Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sympathy for illegals? No way Jose. Forget it
When it comes to immigration, some don't bother to hide racism
BY MARK BROWN Sun-Times Columnist

Not surprisingly, I've been getting a lot of letters like this one that arrived Thursday:

"There is no compromise to the immigration "issue." They all must go. There is no issue. Illegal is illegal is illegal."

Luckily, I don't get as many like this one:

"The LATRINOS and the rest of the MUDS (Somalians, Hmong, etc. ) are a scourge, and must be eradicated from US soil. . . . What kind of mental defective hired a treacherous retardate like YOU? YOU leave this Nation. YOU don't deserve your American Citizenship. YOU are just as vile, and inferior, as the Mexcriment scum."

The first was unsigned, as is typically the case. The second is purportedly from a Ciaran Palmer of Bethlehem, Pa.

I would not normally think Ciaran Palmer's words fit for a newspaper, but part of me finds it worthwhile to put the ugly stuff on display as a reminder of some of the forces at work on this issue.

I do not think it makes you a racist if you take a hard-line position on illegal immigration. I may think it makes you short-sighted, uncharitable, misguided and a few other things, but not racist. But as my mail would suggest, the hardliners are certainly on the same side as the racists.

'tude awakening

I totally understand that some people are truly and deeply offended by the legal violation involved in entering this country without permission. I also understand that some people are using that illegality as a convenient excuse to cover certain attitudes. Some people don't bother to hide the attitude.

A guy who identifies himself as Victor Gerhard writes: "I certainly don't want 12 million illegal immigrants deported. . . . I want every single person of Hispanic ancestry deported, permanently, from our formerly White, clean country. Since you love them so much, you can go with them."

A Robert Brewster of Minneapolis, Minn., keeps it simple: "Mexicans belong in Mexico, bye bye!"

The story of Oscar, the south suburban computer whiz kid whose parents brought him here from Mexico as a child, didn't seem to sway the people who have dug in against illegal immigrants.

"Send Oscar back to Mexico. No exceptions," writes Janice Taylor of Colorado Springs, Colo. "There are people in all parts of the world who would make good Americans, and neither they nor their family members have broken any laws. If Oscar is the stellar personality and student you claim he is, once in Mexico he may apply for a legal visa. Meanwhile, I'm certain Mexico could benefit greatly from his talents."

Actually, Oscar's Chicago relatives applied for a visa for his family more than a decade ago, and they're still waiting, which is a fairly typical story.

I did think I detected a little bit of wavering from those who perhaps had never considered the situation of Oscar and the other DREAM Act kids -- illegals raised in the U.S. and now coming of age but finding themselves shut out of the normal opportunities available in our society.

"I'll concede your illegal alien buddy Oscar isn't the same as Elvira," writes Russ Emmert of Lombard. "But giving him and other people like him citizenship rights will just open the door to amnesty for the parents. Where is the accountability for the parent's criminal activities? Elvira should have been in jail long before being deported. By the way, do you consider every mail sent that disagrees with you 'hate mail?' "

No, Russ, but I think I could fairly characterize some of the letters quoted above as hate mail.

I got this letter from a John Vercillo: "You have done the article on the kid going to MIT. Now do the one on the illegal without the license that overturned the van the other day. Or do one on the execution style murders of the high school students out east last month. You are very selective on the illegal you wish to portray. But what are a few murdered Americans so that a handful of aliens can jump the line and become citizens."

Ordinary people

I admit that I cherry-picked by focusing on Oscar's case, although I believe that there are a great many with similar stories to tell.
And by the way, they aren't all Mexican. They're Polish and Korean and Chinese and Indian and from every other place in the world where people come here and then overstay their visas and can't find a way to get legal.

The average illegal immigrant is neither a superstar like Oscar nor the criminal element depicted by the hatemongers. They're just regular people, keeping their heads down, working hard to make a living and raise their families.

I was hoping Oscar could help more people see that.

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