Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Illegal Immigration: The Deepening Divide

This appears to be an authentic photo of an-advertising campaign that is irresponsible at best. The photo first appeared on the web site for Americans for Legal Immigration, ALIPAC.

I am posting about the above billboard because it is such a clear manifestation of the short-sightedness that plagues public discussion of illegal immigration in America. Both extremes in the debate seem overly emotional, implacable, and either uninformed or unaware. That's a combination that makes life very difficult for any politician (or blogger!) who attempts to propose a solution that might actually succeed.

The billboard above brings all this to the surface. It reportedly appears somewhere along the 605 Freeway in the greater Los Angeles are here in California. I heard a radio news report about the sign this morning, so I assume the photo is not a hoax.

UPDATE: The billboard is indeed authentic, as this Los Angeles Times story confirms.

The advertisement is for a local Spanish-language TV news program. "Noticias 62" means simply "News 62," and "Tu Ciudad. Tu Equipo" means "Your city. Your Team." As you can see, in the middle of the Los Angeles skyline, the billboard's creators have dropped in the famous Angel of Independence monument from Mexico City, and of course they have crossed out "CA" and replaced it with "Mexico."

How charming. And what a thoughtful, responsible contribution to an important debate!

I recognize that this billboard is very likely a product of the, shall we say, whorish element of the advertising profession. Presumably, some bright-eyed admen and adwomen thought they were coming up with an idea that would provoke lots of discussion and get lots and lots of attention. Well, they certainly have accomplished that. Still, the word "irresponsible" comes to mind to describe this advertisement, no matter what the motivation for it was.

All that aside, I concede that the billboard is somewhat useful, in that it highlights the extreme elements in the often-depressing debate over illegal immigration: The nativists and the immigrationists.

The Nativist Element

On one extreme, the folks at the ALIPAC web site are going ballistic. But what else can we expect? Residents of Southern California see Hispanic immigrants everywhere, Spanish spoken everywhere, and an unfamiliar culture encroaching on their homeland. They see hospital emergency rooms overflowing with people speaking Spanish and pretty much using the hospital as a primary care health clinic; proliferating Hispanic gangs; and growing numbers of semi-literate Hispanic teens who know only conversational Spanish (they can't read it) and have very poor English skills. The schools here in Los Angeles have doomed most of those kids to a life of limited possibilities.

I personally believe we need to deal with the reality of immigration and I've made no secret of my support for the immigration reform principles President Bush has advanced. I also admit that I am perhaps more accepting of Hispanic culture than many, having lived in Central America in my youth and still speaking fluent Spanish. (I am about as "gringo" as they come, ethnically.) Even so, I'm convinced we need to normalize, or get control over, the illegals now here. In other words, we need to know who's here. We also need to control the borders-- not just make token efforts to do so. I've blogged a great deal about all that in the following posts:


Getting into The Country And into The White House

Immigration And The National Interest: Where Should Conservatives Stand?

The Illegal Immigration Debate Continues

The Immigration Debate Rolls On: The Vietnamese-American Community's View

Illegal Immigration: The Issue The GOP Simply Must Get Right

Immigration Addendum: Tamar Jacoby Thoughts

Some Responses to Comments (So Far) on Illegal Immigration

Immigration, Carrots, Sticks, and Fences: Let's Talk Solutions

Just When You Thought The Immigration Debate Here Was Quieting Down for A While

The Minutemen

About Those Minutemen


The problem is, the nativist element doesn't want to hear any of this. They immediately shout "amnesty!" when they hear Bush talk about guest workers. Many in this group also love to refer to illegal immigration as an "invasion," which is where the Minutemen movement comes from. (It is not an invasion, and using that term is about as responsible as the billboard above.) Seemingly, the only "solution" that will satisfy those folks is deporting every illegal now here and sealing the borders. As satisfying as that solution may be to some, it is a very foolish and unrealistic approach.

The Immigrationist Element

This is the group that screams "racism" every time anyone wants to stop illegal immigration and get a handle on those who are here (as the Bush principles advocate). Here's a sampling of what this group adds to the debate:

  • Unceasing calls for bilingual education, despite its proven failure;
  • Bumper stickers that show someone urinating on a "Migra" vehicle (that's the Hispanic nickname for the Immigration and Naturalization Service);
  • Mexican flags everywhere (I don't mind pride in one's origins, but can't we just be Americans?);
  • Ceaseless and careless talk of "La Raza" ("the Race," or the Hispanic ethnicity);
  • Reckless discussions of a "Reconquista," or "re-conquering" of California-- certainly a fine way to win friends and influence people in your new country! This also gives credence to the nativists who warn of an "invasion" (see above).
The GOP's Dilemma

All this makes the world an interesting place for solution-minded Republicans. If you actually propose a serious solution, you find the nativist element of your party on your back. They are emotional, scared, uninformed, and their minds are made up -- a terrible combination. And they are not going away.

But if you do nothing, you hand an issue to the Democrats. Then the fun begins.

Think about it: Unless this logjam is broken, look for Hillary Clinton to have a "triangulated" approach to immigration reform. She'll try to outflank Bush on the right by excoriating him and the Republicans for making little progress. She'll propose a middle-of-the road solution that is not too different from Bush's. She'll try to scoop up centrist voters who are concerned about illegal immigration but are repelled by the right-wing nativists' approach. (And yes, that approach is indeed repellent to the majority of Americans.)

I'm not sure how to find the way out of this briar patch, but I believe the best approach is for someone like President Bush, who is not running for office again, to press his principles, take some heat, and educate the public. He has a good outline for a plan, but it needs the tenacity and steadiness that he has brought to the war on terror. If he can find it in him to lead on this issue, we still have a chance to get past this without tearing the party and all the border states apart.

UPDATE II: More about this subject at PoliPundit and at Michelle Malkin.

UPDATE III: A key paragraph from the L.A. Times story:

Stuart Fischoff, who teaches media psychology at Cal State L.A., said the billboard was like "sticking a finger in your eye" to immigration reformers. "The joke here is, 'We're taking back California,' " Fischoff said. "Underneath the joke is part of the truth."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe California should invade and take over Mexico. Arnold could be the president of the new country of Caliexico, or whatever, and all us LA drivers could use up all of Mexico's oil reserves.

Washington could finally be rid of the "left coast" and with the CA 52 electoral college votes out of the picture, middle America would have more influence in US national matters. Guess Barbara Boxer would have to learn Spanish, though.

Sounds like a Win-Win for all! 

Posted by OkieBoy

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 8:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Posted by test

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it almost impossible to believe that is an actual billboard, unless the folks at channel 62 are fond of having their phone system jammed w/ death threats and the like. Surely the bulk of their audience, along w/ the rest of the Spanish Language Media, are US citizens.

I just can't believe that is an actual billboard. 

Posted by GringoSalado

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 1:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GringoSalado, I thought it wsa unbelievable too. Check out this story  and you'll be convinced. Someone has a wicked sense of marketing and wanted to stir up a big controversy. I think it was irresponsible.  

Posted by The Hedgehog

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 6:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the LA Times Story linked above:

"Executive Vice President Lenard Liberman said Noticias 62 was a popular news program in Los Angeles and noted that people of Mexican descent made up a large portion of the city.

"We tell the story behind L.A.., and we tell the story behind Mexico," he said. "If they find that offensive, I'm sorry. But you just have to drive around L.A. to know that this is a Hispanic city."

My response:

You moron, the billboard's theme is not that L.A. is an Hispanic city, but that it is a Mexican city.

Somebody stuff a sock in this jerk's mouth.

Posted by GringoSalado

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 10:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superb post Lowell -- linked to it here  

Posted by John Schroeder (Blogotional)

Thursday, April 28, 2005 6:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ironic aspect of this sorry affair is that if Los Angeles indeed were a city in Mexico, the illegal immigrants would not be coming here, because the city would suffer from the same lack of economic opportunity that drives the Mexican immigrants to the United States in the first place. 

Posted by Ralph Kostant

Friday, April 29, 2005 8:58:00 AM  
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Saturday, October 01, 2005 4:39:00 PM  

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