Two new public opinion polls reveal deep divisions between Hispanic Americans and Mexicans on the increasingly controversial issue of illegal immigration. While more than 60 percent of Hispanic Americans told Time magazine that illegal immigration is a very serious problem, nearly 50 percent of Mexicans polled by the Pew Hispanic Center of Washington, D.C. would move to the U.S. tomorrow if they could.
A recent Time poll confirms what I have been writing about Hispanic Americans' attitudes toward illegal immigration. Although many ignorant politicians try to ingratiate themselves with Hispanic voters by ignoring the illegal immigration issue, they're sadly mistaken because, according to Time, 61 percent of Hispanics think illegal immigration is an "extremely serious" (29 percent) or "very serious" (32 percent) problem for the U.S. And 64 percent of them say that it's "very important" for Latino immigrants to "blend into the larger U.S. society" instead of isolating themselves in Spanish-speaking enclaves. I couldn't agree more.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, the Pew Center discovered that nearly half (46 percent) of the 1,200 Mexican adults they questioned would move to the U.S. if they could, and 21 percent of them - one in five - would do so illegally if necessary. And more than three-fourths of the Mexican respondents would be inclined to live and work in the U.S. without proper authorization.
"Contrary to what people might expect, the inclination to migrate (to the U.S.) isn't solely among Mexicans who are poor or poorly educated," said Hispanic Center Director Roberto Suro. "They're distributed across the whole breadth of Mexican society." He opined that most Mexicans are motivated to come to the States for economic reasons and/or to reunite with family members already in the U.S.
Despite some improvements in the Mexican economy under President Vicente Fox, Suro continued, "people with college degrees believe they have greater economic opportunities" in the U.S. So, as I noted last Sunday, Fox and his administration are happy to export their economic problems and have little or no interest in helping us with our illegal immigration crisis.
Suro noted that Mexico accounts for nearly 60 percent of foreign-born residents of the U.S. and said at least 10 million Mexicans now live in the U.S., more than half of them illegally; however, other reputable sources estimate our illegal population at more than 10 million with a corresponding drain on public services including education, police and fire protection, and medical care.
In fact, the border situation is so bad that two Democratic governors - Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Bill Richardson (a Mexican-American) of New Mexico - recently declared border emergencies and asked for federal assistance. As I wrote last Sunday, Richardson, a potential presidential or vice presidential nominee in 2008, said his state's border with Mexico is "out of control" and both governors lambasted the federal government for failing to control our borders.
Although Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has vowed to get tough on illegal immigration, I'm still skeptical because President Bush and other pandering politicians of both parties continue to push thinly disguised amnesty programs that would reward illegal immigrants. Their cynical plans have about as much chance of passing Congress as does President Fox's absurd "open borders" proposal. So make no mistake about it, illegal immigration will be a major issue - right up there with Iraq - in the 2006 and 2008 national elections.
The Pew survey shows a sharp difference of opinion between U.S.- and foreign-born Hispanics on immigration issues. For example, while 60 percent of U.S.-born Hispanics oppose the issuance of state driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, only 29 percent of foreign-born Hispanics feel that way. What American politicians should remember in all of this, however, is that many foreign-born Hispanics don't vote.
None of these findings surprise me because I've long believed that most Hispanic Americans are rather conservative on immigration issues. After all, they're here legally and don't understand why those who sneak into our country should have the same rights as those who obey the law and accept the responsibilities of American citizenship. That was my late wife's attitude because, as a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Mexico, she stood in line, filled out immigration papers, studied our Constitution and learned English - all reasonable requirements for anyone wishing to live and work in the U.S. On the other hand, those who refuse to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration deserve to be ignored because they're demonstrating a profound disrespect for the law.
And that's why we should put Nevada candidates squarely on the record on immigration issues before we go to the polls in next year's mid-term elections, which is exactly what I intend to do in this column.
TV Evangelist Pat Robertson is an idiot for advocating the assassination of Venezuela's would-be dictator, Hugo Chavez. Robertson played right into Chavez's hands with his outrageous (and illegal) comment. Shut up, Pat!
n Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.