New York Times: Opponents of Amnesty for 'Undocumented' Are Like My Racist Granddad

March 30th, 2015 12:07 PM

Adam Davidson of National Public Radio shoddily lumped people who oppose illegal immigration with racists and homophobes like his grandfather in "Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant," in his regular "On Money" analysis for the New York Times magazine.

When I was growing up in the 1980s, I watched my grandfather -- my dad’s stepdad -- struggle with his own prejudice. He was a blue-collar World War II veteran who loved his family above all things and was constantly afraid for them. He carried a gun and, like many men of his generation, saw threats in people he didn’t understand: African-Americans, independent women, gays. By the time he died, 10 years ago, he had softened. He stopped using racist and homophobic slurs; he even hugged my gay cousin. But there was one view he wasn’t going to change. He had no time for Hispanics, he told us, and he wasn’t backing down. After all, this wasn’t a matter of bigotry. It was plain economics. These immigrants were stealing jobs from “Americans.”

Sounds like Davidson is pretty adept at spreading "myths" of his own, and conflating support for "immigration" in general (which conservatives support when done in compliance with U.S. law) with support for amnesty for illegal immigration.

I’ve been thinking about my grandfather lately, because there are signs that 2015 could bring about the beginning of a truce -- or at least a reconfiguration -- in the politics of immigration. Several of the potential Republican presidential candidates, most notably Jeb Bush, have expressed pro-immigration views. Even self-identified Tea Party Republicans respond three to two in favor of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Every other group -- Republicans in general, independents and especially Democrats -- is largely pro-immigrant. According to Pew, roughly as many people (18 percent of Americans) believed in 2010 that President Obama was a Muslim as believe today that undocumented immigrants should be expelled from the United States. Of course, that 18 percent can make a lot of noise. But for everyone else, immigration seems to be going the way of same-sex marriage, marijuana and the mohawk -- it’s something that a handful of people freak out about but that the rest of us have long since come to accept.

Scratch the surface, though, and you’ll pretty quickly find that many Americans are closer to my grandfather’s way of seeing things than they might find comfortable acknowledging. I am referring not to the racial animus but to the faulty economic logic...

Davidson used some unconvincing analysis and old one-off examples (Cuba's Mariel boatlift didn't actually hurt wages in Miami over 30 years ago!) before his pompous conclusion, and another shot at his late grandfather.

Whenever I’m tempted by the notion that humans are rational beings, carefully evaluating the world and acting in ways that maximize our happiness, I think of our meager immigration policies. For me, it’s close to proof that we are, collectively, still jealous, nervous creatures, hoarding what we have, afraid of taking even the most promising risk, displaying loyalty to our own tribe while we stare, suspiciously, at everyone else. It’s nice to believe that I am part of a more mature, rational generation, that my grandfather’s old ways of thinking are dying away. But I’m not so sure. We might be a lot more like him than we want to think.

Immigration expert Steven Camarota responded at National Review Online:

Adam Davidson tries to make the case for massive increases in immigration. He starts out by discussing the racial prejudice of an older relative who always thought that Hispanics “were stealing jobs.” Davidson believes this man’s story is illustrative of the current debate over immigration. Nothing delegitimizes someone in modern America more than the suggestion, or even the hint, that they hold unenlightened attitudes about race. It is not surprising that an advocate of high immigration would suggest that those with whom he disagree are racists.

Camarota also tackled Davidson's polling data ("the level of public support for amnesty depends heavily on how the question is asked") and thin economic rationales.

Davidson also misses half of the debate over how immigration impacts the economy -- the impact on taxpayers. If you are going to argue that immigration makes Americans financially better off, as Davidson does, you have to at least mention the taxes immigrants pay minus the services they use.

Monday featured more loaded pro-amnesty Times reporting in Julia Preston's "States Are Divided by the Lines They Draw on Immigration." The term "illegal" appeared in the first paragraph, but gave way to euphemisms like "undocumented," or "unauthorized" in the text and photo captions.

Washington has long allowed immigrants without legal status to get driver’s licenses. So Ofelia Rosas Ramos, a Mexican living illegally in Seattle, has had her license since 2008.

Preston, perhaps the paper's most biased immigration reporter, seemed puzzled by the U.S. concept of federalism, where states like Washington and Texas make their own laws:

Life is very different for Camila Trujillo, a Colombian immigrant living in Katy, Tex. Since Texas requires a Social Security number for a license, Ms. Trujillo, 21, drives to college and work without one.

A sympathetic text box shared her puzzlement: "Borders define where arrivals feel more welcome." Because the purpose of a state is to make illegal immigrants feel welcome.