"Some people obsess on Mexican immigrants and are virulently against them," says North County Times columnist and former KOGO radio talk show host Raoul Lowery Contreras. "They cite the problems illegal aliens cause -- and problems they don't cause. These Americans tend to be very fanatical. But they're not honest. They say it's all about the law and sovereignty. But it's really because the immigrants are Mexicans. If they were Scots or Swedes, there would be no concern at all."
Contreras is a long-time Republican activist. But contrary to many other Republicans, he is an ardent supporter of George W. Bush's amnesty program for Mexican immigrants. His views may help explain why Bush received 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in the recent presidential election. According to a November 11 report in the Washington Times, Bush's share of the Hispanic vote rose nine percentage points from 2000 to 2004.
On Saturday, November 27, Contreras will be at Barnes and Noble booksellers in Oceanside to sign copies of his new book Illegal Aliens: A Dagger into the Heart of America?? The book is primarily an attack on the right wing's resistance to the Bush amnesty plan.
The Bush plan would grant three years of amnesty to Mexicans who live and work in the U.S. illegally. It would also allow people in Mexico to come to the U.S. to work for a three-year period. Both groups could apply for another three years of residence but would have to return to Mexico after that.
Contreras recommends "that they do seven-year permits and make it a total of three for 21 years. That way a person could spend his whole career working, say, for a company in Oceanside as a foreman. Or I might propose 14 years, 7 and 7, and then the possibility of a green card for a person to become a permanent resident.
"Critics point out," says Contreras, "that only three years would get people up here, and they'd say, 'I'm not going back.' Then they'd go back into the illegal arena. But the president even broaching the subject was quite courageous."
I ask whether Bush might drop immigration reform after his reelection. Contreras doesn't think so. He cites momentum building for reform in an immigrant farmworker bill cosponsored by Teddy Kennedy. The bill is already working its way through Congress. And he mentions Orrin Hatch's sponsorship of the DREAM Act, which will make it easier for immigrants to receive higher education. "Besides," says Contreras, "politically, amnesty is a good deal for Bush, because while people are screaming about him doing favors for the rich, all of a sudden he'd be doing something for working people.
"The whole point of my book," says Contreras, "is that a willing employer and a willing employee ought to be able to get together and form a deal." Although he has "excoriated" Cruz Bustamante and groups on the left for advocating an open border, Contreras believes "they're not the main impediment to the president's program. They complain because he doesn't go far enough."
But hard-liners on the right are another story. In the first section of his book, Contreras attacks Harvard University's Samuel Huntington for recently calling Mexican immigration the greatest current threat to American civilization. "Huntington," he says, "is Pat Buchanan with footnotes.
"But we're not being invaded," says Contreras, who puts the ratio of illegal aliens in the U.S. at approximately 1 in 29. Nevertheless, he points out, extremists like Jon E. Dougherty are warning of a coming "revolution" in the U.S by Mexican illegal immigrants. Dougherty's book Illegals: The Imminent Threat Posed by Our Unsecured U.S.-Mexico Border quotes activist Glenn Spencer as saying, "[Illegal immigration] will most certainly lead to a break-up of the United States." Spencer, says Contreras, "moved from the San Fernando Valley to Arizona because he thinks California is already lost."
The book that disturbs Contreras the most, he says, is Victor Davis Hanson's Mexifornia. "Hanson comes from a farming family near Fresno. They grew grapes and peaches. He sits in his farmhouse and complains that illegals take advantage of all the low prices at Wal-Mart, but they're not assimilating. Now, that's idiotic because the ultimate in assimilation is becoming part of our consumer society," argues Contreras.
One tactic of immigration hard-liners is to warn of Islamic terrorists coming into the U.S. from Mexico. I ask Contreras whether the length of the Mexican border doesn't make him worry about that possibility. "It's easier for terrorists to come in from Canada," he says. "Every once in a while someone trots out an Arab coming across the Mexican border and claims the border patrol is catching them all the time. But officials would broadcast that all over the media if it were happening. Look at all the publicity we had a few years ago when a few Iraqi Christians holed up in Tijuana."-- Joe Deegan
Illegal Aliens: A Dagger into the Heart of America?? by Raoul Lowery Contreras
Oceanside Barnes and Noble
Saturday, November 27
2615 Vista Way