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The reply

Anti-immigrant by any other name

June 29, 2012|By Susan Brenneman
  • In Los Angeles, immigrant rights activists rally at the federal courthouse.
In Los Angeles, immigrant rights activists rally at the federal courthouse. (Los Angeles Times )

Tamar Jacoby, in her June 26 Op-Ed  in response to the Supreme Court's decision announced June 25 on Arizona's SB 1070 law, used the term "anti-immigrant" to summarize those who favor "show your papers" rules, have blocked comprehensive immigration reform and object to creating any kind of path to citizenship for people in the U.S. without papers.

Many commenters seized on the usage to criticize her opinion and analysis, which focused on the signs that the "antis" are on the wane.  "Oldwilly," for example, wrote "Legal, Si. Illegal, No! Until this author and many like her acknowledge the precise parameters of the true issue, illegal immigration, we can never have an intelligent discussion.  In the meantime, continue propping up your straw man, anti-immigration, and knocking him down.  All that does is infuriate the thoughtful pro-Americans trying to preserve this great nation."

And "4LadyJesus" called the piece "disinformation" because it made an "effort to blur the distinction" between legal and illegal immigrants.

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We asked Jacoby -- whose piece, by the way, was an Opinion essay, not news reporting as some commenters seemed to think, and who has been working for immigration reform for more than a decade -- to explain:

“Anti-immigrant,” “anti-illegal immigrant” -- if only there was as much difference in fact as principle and national interest argue there ought to be.

Readers are right: Legal and illegal immigration are not the same thing -- and the distinction is critically important. The United States is a nation of immigrants. We are also a nation of laws -- neither our way of life nor our values would survive for long if the rule of law were undermined. And it’s not a buffet from which we can pick and choose -- rule of law means respect for all the laws. 

But the fact is that many people who don’t like immigrants, period, hide behind the argument that some have broken the law by entering without papers or by overstaying their visas.

How many angry Americans complaining about illegal immigration know that only 28% of the foreign-born living in the U.S. today are here illegally, that more than two-thirds are legal and that nearly half of them are citizens? How many upset Americans really care whether the people speaking Spanish in the supermarket -- to their ears so annoyingly -- are legal or not?

And how many know that there is virtually no legal way -- no process to follow, no legal line to join -- for a Mexican worker without family in the U.S. to enter the country lawfully to fill a year-round job for which is there is no willing and able U.S. worker?

We need to fix the immigration system so that it works for people who want to come to the U.S. legally and do jobs we need done. And the good news is that, whatever we call it, the fear and anger blocking that long-overdue change appear to be ebbing.


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New wave of immigrants -- a new target too?

Ruling on Arizona's immigration law leaves many questions unanswered

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