Misguided politicians who are trolling for Hispanic votes by turning a blind eye to illegal immigration should listen to Hispanic Americans like Robert Vasquez of Caldwell, Idaho, and Ellie Lopez-Bowlan of Reno, who are urging the federal government to crack down on illegal immigration.
Community leaders like Vasquez and Ms. Lopez-Bowlan are helping to shatter the media image of Latinos as citizens who are willing to tolerate hordes of illegal immigrants in our increasingly Hispanic nation.
Vasquez, a Republican county commissioner in neighboring Idaho, is leading a crusade against what he describes as "an imminent invasion" from south of the border. He wants to have Canyon County declared a disaster area because of the strain that illegals are placing on local community services, and he has sent a bill to the Mexican government for more than $2 million to cover the costs of those services.
Vasquez says Spanish-speaking newcomers bring gang violence and drugs to his county, spread diseases like tuberculosis and insist on "rights" that non-citizens don't deserve. And his proposal to sue employers who hire illegal immigrants hasn't gone over very well with local businessmen in a heavily Republican county. I wish him well.
"Some people say I'm a racist, that I'm a traitor to my heritage," Vasquez told the New York Times. "(But) there's nothing racial about this. The only color involved is green - for money." A popular local radio talk show host said that although most of his listeners agree with Vasquez, the outspoken politician is "a real thorn in the side of mainstream business Republicans." As I am around here for writing about the downside of illegal immigration in Northern Nevada.
Anyone who opposes illegal immigration is immediately branded as a racist; however, that's the price we pay for insisting that everyone who wants to live and work in the U.S. should learn English and obey our laws. That doesn't seem like a radical proposition to me, but some so-called "immigration advocates," like Reno Gazette-Journal columnist Emma Sepulveda, refuse to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants. In a recent column, she scoffed at the idea that illegal immigration is a national security issue and criticized the recent "Real ID" law passed by Congress as part of an anti-terrorism package.
Ms. Sepulveda is upset about the fact that the new law mandates minimum standards for state issuance of driver's licenses. But I don't think that's unreasonable and neither does Sepulveda's fellow RG-J columnist, Ellie Lopez-Bowlan. "It (real ID) is not an 'anti-immigrant bill' but a bill that begins to address certain activities that weaken our national security," she wrote in a recent column. "Those immigrants who are here legally shouldn't experience a problem," but illegals "will forego certain rights and may expect deportation." As well they should because they're here illegally.
In my opinion, more politicians should listen to Ms. Lopez-Bowlan, Commissioner Vasquez and other Latinos who defend the Rule of Law. After all, why should we make an exception for illegal immigrants just because they work cheap?
Top-rated Fox News Channel commentator Bill O'Reilly recently described the dilemma faced by those of us who oppose illegal immigration. "If you want to stop poor people from illegally coming to the land of milk and honey ... your fellow citizens will define you as insensitive, selfish, racist, ghastly and downright anti-Christian," O'Reilly wrote. "Those are tough charges to digest." Tell me about it, Bill.
Not long ago, I noted a Foreign Policy magazine report that "leaders of the (Central American) Mara Salvatrucha gang ... met in Honduras with a key al-Qaeda leader to discuss smuggling immigrants into the U.S. via Mexico." Mara Salvatrucha, one of the most violent gangs in the Western Hemisphere, is heavily involved in alien and drug trafficking through Southern California, which has serious implications for Nevada law enforcement agencies. That's why I heartily endorse the local anti-drug campaign spearheaded by Mayor Marv Teixeira and Sheriff Ken Furlong.
Meanwhile, the Mexican government does nothing to help us with our illegal immigration problem. I share O'Reilly's belief that the problem will continue to get worse as long as a "corrupt" (his word) Mexican government fails to fix a failing economy and a "cowardly" U.S. government remains unwilling or unable to enforce its own immigration laws.
The result is that more than 10 million illegal immigrants now live in the U.S., and thousands more are massed along our borders while most politicians, including President Bush and key members of Congress, look the other way. The president's solution is a thinly disguised amnesty program that would reward illegal immigrants for breaking our laws.
But I think Nevada should join with other affected states in support of a little-known federal program that enlists and trains state and local police officers to enforce immigration laws, focusing on criminal aliens. That would be a promising first step in a campaign to control our own borders as an integral part of the War on Terrorism.
Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, was married to a legal immigrant from Mexico for more than 40 years.