Guy W. Farmer: There are two kinds of immigration " legal and illegal

I have often written about illegal immigration advocates, people like Reno Gazette-Journal columnists Emma Sepulveda and Vito de la Cruz, who rarely distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.

Well, as it happens, former RGJ columnist turned political blogger Ty Cobb Sr. (the father of Reno Assemblyman Ty Cobb Jr.) is currently engaged in a spirited e-mail discussion with RGJ editors in an effort to define the terms of the ongoing immigration debate. At the same time both major presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, are avoiding that particular issue like the plague because both of them are squishy soft on illegal immigration.

My friend Ty the blogger argues that "using the broad 'immigrant' to describe virtually anyone who is in this country but not born here dilutes the term and leaves it without any specificity. Worse, it plays into the strategy employed by writers for your (RGJ) op-ed pages who purposely wish to assign the benefits this country enjoys from legal immigration to those who are here illegally."

While I endorse the last part of Ty's argument, I disagree with him on the meaning of the word "immigrant." According to Mr. Webster, an immigrant is someone "who comes into a country of which one is not a native." I accept that definition and that's why I've always tried to distinguish between immigrants who are here legally, and those who aren't.

That's an important distinction because the United States is a nation of immigrants. Unless you're a native American, your ancestors came here from somewhere else. Legal immigration has contributed greatly to the strength and diversity of our country and should be encouraged within a framework of reasonable rules and regulations, which include a basic understanding of our Constitution and a working knowledge of the English language.

That's how my late wife Consuelo, a native of Mexico, became a proud American citizen when I joined the Foreign Service. She felt " correctly, in my opinion " that those who wish to enjoy the benefits of this great nation should assume the responsibilities of citizenship and learn English. History has shown that most legal immigrants eventually decide to become American citizens while many illegals could care less.

Back to the Ty Cobb-RGJ immigration debate, he condemns "the paroxysm of articles that appeared in the RGJ a year ago following raids on local fast-food outlets (McDonald's) by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), and charges that columnists Sepulveda and de la Cruz, among others, "were quick to denounce the raids as fascist, racist, uncaring and reminiscent of tactics employed by the German Gestapo."

Cobb notes that the ICE raids targeted "wholesale document fabrication and identity theft," which are serious criminal offenses, and believes that the admission of guilt by McDonald's managers "highlights the criminal activity involved." When company officials are sentenced next month, they face up to five years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000.

Cobb, an expert on foreign affairs and national security who worked in the Reagan White House, stopped writing for the Gazette-Journal several months age following clashes with his editors over a number of issues, including international terrorism. The editors objected when he called Mideast terrorists "Isalmo-fascists," which they clearly are. Nevertheless, Vito de la Cruz, a federal public defender with no known expertise on international affairs, continues to write on those subjects for the RGJ.

In recent weeks Cobb has tried to mend fences by offering to collaborate "pro bono" on complex national security issues like illegal immigration. But I'll be surprised if the paper's left-leaning editors accept his generous offer because they prefer to further their political agenda by running articles that blur the lines between legal and illegal immigration. A recent example was a page one story about how Reno Hispanic Services will assist immigrants regardless of their legal status. The implication was that all immigrants, legal or illegal, have the same "rights."

Illegal aliens are in violation of U.S. immigration laws and should be deported forthwith, especially in economic hard times with unemployment of more than 6 percent. Illegal immigration advocates constantly mention "jobs Americans won't do," but I'll bet millions of our fellow citizens " and legal immigrants " will step forward to do those jobs rather than go hungry, unless we continue to give them generous unemployment benefits at taxpayer expense. By the way, don't the unemployed have to prove that they're looking for work in order to keep drawing unemployment? But I digress.

Although Cobb has raised a very important issue, I doubt whether RGJ editors are really listening to him despite the lip service they give to his contrary views. In these difficult times for newspapers, the Reno daily and too many others are mixing news and opinion, and that's discouraging veteran journalists who know and respect the difference. So we'll be reading more about "undocumented workers" in the RGJ. Count on it!

Guy W. Farmer, a retired U.S. diplomat who dealt with immigration issues, resides in Carson City.


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