Linda Chavez

Harry Reid has stuck his foot in his mouth once again, this time suggesting he doesn't know "how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican." Really? You can't be both Hispanic and Republican? I guess Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez, John Sanchez, and Brian Sandoval -- to name just the top tier of Republican Hispanics who have won their party's nomination for statewide office this year -- had either better quit the GOP or change their names. This kind of racial stereotyping is offensive. Liberals have engaged in it for years, but conservatives aren't immune either.

This week, I wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed on the case for birthright citizenship. I won't rehash the arguments -- based on the history of the 14th Amendment and legal precedent -- but what was germane here was the response it engendered from those who disagree with me on the issue. It's something I run into every time I discuss immigration. My critics nearly universally assume I take a position favoring more generous legal immigration and a temporary worker program -- which I think would drastically reduce illegal immigration -- because I am supposedly Mexican.

Anyone who knows me, or my political history, knows that I've been fighting identity politics since I was in my early 20s, 40 years and counting. I favor assimilation and English as the official language. And I oppose bilingual education, bilingual ballots, race-based affirmative action, and racial gerrymandering -- and have incurred considerable wrath from liberals and Hispanic interest groups for my conservative positions on these issues.

I don't favor immigration reform because of my ethnic heritage but because I think it's good for the American economy and will benefit all of us. I'd be just as enthusiastic if most of the immigrants were from Europe, Asia, or Africa. In fact, I think one of the most important reforms we could enact would be making immigration skills-based, which would actually shift the demographic flow of immigrants away from Latin America.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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