It's the talk of all the Sunday talk shows, of course, the new Arizona anti-immigration law
that crash-landed at the top of the nation's agenda on Friday.
On Sunday, everyone got into the act. On Meet the Press, Evan Thomas, editor-at-large of Newsweek, called the law "racial profiling," "polarizing and chaotic." David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, said the law was "an invitation to abuse.'' And so on. There was nothing new in any of that. Those are comments generally attached to the measure by critics since it became a national issue last Monday.
Then I heard Erin Burnett of CNBC say that businesses, which usually clamor for more immigrants, would not push back against the Arizona law because, she said, Arizona is a state of Hispanic immigrants -- not the immigrants that business wants.
"They want the Indian immigrant, the Korean immigrant, the Chinese immigrant, but not the Hispanic immigrant," she said, without elaborating but implying that Hispanic immigrants are not educated enough or skilled enough. She was being honest, reporting what she has been told and has heard, and when referring only to illegal immigrants, that is sadly the truth.
But it is an outrage that such stereotype of Hispanics is being applied to a whole continent of people.
It's a very complicated issue of course, with no single solution.
Speaking only about illegal immigration from Latin America, a huge part of the problem is rooted in Mexico and the other countries from which most illegal immigrants come. Those who come here illegally are, by and large, unschooled, unskilled except in manual labor, and in many instances unable to speak "good" Spanish, never mind English.
They often come from the lower levels of their society because they are poor, uneducated and unskilled in a technological age.
It's a vicious cycle. They are discriminated against partly because of their skin color, physical appearance and indigenous origin. They tend to be dark-skinned, dark-haired, short, stocky and broad-faced, the features of tribal ancestors hardly tolerated by the ethnically mixed and Iberian-blooded elites of Latin America.
One major difference between the prejudice they face in their countries and the prejudice they face in the United States is that in their own countries they are at home, they don't have to hide or lie. They are surrounded by family and friends. When they come here, they are virtually naked, without money, without resources, without family or friends, and they don't know American customs and history, language and social mores.
They hang together for self-protection and company. You see them at city corners and parking lots: day laborers, construction workers, restaurant dish washers and cooks. But they are not entirely safe, even in presumed tolerant areas like Long Island and New York City, where Hispanic immigrants have been wantonly killed in hate crimes.
Still, despite horrific obstacles, some illegal immigrants make it, learn English, get steady work, go to school, build businesses and good lives. But many do not escape the immigrant ghetto.
At the same time, we've got to acknowledge that the flood of illegal immigrants takes a toll on our border states
. Arizona is in deep trouble. Texas is less so, perhaps because it's bigger, richer, tougher and has a deep historic connection to Mexico. New Mexico is squeezed in between, and Southern California, even with something of a border wall, has a scary drug and human smuggling problem.It's an enormous problem, but finally the battle for immigration reform is on.