Columns

Trump’s wish list makes him worst immigration president

SAN DIEGO — On his Oval Office report card, Barack Obama earned a massive fail on the immigration issue.

He broke his campaign promise to reform our immigration system, deported about 3 million people, dragged his feet for three years before giving executive relief to young undocumented immigrants through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), shipped out thousands of Central American women and children refugees without hearing their asylum claims and lied about what he had done by shifting blame to Republicans.

All this cold-heartedness helped make Obama the most anti-immigrant president in modern U.S. history.

But now, in light of his over-the-top and ignorance-fueled demands to Congress in exchange for supporting legal status but not citizenship for Dreamers, it’s clear that President Trump wants a shot at the title.

Trump claimed in a statement that each item on his restrictionist wish list will “ensure prosperity, opportunity, and safety for every member of our national family.”

Trump tried to accomplish all that by pitching his policy goals as a remedy to what boneheaded Republicans glibly describe as Obama’s “illegal executive amnesty” for undocumented young people brought here as children.

For those of you interested in a little thing called truth, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is not “illegal” since the executive branch sets deportation policy and not “amnesty” because it is conditional with strings attached.

Right-wingers confuse feeling strongly about immigration with actually knowing something about it.

Trump made the same mistake when he said that the Obama administration granted in 2012 the “same benefits” that Congress had considered and rejected when comprehensive immigration reform went off the rails several years earlier.

Wrong. DACA is temporary relief that lasts two years and requires recipients to turn themselves in to Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the “deferred action” is deportation. Congress was debating permanent legal status for undocumented immigrants who would not have had to turn themselves in.

About 690,000 young people are enrolled in DACA, and the total number of Dreamers in the United States is about 1.5 million.

Trump also claims that Obama’s olive branch to Dreamers resulted in a surge of illegal immigration.

Wrong again. Even before Trump took office, illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico and the rest of Latin America was on the decline because it was easier to find work south of the border. And when a surge does happen, the only thing that causes it are jobs offered by U.S. employers.

Do I have to explain all this to a businessman who owns hotels and resorts that he has admitted to staffing with illegal immigrants because he can’t find Americans to do those jobs?

Trump’s demands to Congress are a combination of the impractical, the inhumane and the imaginary. They include: funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that could cost $25 billion, a continuation of the Obama administration’s crackdown on women and children refugees from Central America, and an end to law enforcement grants to fabled “sanctuary cities” that conservatives insist really do exist even as federal immigration agents are — in states like California — cutting through “sanctuary” like a hot knife through butter.

And while members of his party continue to insist that illegal immigration is unfair to those who “play by the rules,” Trump also wants a 50 percent cut in legal immigration to punish those who play by the rules. In addition, he wants new immigrants to be “high-skilled” and may yet suggest that — like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — they take an IQ test.

Bringing in more high-skilled immigrants should be loads of fun for those American workers who can’t even compete with low-skilled immigrants.

And what about those pathetic American workers who love to attack immigrants for doing hard and dirty jobs that they won’t go within a mile of, no matter how much they get paid to do them?

Trump says he’s doing all this for them, and that “immigration reform must create more jobs, higher wages, and greater security for Americans — now and for future generations.”

Still wrong. It’s not the duty of our immigration policy to do those things. All it is supposed to do is secure our borders, encourage legal immigration, and stop illegal immigration. It is not a jobs program for people who don’t want to work anyway.

For crying out loud, look at all the “Help Wanted” signs sprouting up in your town. America is still the land of opportunity. It’s not immigrants’ fault that so many Americans want everything handed to them, and expect the government to be their nanny.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Sensible center needs to reclaim gun debate

SAN DIEGO — As those of you who follow the news and keep an eye on politics have probably noticed, our country’s gun debate is misfiring.

It has gotten to the point where, whenever I hear just about any discussion of the subject — whether by conservatives or liberals — I’ll wind up engaged in what has become a familiar ritual. I’ll put my palms on my forehead and mutter five words about my fellow Americans: “What’s wrong with these people?”

That’s what I thought within hours of the tragedy in Las Vegas — before the families of many of the victims had even been notified — when Democrats abandoned all decency by ghoulishly using the tragedy to attack a nemesis. The National Rifle Association has long complicated their political lives by contributing millions of dollars to Republicans.

The morning after the shooting, Hillary Clinton eagerly tweeted: “Our grief isn’t enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.” Meanwhile, House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans in Congress of being “a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America.”

That’s how politicians roll. When they’re not busy taking care of those who take care of them, they’re trying to take out those who take care of their opponents. It’s not complicated. But nor is it productive or helpful.

What’s wrong with these people?

Still, there’s a lot of truth in the idea that many Republicans have been bought and paid for by the NRA, and that this makes gun reform highly unlikely. Just as there is truth in the assertion that Democrats have been bought and paid for by the nation’s teachers unions, and that this makes the prospect of real education reform just as unlikely. Our government at work, folks.

What’s wrong with these people?

Special interests contribute to political parties and campaigns for one of two reasons — either to grease the wheels so as to pass legislation that helps them, or to gum up the mechanism and thwart legislation that hurts them. At the same time, politicians in both parties have learned to fall in line and follow orders. They know who they work for. And it’s not you and me.

The gun lobby on the right is just like the abortion lobby on the left. They won’t give an inch, even on mild and modest restrictions on rights they consider not just fundamental but sacred. They know their supporters will see any degree of reasonableness as capitulation. And they’re afraid that will mean fewer contributions down the road.

What’s wrong with these people?

The two parties also have something else in common. Neither is above resorting to demagoguery — some of it with a racial tinge — to bolster their respective positions on gun control.

Appearing Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said of Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock: “This is a well-to-do man. … He wasn’t a gang-banger.” Later on the same show, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre suggested that “a gang member in Chicago” won’t wait for a background check before buying a gun.

What’s wrong with these people?

The modern gun debate is a farce. Such a serious subject deserves a more serious discussion. We’re not delivering.

The obstinate loudmouths at the extremes are running the gun dialogue. It’s up to the folks in the sensible center to restore sanity to this issue, and do everything we can to save future generations from the scourge of gun violence.

At least, authorities need to keep track of the lunatics — people like Paddock, who bought 33 guns in one year and spent well over $100,000 on his personal arsenal, which included a total of nearly 50 weapons. Can anyone argue that this is normal behavior? At most, we should limit the number of gun purchases by an individual in a given year. The Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, not the right to amass a stockpile of weapons with the intent of using them to kill others.

After all, we don’t want our children, and one day their children, to look back at our inaction at a time of crisis and ask:

“What was wrong with those people?”

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Cable news host fails race test

SAN DIEGO — When it comes to race, conservatives will never ace the quiz.

It stands to reason that this bunch would be slow to understand a subject that they usually downplay, dismiss or deny. Those on the right — including many Republicans and most Trump voters — often pretend to be colorblind in order to seem enlightened. Ironically, the opposite is true.

By the way, conservatives aren’t really oblivious to race. Ronald Reagan mentioned a “welfare queen.” George H.W. Bush approved the Willie Horton ad. Jesse Helms used a campaign commercial featuring white hands holding a job rejection letter while the narrator criticized affirmative action. These weren’t dog whistles. They were fog horns.

Be that as it may, those on the right are often a couple slices short of a full loaf when it comes to racial matters.

This is one of the takeaways from my recent appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

I was invited onto the show to discuss a recent column where I suggested that — after the Las Vegas massacre by Stephen Paddock, a white male who stockpiled large amounts of high-powered weapons — it was time for authorities to profile white males who stockpiled large amounts of high-powered weapons.

To many people, that is common sense. To Carlson, it was anti-white racism.

Apparently, the part about being slow on race extends to liberal-to-moderate Republicans who masquerade as hard-right conservatives to please a television audience that leans so far to the right that, on issues like trade, it wound up on the left.

You see, I knew the old Tucker, the smart and likable writer who — in publications such as “The Weekly Standard” — worked his way through thorny subjects in a fair and thoughtful way. This is the person who — when discussing hot-button cultural issues such as gay rights, immigration, abortion and gun control — was known more for seeking nuance than breathing fire. Though he has lived in Washington for 25 years, the television host is still — at heart — a California conservative. Raised near San Diego, before attending a private boarding school in Rhode Island and graduating from Trinity College in Connecticut, he is more comfortable around chardonnay than NASCAR.

I’ve known that guy for 20 years, and I consider him a friend. He’s always been nice to me. And I’m proud of his success, which he owes to a combination of talent, luck and perseverance.

The departures of Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly helped put Carlson into the prime real estate of an 8 p.m. time slot.

And good for him. This is a guy who has been fired from hosting gigs on CNN and MSNBC. But he never gave up, and look at him now. It’s impossible not to root for someone like that.

But as other conservatives in Washington have already figured out about our old friend, the bright lights and seven-figure paychecks of prime-time television can change a brother.

In May, Weekly Standard founder and former Fox News contributor Bill Kristol said it was painful to watch Carlson — his friend and former employee — “beating up some 20-year-old college liberal because he said something stupid.”

In July, during an on-air street fight with Carlson over U.S. intervention, conservative Max Boot told the host that his judgment was “clouded by ratings because you feel compelled to be a spokesman for Donald Trump.” As Boot later noted in an essay for Commentary Magazine, Carlson’s new shtick is “sarcasm, condescension, and mock-incredulous double-takes.”

My old pal hit me with all three, and it didn’t go well for him. He tried to talk down to me, by saying something like “What I’m trying to get you to understand … “ I cut him off with a scolding: “Tucker, don’t be condescending to me! It makes you sound like those white liberals that you and I both find so annoying.” For a second, the professional talker was speechless.

For most of the segment, Carlson simply called me a “racist.” This didn’t bother me. In 25 years of opinion writing, I’ve been called every slur in the book — and a few that aren’t in there because they’re too ugly.

The exchange made me miss the guy I used to know. It also made me nostalgic for the good old days of politics when conservatives pushed back against those who called people “racist” — instead of reflexively calling other people “racist.”

I went on Tucker Carlson’s show hoping to find some critical thinking. I got plenty of the critical, but not much thinking.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Time to start profiling white males who stockpile guns

White men scare me. There, I said it.

Based on my conversations with Latino and African-American friends, I think many of them feel the same way. If they’re walking down a dark street at night and see three white men in their 20s walking toward them, they’re thinking hate crime.

After all, pick up a history book, and look at what white men did to black slaves, American Indians, Chinese immigrants and Mexicans in the occupied Southwest. They’re the original bad hombres.

And so, after the Las Vegas massacre — where a 64-year-old white man named Stephen Paddock carried 23 guns into a hotel suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and opened fire on an outdoor concert crowd, killing at least 59 people and wounding nearly 500 others — it’s fair to ask: “Is it time for authorities to start profiling white males who purchase unusually large amounts of high-powered weapons and ammunition?”

Yes, it is. And why not? There is plenty of evidence that law enforcement officers routinely profile African-Americans, Latinos and Muslims. It’s become part of police work.

In 1999, the New Jersey State Police admitted to pulling over African-American motorists more often than white drivers. In 2010, Arizona lawmakers codified ethnic profiling by requiring local police to determine the legal status of those suspected of being in the country illegally (read: Latinos).

So how did white men get to be so special that — in an era when so many mass shootings are linked to gunmen who fit that profile — it is still considered outrageous to say that this demographic merits extra scrutiny? Talk about white male privilege.

Given the carnage in Las Vegas, a lot of folks — on both the right and the left — are instinctively talking about guns. That’s a circular, highly charged argument that goes nowhere.

What we should be talking about is race. Not the race of the victims, but the race of the shooter.

Authorities insist that Paddock — who was reportedly wealthy, liked to gamble and had no known political or religious affiliations — fits none of the established profiles.

But actually, Paddock does fit one. He’s a white male, and most serial killers and mass murderers are white males.

For the sake of public relations, and because — in the era of “If you see something, say something” — law enforcement doesn’t want the public discounting anyone who might look suspicious just because of skin color, the FBI claims that it’s a myth to suggest that “serial killers are all white males.” The agency insists that serial killers span all racial groups.

Sure. But note that I said “most,” not “all.” The majority of mass murderers are white men. The fact that we might be able to find the occasional serial killer who is a woman of color does not significantly change the pie chart.

Besides, the FBI would be more convincing if it practiced what it preached.

In 2002, federal agents were frantically searching for the so-called Beltway Sniper, who killed 10 people and wounded three more in the Washington metropolitan area. Authorities got off to a slow start because, according to the profile, serial killers are usually white men. Retired FBI profilers went on broadcast media and said — as one put it at the time — “this is something white males do.”

The shooters — John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo — were African-American.

Like many Latinos, when I hear about a tragedy like the one in Las Vegas, I hold my breath and hope the culprit wasn’t one of ours. My African-American and Muslim American friends do the same. I’ve even heard a religious conservative call into a radio show and say he does it, too. It’s human nature.

Still, I have to wonder if white men go through that exercise. I don’t think so. That must be yet another ancillary benefit to being white and male.

Well, the free pass has expired. It’s time for law enforcement authorities to keep track of white men who stockpile guns.

To the profiled, I say: “Put up with it. After all, President Trump called my Mexican immigrant grandfather — who came to the United States legally a hundred years ago — a criminal and a rapist, and I survived. I can help get you through this. We shall overcome.”

And to those who think this whole concept is loony, and that — when it comes to who commits crimes — we can’t make sweeping generalizations about whole groups of people based on prejudice, I say: “Exactly. Now you’re getting the idea.”

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Affirmative action has overstayed its welcome

SAN DIEGO — Color me surprised. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and I finally agree on something, albeit with radically different motives. It’s time to end affirmative action in college and university admissions.

The Alabaman — who has been wrong on matters involving race and ethnicity for his entire career — used to be my least favorite senator. Now he’s my least favorite Cabinet official.

Under Sessions’ direction, the Justice Department recently announced that it will take a long, hard look at the controversial practice — which goes back about 50 years — of colleges and universities taking into account the race and ethnicity of applicants in the hopes of achieving a more diverse student body. The lawyers have already telegraphed what they intend to find: rampant discrimination against white people who were wrongly rejected to make room so that “less qualified” Latinos and African-Americans could be accepted.

You can see where this is headed. The Trump administration is poised to make a federal case out of affirmative action, file racial discrimination lawsuits against universities, and force a showdown in the Supreme Court in the hopes of killing the program once and for all.

Bill Clinton tried to split the baby to please both people of color and conservative white Democrats by feebly suggesting that the proper way to navigate the affirmative action minefield was to “mend it, but don’t end it.” But Trump — who was elected with minuscule support from Latinos and African-Americans — doesn’t even have to do that much. His presidency comes to us courtesy of white America, and that’s who he’s looking out for.

And so, if you’re a Trump voter and you’ve fallen on hard times, and blaming immigrants or trade deals isn’t satisfying enough for you, well, there’s always the old scapegoat: minorities. The administration’s message becomes: “It’s an outrage. Your kid might be able to go to a better college if some Latina hadn’t taken his spot!”

The real outrage is that there is anyone still around who believes this rubbish. The idea that white people are victims of so-called “reverse discrimination” is a total fantasy. Math puts the lie to it. Just look around. You can’t be discriminated against because of skin color if other people who have the same skin color are advancing. The truth is you’re just being outperformed by your own kind. Deal with it.

I’ve traveled in some elite circles — from the Ivy League, to major media companies, to judging the Pulitzer Prize. And do you know what I’ve noticed? White folks are doing just fine, especially white males.

Still, Sessions and the Justice Department are right to be skeptical of affirmative action — and even more hostile to its more malignant cousin: racial and ethnic preferences. Engineering by race and ethnicity is a messy business, and colleges and universities should stay out of it.

It’s also a dangerous practice. And, as the Trump administration suspects, someone is indeed getting hurt. It’s just not who they think it is. The folks being harmed by affirmative action are Latinos and African-Americans, ironically the program’s intended beneficiaries.

Affirmative action lowers standards, stigmatizes recipients and masks terrible inequity at the all-important K-12 level fueled by tracking and low expectations. It also allows upper-class minorities who have suffered little or no hardship to benefit while the truly needy are overlooked and promotes elitism by allowing into privileged arenas a small group of high-performing Latinos and African-Americans who scoop up all the benefits. Meanwhile, the majority of their communities are shortchanged by the public schools and will never be in a position to receive one of these golden passports.

I’m not saying that affirmative action did no good, and that it wasn’t once a reasonable idea. My parents grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, and they lived through unvarnished racism and discrimination. My father wanted to be a policeman in an era when that goal seemed — to most Mexican-American kids — as unattainable as becoming an astronaut or nuclear physicist. In the 1970s, affirmative action helped him get his badge and earn promotions.

But that doesn’t mean it should be there for my children, who — 40 years later — are being raised in the suburbs by parents who have graduate degrees.

Affirmative action had its time and place. But this is a different time and place. This policy has overstayed its welcome, and now it has to go.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Latino Americans love this country–but does it love them back?

SAN DIEGO — At the risk of setting off more fireworks, I’ve spent the days surrounding the Fourth of July trying to answer a question that has perplexed U.S. Latinos for generations. Whether the yardstick is starting businesses, creating jobs, spreading opportunity, serving in uniform or displaying optimism in hard times, America’s largest minority has shown time and again that we love this country.

But does the country love us back?

Honestly, sometimes, it’s hard to tell. This nation of second chances offers unlimited opportunities to those who are willing to work, hustle and innovate. In the United States, people may be born in poverty, but that doesn’t mean that poverty is born in them. Our society is one of the freest on Earth, which we’ve learned has its downside; we have been known to use that freedom to do things that harm us — like shouting down opposing views rather than debating and refuting them.

A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that about 70 percent of Americans say the level of civility in Washington has gotten worse since Donald Trump became president. Only 6 percent say it has improved.

There are times when Latinos feel cradled in America’s warm embrace — just like the waves of Germans, Irish and Italians before us. But just like those other immigrant groups, living in this country hasn’t been all ethnic celebrations and parade floats.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, immigrants got mixed signals from America. They were often pushed away, discriminated against and prohibited from living in certain neighborhoods. And then, a generation later, they’d get lectures about how they should assimilate and not segregate themselves.

Today, the same thing happens with Latinos. We’re told that we’re not full-blooded Americans, that we’re more loyal to our ancestral homelands, and that we’re not as good as our countrymen.

I’ve even heard someone stupidly say that a federal judge born in Indiana to parents who were born in Mexico couldn’t be trusted to do his job fairly because he is “Mexican.”

A fellow journalist — who was born in Mexico but has lived most of her life on this side of the border — tells me she’s writing a book in which she asks America if it’s finally ready to accept her. Another friend, a lawyer and academic, was recently fired from a university because, he says, the liberals who run it turned out to be — on race — not as liberal as they pretend.

Readers complain that Big Media, while professing to be enlightened, is in the dark on those occasions when it gathers a half-dozen pundits to discuss Latinos but doesn’t include any Latinos.

My 75-year-old parents lived through the indignities of segregated schools, job discrimination, English-only laws, and signs in restaurants in the Southwest that said “No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed.”

But, in time, my parents also learned that America could redeem itself by finding its way back to its founding principles. And like most Mexican-Americans, they raised their kids to be crystal clear about the fact that we have only one country, one flag and one allegiance.

And yet, my father will often note that, these days, prejudice is still alive and lurking below the surface.

Some of it has developed into a more malignant strain of racism or ethnocentrism. With the nation’s 56 million Latinos now accounting for 17 percent of the population — on its way to 25 percent in a couple of decades — white Americans and African-Americans are feeling disoriented and displaced.

But my father is right about one thing: In the politically correct post-civil rights era, insults and slights are served up more politely than they used to be.

We all have our own story. Mine is all about gratitude for my U.S. citizenship, even if one snarky reader did refer to it as a “technicality.”

I love my country for the greatness it reveals, and the potential it has to be even greater. And you know what? I think America loves me back, and that it shows its affection with every blessing it bestows.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

On the farm, they grow fear in the era of Trump

Originally posted on Parts Unknown


Al Stehly has a clever reply whenever he’s in Sacramento, the state capital, and lawmakers from urban areas tell him they don’t have time to meet with him and, besides, they don’t have anyone in their district who farms.

“I tell them, ‘Do you have anyone in your district who eats?’” says Stehly. The organic farmer grows avocados, tangerines, and, most recently, wine grapes on 60 acres in northeastern San Diego County.

Stehly doesn’t fit the popular stereotype of a farmer; he wears tennis shoes, not boots; he drives an SUV, not a pickup truck; he went to college and studied business with plans of becoming an accountant or lawyer. But when his father, a farmer, passed away, he took over some of the crops—and kept planting. And thinking, and hustling; he’s always reading, researching, and looking for the next big thing in farming.

“Other farmers tell me, ‘Well, we’re surviving,’” he says. “No! We can’t just survive. We should be thriving.”

Spend five hours with Stehly in his fields, as I did recently, and you’ll get a revelation about modern farming — a thankless job that requires know-how, luck, and a steel spine.

You have to deal with politicians one day, and insects the next. Farmers would like less government regulation, but what they really need on a day-to-day basis are the essentials: good weather, affordable water, and readily-available labor.

It’s that last item that has brought me back into the fields. I grew up in farm country, born and raised around the fields in Central California, a lush region that supplies one-third of the U.S.’ vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. Besides the agriculture—a $47 billion per year industry—you also have a good number of dairies and cattle ranches.

In my hometown of Sanger—a town of about 25,000 people east of Fresno—I was surrounded by trees that grew peaches, almonds, and oranges. There were also miles of vines that grew table and raisin grapes.

Only the grapes destined to be raisins or juice can be picked by machine. The machines are indelicate and often bruise the fruit they handle, making them unsellable to markets. But if the fruit—in this case, grapes—are going to be laid out in the sun for a few days to dry into raisins, it doesn’t really matter if they’re a little bruised.

There, now you know more about farm labor than most of the politicians in Washington.

In this country, one of the most profound divisions is the split between “The City Mouse” and “The Country Mouse.”

I’ve lived in a half dozen major cities: Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, San Diego. But, at heart, I’m still a country mouse.

So is Stehly. Several years ago I went to his farm to interview him for a column about the effect of the state’s drought on water-intensive crops such as avocados. On my first trip to his avocado grove several years ago, we mostly discussed water. We didn’t talk about labor at all; it wasn’t an issue at the time.

Back then, the president was Barack Obama. He virtually suspended immigration raids and instead sent employers threatening letters in the hopes that they’d purge their worker rolls of suspected undocumented immigrants. Obama also ratcheted up the practice of roping local police into enforcing federal immigration law. Over eight years, Obama set a record by deporting more than 3 million undocumented immigrants. Still, on most of the nation’s farms, it was business as usual.

Now, there’s a new sheriff in town. Besides pledging to overhaul the visa process to deny entry to legal immigrants who might need public assistance, President Donald Trump also promises a “big beautiful wall” on the 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border.

What concerns farmers like Stehly is Trump’s plan to create a new “deportation force” to remove the undocumented. Raids and sweeps are a real possibility. And while Trump has often tried to emphasize that he is focused on deporting so-called “criminal aliens”—the folks he calls “bad hombres”—it’s become clear amid detentions, arrests, and deportations that, in Trump’s world, the word “criminal” is broadly applied.

Agricultural workers are panicked, and farmers are nervous. There are stories about labor shortages and crops rotting in the field because workers won’t come into the open to pick them.

On the nation’s farms, there are still—and will always be—those crops that have to be picked or sorted by hand.

Stehly’s crops—avocados and tangerines—are like that. His wine grapes could theoretically be picked by machine, but you could never get one up the steep hill on which they rest.

So who does the picking? Almost exclusively Latin American immigrants.

There are a lot of myths, faulty assumptions and outright lies about farming. Here are two of them.

First, no matter what Trump says, or what the unions say, or what you hear on talk radio, Americans are not going to do these jobs—or at least not enough to meet the need. In the Central Valley, nearly all farmworkers are immigrants, and approximately 70 percent are working illegally.

Second, farm work is NOT unskilled labor. Come out to Stehly’s farm and have him take you into the avocado grove in search of the delectable tropical fruit. You’ll see farm workers who could moonlight as acrobats because they’re 10 feet off the ground, standing on ladders planted precariously on inclines (they help with irrigation). The workers have a heavy leather basket around their neck, and they’re using a “picking pole” to reach those avocados dangling far out on tree limbs. The pole has a trigger at one end, a blade at the other, and a basket tied to the bottom of it. While standing on top of the ladder, a worker pulls the trigger, the blade cuts the stem, the avocado falls into the bucket.

Anybody out there want this job? Stehly is hiring, and he’d love to have you. He doesn’t fit the unfair stereotype of the cruel grower who exploits the field hands. According to the workers I spoke to—many of whom refer to him as “Alberto”—he respects the essential role they play in keeping his livelihood afloat.

Stehly even pays more than minimum wage. In California, that is $10.50 per hour. He pays as much as $13.50 if you have experience. If you don’t know an avocado from an anchovy, he’ll still start you at $11.25 per hour.

C’mon, now. Don’t shove. Not everybody at once.

The absurdity is not lost on Jose Aranda, an undocumented immigrant from the Mexican state of Guanajuato who helps keep this place humming.

I break the ice by telling him, in my mediocre Spanish, that my grandfather came from Chihuahua as a child during the Mexican Revolution.

“I know Chihuahua,” he says with a half smile.

I also tell him I grew up around farms, and that I’m trying to find out what effect Trump’s proposed deportation force will have out here.

“It could cause a lot of problems,” Aranda says. “A lot of people are worried.”

Suddenly, he gets animated. He obviously knows the political backstory—that Trump and other politicians use deportations to supposedly open up jobs for U.S. workers.

“They say this is about work, that we’re taking work away from Americans,” Aranda says. “But work we have plenty of. They should come down here, and help us do some of it.”

The father of two bends my ear about politics in the United States and Mexico and laments how similar the politicians are in both countries.

“(Former Mexican president) Vicente Fox is like Trump,” he said. “They both like to talk. That’s all they do.”

Aranda adds that even though he disagrees with Trump on Americans losing jobs to immigrants, he also agrees with some of what Trump wants to do—like deporting criminals and battling the Mexican drug cartels.

To stay on top of and contextualize current events on both sides of the border, he reads Mexican newspapers and skims biographies of former U.S. presidents at his public library.

Aranda says he has no legal documents. The first time he crossed the border was about 13 years ago, he says, and he paid a coyote (smuggler) $3,500 for the privilege of risking his life on a long, hard journey that some don’t survive. He returned to Mexico three years later after which he paid $4,500 to get back to the United States so he could earn money for his family, who stayed in Mexico. The next time he goes back, he’ll stay. Now it’s too hard, and expensive, to cross.

Finally, I ask about his family. He boasts that he has two daughters, 13 and 18, in private school in Mexico, and that they’re learning English.

I ask, when did he see them last?

He gets quiet. After a brief pause, he says that it was on his last trip to Mexico—10 years ago. His eyes moisten.

This man missed his daughters’ entire lives. All so they could have better ones.

What kind of parent does that? A good one. Are these the people we’re supposed to be afraid of? Are these the “bad hombres” that Trump warns us about?

If farmers like Stehly, who can’t use machines, had to rely on American workers to harvest their crops, they’d go out of business. We’d lose tax revenue, farm towns would dry up, and good luck finding your favorite fruit or vegetable in your local supermarket. Whatever you found would be three times the price, and half the quality, because it would have been imported from outside the U.S.

But what about the idea that farmers could somehow survive a series of Trump raids, and that agriculture really isn’t as dependent on undocumented immigrants as many farmers claim?

That’s a substance with which farmers like Stehly are very familiar. They use it to fertilize crops. It’s called manure.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group, a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, a columnist for The Daily Beast, a commentator on radio and television, a popular speaker, and author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano (Bantam).” Follow him on Twitter @RubenNavarrette.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns