathy on various parts of the subject. There was a lot of criticism of past immigration laws, with snippets of data.

For example, it was pointed out that the ending of the Bracero program and the closing of the borders may have been more effective in keeping immigrants here. The annual return of workers slowed because coming back was so hard. Indeed, it was a strange discussion because the members were knowledgeable even beyond the book. And that is true of most discussions of immigration that I have heard.

Why was the discussion so formless? Why are most discussions so formless?

Immigration is a topic where there are a lot of significant considerations, both positive and negative, on many sides of the debate. The conservationists are concerned about the carrying-capacity of the United States and believe the land cannot support a growing population. Folks who do not like amnesty generally do so out of belief that laws, when enacted, ought to be enforced, and that those in this country without proper documentation should be expelled as that is what the law requires. Others against amnesty argue that it simply has not worked in the past and that there is no reason it should work now: After the 1986 amnesty, it was felt that those here without proper documentation now had reason to stay and await the next amnesty.

In addition, the discussions tend to be short of data. Examples: One frequently hears complaints that the "illegals" are coming here and committing lots of crimes. The evidence seems to be that, yes, there are crimes committed by immigrants, both legal and "illegal," but the rate of commission of crimes is lower than that of the general populace (omitting the crime of being in the country without proper documentation).

Similarly, the effect on wages is mixed. There does seem to be some moderate depression of wages for the unskilled. But not otherwise. There is anecdotal evidence that the computer industry uses some lawful immigrants at lower wages, displacing some qualified citizens.

Again, there is the question of the costs of immigrants. A frequent complaint is that immigrants cost the taxpayers money. Aggregated, this seems to be false: They probably pay more taxes than the cost in services. But the costs are not evenly spread. In certain localities, immigrants cost more than they contribute.

Finally, the debate is harmed by name-calling. The race card is played. These pages were graced with a column earlier in the year where the columnist defended himself as not being a racist even though he agreed with the Arizona state immigration law. Arizona's law permitted local officers to ask for identification if they had some cause to believe a person was not lawfully in Arizona. This was denounced as racist, the argument being that the ones who would be stopped would be Hispanic. The columnist was likely being honest and was probably correct. I do not know the man, but one certainly cannot conclude from mere support of the Arizona law that he is a racist.

In short, if we are going to have a reasonable discussion on immigration, we need to approach it much more slowly. We need to acknowledge that the issues are very complex. If it was a simple problem, our parents and our grandparents would have solved it. They weren't able to do so; indeed, the question of immigration has raged for two centuries. The Know Nothing Party became national around 1850 primarily over the issue, and the demise of the Know Nothing Party helped the development of the Republican Party.

If we are going to have a reasonable discussion on immigration, we need to spend more effort in finding the data related to the issue and respecting the data. We are going to have to respect the nuances of that data. For example, the general fact that immigrants contribute more financially to America than they cost simply does not negate the more specific fact that there are localities where this is simply false.

If we are going to have a reasonable discussion on immigration, we must not demean the other side. There are strong positive values on most sides of the debate. Most folks who enter into the debate are arguing in fairly good faith. Those who oppose one's perspective should not be demeaned simply because they oppose one's view.

If we are going to have a reasonable discussion on immigration, we need to begin to sort out the issues involved and then develop the issues so we actually understand the broad picture surrounding immigration. Only if that broad picture is understood, can we begin to formulate a reasonable plan for handling immigration in the United States.

Dave Wellenbrock is a Lodi attorney.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • Barbara Vickroy posted at 8:47 am on Thu, Nov 10, 2011.

    Barbara Vickroy Posts: 3

    Please take note: Mr. W says that "low income/poorly educated" workers are affected by the infair wage competition by illegal workers. WRONG! Highly skilled construction workers are affected. White collar/clerical workers now find it nearly impossible to be hired unless they speak Spanish. CA schools are attempting to educate 1/3 of the nation's English Language Learners. A significant number of these are either illegal aliens or the children of illegal aliens. This means that the FINITE [means limited] school funding pie must be divided to meet the significant needs of those nearly 2.5 million students. So, please be honest. Many more are injured by the system of illegal in-migration, which allows corrupt/rich in Mexico/Latin America to push their citizens into the arms of wealthy/greedy/corrupt Americans who are enriched by low-wage workers.

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 4:39 pm on Tue, Nov 8, 2011.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    Mr. Wellenbrock starts off one of his closing paragraphs with the following: "If we are going to have a reasonable discussion on 'immigration' . . ." blah, blah blah (My emphasis and added) Not once in his very long column does he use the term “illegal immigration” or “illegal immigrant” even when Wellenbrock is arguing against himself – something attorneys are prone to do on an ongoing basis. Frankly it’s a bad habit and quite annoying.

    Still, will someone PLEASE get the word out that those who support the laws in Arizona and elsewhere are not discussing mere immigration - we're trying to discuss "ILLEGAL immigration!" Perhaps we should come up with a different term for what these people are doing instead of including the word "immigration" in the discourse. I’ve got a good word to describe them: “Criminals.”

    We've got absolutely no problem at all with anyone who goes through the process of entering our country according to the laws already in place. It's those who break those laws to jump in front of everyone else in line that has our dander up. They become a drain on the United States’ resources and give a bad name to those who enter legally.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 3:29 pm on Tue, Nov 8, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    I am confused. I did not realize there was an immigration debate in United Stated. I have not heard anyone in 20 years object to immigration. I thought all people who wanted to become a citizen and elected to go through the system to do what it took to be an American was appreciated and applauded.

    What debate?

  • Dave Francis posted at 1:41 pm on Tue, Nov 8, 2011.

    Brittanicus1 Posts: 3


    U.S. Citizens and legal residents must confront the Republicans dominated House and insist on E-Verify, as part of Smith’s THE LEGAL WORKFORCE ACT’ (H.R.2885.) The ‘Ways and Means Committee led by Majority Speak John Boehner (R-OH) must adopt the Mandatory E-Verify Bill (H.R. 2885.) and should be bombarded by demanding voters, as never before. Reps. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), Tim Johnson (R-Ill.), Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) and Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) Rep and just yesterday John Sullivan (R-Okla.) are co-sponsoring House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith's Legal Workforce Act (H.R.2885), with new members who are rapidly joining this monumental bill. THIS IS THE TIME TO SUPPORT THE AMERICAN UNEMPLOYED WORKER. Go to any Search Engine or specifically GOOGLE and type NumbersUSA as there you can freely fax politicians, otherwise you can also locate them through this phone number at 202-224-312; the Congressional Switchboard.

    The TEA PARTY is only a portion of the ordinary American people, who are insisting the law must change. We must stop the Liberal subversives with their, “political Correctness’ which is crippling this nation; curtail the hundreds of billions of dollars, going to subsidize pregnant women from other countries, who are draining our hospital delivery rooms for free. We must amend the instant citizenship for their children, as it is to intentionally get traction to stay in America. We must restrain Democrats, Liberals and Republicans from forcing unfunded mandates on taxpayers by more immigration policing laws in all 50 states. Our schools, hospitals, jails and prisons are full of illegal alien criminals that are draining each states treasury.


    Tuesday, November 8, 2011 currently has 100 sponsors, 58 co-sponsors, with only 43 House members to go.

    It will mean no more illegal aliens on payroll, with eventually millions leaving the country and opening jobs for American workers of every type. Farmers, Dairies, meat and poultry industry must be held accountable who are using foreign workers for big profits. They need to pay good wages and offer benefits, to get good, decent workers. Displaced by ICE raids and audits, illegal workers are leaving in large numbers; replaced in long lines by jobless Americans and legal residents. After the purge the administration can then enact an alien workers program, perhaps based on the Second World War ‘Bracero’ , but with a stringent tracking system and, that would be activated for every tourist, student and other who enter America. In addition all new statutes will be based on the Reagan’s 1986 Simpson/Mazzoli bill and that would include an overhaul for all new legal immigrants. Only professional or the highest skilled workers need apply, not the less skilled and certainly no entry to any more economic illegal aliens that is taxpayer supported.

    Let the Special Committee that is charged to reduce the near 15 Trillion dollar deficit, to introduce legislation and look into the illegal immigration invasion. Curtail the Department of IN-Justice from further ardently out to intimidate Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana and states that are under constant arrivals of illegal aliens they are forced by law to support. DOJ is not stopping with states, but pursuing anybody who exhibits any anti-illegal immigration tendencies, including Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio, State Senator Russell Peirce, Governor Jan Brewer and the list goes on. Even the TEA PARTY has been crucified to some degree, by the extremists in the Liberal open border radicals and the special interest entities.

    In conclusion—every law abiding American should be watchful of Liberal progressive tricks in our electoral law. Hopefully TEA PARTY members will be vigilant in present in gubernatorial and state legislative elections in Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia will be electing governors. Liberals specifically and radical groups have proven they have intentionally overlooked illegal aliens and even legal immigrants voting in our elections. Further-- 578 state legislative seats are available, with the majority of these in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia where the fate of politicians are in the hands of voters. Every American state should provide a website to report this serious wrongdoing, as it is undermining the basic foundation of the citizen’s right to vote. Leftist Democrat Congressman called Keith Ellison from Minnesota’s wants to impose on his state a slack election system and also on the rest of this sovereign nation.

  • Chris Wallace posted at 12:34 pm on Tue, Nov 8, 2011.

    Chris Wallace Posts: 32

    First is the title: "Name-calling doesn’t encourage sensible talk on immigration", then follows labels like "conservationists". If someone is here illegally, then they are illegal. This is not name calling- it is a simple fact.

    Then comes this skewed statement: "Finally, the debate is harmed by name-calling. The race card is played. These pages were graced with a column earlier in the year where the columnist defended himself as not being a racist even though he agreed with the Arizona state immigration law."

    So, if you agreed with Arizona's law then you are a racist. That's pretty open minded.

    This writing only sets out to skew an otherwise honest discussion. You can't have a reasonable discussion until you start with a reasonable article.


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