Columns

Big media fails

SAN DIEGO — The last few weeks of wall-to-wall coverage of the immigration debate by newspapers, talk radio and TV news convinced me of three things:

  • The ignorance about immigrants in the East Coast media capitals of New York and Washington D.C. is widespread and profound;
  • The debate is crying out for more honesty, nuance and common sense, and less partisan cheerleading; and
  • Latinos, most notably Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, often have a deeper understanding of the immigration issue than non-Latinos.

Let’s kick around that last one for a bit. And before you take offense, maybe you’d also like to argue that women don’t have a better grasp than men of sexual harassment and other issues involved in the #MeToo movement. While we’re at it, anyone want to suggest that African-Americans don’t have special insight into the #BlackLivesMatter crusade?

Now that we’ve settled that, why do you suppose Latinos have such a firm grasp of the realities in the immigration debate?

According to research by the Pew Hispanic Center, we’re more likely to know — and, in some cases, even be related to — individuals who are undocumented or who have been deported. We know firsthand how hard immigrants work, and we have no illusions as to how grueling these jobs can be — either because we’ve done them ourselves or we saw our parents do them. We also know that — when it comes to racism, nativism and anti-Latino bigotry, both subtle and overt — the struggle is real.

Which raises an obvious question: If the media really values “experts” as much as it claims, why aren’t more Latino journalists, pundits and policymakers invited onto talk radio, TV shows or newspaper op-ed pages to discuss immigration?

I’ve lost count of how many roundtable discussions I’ve seen on television news programs where immigration is being discussed and there is not a single Latino at the table.

I get calls every week from frustrated Latino professionals who have noticed the same thing. They say much of the media is either blind or engaged in something more malicious: a “brownout.”

Oh, here and there, you’ll find a few Latino faces on television — Fox News contributor Steve Cortes and CNN contributors Ana Navarro and Maria Cardona among them. But their views are often predictable, and fall in line with what producers are expecting when they book them.

Believe it or not, the nation’s 58 million Latinos — representing America’s largest minority — are complicated. They’re not as one-dimensional as you would think from hearing the extreme views of a handful of pundits on cable news.

It may make for good television to have Fox News host Tucker Carlson — who has abandoned what used to be moderate views and morphed into one of the most openly anti-immigrant voices on television — bicker with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, an activist impersonating a journalist who seems comfortable with the idea of an open border and zero deportations. But the debate — and the nation — gain nothing.

A Latino policy analyst, and former television commentator, told me the media brownout is a result of producers, bookers and editors not having enough colors in their crayon boxes.

“This is a black-and-white world,” he said. “There is no room for us. I blame white liberals for that, because they’re the ones who run the media. It’s to the black community that they feel their strongest connection because that’s where they feel their greatest guilt — over how blacks have been treated.”

It doesn’t help that Latinos, he said, are used to being ignored, neglected and passed over. So we don’t make a fuss.

“We were taught growing up to go along to get along,” he said. “We’re a quiet, hardworking group that you don’t notice when you walk into a room. We’re cleaning up, and serving drinks. But guess what? They’ll sure notice us when we’re gone.”

That’s not bad. But I have another theory: When it comes to the media, Latinos are trapped in a Catch-22. A lot of the people who decide who goes on the air, or onto newspaper op-ed pages, think that Latinos can only talk about immigration. Of course, they also think we’re not so good at talking about immigration because we’re too close to the subject, too emotional and too biased. We can’t win either way.

Thus, Americans can expect the brownout to continue for a while longer, along with traditional media’s gradual descent into the darkness of total irrelevance.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Trump doesn’t understand real America

I’m usually a gracious host. But did I ever tell you about the time I threw someone out of my house?

This was about 15 years ago, when I was living in North Texas and working for The Dallas Morning News. As a Mexican-American whose grandfather came from what President Trump would call a “shithole” country, it might surprise you to hear that the person who got escorted out the door was a well-educated and highly skilled Mexican elitist.

Or maybe it won’t surprise you, if you know anything about how the U.S. immigration system works.

Trump doesn’t. Based on comments attributed to him about his preferred type of immigrants, there are at least three things the president doesn’t understand about America and its magical place in the world:

  • What Trump considers “shithole countries” can produce some of the most loyal and productive immigrants and refugees, in much the same way that those who flee totalitarian regimes treasure freedom or those who escape countries that sponsor terrorism are committed to ending it. We learned this lesson during the Cold War with Eastern Europeans and Cubans.
  • The whole purpose of America is not to skim the cream of the immigrant pool but to take in desperate people from countries that are poor, corrupt and dysfunctional. Not just out of compassion, but also in our own self-interest. Ours is the ultimate land of second chances, where people come when their own nations neglect, abuse, oppress and underserve them. And they often succeed here because they know what else is out there.
  • Those who have a good thing going in their home countries (like, say, people from Norway) are probably not interested in putting in the effort to migrate to a country where nothing is guaranteed and success usually comes at a cost of blood, sweat and tears.

It’s disgraceful that Trump is so brazen about wanting to take in fewer immigrants from places like Haiti or El Salvador. It’s disappointing that he wants to exclude the dark-skinned and the downtrodden to make room for the light-skinned and prosperous. It’s dumb that Trump wants to end what Republicans call “chain migration” and what the rest of us know as “family reunification.” And it’s disturbing that he likes a merit system that favors educated and skilled immigrants — the kind of system that would have rejected the Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants of the 20th century.

Which raises the question: How can Trump be expected to lead America if he doesn’t understand America?

This takes me back to that Mexican elitist, brought to my home by a friend. He came from a wealthy family and was on a student visa. He planned to return to Mexico to run the family business – unless, he said, he got a better offer in the United States. He had an undergraduate degree and spoke perfect English.

There this little jerk was, sitting at my dinner table, badmouthing the United States. He was saying how we brought misery upon ourselves by meddling in the affairs of other countries. He acted like he was doing my country a favor by coming here, going to our universities, even taking a job.

Apparently the concept of looking down on fellow human beings isn’t exclusive to U.S. presidents.

I argued with my dinner guest for a while. Then finally, fed up, I told him to leave.

Behold the kind of people Trump insists we need more of — high-achievers incapable of humility, devoid of gratitude, flattered that they’re being recruited, and so well-versed in fouling up their home countries with their sense of entitlement that now they’d like to do the same to this one.

Email Ruben Navarrette at ruben@rubennavarrette.com. He writes for The Washington Post Writers Group.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Oprah has presidential electricity

In 2007, I was at brunch with friends when politics came up. And suddenly, I found myself trying to explain why I thought a political newcomer from Illinois would vanquish a crowded field of more experienced candidates and become the Democratic presidential nominee.

I struggled. There was nothing on Barack Obama’s resume to suggest that he could win the nomination, let alone the presidency. I just had a feeling that the self-described “skinny kid with a funny name” was poised to turn the political system upside down. There was something about Obama — some inexplicable “X-factor” — that you didn’t see in more seasoned politicians like John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Hillary Clinton.

Here’s what I didn’t understand at the time: Getting elected president isn’t about resumes. It isn’t about experience or IQ tests or knowing the issues inside and out. It’s about excitement. Obama generated it; the others didn’t. He got 20,000 people at rallies; some of his opponents were lucky to get 200.

Now we’re presented with the tantalizing idea that Oprah Winfrey might run for president in 2020.

Within 48 hours of Winfrey declaring to a cheering crowd at the Golden Globes in Los Angeles that “a new day is on the horizon,” smarty-pants anchors and pundits in New York and Washington were pooh-poohing the idea that the broadcast mogul would run for president or be up to the job if she were elected.

According to this elite bunch, not just any media savvy tycoon with loads of charisma and instant name recognition can walk in off the street, run for president and win the whole enchilada. Who knew?

Besides, getting elected to office is hard work, say a bunch of people — most of whom have never put their names on the line and run for anything.

One exception is MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican member of Congress who used to support Donald Trump and now attacks him with regularity. Scarborough, who now says he’s an independent, went off at length — on his show, “Morning Joe” — about how, despite her popularity with a large chunk of America, Winfrey might not be up to the job of running for president.

In fact, he seemed to say that people should stick to one calling. This from a lawyer who became a congressman who became a cable host who also plays in a rock band. Maybe Winfrey isn’t as smart and talented as Scarborough.

Americans are asked to believe that many of the same people who were wrong about Trump are now right about Winfrey. But “experts” are not what they used to be. Whether these commentators are on the right or the left, their crystal balls are out of whack. In this unprecedented political environment, no one can predict with any certainty what’s going to happen next in the arena.

We are also expected to ignore the rhetorical backflips that both political parties are doing to square what they said about one billionaire yesterday with what they’re saying about another billionaire today.

In 2016, Democrats essentially said about the idea of a Trump candidacy: “This is crazy. You can’t have a political novice, who has never run for office, who doesn’t know about politics or public policy and comes from within a bubble of like-minded people. The presidency is not an entry-level job.”

In 2020, if Winfrey runs for president, we’re likely to hear the same sort of things from Republicans.

Eye-rolling could become the new national pastime.

Of course, Obama wasn’t the first presidential hopeful to have the X-factor of ginning up excitement. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all had it. And it’s no coincidence that all went on to be elected, then re-elected. The two-term club is pretty exclusive, and, to become a member, you have to capture the imagination of the American people.

Trump does that. While I don’t agree with most of his agenda, and I think he’s been bad for our political system, there is no denying the electricity he generates. Ask Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.

Getting elected president is hard work, but it isn’t rocket science. If your candidacy excites people to their core, you have a huge advantage. If it doesn’t, well, don’t give up your day job.

Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump also have another thing in common: being underestimated. Don’t make that mistake with Oprah.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. writes for the Washington Post.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Getting the most out of our gifts

I’m superstitious, and I have my rituals.

When I write, I take several minutes to think about what I want to put on the literary canvas — and what to leave out.

When I talk on the lecture circuit, before I’m introduced I go to the restroom and splash cold water on my face.

When I host radio shows, before I utter a word I perform the sign of the cross and ask God to let me speak clearly.

When I go on television, if I’m in New York, I’ll duck into the quiet and stillness of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I’ll sit in a pew and pray that, when the red light goes on, I’ll be able to communicate what I think and feel — in four minutes.

And when I need help with the big things — love, life, faith, family — I call a preacher.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is the leader of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which he founded in 2000 and which now represents more than 40,000 Evangelical Hispanic churches in the United States. The son of Puerto Rican parents is a former high school teacher who taught government and civics in the same Pennsylvania city in which he grew up, a place appropriately named Bethlehem.

Rodriguez is also my go-to-guy for personal growth and spiritual coaching. He started in that role a couple of years ago when, after interviewing him for a column, I meandered into a confession. I told him that — as a Catholic — I was trying to find my way back to God. Pastor Sam — as he is called — listened so passionately that I could feel the intensity coming through the phone line. Then he gave me some advice that helped.

Now I needed his advice again. What weighed on my mind was the task of making a living, and supporting one’s family, while using God’s gifts.

Last year, I turned 50. And I’m clear about what the ledger looks like. God didn’t give me musical, artistic or athletic ability. But he gave me this: the ability to communicate, in written or spoken form.

For that, I’m grateful. From that, I’ve built — from scratch — a good career as a national columnist and media commentator, becoming one of the few Latinos in the country who can lay claim to those titles. Not bad for the son of a cop, and the grandson of farm workers.

Now, my main industry — newspapers — is contracting, and newsrooms are shrinking. In nearly 30 years of writing for newspapers, hosting radio shows, offering TV commentary and the like, I’ve had more than two dozen jobs; I’ve lost six of them.

Almost eight years ago, I lost the highest paying job I’d ever had; two-thirds of my family’s income went out the window. But I hustled, picking up other part-time jobs to add to the ones I had. My wife went back to work. We pulled through.

But it hasn’t been easy. I often feel like that guy in the circus, spinning a dozen plates at the ends of sticks.

I could make a nice living in a cushy corporate job, where I could use my skills to sell soft drinks. I don’t want to do that.

Which led me to my question for Pastor Sam. If these things are my gifts, I asked him, then why isn’t it easier to get the most out of them.Shouldn’t I be able to follow the path that God has laid out, I asked, and still support my family?

First, Rodriguez reassured me that I wasn’t alone, that many people struggle with the same question. He also agreed that I was doing what God wanted me to do, and that my voice was unique and valuable — even if it did make some people feel uncomfortable at times.

Next, he said, we’ll confront, in life, open doors and closed ones, too. God leaves open the doors he wants you to go through, but closes the ones that lead you astray. You can stubbornly push on the closed doors, but they won’t open. The trick is to listen to, and trust in God — and follow your path.

Finally, Rodriguez said, looking back on his own life, he was grateful for the open doors but also for the closed ones.

It was just what I needed to hear, and I thanked him for his counsel. Then I asked him to pray for me, so that I might be a better listener, a good provider and a more faithful servant.

“I will say a special prayer for you,” he said, “so that you will know your path. God bless you.”

Thank you, Reverend. He already has — abundantly so.

Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group, a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, a columnist for the Daily Beast, author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano” and the host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.”


Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Trump’s DACA demands don’t show his ‘love’ for immigrants, or America’s

If he gets his wish list, the president will score quite a win.
Too bad most of what he is asking for would harm the country.


These days, it’s common to hear DREAMers — and those who support them — say they’re being “held hostage” by President Trump and his hardline immigration agenda.

You can see how they got that idea. Trump claims he’ll support a bill that gives legal status to DREAMers, including as many as 800,000 young people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but only if he gets something in return.

Actually, make that four somethings.

At a White House meeting Tuesday with Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate, Trump laid out his final demands for a deal that would shield DACA recipients from deportation when the temporary permit program expires in March.

In a game-changing move, Trump allowed television cameras into the meeting. This brought clarity and transparency — even if it did seem to unnerve some of the lawmakers, who appeared less verbose and more cautious than usual.

Neither party likes dealing with the immigration issue, because it pits rival factions within the parties against one another. For that reason, the standard operating procedure is for two-faced politicians in both parties to say one thing at meetings and a totally different thing once they leave.

This time Trump laid out his demands on live TV:

  • Funding for a proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration has asked Congress for $18 billion over the next decade to build a few hundred miles of barriers along the border and repair a few hundred miles more.
  • Terminating what immigration restrictionists call “chain migration,” but which is really just a nativist concern that an emphasis on family reunification has allowed for the admission of too many people from Mexico and the rest of Latin America.
  • Ending a bizarre and indefensible lottery system that invites prospective immigrants to spin the wheel and try their luck in the casino of America, where admittance letters go not to those we need but those whose numbers come up;
  • Creating an elitist point system that would, in a profoundly un-American manner, give preferential treatment to skilled and educated immigrants so that getting into America is like being accepted into the Ivy League.

Republicans in Congress are likely to add another item to that list: a crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities, those imaginary localities where, legend has it, illegal immigrants can go to live happily ever after without fear of apprehension.

If he gets all that, it’ll be quite a haul for Trump, even if most of what he is asking for would harm the country.

A quick reminder about how we got here. Trump won the presidency by scaring up votes from white voters in battleground states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan whose lives hadn’t turned out the way they assumed they would.

They went looking for some external factor to blame, and Trump offered up a foil: Latino immigrants who, according to what we heard from the candidate, his surrogates and his supporters throughout the campaign, trampled our borders, took our jobs, usurped our resources, threatened our safety, eschewed our language and lowered our standard of living.

The candidate promised to remove these “bad hombres” and end DACA — Barack Obama’s executive action that gave 800,000 undocumented young people a temporary reprieve provided they turned themselves in to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and received permits. He didn’t seem to care that DACA recipients were vulnerable to deportation, despite the fact that he had previously declared his “love” for them and called them “terrific.”

Trump kept the first half of his promise by ending DACA in September, which put pressure on Congress to find a way to protect its recipients.

Some of the more vindictive Trump voters are not too keen on keeping the DREAMers. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has warned Trump not to make a DACA deal, saying it would tell the whole world “to come to America to be here for the next amnesty.”

Silly me. Here I thought reaching a deal on DACA — one that allows the United States to keep nearly a million high-achievers it can’t afford to lose — would show the world that this fabled land of immigrants really does value immigrants.

But let’s not get carried away. Even if Congress does send the president a bill to protect the DREAMers, and even if Trump signs it, this targeted rescue mission won’t do anything to fix our country’s broken immigration system.

Americans will still have an immigration problem. And that won’t change until we stop horse-trading and start telling the truth about our diminished work ethic, our addiction to illegal immigrant labor — and the consequences of both.

Ruben Navarrette Jr., a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group and host of the daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation.” Follow him on Twitter: @RubenNavarrette.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Detained student proves craziness of immigration system

President Trump sees the immigration issue as one big negotiation.

First you do something dramatic to shake things up and put the other side on unsure footing.

A couple days ago, the Trump administration withdrew Temporary Protected Status from about 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants who had been offered shelter by the George W. Bush administration in 2001. According to a Department of Homeland Security statement, they’ll have to find a way to obtain a green card, head home or be removed.

Then you gather the interested parties in a room and force them to strike a deal, assuring them that you’ll go along with whatever consensus emerges.

On Tuesday, Trump called congressional Republican and Democratic leaders to the White House and laid out his final terms for a deal that would protect recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) from being deported when the program expires on March 5. The president’s demands included: funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall; an end to so-called chain migration; and the elimination of the immigrant lottery system, which makes getting into the United States a game of chance. Trump also expressed support for a new system that would amount to affirmative action for immigrants who are well-educated and highly skilled.

The Republicans at the meeting also called for a crackdown on those fabled “sanctuary cities” where the undocumented are supposedly untouchable. That may or may not make it into a final bill, and it’s not clear whether it’s a deal breaker for the White House.

By the way, let’s give Trump credit for allowing television cameras into the meeting. For once, double-talking politicians in both parties — who usually say one thing behind closed doors and another to reporters when the doors open — had to pick one position and stick to it. You gotta love clarity.

Meanwhile, more than 3,000 miles away in California, many people are focused on something more urgent: the fate of a detained college student who happens to be an undocumented immigrant.

Luis Mora was recently apprehended at a border checkpoint while visiting family and friends near San Diego. Soon thereafter, the 20-year-old junior at the University of California, Berkeley — whose visa expired years ago and who applied for DACA protection but was denied — was transferred to ICE custody. He awaits deportation to his native Colombia, where he hasn’t lived since he was 11.

To a lot of people, this sounds crazy. Why remove someone who identifies more with this country than with where he was born? And does anyone believe that the United States becomes a better, safer place when someone like this is removed?

We ought to look for ways to keep people like Mora, not give away those assets to other countries. Does the same administration that wants to recruit immigrants with education also think that we should deport immigrants with education?

But while keeping Mora in this country might be the best thing for him, we should also look at what’s best for the immigration debate. Also, what about the entire population of 11 million illegal immigrants in this country?

How can we have a system that rewards young adults for making good decisions (like going to college) but doesn’t penalize them for making bad decisions (like letting their visas expire and foolishly taking a road trip near the U.S.-Mexico border)?

Many Americans want to help immigrants like Mora. That’s admirable. Yet the best way to help undocumented young people is to stop making excuses for them, treat them like adults, and make them accountable for their actions.

So what should happen to Mora? At the risk of losing friends on the left, here’s the short answer: the same thing that happens to other undocumented immigrants who fall into the clutches of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. College student or not, he should be deported.

Unless there is some unknown provision in the U.S. immigration code that says college students get special dispensation not afforded to housekeepers, gardeners and farmworkers.

It’s troubling that many of those who oppose President Trump’s aggressive immigration enforcement stance are — in this case — so quick to adopt his simplistic paradigm of dividing immigrants into piles of good and bad.

A college student like Mora is considered a good immigrant, while his less-educated undocumented parents — who no doubt worked hard and sacrificed to get him to college in the first place — are bad ones?

You talk about a crazy system. There it is.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

In 2018, resolve to end elitism

As for New Year’s resolutions, I’m forgoing the personal this year and thinking bigger. What’s on my mind is what’s best for America.

And to that end, here’s the perfect aspiration for our country in these dramatic and divided times: Let’s all band together to stamp out elitism. This “-ism” can be just as distasteful as some of the more notorious blights that America confronted in the 20th century such as fascism, racism, nativism and ethnocentrism.

Elitism seems to be just about everywhere — perhaps because it’s part of human nature.

It’s in our history books. In 1787, when the Framers gathered in Philadelphia to create a Constitution that would guide the fledgling republic, the seats at the table were reserved for white men with property.

You’ll find elitism in the modern legislative process. When lawmakers in both parties discuss legalizing undocumented immigrants, they feel most comfortable skimming the cream by offering a special accommodation to high-achieving “Dreamers” who attend college.

Our politics is driven by it. Donald Trump convinced white working-class voters in the industrial Midwest (Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania) that he understood their economic fears and that he could bring back jobs. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton embodied the qualities that repel people away from elitists — arrogance, smugness, condescension, detachment and disdain for those with different values and beliefs.

Elitism sometimes makes a cameo appearance in our debates over controversial issues. At the moment, conservatives can’t wait to fix something that isn’t broken — i.e., the country’s process for admitting legal immigrants — by creating a merit-based system that would give affirmative action to immigrants who are well-educated and highly skilled.

So instead of continuing our country’s proud tradition of offering second chances to go-getters who struck out in their home country — a practice that builds fierce loyalty to this one — we’ll compete with other nations for the upper crust, the kind of people who are likely to think they’re doing us a favor by coming here. Who wants them?

It’s even in those lighter human-interest stories that follow any presidency. But whereas the media once framed the narrative that Bill Clinton’s love for fast food made him more human and allowed him to relate to everyday Americans, now reporters and commentators are wagging a disapproving finger at Trump, whose love for McDonald’s takeout is a deplorable health crisis.

And you can sure hear the screech of elitism in the feverish chatter by Beltway pundits about the soon-to-be-published blockbuster book by journalist Michael Wolff, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” Claiming to have spoken to dozens of current and former Trump aides and White House officials, Wolff paints a picture of a president who is dismissed — even by those who support him — as an “idiot” and a “dope,” with a short attention span, a lack of intellectual curiosity and no interest in reading. And that’s the nice part.

By the way, funny thing about many of those people who are convinced that Trump isn’t very smart: They have never run for office or been elected to anything. And so they can’t even imagine what it takes to do what Trump did in order to win the presidency. After all, life isn’t a spelling bee.

And yet, for all the recent sightings of elitism, the concept is still widely misunderstood. It’s not about money, class, privilege or status. It’s not about having access to power or being part of a protected group or breathing rarefied air.

It’s about how you handle any — or all — of these things. And when you don’t handle it well, and it goes to your head, it’s about thinking that you’re better than other people. When you’re not.

It’s an affliction that cuts across ideological lines. Conservatives act like they’re more patriotic than liberals, while liberals are convinced that they’re more compassionate than conservatives. Half the country is busy looking down their noses at the other half. And then, in an instant, the half being looked down upon changes the criteria and looks down on the first half.

Enough already. This needs to stop. For the good of the nation, and the well-being of its people, I can’t think of a better New Year’s resolution for America than to get rid of elitism.

The stakes are high. It’s a plague that is killing a great country — one insult, one eye roll, one snark at a time.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. writes for the Washington Post.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Trump is in over his head on Dreamers issue

Donald Trump wrote the book on the art of the deal.

Now he says he wants to cut a deal with the Dreamers.

At issue is the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In a sneaky twist on self-deportation, President Obama conned 800,000 undocumented young people into turning themselves into Immigration and Customs Enforcement in exchange for a temporary reprieve. Yet the only “action” being deferred was deportation.

In time, the Dreamers might have figured out that the Democratic president was not the friend he pretended to be.

But, as usual, Trump made the DACA story all about him when he terminated the program last year. If nothing is done, Dreamers could be deported after the program expires on March 5.

Oddly, Trump had previously told reporters that he “loved” the Dreamers and that the high achievers were “terrific.”

Comments like those help explain why Dreamers have made such a large imprint on the immigration debate. According to polls, most Americans don’t think we should punish young people brought here as children for the sins of their parents or uproot them from the only country they know.

This is why liberals want to keep the Dreamers in the mix as part of the larger pool of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. It’s also why conservatives want to peel them off with a special accommodation — which could make it easier to deport the rest.

Meanwhile, Trump claims he’ll support a bill giving legal protection to Dreamers — especially if, in return, he gets a truckload of goodies from Congress. He wants funding for a proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and support for his administration’s crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities. He also wants a radical revamp of the overall immigration system. The number of legal immigrants admitted to the United States each year would be cut in half. And there would also be an end to the practice that some call “chain migration” while giving preferential treatment to skilled and educated immigrants.

What Trump is asking for has nothing to do with Dreamers. It’s about shaping U.S. immigration policy going forward — which, although Republicans refused to admit it when Obama was in the White House, a president has the right to do. So if the Dreamers can get Trump and Congress to improve on DACA by giving them permanent legal status, even if it doesn’t come with citizenship, they’d be wise to take the deal.

Yet, apart from serving the narrow interests of the Dreamers, the proposed bargain would be bad for the country. And the terms are sure to be harmful to the immigration debate. The concern isn’t that Trump is asking too much. It’s that what he’s asking for is impractical. Some of it doesn’t make sense. Other parts won’t work. And, overall, the items on his wish list would make America weaker.

Take funding for the wall, which is expected to run as high as $25 billion. Forget Democrats. Republican budget hawks will never sign that check, not for a publicity stunt on the border that won’t keep out the desperate, destitute and determined.

Or the administration’s war on alleged sanctuary cities, those make-believe municipalities where federal immigration law doesn’t exist and illegal immigrants live happily ever after. If you want to visit one of these places, follow the signs for Fantasyland.

Then there’s the targeting of chain migration, where immigrants bring in family members. What many people are really worried about is changing demographics. But you don’t say so because you don’t want to be called racist — even though you kind of are.

Finally, there’s the offensive idea of making America tougher to get into than the Ivy League — with an elitist point system that would have kept out most of the Italian, Irish and Jewish immigrants who helped build this country. It’s absurd. There is all this loose talk about how the United States should only admit immigrants with high education and valuable skills. Yet the people pushing this idea aren’t smart enough to understand the value of the skills most immigrants bring to this country — like ambition, perseverance, optimism, ingenuity or work ethic.

Trump probably thinks that, by asking for a slew of concessions on immigration, he is showing Americans that he’s a tough negotiator. But all the president is demonstrating is that — on this issue — he is in way over his head.

And that’s a big deal.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

It’s no surprise when racists claim the name Trump

There is a new form of hate speech that white people use to poke at Latinos. It goes like this:

“Trump! Trump! Trump!”

As President Trump concludes his first year in office, his “street cred” as a bully, demagogue and racist is well established. And Latinos — especially Mexicans and Mexican Americans — are his favorite piñata.

Whether he’s slamming an immigrant, beauty queen or federal judge, Trump can barely hide his contempt for America’s largest minority. It’s not enough that Latinos start businesses at a greater rate than others, receive the Medal of Honor in high numbers, help shape popular culture, pay their share of taxes and raise kids to respect authority.

Now Latinos must put up with constantly being told that they’re ruining the country and that America would be a better place if they weren’t in it. And all this isn’t just coming from some random crackpot. No, sir. This crackpot is the leader of the free world.

When you consider everything that Trump has done to antagonize Latinos — from threatening to create a deportation force modeled on 1954’s “Operation Wetback” to pardoning lawman-turned-outlaw Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who profiled them while enforcing immigration law — it’s not surprising that Trump’s name has become a racial taunt.

Politicians use code to send messages, but the public is pretty good at deciphering. The message that many Americans have received from Trump is that Latinos are a foreign menace that usurps resources, takes jobs, lowers wages, commits crimes, imports drugs, speeds urban decay and gobbles up welfare.

And who will protect the country from this plague? Why, Donald Trump.

That’s why two white announcers, a few weeks ago, made racist comments when calling a high school basketball game in Iowa. The team from Forest City was hosting a more diverse squad from nearby Eagle Grove High School, when the two started making wisecracks about the Latino names of some Eagle Grove players.

“They’re all foreigners,” said 76-year-old Orin Harris, a longtime broadcaster. “As Trump would say, (they should) go back where they came from.”

At other high school sporting events, the chant “Trump! Trump! Trump!” has emerged as a popular way for white students — and onlookers in the stands — to put Latinos in their place.

In March, at a basketball game at suburban Canton High School in Connecticut, white fans in the bleachers shouted the chant as players from Hartford’s Classical Magnet School, which is largely Latino, took free throws.

This sort of thing has been going on for the last 2½ years, ever since Trump announced his candidacy for president by accusing Mexico of sending its worst to the United States and calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals.

Sometimes, there are variations to the taunt.

Last year, the girls soccer team from Beloit Memorial High School in Wisconsin, which is made up largely of Latinas, left the field traumatized after fans of the team from Elkhorn Area High School chanted: “Donald Trump, build that wall!”

After the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a report called “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the 2016 Election on Our Nation’s Schools.” After surveying more than 10,000 teachers, it found an increase in incidents involving such racist symbols as swastikas and Confederate flags. There were also multiple references to immigrants.

Calling this a “Trump effect” goes a bit too far. It implies that Trump made Americans racist, while there is ample evidence that Americans were already racist long before Trump descended that escalator at Trump Tower and entered politics.

You want to talk racism? Take a good look at the ugly campaign that Bill and Hillary Clinton — and their surrogates — waged in 2008 against a brash, young African American senator from Illinois who didn’t want to wait his turn.

Trump didn’t really divide Americans, but he did an awfully good job of pushing buttons and exploiting divisions that were already there.

Sometimes, at high school sporting events, the reference to Trump is followed by an even more troubling chant: “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

That’s the line, folks. Don’t cross it. You don’t go up to a group of people — who, when it came to paying the ultimate price for freedom, died on foreign soil, from Normandy to Pork Chop Hill to Khe Sanh to Fallujah — and question our patriotism.

You want to claim the name “Trump” as your own, be our guests. You’re welcome to it.

But hands off the phrase “U.S.A.” That belongs to us as much as it does you. And, just as we have countless times before, we’ll fight to defend our claim.


© 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

Email: ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Dreamers give more than they take

Everyone tells whoppers about the Dreamers.

The lies — about these undocumented young people brought to the United States as children — come from both right and left. One side paints Dreamers as greedy takers; the other side sees them as selfless givers. Neither sketch is accurate.

Conservatives say that giving “amnesty” to Dreamers will bankrupt the country because the high-achievers will go on welfare. Liberals insist Dreamers aren’t asking for handouts and that, in fact, they don’t want or need much of anything.

If you believe either of these yarns, I’ve got a good story about a portly white-bearded fellow who delivers presents.

Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., recently took to Twitter to defend Dreamers — 800,000 of whom are worried about being deported now that President Trump has repealed the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Meng tweeted: “All Dreamers want is the opportunity to learn, work & live in the only country they have ever known.”

Sorry, Congresswoman. That’s not true. Dreamers want much more than just the chance to learn, work and live in the United States.

  • They want to march and protest and petition the U.S. government with their grievances, because many of them think that the Latino civil rights movement began with their arrival.
  • They want the right to remain in the United States legally for the rest of their lives, preferably as U.S. citizens with all the protections and privileges that come with the title.
  • They want to go to the best colleges and universities that they can get into, and avail themselves of scholarships paid for by public tax dollars. That’s fair. After all, some of those tax dollars were paid by their parents who, while undocumented, still ponied up plenty of taxes — sales, property, even income. Tax collectors don’t discriminate.
  • Dreamers want the right to vote so they can help choose the representatives of their adopted country, while rewarding friends and punishing enemies.
  • They want to hold both parties accountable and put to rest the naive assumption of many immigrant advocates that all Democrats want to help them and all Republicans want to harm them. Bully for them. These young immigrants could teach the native-born a thing or two.
  • Dreamers want a voice so they can influence politics and shape the public dialogue in order to make the United States more welcoming to immigrants, both legal and illegal.
  • They want to be singled out so they can continue to feel special about themselves and what they’ve already accomplished or may still achieve somewhere down the road.
  • But, at the same time, they also want not to be singled out from their families — especially their parents, who have worked long hours at hard jobs to give them these opportunities.
  • So Dreamers want a bonus, namely additional legal status for their parents, so that the elders can likewise live out the rest of their days without fear of deportation.

That’s a reasonable ask. And it’s better than the alternative, namely legal status for Dreamers but nothing for the rest of the family, who presumably had dreams of their own before they had to go to work to fund the aspirations of others. Besides, accommodating only those who go to college is an ugly form of elitism that plays into the simplistic narrative — advanced by Democrats and Republicans alike — of good immigrants and bad immigrants.

But, it’s been my experience in dealing with Dreamers over the last decade that what they want most of all is to be part of the program.

They want to vote, sit on juries, and join the Rotary Club. They want to participate in all facets of civic life. They want to work hard, pay taxes and give something back to the country that gave their families a second chance at life. They want to show everyone that they need not be feared, and that they’re an asset not a liability.

Simply put, they want to be Americans-in-full. For that, we should be grateful.

At a time when our collective work ethic has diminished and a sense of entitlement is the new normal, Americans have it wrong. Instead of wondering what to do with the Dreamers, they should be figuring out how to make their own kids more like them.


Ruben Navarrette Jr. writes for the Washington Post.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns