You may or may not know, Bill, that everyday I go down to the waterfront with hot soup for the Irish as they come ashore. It's part of building a political base.
--"Boss" Tweed, on the virtue of currying support among the newly arrived immigrants, from the movie Gangs of New York.
The soup pot's gone now, but otherwise not much has changed since Tweed's time. Today's politicians continue to treat immigrants -- illegal as well as legal -- more or less like a giant herd of ethnic, voting cattle rather than free-thinking individuals. And often the media help propagate this dehumanizing view.
This phenomenon is nowhere more evident in mainstream media coverage of the debate over the Senate amnesty bill. Leading the latest offenders is the Wall Street Journal, which warned in its June 27 editorial that Republican bungling on immigration could make it "a minority party once again."
By bungling, the editorial meant failing to assume that all Hispanics, now and forevermore, support the Senate bill. The editorial closed on what was obviously intended to be a hair-raising note: "...the growth in the Hispanic population will continue regardless of what happens with immigration from now on. The GOP should be competing for these voters rather than driving them away with a barely concealed message of 'Mexicans, go home.'"
Puh-leeze. As a member of the growing "Hispanic population," I take issue with this suggestion that it's in our country's interest to readily accede to the demands of amnesty advocates, while minimizing the merits of securing our border and the importance for the rule of law. It is fundamentally more important to ensure our country's long-term survival than to focus -- as the Journal suggests -- on what might be expedient in helping a political party win the next election.
Even if one were to accept the premise of the Journal's theory (anti-illegal immigration politicians growing Hispanic voting population = fewer anti-immigration politicians winning elections), giving in to the demands of any particular voting block -- ethnic or otherwise -- regardless of principle or policy considerations is mere political pandering.
The Journal also seems to forget that there are other races and ethnicities that come to America. About 4.9 million people living in America were born in Europe, according to 2000 Census figures. Census stats also show more than eight million people born in Asia, and nearly a million born in Africa, now live in this country. But despite their size, these immigrant groups don't seem to receive nearly the same amount of attention as the Hispanics do from politicians and the media engaged in the amnesty debate.
Nor should they. A drastic overhaul of our country's immigration and naturalization laws is seriously flawed unless we place a premium on the importance of compelling all immigrants, no matter where they are from, to learn and master one language (English), one form of government (democratic republic), and adopt at least one basic credo (to support and defend their new country).
This is entirely reasonable for a country that accepts as citizens people from everywhere in the world-not just Mexico and Central America. In fact, in a nation of 300 million people who represent dozens of races, languages, religions, ethnicities and even tribes -- it's the only way to keep true to our motto of "e pluribus unum." For the alternative approach, take a look at the Baltic states, Quebec's inching away from Canada, and, well, Iraq.
As debate over immigration reform continues in the Senate, lawmakers have a unique opportunity to reaffirm that this country is above the demands and needs of one particular ethnic group. They have a chance to remind its citizens, and all those who would like to become Americans, that we welcome all who subscribe to our founding principles and legally immigrate to our country -- even without hot soup.
Israel Ortega is a senior media services associate at The Heritage Foundation
First appeared in the National Review Online