The stereotyping of "Latino voters" and what it distracts us from.
Whenever the discussion on news programs turns to immigration and politics, invariably the issue of the “Latino Vote” will be raised within the first two sentences of the conversation. It is truly remarkable that the same participants in the discussions on programs who are quick to invoke the concept of block votes -- such as the “Latino voters,” "black voters” or “Jewish Voters” -- are just as quick to condemn any sort of profiling done by law enforcement.
What is ignored by many journalists is that law enforcement must use profiling in order to be proactive and effective. However, ethical law enforcement profiling involves far more than the race or simple outward appearances of suspicious people. Effective and fair profiling must include situational and behavioral factors as integral components of such an effort.
When I was an INS agent conducting surveillance in Harlem as part of a team of NYPD and DEA agents in conjunction with a narcotics investigation, we would take notice if, for the sake of argument, we spotted a Caucasian young man behind the wheel of a new high-priced vehicle, such as a BMW, with out-of-state license plates driving slowly up a block near a known drug location. If he was looking around furtively, as though he was expecting to meet someone, we might well have stopped him and ask who he was looking for and check his license, etc.
Certainly we were basing our stop of the vehicle on a “profile” that had many components. More often than not, such stops yielded invaluable information and often led to arrests and seizures of narcotics and weapons.
However identifying voters by a single element -- whether it is race, religion or ethnicity -- constitutes a different sort of profiling and one that is as insidious and ugly as it gets. To talk about the “Latino vote” is to postulate that all Latinos will vote the same way and presupposes that all Latinos have the same values, orientations and concerns. This is racism and bigotry plain and simple. It is unfair, it is insulting and it is divisive.
The notion of the supposedly monolithic “Latino voter” does great harm in a number of important ways.
It creates the false impression that immigration is all about race. In point of fact, our immigration laws are, as they should be, utterly and completely blind as to race, religion and ethnicity. Our immigration laws have two primary goals: protect innocent lives and the jobs of American workers. Nothing could be more reasonable.
Title 8 U.S. Code § 1182: (Inadmissible Aliens) enumerates various categories of aliens who are to be prevented from entering the U.S. You will notice that there is nothing in this section of law that makes any distinction about such superficial issues as race, religion or ethnicity. The list of excludible classes of aliens includes aliens who suffer dangerous communicable diseases, severe mental illness, are fugitives from justice, aliens who are convicted felons, spies, terrorists, war criminals, human rights violators, and others whose presence would undermine national security and/or public safety.
This section of law also addresses the issue of protecting the jobs, wages, and working conditions of the American worker. Here is the relevant portion of this section of law:
(5) Labor certification and qualifications for certain immigrants
(A) Labor certification
(i) In general Any alien who seeks to enter the U.S. for the purpose of performing skilled or unskilled labor is inadmissible, unless the Secretary of Labor has determined and certified to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General that —
(I) there are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, qualified (or equally qualified in the case of an alien described in clause (ii)) and available at the time of application for a visa and admission to the U.S. and at the place where the alien is to perform such skilled or unskilled labor, and
(II) the employment of such alien will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of workers in the U.S. similarly employed.
What does race have to do with the enforcement of our immigration laws? Making this an issue about race is unfair, unreasonable and pits Americans against Americans, creating the impression that Americans who want our borders secured and immigration laws enforced hate anyone of Latino ethnicity. This is a vicious lie. This is the equivalent of saying that if you lock your doors at night you are a xenophobic and anti-social misanthrope.
During my 30-year career with the former INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) I investigated and arrested aliens from nearly every country on the planet. There were years when I barely, if ever, interviewed or arrested aliens from Latin America.
My colleagues of the INS and I participated in the investigation and arrest of criminal aliens from Asia, Europe, the Soviet Union, Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. These aliens were of every race, religion and ethnicity.
In many instances the victims of their crimes are members of the ethnic immigrant communities in which these transnational thugs and sociopaths lived and operated. This applies to all immigrant communities of every race, ethnicity and origin and is not unique to the Latino community.
The mantra repeated by nearly every talking head, pundit and analyst on television programs on virtually every network is that Latinos all want unknown millions of illegal aliens to be granted lawful status and employment authorization.
This may cause people to falsely presume that anyone who has a Latino last name may be an illegal alien or may have family members who are illegal aliens. Imagine a 5th generation American of Latino ethnicity, who may have served multiple tours of duty in the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan and whose parents and grandparents may have also served in some of the hell-holes of World War II, Korea or Viet Nam, finding that simply because his/her last name may be Rodriguez or Garcia that his citizenship and patriotism may be called into question.
On the other side of that coin, because of the discussion about immigration and the "Latino vote," anyone who dare suggest that our nation's borders be secured against unlawful entry and that our immigration laws be enforced from within the interior of the United States is, infuriatingly, branded a xenophobic racist bigot. Most people don't want to have to deal with such accusations and take the path of least resistance and therefore stay away from any discussions about immigration. The loudest voices that get heard are the voices of those who are determined to dismantle our nation's borders and bring an end to the enforcement of our vital immigration laws.
Both our borders and our immigration laws are our first and last line of defense against international terrorists and transnational criminals -- but are never portrayed that way.
The illegal aliens who would participate in “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” or similar programs would be citizens of virtually every country on the planet. Aliens who are referred to as being “undocumented” are aliens who evaded the vital inspections process conducted by Customs and Border Protection Inspectors at ports of entry. There would be no way to interview them in person or conduct field investigations because we are talking about many millions of illegal aliens. Aliens who are identified as being “undocumented” either do not have documents or don't want anyone to see their authentic identity documents to prove who they are.
It should go without saying that we live in an era in which international terrorists and transnational criminals, who need to cross international borders in order to go about their preparations to carry out deadly terrorist attacks or commit their crimes, seek to conceal their true identities and even their actual countries of citizenship.
If the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is forced to add unknown millions of applications filed by such aliens, the already overburdened and, indeed, overwhelmed, bureaucracy at USCIS would implode under the burden.
There would be no way to verify the information contained in their applications. It would be impossible to verify their true names, dates of birth or even countries of citizenship. There would be no verifiable way to determine just how long these individuals have actually been present in the United States.
Many well-liked and well-respected television personalities, reporters and analysts often claim that it would be reasonable to grant lawful status to aliens who have lived in the United States for a number of years. Sometimes they will talk about 5 years, 7 years or even 10 years. Generally the other participants in these on-air discussions enthusiastically agree that it would be reasonable to give lawful status to aliens who have been living here for that many years.
What they have less than no idea about, however, is how these applications would, of necessity, be processed -- no interviews and no field investigations. I often wonder how the talking heads on television programs would react if someone sitting at the table with them would ask how they would react to an application filed by an alien who entered the United States more recently than 7 years ago -- perhaps 7 days ago.
I may be going out on a limb, but I am willing to bet that no one would think that an alien who ran our borders 7 days ago should be granted lawful status. However, given the harsh reality of the limitations of the application processing system, it is more than likely than many of these applications will be chock full of lies that will go unnoticed.
Unfortunately, the real-world limitations of the immigration system are never discussed and therefore never contemplated by the majority of Americans or by our leaders, either.
It is worth pointing out that most news programs invite true experts to discuss such important issues as cancer research, military operations and others. When the discussion turns to immigration, however, often the guests on these programs are radio talk show hosts, political pollsters or columnists. It is rare to see any program have former immigration enforcement officers participate in these discussions.
When law enforcement officers are brought in to speak about immigration, generally the guest is a sheriff from a town that lies along the US/Mexican border who does not truly understand immigration but simply talks about how he is catching illegal aliens who ran the border -- again reinforcing the notion that only the US/Mexican border needs to be secured for all to be right. American media routinely mislead the public in this regard.
Consider the coverage of the search for the two escaped murderers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, involving hundreds of law enforcement officers from a wide variety of law enforcement agencies. On Friday, June 26th, one of the killers, Richard Matt, was shot and killed by a law enforcement officer. CNN reported about this story on June 28, 2015 with the headline, “Autopsy: escapee Matt took 3 bullets to head; hunt goes on for escapee Sweat.” The report began with these paragraphs:
Malone, New York (CNN)If not for some gunfire and his urge to cough, escaped murderer Richard Matt -- who was shot dead Friday -- might not have found himself on the end of three bullets to the head.
With prison-break partner David Sweat, also a convicted murderer, still on the lam Saturday, New York state officials are counting on another misstep.
"He's been on the run now for three weeks," Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill said of Sweat. "He's tired. He's fatigued. He's hungry. He's going to make a mistake."
Two days after a member of a tactical unit opened fire on Matt -- hitting him three times in the head, according to state police -- about 1,200 federal, state and local law enforcement officers were searching vehicles at roadblocks and scouring dense woods in upstate New York for the now lone escaped inmate.
Incredibly, the law enforcement officer who shot Matt was a member of the U.S. Border Patrol, yet there was only one mention of the Border Patrol Tactical Unit being involved in this event and it was buried towards the bottom of the article.
It is more than a coincidence that a local sheriff was quoted in the very beginning of the article and that the beginning of the report noted that Matt was shot by “a member of a tactical unit” without specifying that the tactical unit was from the U.S. Border Patrol.
It was reported that the fugitives had originally planned to go to Mexico but then turned their attention on Canada when prison tailor shop employee Joyce Mitchell failed to pick them up after they broke out of prison. It appeared that at least some journalists were not eager to discuss the fact that the Border Patrol operates in Upstate New York. This goes back to the false narrative that all we have to do is secure the US/Mexican border to fix the immigration crisis.
One more very important point about the Border Patrol. Many Border Patrol agents are among the best law enforcement officers trained in “cutting sign,” a term to describe the ability to search for individuals who are attempting to cover their tracks after they run our borders. This is a vital skill and one that likely was brought to bear by Border Patrol agents in Upstate New York in efforts to locate the fugitives. Yet this point was not discussed by the media, either.
Now let us consider that the absurd claim that millions of Americans of Latino ethnicity favor providing illegal aliens with lawful status. Does this mean that Latinos favor lawlessness?
In my travels around the United States, when I have spoken at public events across the United States, I have encountered many American Latinos who are adamantly opposed to granting lawful status to millions of illegal aliens, irrespective of their countries of origin or their ethnicity. They often tell me how insulted and, indeed, outraged they are about these discussions about what “Latino voters want.”
Focusing the discussion about immigration on Latino voters helps push the totally erroneous idea that the U.S./Mexican border is the only problem and that making that border secure would solve our immigration crisis. Of course this is yet another one of those carefully crated false notions. I have written extensively about how our nation does not have four border states, but 50 border states.
Unfortunately, America lacks political leadership on this crucial issue. Would it not be amazing to have a candidate for the presidency stand before the microphones and base his/her statements on moral and real-world convictions? Imagine a true leader saying that for America to lead American citizens must be the priority for our government. That if, indeed, “American Exceptionalism” is more than a touch phrase to be used to fire up the crowds, rather than search the world for the “best and brightest” workers and students, we need not look half way across the world, but half way across our towns and cities?
In this perilous era, America desperately needs a leader, irrespective of political party, with the integrity and courage of his/her convictions to understand that any discussion about immigration must begin by using the findings and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission about effective immigration law enforcement as a necessary element in the war on terror.
Immigration is not about “Left” or “Right” but about right or wrong.