What happens on the inside when nearly 2,000 Hispanic journalists convene in a major city with a Spanish name? Is it an open-borders zone where Minutemen are stoned on sight and all ketchup has been replaced with salsa?
Not quite. On Thursday I accompanied my friend Rick Oltman to the annual convention of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in San Jose. Rick is the spokesman for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and he had been invited to speak on a panel entitled, "Migracion! Raids, Rights and Responsibilities."
The panel was moderated with great professionalism by ABC news anchor John Quiñones (l), shown below with Rick Oltman (r).
The biggest news made during the 4-day confab: the kerfuffle when Governator Schwarzenegger recommended that Mexicans should turn off that Spanish TV if they wanted to learn English. (Watch clip.) As a former English learner himself, Arnold should get some respect on the subject of language acquisition, yes?
No. And certainly not from Spanish-language media which benefits greatly from maintaining the language ghetto. The other professional complainers piled on with the usual accusations [Hispanic Leaders Blast Schwarzenegger's Advice to Turn Off Spanish TV, FoxNews.com, June 17, 2007].
But I must report that Rick and I were treated in a most professional and courteous way. Many of the better informed Hispanic reporters were quite aware of the American arguments against immigration anarchy.
Still, the subject matter of the panel assured that snarling and worse would take place in a room that included some extreme members of ethnic media. Rick got a certain amount of flak, but the major target was Jamie Zuieback, the Acting Director of the ICE Office of Public Affairs.
One complaint during audience Q&A was a vague but emotional accusation of an overbearing instance of arrest—"shoving a shotgun in her face," symptoms of post-traumatic stress, etc.—which was characterized by the questioner as "terrorism." Such tales seem to be common fare when Hispanics gather to discuss immigration enforcement, where the emotional content is strong, but the important details like name, date and place are absent.
Director Zuieback answered that she would investigate cases of alleged misconduct, but actual facts would be required. She noted that anyone can throw out a frivolous allegation. In the current media environment, an unfounded accusation has nearly the same emotional weight as a proven crime. So it goes for public representatives of law enforcement.
The low point was surely when a man asked Zuieback what her friends and family thought of her "rounding up people and sending them to detention camps" as if she were some sort of Nazi. She responded forthrightly that she was "very proud to work where I do," involved in protecting the public, and that people close to her felt similarly.
In fact, the concept of law enforcement itself received a battering. One member of the panel was Rev. Carol Been [email her] who represented the "new sanctuary movement" popular among left-wing churches. She condemned immigration "laws so inhumane that the only response is to defy them" and declared that her mission was to protect "immigrants" ("illegal aliens" to the rest of us) until society "recognized them for their humanity." Right.
Apparently Rev. Been is unaware that America has the most generous system of legal immigration on earth. Or perhaps the facts don't suit her agenda.
Rev. Been suggested that she considered her immigration position to be spiritually superior to the lesser beings, particularly on the panel, who regard obeying the law as important. She also sniffed that she didn't like the name of the government's deportation effort, "Return to Sender" (too "inhumane"), thereby showing her ignorance about the Mexican elites' strategy of exporting their country's illiterate peasants.
Speaking of political correctness, what would a Hispanic immigration panel be without a token "victim" of American cruelty to trespassing foreigners? The broken-family theme has been the major talking point for the Bush-Kennedy amnesty campaign. Hernando Martinez was on display, telling his sob story of family separation caused by heartless Americans who insist on borders and sovereignty. But I didn't get all the details of his plight. Although a citizen of the United States, Martinez spoke only in Spanish.
Another de rigueur casting requirement of such a group is the ACLU lawyer. Mónica M. Ramírez of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project filled that slot. She voiced a legal concept new to me. She claimed that ICE "raids near schools violated undocumented students' right to education."
At least she didn't refer to the kiddies as "undocumented Americans."
While the panel was going on, someone passed out copies of two recent CAPS ads, apparently in an attempt to alarm attendees. One ad highlighted the immigration-overpopulation connection, from which environmentalists have hidden in droves. The other had the face of a black civil rights leader, Talmadge Willard Fair of Miami, calling amnesty for millions of illegals an "economic disaster" for citizens of his community. (Mr. Fair testified before Congress May 9 on the harm done to black Americans from permissive immigration.)
No open-borders advocates on the panel cared to address the substantive issues of the CAPS ads. Rev. Been brushed aside the concerns of black citizens and suggested reporters ask some other clergy members present.
Rick Oltman had the job of addressing the larger issues of illegal immigration beyond basic law enforcement. He emphasized citizenship and the future. After reflecting on the heroism of the Greatest Generation for winning World War II, he asked whether ours would be remembered as the most selfish generation, unable to even preserve the borders of our great country. Future generations face a constricting America where there is less opportunity for personal initiative. Of course it doesn't help when the elected representatives work against national borders and immigration enforcement.
As Oltman asked, "What do you do when the government breaks the law? Who do you call?"
For a different take on the scene, see the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' view— Commentary: Dear America, here's how to deal with immigrants.
Despite the occasional unpleasantries, the opportunity to present the case for American sovereignty to a tough audience was welcomed by those who defend the nation every day. We thought it went better than expected.
Brenda Walker (email her) lives in Northern California and publishes two websites, LimitsToGrowth.org and ImmigrationsHumanCost.org. She occasionally enjoys enchiladas but lately has been rekindling her fondness for good old American-style meatloaf with ketchup.