What Ronald Reagan once referred to as the "illegal-alien fuss" has fulminated into a frenzy of demonizing where behind every social ill lurks a brown-skinned illegal immigrant.
Reagan famously provided amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants in 1986, appreciating America's historical role as a beacon of hope — a "shining city upon a hill" — to people around the world. Contrast that with the always-simmering anti-illegal immigrant fury among many who call Reagan their godfather.
After the news of the murders in Newark, where three college students were gunned down execution-style, nearly a week passed with nary a peep from the "law and order" crowd. Then it was divulged that Jose Carranza, one of the alleged attackers, was an illegal alien.
But the nativists, energized by their success in derailing immigration reform legislation, will pounce on any anecdote that helps them vilify illegal immigrants.The posse piled on. Incredibly, former House speaker Newt Gingrich declared that "the war here at home" against illegal immigrants is "even more deadly than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., presidential candidate and anti-immigration demagogue, dropped into Newark to exploit the murders to further his nativist cause.
Many argue that Carranza — who had been arrested twice in the past year, including once on aggravated sexual assault of a child — should have been deported to Peru, where presumably he could have preyed on kids there instead.
A systemic failure
The failure here is with our criminal justice system, and that is where the outrage should be directed. If our system had been working, Carranza would have been in prison at the time of the attack. Considering the magnitude of the charge of child rape, his bail should have been prohibitively high. The judge declined that option, setting bail hundreds of thousands of dollars lower than the indictment allowed.
Furthermore, had Carranza been deported, he very well could have returned to the USA. A year-long Rocky Mountain News investigation published last year found that one in five Colorado inmates who had been deported returned to the USA to commit the same crimes for which they were imprisoned.
But the nativists, energized by their success in derailing immigration reform legislation, will pounce on any anecdote that helps them vilify illegal immigrants. Through local ordinances, they have worked to deny illegal immigrants basic rights, though a U.S. District Court found a Pennsylvania city's efforts to engage in immigration enforcement unconstitutional.
The illegal-immigrant scapegoaters seem unaware that Americans are more than able to commit horrible crimes all on their own. In the high-profile murder of a Connecticut family last month, two of the alleged attackers, both U.S. citizens, were on parole. In the widely covered assault in March of a 101-year-old woman in New York, the attacker also was a parole violator. Rather than demonizing illegal immigrants, we should ask why violent offenders are allowed back on the streets to commit more crimes.
The nativists' anecdotal warfare is an old tactic that does not match up with reality.
During the 1990s, despite a steady stream of illegal immigrants, the U.S. crime rate plunged. Mr. Law and Order, Rudy Giuliani, praised illegal immigrants when he was mayor of New York and defended his sanctuary policies. It would be hard to argue that Giuliani would have defended illegal immigrants if they posed any criminal threat to the city he governed. According to a 2006 FBI report, New York — lambasted by nativists for harboring illegal immigrants — remains the safest large city.
Today's nativists claim that their only beef with illegal immigrants is that they are "illegal." This claim rings hollow when one considers how similarly the legal Irish and Italian immigrants were treated upon their arrival generations ago.
There is also an amazingly simple way to deal with the fact that they are illegal: Pass comprehensive immigration reform and provide them a path to citizenship.
Kirsten A. Powers is a Fox News analyst who served in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1998.