May 24, 2007

Our Alice in Wonderland Immigration Debate

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales soft-peddles the fact that many street gangs are composed of illegal immigrants. At a Texas police academy, meanwhile, cadets are warned about the problematic aspects of Hispanic culture, amid dollops of political correctness that would please the attorney general.

By David Paulin

“Certain gangs, certain street crews are composed predominantly of people that are here unlawfully,
but there are many people here unlawfully who have also made tremendous contributions to our country.” (Emphasis added.)
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales speaks to a reporter following his May 15, 2007, speech on the Justice Department's anti-gang initiative a speech that failed to acknowledge that many gangs are comprised of illegal Hispanic immigrants.

“No, no (illegal immigrants are) not more crime prone. In fact, when you look at the national statistics, it’s just amazing. There’s not a single scientific study that shows immigrants are more likely to commit crime than native-born, in fact, or U.S. born.”
–Pia Orrenius, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, speaks to television channel “11 News” of Houston, October, 2006.

So there you have it. Two comments from two esteemed sources, yet they reach totally different conclusions! One admits there’s a problem but he does so reluctantly. The other says there’s no problem at all. Such is the schizophrenic nature of the national immigration debate being conducted by the nation’s policy makers and intellectual elite – people who share little if any of the consequences of massive levels of illegal immigration that ordinary Americans encounter every day.

Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales outlined a nationwide anti-gang initiative being undertaken by the Justice Department, amid a spike in the rate of violent crime. Yet in his 3,582-word speech, not a single word even hinted at what Gonzales knew all too well – illegal immigrants comprise the ranks of many gangs. It took a reporter from the Austin American-Statesman to pry that admission from Gonzales after his speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Careful not to cause offense to pro-illegal immigrant groups and his own administration, the politically correct attorney general was quick to note that “there are many people here unlawfully who have also made tremendous contributions to our country.” What kinds of contributions? Perhaps Gonzales was referring to the illegal immigrants in Austin who hang out on street corners and at a controversial city-sponsored “day labor site,” or who work in landscaping, construction, and in restaurants around town. I used to work these types of jobs in high school and college; now this is the work Americans won’t do.

Curiously, the politically liberal American-Statesman failed to call attention to Gonzales’s troubling comments. They merited only a few paragraphs in the reporter’s immigration blog, The Borderline. Speaking of Hispanic street gangs, here’s the latest from Texas: Houston’s oldest Latino gang, La Tercera Crips, is threatening to retaliate against the Houston Police Department after one of the city’s officers allegedly shot a gang member in the back, according to Houston’s local television channel, “11 News.” The station’s viewers must be confused. Seven months ago, “11 News” reported that illegal immigrants were actually more law-abiding than native-born Americans, citing statistics from Federal Reserve Bank economist Pia Orrenius. An estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants live in the Houston area.

The station’s no-need-to-worry report followed public outrage over an illegal Mexican immigrant who allegedly murdered a Houston police officer weeks earlier. That report failed to even mention “La Tercera Crips.”

How’s an ordinary American supposed to stay well informed amid such convoluted reporting and the reluctance of public officials to admit the truth? In all likelihood, ordinary Americans are keeping informed by looking at what’s going on around them. Consider what’s happened in Texas and, specifically, in my own neighborhood in Austin, the capital. Now, most of my neighbors are illegal Mexican immigrants.

Spanish only, please.

The transformation happened over the last six or seven years. My street used to be orderly and people were well mannered. Now, some young Hispanic men driving pick-ups regularly screech their tires as they pull into the street, while Mexican music pounds from their speakers. More than a few Hispanic motorists blast their horns when they pull into the parking lot to pick up friends.

A local grocery store puts out ice-cold buckets of beer at 7 a.m. to serve the new market of lower-class Mexican men. Now, grade-school age kids are everywhere, the offspring of illegal immigrants. Graffiti has started to pop up here and there. In the evening, a group of shabbily dressed Mexican men sometimes drinks beer by a nearby curb, leaving a pile of empties on the ground. This is not to say there are not hard-working families here, too. There are. But there also is a low-life element here that the open-borders folks never want to talk about.

A few years ago, illegal immigration and high Hispanic birthrates pushed white “Anglo” Texans into “minority” group status. Now “Anglos” account for 49.8 percent of 20 million Texas residents, with non-whites comprising what the Associated Press called the “majority-minority” population. As a consequence, bilingual signs and bilingual education are now the norm; and the courts and charities provide Spanish-speaking personnel. On Austin’s busy Lamar Boulevard, tiny Mexican flags even fly outside some car dealerships.

In early 2000, I returned to Austin after an absence of several years. Immediately, I was struck by the shabby and obviously uneducated Hispanic men arriving here. I used to visit Miami a lot, and the Hispanic immigrants there – legal and illegal – seemed much better educated and more likely to assimilate and move up the socio-economic ladder.

“What’s going on?” I said to a Venezuelan friend, a Miami investment banker.

He wryly observed, “The fact that the immigrants coming to Miami had to come up with 400 bucks for a plane ticket makes a big difference in the quality of people you get.”

And they keep coming.

Two years ago, I realized a tipping point had been reached when it became more common to have illegal Mexican immigrants jabbering at me (a 6’2’’ gringo) in Spanish: They expected to be spoken to in their own language.

Police Face Problems

What kind of affect has this had on crime? Getting solid answers is problematic. It’s politically incorrect to maintain such databases, and if they do exist, nobody wants to reveal what’s in them. The news media here throws little light on the issue: Race and ethnicity are only relevant when white police officers allegedly abuse their authority when dealing with Hispanics or African-Americans or other members of the “majority-minority.”

Police officials may not publicly admit it, and Attorney General Gonzales may only reluctantly admit it. But if the curriculum in at least one police academy is anything to go by then the reconquista has definitely posed special problems for law enforcement.

Consider a hefty spiral-bound training manual being used in one of the police academies in Austin. Not long ago, I paged through a manual that belongs to an acquaintance attending the academy. Simply put, an incongruous coupling of materials reflected a case of police academy schizophrenia.

Specifically, it seemed that two items did not belong together. One was obviously written by an academic: "Multiculturalism and Human Relations.” It introduced cadets to the ideology of political correctness, warning them against “racist” conduct such as negatively “judging” other cultures or even harboring thoughts to this effect.

Yet in the same manual, another hand-out offered blunt and unflattering real-world insights into some Hispanic cultures, touching on traits such as “machismo” and proclivities toward domestic abuse and clannish behavior. These tidbits were contained in a 67-plus page manual in survival Spanish, a Berlitz-style approach for police officers. It was loaded with quick-and-dirty grammar; cultural insights; Spanish swear words; and “survival phrases” such as "Policia No se Mueva! ("Police! Don't Move!").

The “multicultural” paper warned cadets against racist behavior such as “stereotyping.” On the other hand, the Berlitz-for-cops manual made it clear that officers could very well expect certain types of problematic behavior from some Hispanic cultures; and those were patriarchal cultures for the most part. It explained, for instance, that men from such cultures live by a code of "machismo" and "honor.” They put family and fellow Hispanics above the larger community – and even the rule of law. Presumably, such commentary referred to unassimilated Hispanic males; but perhaps not. In multicultural America, Hispanics are not really expected to assimilate, and that includes learning English.

Arresting a Hispanic male poses special problems, as the Spanish-language manual pointed out:

“When arrested, he may routinely protest verbally or fight back to 'save face' (quedar bien). To be embarrassed in front of others may be more painful than the arrest itself, for most Latinos have great difficulty with feelings of verguenza (shame). Sometimes, a macho attitude may cause a Latino to blame his wife or daughter in the event she is raped or beaten. Some, but by no means all or even a majority, may abuse women physically or verbally. If that is the case, many Latino women may not want to press charges, because the female ideal is to be delicate, sensitive, non aggressive and submissive to the man. The woman may consider it her duty to stand by her man, no matter what happens."

One thing about these Hispanic family values was startling clear: They’re like nothing Americans ever saw in TV sit-coms like “Leave It To Beaver” or “The Cosby Show.”

Interestingly, the multicultural paper’s intended audience appeared to be only white police officers and cadets. Why? Presumably, that’s because multicultural ideology pits “dominant” groups against “victimized” ones. Accordingly, white cadets are presumed to be the only group capable of racism; no matter that they’re now a minority in Texas. They’re expected to adapt to Hispanic values. And new Hispanic immigrants are not expected to assimilate.

Not surprisingly, the multiculturalism hand-out devotes much space to describing the traits of “prejudiced” people. One is ethnocentrism: "the act of regarding one's culture as the center of the universe and hence the basis for all comparisons with other cultures." Another is stereotyping: “a convenient grouping of people of whom one is ignorant.”

According to the multiculturalism hand-out, prejudiced people possess "a self-assured feeling,” believing “they are superior or better than others, which is frequently expressed in inappropriate jokes” and “disparaging remarks” about people they regard as "inferiors” and thus label as “lazy, too aggressive, stupid, tricky, deceitful, clannish, (and) pushy.”

Of course, the point of such lessons is to ensure that officers behave professionally and treat every member of the public with the same level of courtesy and respect. Yet the multicultural paper goes beyond this, stating that officers must not even “privately” judge other cultures in a negative light or even harbor “feelings of superiority.”

And what if the culture in question embraces values and notions of citizenship that are at odds with traditional American values, culture, and concepts of citizenship? The issue isn’t addressed; but it amounts to a white elephant in the room in light of the harsh spotlight the Spanish-language manual puts on some Hispanic cultures – namely (though not always) those with “patriarchal” traditions.

Despite the multicultural hand-out’s warnings about making generalizations about other cultures, the Berlitz-style manual states:

"Regardless of their specific cultural or national background, Latinos will most likely side with each other than an outsider. An individual will assist family members and friends regardless of the consequences, and expect the same in return. A sense of honor is so important in Latino culture, that it may keep an individual from cooperating with the police against a friend or family members, even though he or she may not condone any of the actions."

This can pose special problems for police investigations, as the language manual observed:

"Due to the profound importance of family and community in Hispanic culture, officers need to be aware of common group identification styles. Under questioning, for instance, a Hispanic family member may 'eye-check' family members before coming up with a question, and may follow this action with what seems to be an inappropriate use of the pronoun “we” when the officer expects to hear an “I.” This behavior may seem to be evasive or misleading to some officers, but it often simply reflects the fact that no individual in the family can separate his or her affairs from the family's larger concern."

Obviously police officers should avoid making disparaging remarks about members of the public, including those in their custody. They should treat all people with respect. Yet there is something a bit unsettling in the way the multicultural hand-out tells cadets to avoid regarding themselves as culturally superior to “macho” Hispanic males who immigrate to America illegally and then insist on maintaining their own values and cultures as opposed to assimilating – right down to refusing to learn English. The city of Austin encourages such conduct with its own polices.

In my neighborhood, I come across residents who have been here at least three years. Yet they appear to speak no English, except for a few broken phrases. One of them is “What’s your problem?”

The other day, a young Mexican male uttered that in a somewhat ominous tone when I complained to him about revving up his car’s engine outside my apartment window. No doubt about it. The days of “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Cosby Show” are over in parts of America where major demographic changes have occurred – changes that Congress is poised to make a permanent part of America’s cultural landscape.


"Crime kept climbing in 2006, a top FBI official said Wednesday (May 31), previewing a report detailing nationwide increases in murders, robberies and other felonies for a second straight year," according to an article by The Associated Press.

It added, "The crime hike marks the latest blow to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who has targeted neighborhood violence as a top priority. Gonzales took office in early 2005, when violent crime rose by 2.2 percent in the first annual increase since 2001.

"A Justice Department study released earlier this month of 18 cities and suburban regions indicates youth violence, gangs and gun crime largely are to blame for the increasing rates. Gonzales also has promised to help local police combat gangs and guns with $50 million this year and up to $200 million in 2008."

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