"I'm deeply concerned about America losing its soul. Immigration has been the lifeblood of a lot of our country's history," President Bush told McClatchy Newspapers in an exclusive interview last week. "I am worried that a backlash to newcomers would cause our country to lose its great capacity to assimilate newcomers." Bush also argued that "a lot of this immigration debate is driven as a result of Latinos being in our country."
I'll admit, I've read and heard some shamefully race-tinged arguments against the immigration bill before the U.S. Senate. I've also heard a lot of people who voice legitimate fears about the high cost of illegal immigration on taxpayer-funded services, as well as how the sheer volume of (presently illegal) immigrants could sabotage their assimilation into the middle class.
I know that those who think as I do are on the losing side of history. You don't grow up in an Irish family in Massachusetts without being steeped in lessons about the hostility heaped upon Irish immigrants and the "Irish Need Not Apply" signs.
In two generations, Latino children will be regaled with similar tales about the evil Proposition 187 in 1994, the Minutemen of 2004 and all the other bad people who didn't support liberalizing immigration law. They already hear such stories.
They won't hear about the legal immigrants whose families spent years waiting and slogging through the system to obtain green cards and apply for citizenship. They won't hear how these immigrants react to the federal government giving a pass to those who illegally jumped to the head of the line.
They won't hear that many Americans simply don't understand how America can reward illegal immigration and discourage it at the same time. They know that the last so-called immigration reform bill promised to curb illegal immigration -- but it didn't.
And they worry that the "comprehensive" immigration bill sponsored by Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., will cause the estimated population of 12 million illegal immigrants in America to balloon.
The children of today's immigrants won't hear how the influx of cheap labor depresses wages for low-skilled Americans. And they won't hear about the veiled racism of an illegal-immigration lobby that argues that America needs hard-working illegal immigrants to work the jobs that low-skilled Americans -- read: African Americans and underclass whites -- won't take.
They won't hear about the legitimate concerns about how importing poverty from the Third World might flood America with low-paid workers and whittle down the healthy margin of middle-class families in America.