“….promising to round up millions of immigrants”: Hillary Clinton’s New York Primary victory speech April 19, 2016
Not all Latinos are illegal immigrants and not all illegal immigrants are Latinos; that simple and undeniable fact seems to get lost in the discussion of immigration. Just as illegal immigrants are lumped together with legal immigrants (see statement above), this mix and match of these important distinctions seems to be lost much of the time and it is no accident.
It is a rhetorical tool used to justify large scale disregard of immigration laws of the United States. The press, policy makers, civil rights leaders, immigration reform advocates, and even the President conflate and confuse the terminology surrounding immigrants in order to manipulate public opinion.
Lumping together legal and illegal immigration is simply an effort to legitimize the violation of our immigration laws. Immigrants are entitled to decide when the conditions are so bad in their home country that they have the moral right to enter the US and once here to begin the path to citizenship. Any stigma impeding this path is an insult to our immigration history. Deferred enforcement, sanctuary cities, driver’s licenses, in-state tuition, are all an effort to make a “not yet documented” immigrant feel welcome and protected while they take it upon themselves to begin the process of becoming a legal resident.
Illegal immigration is just the other path to becoming an American.
Immigration reform groups and activists are all too willing to let you believe that all illegal immigrants are Latinos and that the vast majority of Latinos are “not yet documented” immigrants.
While the numbers are fuzzy, counting illegal immigrants is difficult and counting people by their race is a tricky business. The numbers are not as stark as we are being led to believe. The percentage Latinos in the illegal immigrant population in the US may be as high as 85%, so it is true immigration enforcement would disproportionately affect Latinos, as they are disproportionately violating our immigration laws. But even 100% deportation of all the illegal immigrants (which I did not support) would not wipeout the Latino population in the US, only 10 to 15% of the total number of Latinos living in the US illegally.
Making race synonymous with the immigration issue shuts down many who might question the current levels of immigration. Playing the race card fires up the liberal base, including the black community. The irony is that high rates of low-skilled immigration has disproportionately affected the economic prospects of the black community.
Immigration reform advocates know that accusations of racism make people shy away from the immigration discussion giving them an outsized voice in policy and attracts support from groups and individuals who might otherwise not be as sympathetic to people who have broken the law.