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Straight Talk on Immigration

Straight Talk on Immigration

By Ruben Navarrette - June 22, 2011

SAN DIEGO -- Newt Gingrich believes that Americans could solve the problem of illegal immigration in a practical and humane way "if we can get the politicians and the news media to just deal with it honestly."

Bravo. When the former House speaker made those remarks during a recent GOP presidential debate, he zeroed in on precisely what is wrong with the immigration debate.

It's not that Americans -- and those who represent them in Washington -- are too lenient or too tough. It's that they're too reluctant to confront the issue honestly.

There are numerous lies in the immigration debate -- this isn't about racism; Americans would gladly do the jobs that immigrants do, for the right wage; all employers are greedy and exploit their workers; Americans don't want to limit legal immigration, etc.

The biggest lies come from politicians who pretend to be something they're not. Republicans talk tough but go soft on employers by creating loopholes and granting delays and exemptions to enforcement efforts. Democrats talk soft but pander to working-class Americans and union bosses by ratcheting up deportations, building walls, and launching border crackdowns as when Bill Clinton launched Operation Gatekeeper in October 1994.

Now Gingrich says: Enough of that. To combat illegal immigration, we have to start leveling with the American people.

CNN's John King, the debate moderator, asked Gingrich if we should deport millions of illegal immigrants or provide "some path to status" for the undocumented.

Gingrich -- who is fun to watch because he has the skills to slug it out with fellow candidates with one hand and lash out at the moderator with the other -- wasn't having any of it.

"One of the reasons this country is in so much trouble is that we are determined among our political elites to draw up catastrophic alternatives," he lectured. "You either have to ship 20 million people out of America or legalize all of them."

Nonsense, Gingrich asserted. First control the border by using the National Guard or reassigning to the border "the current Department of Homeland Security bureaucracy in Washington." But, he said, the larger point is that "no serious citizen who's concerned about solving this problem should get trapped into a yes/no answer in which you're either for totally selling out protecting America or you're for totally kicking out 20 million people in a heartless way."

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ruben@rubennavarrette.com

Copyright 2011, Washington Post Writers Group

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