Our need to ‘share’ too much created monster called Facebook

SAN DIEGO — At the risk of being “unfriended” by members of Congress, there was a lot not to “Like” about the legislative branch’s assault this week on a certain social media site.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat for hours over two days in separate hearings before House and Senate committees. The 33-year-old took questions from dozens of lawmakers — including many senior citizens who didn’t seem to understand how the site works.

I wonder if this was what it was like for my parents’ generation, when folks wrung their hands and worried themselves sick in the 1950s over this new-fangled abomination called “rock ‘n’ roll.”

I’m going to tell you what the Facebook hearings were really about. But first, we have to be clear on what they were (BEG ITAL)not(END ITAL) about.

The hearings were not about the privacy of Americans, who voluntarily relinquish that privacy when they choose to open a Facebook account and then choose to post personal data on their page to seek the approval of family, friends and complete strangers. As Zuckerberg told lawmakers, Facebook’s users call the shots as to who sees what — if for no other reason than that they can vote with their “delete” button and leave the site. They choose what to reveal — and to whom.

Nor were the hearings about the need for Zuckerberg to apologize for the fact that a Republican presidential candidate successfully used in 2016 much the same data-collection methods that were successfully used by a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 and 2012. The Republicans essentially beat the Democrats at their own game.

And nor were the Facebook hearings about getting closure on the 2016 election. That won’t happen. Neither Hillary Clinton nor President Trump will let the election go. Now congressional Democrats suggest that the reason that young people, African-Americans, Latinos, working-class whites and probably some members of the Obama administration didn’t vote for Clinton was because a sinister third party hijacked their Facebook data and created anti-Hillary propaganda.

Speaking of apologies, Democrats need to apologize to the American people for the original sin of picking as their presidential nominee such a flawed, unappealing and unelectable candidate. After all, does anyone really believe that we would be here at this exact spot if Clinton had been elected because she remembered that there are voters in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin? And what if Clinton had won the election and done so in part because of successful mining of Facebook data? Democratic lawmakers would be giving Zuckerberg a medal — or at least a “thumbs-up” emoji.

I miss the ol’ days when lackluster presidential hopefuls — whether they were Democrats like Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, or Republicans like John McCain and Mitt Romney — owned up to their failures. Nowadays, losers blame everyone from the FBI to the Russians to the media to Facebook.

These hearings were about what most things in Congress are usually about: power and money. Zuckerberg has plenty of both, and the lawmakers want their slice. And they will shame, flatter, threaten and arm-twist to get it.

As for power, Zuckerberg has an audience of more than 2.2 billion monthly users and the ability to call together a couple dozen of Silicon Valley’s top technology leaders at a summit to discuss best practices — something that, by the way, more than one lawmaker asked him to do to advance their pet causes.

As for money, Forbes and Bloomberg both put Zuckerberg’s net worth at about $70 billion. He lost an estimated $15 billion due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But he made back $3 billion after his first day of congressional testimony.

Politicians need money like an opioid addict needs pills. So each time one of them told Zuckerberg during the hearings that he or she looked forward to “following up” with him, that could’ve been the signal. The bite is coming. This was no shake up. This was a shakedown. At least Tony Soprano did it with more style.

Again, we started this. We made Zuckerberg rich and powerful. All because of our insatiable need to share stuff and show off our “perfect” relationships, vacations, children and cuisine. How much of it is real? They ought to call it “Falsebook.”

For some people, it’s not about sharing but stirring. They like to know they’re having an effect on other people.

That reminds me. After this column runs, I’ll probably post it on Facebook. Hope you “Like” it.


Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Young immigrants see DREAM killed by politics

SAN DIEGO — How’s this for a whodunnit: Who really killed the deal to save Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — President Trump or congressional Democrats?

The question isn’t simply, “Who killed DACA?” We know the answer to that. It was Trump who nixed the Obama-era program last September and then called on Congress to provide a permanent legislative solution by March 5.

After lawmakers missed that deadline, the judicial branch came to the rescue. A federal judge declared that the administration could not pull the rug out from under DACA recipients by changing the rules. So, while no new applications are being taken, existing applicants have a certain degree of protection as long as they continue to renew their status.

It’s a Band-Aid over a bullet wound. It’s also a lost opportunity to offer legal status and eventual citizenship not only to roughly 700,000 DACA recipients but also — under a generous proposal from the White House in January — another 1.1 million Dreamers not enrolled in the program.

Yet the question of who derailed, over the last few months, the political negotiation to save DACA is more complicated.

Sadly, when they talk about immigration, neither liberals nor conservatives are proficient in “complicated.” That would require honesty about the fact that neither political party cares much about the Dreamers, and both have done a lousy job of dealing with the low-hanging fruit of the immigration debate.

After all, if lawmakers won’t give legal status to undocumented young people who have lived in the United States their entire lives, speak English fluently, go to college, have jobs and followed the rules to register for DACA, then how will they ever have the bandwidth and backbone to legalize their working-class, less-educated and less-assimilated parents?

However, both parties are fluent in the languages of over-simplification, blame shifting, and self-preservation through avoidance of the topic. That’s why most of the chatter coming out of Washington about DACA and Dreamers amounts to feverish attempts by both parties to malign the other side.

Trump is good at this game. Unlike most Republicans, when it comes to immigration, he doesn’t wait to be attacked as callous, indifferent or racist. He goes on the offensive.

The president recently tweeted: “DACA is dead because the Democrats didn’t care or act, and now everyone wants to get onto the DACA bandwagon … No longer works. Must build Wall and secure our borders with proper Border legislation. Democrats want No Borders, hence drugs and crime!”

For Trump, talking — or tweeting — about immigration is like making stew. DACA? Wall? Border? Drugs? Crime? Sure, put them all in. Stir vigorously. Then bring to a boil.

Still, the president is not wrong to fault Congress for its dithering on DACA. Neither party even broke a sweat the last few weeks in trying to find a solution.

It’s all about fear. Republicans are paranoid that they will be pummeled by the Ann Coulter wing of the GOP, which includes the nativists that desperately want to make America white again. Democrats are just as afraid of trying to convince the beleaguered blue-collar voters they lost in the presidential election that the solution to their anxiety over lost jobs is to legalize more than a million young people who are eager to work.

How did we get here? Trump is not wrong that Democrats in Congress played a big role in undermining the Dreamers, and that goes all the way back to 2001, when the DREAM Act was first proposed. The Dreamers wouldn’t be on the brink of deportation — if that’s really where they are — if five conservative Democratic senators hadn’t killed the DREAM Act in December 2010. And since then, Democratic leaders have — one by one — sprinted away from Dreamers who demanded a legislative fix.

It’s not just that Democrats want to preserve a wedge issue, or that peeling off 1.8 million Dreamers from an undocumented population estimated at more than 11 million will hurt the chances of legalizing more people. It’s also that Democrats don’t want to be known as the “amnesty” party.

So when Trump laid out the terms under which he would legalize a whole bunch of young people — i.e., an end to “chain migration” — Democrats balked. Not because it was a bad deal for immigrants but because it was a bad deal for Democrats.

If you really think that the debate over DACA has anything at all to do with the Dreamers, then you’re the one who is dreaming.


Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

The rise and fall — and resurrection — of Tavis Smiley

SAN DIEGO — Many Americans born after the 1960s and the dawn of affirmative action seem to think that if you’re a person of color with even an ounce of smarts and a smidgeon of talent, all doors will magically fling open.

But reality is more complicated.

Consider the rise and fall — and recent resurrection — of Tavis Smiley.

This week, the veteran African-American broadcaster hosted a special program on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to mark the 50th anniversary of his assassination. “MLK50: A Call to Conscience” aired on The Word Network, which claims to be “the largest African-American religious network in the world.”

The 53-year-old has also signed on to host a new online series called “The Upside with Tavis Smiley” that will “celebrate the spirit of resilience” and be distributed over various platforms, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku.

This is not exactly the definition of keeping a low profile. That’s what damage control specialists will often tell those embroiled in a scandal.

In December, amid allegations of inappropriate sexual relationships with subordinates, PBS unceremoniously dumped Smiley when it indefinitely suspended the distribution of his nightly talk show after 14 years. Smiley quickly hit the airwaves to defend himself. Smiley admitted to “consensual” relations with employees. But he accused PBS of making a “huge mistake.”

PBS claimed that Smiley was inconsistent in his public statements and said he needed to get his “story straight.”

Now Smiley has filed a lawsuit against the network claiming racial bias and breach of contract. He calls PBS a “hostile work environment” and accuses the network of using the sexual allegations as “a pretext” to cut ties with him because he wasn’t the kind of African-American that PBS expected him to be. That includes being a grateful and obedient “team player.”

I’ll buy that. When you’re a person of color, nearly every opportunity comes with a rigid standard of how you’re supposed to behave, think and speak. Smiley could be part of the collateral damage of the #MeToo movement.

As I’ve written before, I’ve known Smiley for about 25 years, dating back to the time when the two of us — while still in our twenties — co-hosted a nightly radio show in Los Angeles.

In light of his new deal with The Word Network — along with a daily podcast, book deals, speeches, etc. — I’m tempted to say that Smiley has made a comeback. But the truth is, my old friend never left. Tavis Inc. has always been open for business — 24/7, 365 days a year. This is one media shop that never closes.

Yet his dismissal by PBS — which he still considers unjustified, as evidenced by the lawsuit — undoubtedly tarnished his brand and wounded him personally. He may even be wondering why it happened.

I have a theory: Some of this is about race. How could it not be? Until he was dismissed he was one of the only African-American hosts on television, and the only one to ever host a talk show on the network. That comes with a learning curve. It’s possible that PBS didn’t know how to navigate it. Besides, the media landscape can often be hostile to minorities.

Dating subordinates is not smart. It is also not new. Doctors date nurses. Pilots sleep with flight attendants. Senior partners at law firms date junior associates. Media is one of the worst offenders; I know one former newspaper editor who dated three reporters at the same time.

After our show ended in 1995, Smiley became a leading voice for African-Americans. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Ebony magazine named him the No. 2 African-American change agent in media on its Power 150 list; No. 1 was Oprah Winfrey. Smiley makes people think. And he has made millions of dollars doing it.

Growing up in a large working-class family in Indiana with nine siblings, my friend came up from nothing and got this far in life the old-fashioned way — with lots of talent, long hours and dedication to his craft.

Along the way, Smiley stumbled. But he picked himself up, and — through hustle and hard work — he is still standing.

You see, in America, it’s true that the doors don’t just swing open. But they also don’t stay locked forever.


Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Ingraham tweets herself into trouble by attacking teen

SAN DIEGO — Conservatives like to preach that people should take responsibility for their actions and not play the victim.

Thus, it is not a good look when they themselves refuse to take responsibility for their actions and instead play the victim.

The latest right-wing victim is Laura Ingraham. The Fox News host is steadily bleeding advertisers from her primetime show after she messed with the wrong kid. She is now on a “preplanned vacation.”

Preplanned? If you believe something that far-fetched, you must be a regular viewer of Fox News’ primetime lineup. There, the theme seems to be: Democrat-voting illegal aliens are taking your guns!!

Things went awry when Ingraham mocked 17-year-old David Hogg in an attempt to defend the National Rifle Association. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student — who has called for stricter gun laws since the Feb. 14 shooting on that campus in Parkland, Florida — had revealed his college admissions setbacks during an interview on another network.

Firing up her 2.19 million followers on Twitter, @IngrahamAngle tweeted: “David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA … totally predictable given acceptance rates.)”

Here you have Ingraham, a full-grown woman who — besides writing books and hosting a daily radio show — also has a nightly show on Fox News that attracts more than 2 million viewers, and she still finds time to pick a fight with a teenager.

Guess what? The teenager won. Via Twitter, Hogg playfully asked Ingraham for a list of her advertisers — saying he was “asking for a friend.” Then he called for a boycott.

Ingraham’s list is shorter now that nearly 20 companies have bailed, including Bayer, Office Depot, Hulu, Johnson & Johnson, TripAdvisor, Nutrish, Expedia, Honda and Nestle.

Conservatives responded by making whine.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, tweeted: “@IngrahamAngle Your gutless former sponsors need to reflect, what little will be left of God given American Liberty if this de facto censorship persists?”

John Nolte, a writer for Breitbart: “Let us call this what it is — un-American McCarthyism, a partisan witch-hunt in which the establishment media is an active participant and cheerleader.”

Hulu pulls its ads off a TV show, and, all of a sudden, it’s a reboot of McCarthyism? Exaggerate much?

To help you navigate the nonsense, here are three things to keep in mind about L’Affaire Ingraham.

  • Everyone has rights, and they are all free to exercise them. Ingraham has the right to tweet whatever she likes. But Hogg also has the right to take offense and call for a boycott. In turn, advertisers have the right to protect their brands by running away from an unpleasant figure like Ingraham. Finally, Fox News executives have the right to call Ingraham into their offices for a meeting and pull the plug on the whole show if that is what they ultimately decide to do.
  • Other conservative talkers — most notably Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh — have survived boycotts. But they’re likable. Ingraham isn’t. I’ve listened to, and often enjoyed, her commentary for more than 20 years. She is smart and telegenic. She’s also mean, condescending and snarky. She is missing the chip that tells our subconscious: “Don’t say that. It’s not appropriate.” She says what pops into her head, with no filter. Heck, if you’re going to use social media, you ought to have social skills. Ingraham doesn’t.
  • Young people like Hogg who play in the adult sandboxes of politics and media aren’t immune to criticism. But victims often can be. The Parkland students became experts in the gun debate the moment they found themselves staring down the barrel of a high-powered rifle. Just as pro-immigrant liberals shouldn’t downplay the suffering of families of those killed by illegal immigrants — like Kate Steinle, who was slain in July 2015 along a pier in San Francisco — pro-gun conservatives also shouldn’t attack the victims of school shootings.

If she wants to continue being invited into people’s homes, Ingraham needs to be the dinner guest that people hover around and not the one they flee. When she returns from vacation, she ought to be less acerbic and more humble. If she can’t do that, her bosses at Fox News should put her back on vacation. Permanently.


Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Trump’s beliefs often mirror Cesar Chavez’s

SAN DIEGO — Mexican-Americans are doing a stint in our own version of purgatory. It’s called the Trump Era.

After all, Donald Trump’s ascension into the world of politics — his campaign, election and presidency — has been filled with mean-spirited insults toward Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

And on March 31, what would have been the 91st birthday of one of our most iconic figures, Cesar Chavez, Mexican-Americans must stomach the crushing irony that the farm labor leader’s anti-immigrant nativism and “America First” protectionism were early precursors to much of President Trump’s agenda.

The story of Chavez and the United Farm Workers union he helped start is a tale that I know quite well — perhaps too well.

As a native of the San Joaquin Valley, I was raised an hour’s drive from the town of Delano, which was ground zero for the UFW. Both my parents, and all four of my grandparents, picked fruits and vegetables. I’ve been studying, writing and speaking about Chavez and the union for more than 25 years. I have had separate and ugly confrontations with Chavez and UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta. I’ve seen the legend and the lore up close, warts and all.

Meanwhile, as a journalist, I’ve covered Trump since he came down the escalator at Trump Tower in June 2015, declared his candidacy, and said that my Mexican grandfather came to this country with “lots of problems” and brought crime and drugs. I’ve called Trump a racist, a bully and a demagogue. Then I got mean.

So, believe me: If this were Star Wars, Chavez would be telling Trump, in the voice of James Earl Jones: “Donald, I am your father.”

Trump thinks a lot about the U.S.-Mexico border. So did Chavez, who observed: “As long as we have a poor country bordering California, it’s going to be very difficult to win strikes.”

Trump is hostile to competition. So was Chavez, who used strikes to rig the law of supply and demand so that growers had to use laborers represented by the UFW.

Trump thinks that immigrants hurt U.S. workers by taking jobs and lowering wages. So did Chavez, who tried to protect union members by ridding the fields of non-unionized immigrant farm workers through what he called the “Illegals Campaign.” It used intimidation, violence, calls to immigration agents to report undocumented immigrants, and demands that those who crossed the picket line be arrested and deported.

Trump sees Mexicans as inferior — the kind of folks who come from what the president calls a “shithole.” So did Chavez, who — as someone who was born in the United States and saw the world as an American, not a Mexican — often referred to Mexican immigrants as “illegals” and “wetbacks.”

Trump pushes populism and bashes the rich and powerful. So did Chavez, who said: “History will judge societies and governments — and their institutions — not by how big they are or how well they serve the rich and the powerful, but by how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and the helpless.”

Trump blames free trade for the loss of American jobs. So did Chavez, who — if he were alive today — would likely oppose the North American Free Trade Agreement as hurting union workers who have to compete with the productivity of workers in other countries and whose wages fall as a result.

Trump only cares about winning and doesn’t seem to have any moral qualms about how to get there. Chavez was the same way, and he observed at one point: “There is no law for farm labor organizing, save the law of the jungle.”

Finally, Trump has often been accused of carrying things too far and inciting violence. So was Chavez, who, despite preaching non-violence, was accused of condoning violence carried out by others. Case in point: the infamous “wet line.” In the 70s, Chavez’s cousin Manuel — on behalf of the UFW — set up a human barrier to stop Mexican immigrants from crossing the border by beating them bloody, according to reports like one in the Village Voice which accused the UFW of waging a “campaign of random terror.”

As a pair of petty, self-centered, unpleasant and deeply flawed human beings, Trump and Chavez would have gotten along great.

And with that realization, the purgatory in which we Mexican-Americans now find ourselves gets a bit more uncomfortable.


Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Bullying of Oakland mayor proves that politics pollutes truth

The three amigos of immigration enforcement — President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan — are shamelessly vilifying Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

That’s odd. These bullies usually only terrorize lowly Mexican immigrants. The power dynamic shifts when they pick on a U.S. citizen and elected official with a soapbox.

The amigos are no match for Schaaf. Their accusations are false. Their arguments are full of holes. And now their lies have been exposed.

Besides, Schaaf knows how to fight back. When the amigos attacked her, she said out loud what many Americans have already figured out: Trump’s immigration crackdown — in California and across the country — is driven not by a desire for border security or safe streets but by anti-Latino racism.

Same old story. If this were the late 1700s, and the purge were being led by Benjamin Franklin, the target would be German immigrants — including perhaps some named “Trump.” Now, it’s the Mexicans’ turn to be picked on.

Schaaf knows the script, which is why the administration needs to keep her quiet by trying to push her around. The Justice Department claims to be investigating her, and the amigos accuse her of aiding and abetting illegal immigrants to elude federal agents in the lead up to a recent raid in Oakland.

All Schaaf did was alert the public, on Feb. 24, of an impending four-day operation by the federal government in her city — dubbed “Operation Keep Safe” — that she feared would cause chaos for residents. She posted the warning on Twitter.

Heavens, I do hope she can avoid the electric chair.

Conservatives — whose passion about immigration often far exceeds their knowledge of the topic — compare Schaaf to someone who drove the getaway car for a bank robbery. The digital media site HotAir.com said she “gang-signals illegals.”

Por favor. First, Schaaf swore an oath, but it wasn’t to Washington; she doesn’t take orders from the federal government any more than immigration agents take orders from local municipalities that make meaningless declarations of sanctuary. Second, it’s absurd that ICE — which routinely alerts employers of impending raids, which leads to employers informing workers, which leads to workers mysteriously not showing up for work that day — is now suddenly concerned about secrecy. And third, if Californians want to punish the accomplices for illegal immigration, all they have to do is round up the U.S. citizens who employ them — to pick peaches, build homes, raise kids, clean houses, and do every other chore that entitled Americans think is beneath them.

Recently, the administration’s case against Schaaf fell apart. Both Sessions and Homan have said that 864 “criminal aliens” skedaddled because Schaaf tipped them off. They arrived at that figure by taking the number of targeted immigrants — which media reports put at “nearly 1,100” — and subtracting the number they actually arrested, which officials claimed was 232.

But there is no proof that those 864 “criminal aliens” had access to Twitter, saw that tweet, or even that they read English well enough to understand it if they had seen it.

It gets worse. The whole “nearly 1,100” number is phony. That was just the target, which ICE never hits. Former ICE Director John Torres has said the agency typically captures about 40 percent of people it targets in sweeps.

And worse. James Schwab, a former ICE spokesman for Northern California, resigned on March 9 to protest what he called “false and misleading” public statements by Homan, Sessions and Trump about Schaaf and the operation. A dozen U.S. senators have signed a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, asking him to investigate Schwab’s claims.

And worse. The administration is now saying that three of the people Schaaf supposedly helped escape were later arrested on other crimes. Yet, an ICE spokesman confirmed that the arrests took place far from Oakland — in Sacramento (80 miles away), Los Banos (110 miles away), and Tulare County (220 miles away). There is also no evidence that the three men have ever been to Oakland.

What a circus. This is what happens when a news story is polluted by politics and personal agendas. The first thing you lose sight of is the truth.

During Holy Week, Schaaf’s bravery in the face of slander and spin recalls a certain Bible tale about a boy who took on a giant with no more than a sling. And we know how that story turned out.


Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

America’s war on competition takes a toll

SAN DIEGO — Let me put in a good word for a concept that, in America, used to be seen as something positive that made everything better but which is now on the outs.

It’s a quaint notion called competition.

And, in the Trump era — where everyday Americans who supposedly didn’t have a voice now holler at the top of their lungs — who’s afraid of a little friendly competition? A whole lot of people, it seems.

Consider the Trump administration’s tariffs — 25 percent on imported steel, 10 percent on imported aluminum.

That is naked protectionism. The idea is for the government to manipulate U.S. trade policy to prop up failing industries in the hopes of saving a few jobs in steel-producing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, which helped tip the election to Donald Trump.

Note that we’re not talking about protecting jobs at Google or Apple. Those U.S. companies are thriving.

But rewarding failure only encourages more of it. Besides, most economists agree tariffs tend to backfire and hurt the very industries that they intended to help by providing a crutch, stifling innovation and fostering dependence on government. None of these things is good for business, and all of them can be fatal.

What is good for business, however, is thinking outside the box. When it hit hard times in the 1980s and found itself with its back against the wall, Pennsylvania’s steel country had to get creative and diversify. Pittsburgh, which was once known as the nation’s top “steel city” with a professional football team to match, now markets itself as an up-and-coming “tech hub.” Instead of angling to get into the steelworkers’ union, young people are taking computer programming courses and learning to code.

That’s what happens when you have to adapt to changing times. You hustle. You pick up new skills. You change your line of work or you move away to a place with more opportunity.

Those who don’t want to do any of the above will instead look for ways to limit competition — in this case, by making it harder and more expensive to import foreign steel and aluminum.

It’s not just about tariffs, either. America’s war on competition also extends into the immigration debate.

Certainly, there are many good reasons to combat illegal immigration. But for many of those who also have a problem with immigrants who enter the United States legally, it often comes down to getting rid of the competition.

Recently, while hosting a radio show, I discussed efforts now underway in Congress and the White House to cut legal immigration by ending a long-standing policy that prioritizes family reunification — or what the administration likes to call “chain migration” because it sounds more sinister.

I asked listeners: “I know that many of you oppose illegal immigration. But what’s your beef with legal immigrants?”

An engineer called in and insisted that it wasn’t “fair” for him to be forced to to compete for jobs with engineers from India or China. He always came up short.

It could be the foreign engineers were smarter, had better credentials and displayed a stronger work ethic.

The caller didn’t see it that way. Rather than admit that he might have been outgunned by those who were more qualified, he said — with no evidence to prove it — that what cost him those jobs was that people from other countries “will work for lower wages” than Americans demand. Thus, he argued, we should limit the number of high-tech foreign workers who enter the United States. And, he insisted, “there is nothing wrong with that.”

Actually, there is a lot wrong with it.

Here’s just one thing: Anti-immigrant conservatives — including those on Team Trump — preach about how people who want to immigrate to the United States need to “play by the rules.”

Fine. That’s what these foreign engineers did. They followed the rules, paid the fees, processed the paperwork and waited in line. And now that they’ve arrived at the front door, someone wants to change the rules and turn them away.

And why is that? Because the incoming talent doesn’t have enough education and skills, and they don’t meet America’s standards? No, the opposite. It’s because they have so much of those things that some Americans are afraid that they themselves might not measure up. So they want to eliminate the competition.

That’s not right. It’s not smart, or beneficial or farsighted. And it’s certainly not the American way.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

These immigrants broke the rules, but their tragedy breaks our hearts

SAN DIEGO — Picking fruit and vegetables is a crummy job that Americans aren’t exactly eager to do. Not at any wage.

Yet recently, in a tragedy set against the backdrop of the lush farmland of Central California, a husband and wife were on their way to do a couple of those crummy jobs — when instead they wound up at the morgue.

The farm workers were 35-year-old Santo Hilario Garcia and 33-year-old Marcelina Garcia Profecto. One fateful day last week, Garcia came out of his house before 7 a.m. and got behind the wheel of an SUV, with Profecto beside him. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents spotted Garcia and concluded that he fit the description of a suspect they were after. So they trailed him and pulled him over. As the agents exited their vehicle, Garcia panicked and sped away. The SUV slid off the road, flipped over and crashed into a power pole. The couple died at the scene.

Two other details:

First, at home, the couple left behind six children who are now orphans. A half dozen kids will grow up without parents, maybe wind up in foster care.

And second, this dreadful story could have been avoided if the ICE agents were better at their jobs. You see, they made a mistake. They weren’t after Garcia, only someone who looked like him.

That’s understandable. In these dark days of fear and loathing, all Latino immigrants look alike.

You hear anti-immigrant pundits on television talking about how farmers want “open borders” so they can keep wages low and exploit immigrants while denying jobs to Americans. It’s one of those colossally ignorant statements that comes from city folks who think that milk comes from the supermarket.

With unemployment in California at a mere 4 percent, most of the folks who want to work are working. Meanwhile, those who don’t want to work have the whole day free to call into talk radio shows and complain about how there are no jobs.

A fast-food restaurant near my house needs workers and it is offering $11 per hour, the state’s minimum wage.

In San Diego County, an avocado farmer insists he can do better and that his workers can earn as much as $15 per hour. In Fresno County, a citrus farmer tells me that he is paying workers $22 per hour to pick mandarin oranges.

These gentlemen and other growers make up California’s agriculture industry, which brings in $45 billion annually. Neither has ever had an American come up to them and ask for a job picking fruit.

California — which has the world’s sixth largest economy — couldn’t survive without farming. And farming would vanish without illegal immigrant labor.

Hatred and heated rhetoric doesn’t bring in the harvest.

I didn’t read this story in a book. I saw it with my eyes. I was born and raised in Central California. That is my home. The people there — who are often looked down on by clueless sophisticates in San Francisco and Los Angeles — are my people.

And, where immigration is concerned, my people live in the real world. Unlike the folks in Rust Belt states like Ohio and Pennsylvania who want to curl up in the fetal position and wait out the global economy by relying on Trump administration tariffs on steel and aluminum, the people in Central California are too busy working to stop and listen to those who say there is no work.

In fact, the state’s farmers are so productive, and their industry so efficient, that they grow more than half of the produce in the United States and still have a surplus to sell overseas. So if countries like Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Brazil — which make up more than half of steel imports into the United States — retaliate against Trump’s tariffs, agricultural exports could wind up taking the brunt of the punishment.

Back to the tragedy, I know what you’re thinking. But don’t speak to me about blame. Parents are not perfect. Like ICE agents, they make mistakes. These parents made the mistake of living in the country illegally. Then they made the additional — and fatal — mistake of fleeing from law enforcement officers. And for those mistakes, they paid a very high price.

Still, when confronted by heartbreaking stories like these, Americans can’t get so focused on legality that we lose sight of our humanity. That is, if we want to continue to claim to be a civilized people.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Trump’s wall is a 12th-century solution to 21st-century problem

SAN DIEGO — President Trump only spent about three hours in America’s Finest City last week.

It was barely enough time to get a cup of coffee. Or — since San Diego was founded by the Spanish in 1769, and today hums along due in large part to the productivity of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans — maybe a café con leche.

From the tone of his remarks, Trump could’ve been in town to promote a new book titled “Border Security for Dummies — 12th-Century Solutions for 21st-Century Problems.”

That’s because, however brief, the visit gave Trump a chance to inspect prototypes for his “big beautiful wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border, which could cost as much as $25 billion.

You remember, the wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for. Our neighbor essentially told Trump: “No way, Jose.” Just as well, because — even if Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto had cut a check — there was no time for Trump to dash across the border and pick it up. We really need to look into direct deposit.

There are some things in life that look better close-up than they do from far away. The border wall is the opposite. The farther you live from the border, and thus the less you know about Mexico and immigration, the better the idea sounds.

I bet there are bumper stickers on cars in Cleveland or Pittsburgh or Milwaukee that read: “Build the Wall.” Well, in this border city, folks know that any solution to a vexing policy issue that fits on a bumper sticker is probably not the best idea since Google.

Besides, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Trump Wall will probably never materialize. And even if it does, it will be neither big nor beautiful. Trump will be lucky to break ground on a few hundred miles along a border that spans 1,954 miles. And, since it is likely to rely at some points on fencing and sensors, it certainly won’t be a solid structure made of steel and aluminum.

Have you seen the price of steel and aluminum these days? It might be cheaper for Trump to use silver.

And speaking of silver, plenty of it is about to rain down on the arch-enemies of the U.S. Border Patrol — the ruthless, multimillion dollar human-smuggling cartels that welcome any talk of building walls because it lets them double their prices.

Depending on where and when you cross, a one-way trip across the U.S. border can now cost as much as $4,000. If Trump ever builds his wall — or even a generic version of it — the price will jump to $8,000.

Trump always brags about how smart he is because he went to an Ivy League college.

Here’s what I picked up when I took a break from attending an Ivy League college to enroll for a year as a visiting student at a state college back home in Central California: Employing a strategy that strengthens your adversary is, well, not smart.

As someone who has covered the immigration debate for more than 25 years, I feel like I’ve been writing about the concept of a border wall since California belonged to Mexico.

Don’t let the fact that I’m Mexican-American fool you. I want to give the Border Patrol what they’ve been demanding from politicians for years with no luck: tunnel-detection equipment, roads along the border, the most sophisticated technology. You see, I’m in favor of border security. I’m just not in favor of dumb ideas that backfire and do more harm than good.

While in San Diego, Trump told a crowd of supporters that California wants the wall, and San Diego wants the wall.

Actually, according to polls, both statements are fake news. The only people who want a wall are California’s newest and whiniest minority: Republicans.

But since California is a deep-blue state where Democrats in the state legislature can pass whatever pieces of ridiculous legislation they like — and believe me, they come up with plenty — without a single Republican vote, who cares what the GOP thinks? In this state of nearly 40 million people, it sometimes feels as if you could stick all the Republicans into a publicly financed football stadium.

How did my home state get this broken? Like this: Back in the 1990s Republicans in California took leave of their senses over immigration and alienated the gigantic Latino population by proposing dumb, overly punitive ideas that backfired and did more harm than good.

Thank goodness that sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore.


Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

The Irish were the original bad hombres

Around this time of year, I remember to pour myself a wee bit of whiskey, listen to “Danny Boy” and pay my respects to one of my favorite tribes of rowdies and rogues.

They were the O.B.H. The Original Bad Hombres. Catholic immigrants, they came to these shores as throwaways from their homeland — the kind of place that today someone might call a “s——- country” — where corrupt politicos had betrayed and cheated them. They arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a cigar box of family photographs, a fierce work ethic and the character that comes from suffering. They were denied jobs because of their religion or ethnicity. And when they could find work, they did the sorts of dangerous and dirty jobs that Americans thought were beneath them — only to be accused of taking jobs from natives. For their trouble, they were tormented by know-nothings and subjected to decades of insults, discrimination and mistreatment.

They got an up-close look at America’s schizophrenia. Those who despised them wouldn’t let them live nearby, but then those same people accused them of segregating themselves. They were told they’d never blend in, then accused of dividing their loyalty between this country and the one they left behind. They loved this land even when it didn’t love them back. There was no mistaking them for the blue bloods who looked down upon them. Their blood is green.

I speak of course about Irish-Americans. Saints alive. Whom did you think I was talking about? I suppose their story does sound familiar.

Someone once asked me: “If you weren’t Mexican, what would you be?” Without hesitation, I said: “I’d be ashamed.”

But the five years I spent in Boston gave me the chance to fall in love with another community that knows all about loss and pain and heartbreak.

These days, I think: If I couldn’t be Mexican, I’d be Irish. It’s a short walk. We’re both Catholic, and we’re not far removed from our immigrant roots. After all, what is an empanada but a more compact version of shepherd’s pie? And we both play sad songs so we can cry and feel happy.

My Irish friends pay tribute — in a classic hymn that dates to 1913 — to a young man who heard “the pipes are calling” and had to leave Ireland, either to fight in World War I or to seek his fortune in America. Danny Boy is destined to come home “when summer’s in the meadow,” or “when the valley’s hushed and white with snow,” and “all the flowers are dying,” only to find that his loved ones have passed away — and he never got the chance to say goodbye. Such is the sadness of Ireland.

As part of their own diaspora, Mexicans know this story — of leaving, returning, leaving again — by heart. Our anthem, which I heard at countless Mexican weddings growing up in central California, was popularized by the iconic Mexican crooner Vicente Fernandez. The classic song speaks of love and loss, the kind that tortures you and drives you mad. Having learned to love and lose, and accepting that you were wrong, you can only hope to make it back to the arms of your beloved. Your last wish is to “Volver, Volver” (go back) to where you started, and make better choices.

Mexico’s pain is evident in the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen’s haunting ballad, “Sinaloa Cowboys”: “For everything the north gives, it exacts a price in return.” It’s in the tears of the Mexican immigrant named Jose whom I interviewed last year on an avocado farm in San Diego County. He is proud to tell me that he has two teenage daughters in private school in Mexico, where they’re learning English so they can have a better life. Jose hasn’t seen his girls in 10 years, and he can’t talk about them without his eyes filling with tears. Such is the sadness of Mexico.

To many Americans, Mexicans are all about the “D’s.” They’re dirty, dangerous, devious, dumb, defective and damaging to civilized society. A screed like that is offensive, but it’s not original.

A hundred and fifty years ago, people said the same — and worse — about our distant cousins from the Emerald Isle. They were wrong then. Just as they’re wrong now. When Ireland sent its folks to America, it did send its best.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, lads.


Washington Post Writers Group

Ruben Navarrette is a Washington Post columnist.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns
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