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Memo From Mexico | Ruben Navarrette—Where's He At?
Who is Ruben Navarrette, Jr.?
Well, according to his profile on the Washington Post Writers' Group:
"Ruben Navarrette Jr., a columnist and editorial board member of The San Diego Union-Tribune, is a fresh and increasingly important voice in the national political debate. His twice-weekly column offers new thinking on many of the major issues of the day, especially on thorny questions involving ethnicity and national origin.
…..Navarrette draws on both his knowledge of policy and politics and his life experiences to provide meaningful and hard-hitting commentary. He is a gifted and widely sought speaker on Latino affairs..."
In demand as a speaker, on May 23rd, Navarrette is scheduled to deliver the address at the graduation of the University of California at Merced.
Navarrette was born in California, is a native speaker of English, has his bachelor's and master's from Harvard, and is said to be one of only 10 syndicated Hispanic writers in the U.S.A.
In his op-eds and commentaries, Navarrette frequently weighs in on issues related to the National Question, and our own VDARE.COM writers have from time to time tangled with him.
Let's look at where he stands on the issues, and where he's "coming from".
Strictly speaking, Navarrette is not a partisan commentator. He criticizes both Republicans and Democrats. His ideas on education are compatible with those presented in Peter Brimelow's The Worm in the Apple. Navarrette has complained, rightly, that Americans have become too "thin-skinned".
Navarrette is not a "reconquista" calling for a reconquest of the Southwest.
Nor is he overly fond of the Mexican government, which he accuses (correctly) of meddling in U.S. politics, and of using emigration to obtain remittance money . Navarrette has plainly declared that Mexican-Americans don't owe anything to Mexico.
Navarrette has spoken out in favor of border control and affirms the right of the U.S. to control its own border. He says illegal aliens should be deported, and applauded the recent deportation of Elvira Arellano, the Chicago church-squatter.
Navarrette opposes bilingual education, referring to it as a "linguistic prison".
Navarrette comes across as an affable, reasonable, middle of the road Mexican-American.
So what's the problem here? Should Navarrette be writing for VDARE.COM? Why does he end up mixing it up with our writers so much?
Let's take a look at some of Ruben Navarrette's positions that put us on opposite sides of the fence.
First, consider in his own words, how the immigration debate should be conducted:
"My agenda is to demand what this debate really needs: more honesty, an end to hypocrisy, a ban on simple solutions, to be purged of racism and nativism, and an understanding that our anger should be aimed not at people but at government."
I think that VDARE.COM readers too would desire honesty in the debate, so let's see point by point how Ruben's positions differ from ours.
Although Navarrette says he wants the border controlled, he got hysterical when he heard about the Minutemen, a group of American citizens who peacefully stationed themselves on the border simply to spot illegal aliens and report them. That was completely unacceptable to Ruben Navarrette.
In his Minutemen have a right to be idiotic [CNN October 12t, 2006], Navarrette heaps scorn on the Minutemen, calling them "a gang of misfits", "wannabes who play cop" (though at least he did defend their First Amendment rights). According to Navarrette, "It's not tough to win an argument with someone like Gilchrist. You just let him talk, and, before long, he'll say something inaccurate, intolerant, or idiotic."
Navarrette also criticizes the late Cesar Chavez and the UFW (United Farm Workers). In 1973 UFW members physically attacked illegal border crossers. And Navarrette doesn't come down on them as hard as he does the Minutemen, who merely report illegal border crossers. [See also Constitutional Slights: Chandler's INS sweeps another black mark in Valley's treatment of Latinos By Ruben Navarrette Jr., Arizona Republic August 31, 1997 for more anti-Chavez writing.]
Navarrette doesn't like states getting involved in immigration enforcement, and thinks it won't work anyway. He points out that illegals are in the country because they've been offered jobs. But he doesn't want the states preventing that.
In an interview with CNN [Video | Transcript, June 26, 2007]about El Cenizo, Texas—the town that made Spanish its official language—Navarrette claimed that government shouldn't take any position on an official language (in that case, why didn't he criticize El Cenizo for making Spanish official?). He quipped that the El Cenizo situation "isn't the end of civilization as we know it." Navarrette says the feds, and only the feds, should deal with immigration.
Although Navarrette opposes bilingual education, he was pleased with the EEOC ruling against the Salvation Army, saying that the organization could not require its employees to speak only English on the job, and calls Official English rules "divisive".
So having languages compete in a society is not divisive?
On the illegal alien May Day marches, Navarrette says that it's "good that they are expressing themselves" and that "illegal immigrants becoming legal residents, and legal residents becoming U.S. citizens who can vote and run for office" is "good civics".
A constant refrain in commentary and op-ed pieces by Ruben Navarrette is the classic "Illegals do the Jobs Americans Won't Do" mantra, which pops up again and again. For example, in mockingly referring to a program in Colorado, Navarrette says that "the idea is to help locate workers to harvest chili peppers, tomatoes and watermelons—the kinds of swell jobs that clueless cable news demagogues assure us Americans would gladly do if wages were higher".
In a 2004 VDARE.COM article, Joe Guzzardi pointed out something that didn't add up—when Navarrette claimed that apples were rotting on the trees due to a supposed lack of illegal aliens to pick them, it wasn't even the season to harvest apples!
Hysterical claims of crops rotting in the fields or on trees in apple orchards should always be met with several questions: Which crops? What is the growing season and harvest time for said crop in the particular region in which they are grown? (Growing seasons of the same crop differ by region).
Navarrette does admit in one op-ed piece though, that for "low-skilled workers who refuse to get more skills or learn a new trade, illegal immigrants amount to competition." But of course he is putting the blame on the low-skilled workers.
Ruben Navarrette hasn't endorsed a presidential candidate this year.
But he does think that McCain can successfully appeal to a significant portion of Hispanics.
Lately Ruben has been gushing on and on about Obama, whom he compares with Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Navarrette agreed with Obama's snide remark about the "bitterness" of rural folk. "Preach on senator, the truth hurts" he wrote in passing.
Navarrette's thesis is that the difference between Obama and Wright is a generational thing—Wright is just more bitter because of when he grew up. Navarrette even draws an analogy within the Mexican-American community—he contrasts himself with an older Mexican-American activist Jose Angel Gutierrez. (See my previous article about Gutierrez here )
"Other critics demand to know why Obama continued attending the Trinity United Church of Christ even after hearing Wright make controversial comments. That's a dumb question. As a Catholic, I've often heard priests in the pulpit criticize gay marriage, but I did not stand up, point my finger at the altar and denounce the speaker. Still, that doesn't mean I agree with the sentiments."
Age Matters when we look at race, March 23rd, 2008 Union-Tribune
Of course, this is absolutely ridiculous. Gay marriage is incompatible with Catholic doctrine and values. So any Catholic priest worth his salt is going to speak against it. Apparently Navarrette is a "cafeteria Catholic" who just picks and chooses what he likes.
But the radical rants of Jeremiah Wright are not incompatible with the doctrines of his church; in fact, they are part of the church's "Afrocentric" doctrine.
Sometimes Navarrette gets down to brass tacks and really shows us where he stands, For example, in his extremely condescending CNN commentary entitled Fear of Foreigners Drives Immigration Debate (CNN, May 14th, 2007). Navarrette claims Americans don't really know much about immigration, proclaims that "America has never really welcomed immigrants, even the legal kind", and that 2 million immigrants annually is not a big deal anyway.
"In each of those cases, those who tried to shut the door didn't care a whit that the people they were keeping out were coming legally. All they cared about was that the immigrants on the other side of that door were foreigners with weird languages, strange religions, and peculiar customs. Not much has changed. Much of what's driving the current debate is the same fear of foreigners and the changes they bring."
Nowhere in the commentary though does Navarrette ever explain why immigration is good for America.
In another CNN commentary "Mixed Messages on Hispanics" (CNN, Sept. 27th, 2007), Navarrette does some Hispanic cheerleading
"The Hispanic Century is upon us—and influencing everything from food to fashion, politics to pop culture."
Navarrette repeats the common "25% by 2050" prediction;
"There are more than 44 million Hispanics in the United States, and the Census Bureau estimates that—by 2050—we'll represent one in four Americans….despite efforts by nativists to keep out both legal and illegal immigrants in a desperate attempt to turn back the demographic clock, Hispanics aren't going anywhere."
(Why is it that Hispanic activists can publicly gloat about the proportionate growth of their demographic—which of necessity implies the reduction of others—and they aren't called racists?)
"Hispanics aren't going anywhere. Why should we? In many cases, we were here first. In Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, you'll find families whose roots go back five or six generations. These people never crossed a border, and yet many of them are treated as if they came across last week because of skin color or the language they speak."
Actually, when Texas joined the Union in 1845, and the Southwest was ceded in 1848 and 1853, the whole region was sparsely inhabited. Only a tiny minority of today's U.S. Hispanics descend from the Spanish-speaking inhabitants of the Southwest at that time. Which means today's Mexican immigrants have no more right to enter the U.S. than any other immigrants.
In a June 26th, 2006 interview with Lou Dobbs , Ruben let viewers know a little more of where he was coming from. He charged that racism is part of the immigration debate, claiming that about 5% of emails directed to him were "racist". (VDARE.COM readers receive some ugly mail too, you know). Navarrette complained that immigration and language legislation were being combined, and then said that
"What I find unnerving is one minute the Senate was talking about immigration reform, and more power to them, but then suddenly they shift the language. I think they should have the language debate, but they should have it apart from the immigration debate. ""
And why does Navarrette think that's bad? Here's what he said:
"Or otherwise people might get the idea that people are not concerned about the border, but rather who's coming across, what those people are like and how they behave once they get here . ""
This is, I think, a key to Navarrette's thinking, and it bears repeating.
Navarrette says it's wrong for the American people to be concerned about "who's coming across, what those people are like, and how they behave once they get here".
But why should we not be concerned about it? More to the point, why does Ruben Navarrette think it's wrong for us to consider it? Whose country is it?
Navarrette also thinks we should not be at all selective about immigrants, they should only be chosen for employment needs, not on the basis of "personal factors such as education, training or other skills. Getting into the United States should not be like getting into Harvard."
And why not, saith Navarrette:
"Anyone who says otherwise doesn't understand the first thing about this country or the enormous contributions that have been made over the generations by low-skilled immigrants from all over the world who didn't have so much as a high school diploma."
Regular VDARE.COM readers are aware of the "We can stop the Hate" campaign launched by John McCain's friends at National Council of La Raza (the Race) As James Fulford reports, NCLR leader Janet Murguia chillingly told Lou Dobbs that "We have to draw the line on freedom of speech, when freedom of speech becomes hate speech". Of course, what La Raza means by "hate speech" is having a debate over immigration.
In Ruben Navarrette's CNN commentary"10 Ugly Things about the Immigration Debate" Ruben Navarrette came down squarely in support of Janet Murguia's speech to the National Press Club.
In one of his San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed pieces, Navarrette, bouncing off Janet Murguia's "We Can Stop the Hate" campaign, goes off into a rant:
"U.S. born Latinos in America are fed up. They're tired of the ugliness in the immigration debate, and they're not buying the argument that it does not concern them…..Part of the problem is that the right-wingers weren't content to just attack illegal immigrants. They had to attack an entire culture, which is shared by legal immigrants and U.S.-born Hispanics."
It isn't just about illegal immigration, April 23rd, 2008
Wait a minute, Ruben! Didn't you say that we need honesty in this debate? And didn't you say that Americans are too thin-skinned? It sounds like you are quite thin-skinned about this issue! It sounds like you don't want all the issues aired. Why do you have such a chip on your shoulder?
Recall that Ruben Navarrette's whole claim to fame is being a Mexican-American journalist. Even the book he wrote about his experience at Harvard was entitled A Darker Shade Of Crimson. (Crimson is the color of Harvard, so Ruben Navarrette having darker skin, he was a "darker shade of crimson"…get it ?)
A cynic might point out that Navarrette has a vested interest in the growth of the Mexican-American and Hispanic demographics, and, just as importantly, in Mexican-Americans continuing to identify themselves as Mexican-Americans.
Because if they didn't, then how could Ruben Navarrette make a career as a professional token Mexican-American journalist ?
In contrast to Navarrette's thin-skinned, chip-on-the-shoulder ethnic journalism, consider the case of Richard Estrada, another American journalist of Mexican ancestry, whose untimely death in 1999 was a loss for the movement for patriotic immigration reform.
Although Navarrette slams FAIR and CIS, Estrada worked for both organizations and helped found the latter.
In contrast to Navarrette's assertion that the U.S. can't survive without Mexican labor, Estrada testified to Congress in 1995 that "In the face of such evidence my testimony concludes that reviving or expanding agricultural guestworker programs is not in the national interest of the United States."
Did you get that last part? "In the national interest of the United States".
What a concept!
So, my friends, we should not be mislead by Ruben Navarrette's apparently reasonable tone, nor intimidated by attacks on the immigration reform movement, his insinuations of "racism" and his implication that some topics should be off limits.
Let Ruben continue to triangulate—while we continue to inform Americans and debate our nation's future.
American citizen Allan Wall ( email him) resides in Mexico, with a legal permit issued him by the Mexican government. Allan recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here his "Dispatches from Iraq" are archived here his website is here.