As many opponents of immigration reform work hard to make clear, they are against “illegal” immigration (because “illegal is illegal”) and claim they don’t have any beef with people who come here through sanctioned means. (To be clear, we abhor the use of the i-word. It’s meant to be inhumane, degrading and insulting. But, that’s why they use it.)
“We love legal immigration,” GOP primary frontrunner Mitt Romney said during a November 2011 debate. “I like legal immigration.”
“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that legal immigration is an engine of growth for this country,” Jon Huntsman reminded Americans in December.
“There has to be a robust and attractive program of legal immigration,” Newt Gingrich writes on his campaign website.
Not all of their friends and allies, however, can say the same thing.
Anti-immigration group and John Tanton organization NumbersUSA is in the middle of a $100,000+ ad buy in South Carolina, attempting to call attention to the “problem” of legal immigration before the Jan. 21 primary.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” intones their odious new ad. “Everybody talks about creating jobs, but who will get the jobs? Not one candidate is talking about why the government is ready to bring in another 1 million legal immigrants this year to take American jobs. Legal doesn’t make it right when there are millions of jobless Americans. Ask the candidates who should get new American jobs, unemployed Americans or will they bring in another million immigrants?”
Ok. There are at least a few problems with this ad.
We understand that anti-immigrant rhetoric is practically a national tradition, with documented movements against Catholics, Germans, Italians, the Irish, and the Chinese. However, that didn’t stop any of those groups from assimilating, learning the American way, and becoming established and accepted here in the U.S. As even Mitt Romney has said, “we are a nation of immigrants.” Immigration is the only reason the vast majority of us are even here, which means that attacking legal immigration is, actually, un-American.
The NumbersUSA ad paints immigrants as sneaky, pernicious, economy-undermining jobs-stealers. Nowhere is it mentioned that immigrants also create jobs. One in four companies started in the last twenty years counted at least one foreign-born immigrant among its founders. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, was born in Russia, while Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, was born in Taiwan. It is said that the U.S. is facing a critical shortage of scientists and engineers, which is why multiple Republicans have supported “stapling a green card to the diploma” of any foreign-born graduate student who comes here to earn higher degrees in the hard sciences. Anti-immigration groups like NumbersUSA dream of isolating the country and closing it off; we hope they enjoy ceding competitiveness and dominance to more farseeing countries.
South Carolina last year passed an anti-immigration law similar to Arizona’s notorious SB 1070, parts of which have been blocked. And earlier this week in South Carolina, Rick Santorum (did we mention his father is an Italian immigrant? Who, a hundred years ago, would not have been so welcome here?) expressed support for a temporary “slowdown” of legal immigration.
Misguided, short-sighted, nativist, extremist. That’s just a short list of things we could say.