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Clarissa Martinez De Castro Headshot

Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures

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As if blaming immigrants for global warming, the financial crisis, and every other ill that is currently affecting our society wasn't enough, Mark Krikorian and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) are taking their junk science one step further. Citing a poll he commissioned, Krikorian now claims that the majority of Latinos prefer "enforcement and for illegal immigrants to return home." Meaning, Latinos would like the estimated 12 million unauthorized immigrants to leave the country voluntarily or by force, splitting up families, devastating communities, and creating unimaginable hardship. But that is simply at odds with all the evidence we've seen and our own experience and years of working with the Latino community across America.

What we know is that the Latino community supports a practical, real immigration reform solution that is in line with America's values, and that gets unauthorized immigrants on the books and paying taxes, secures our borders, levels the playing field for all American workers, and goes a long way in reducing the hateful rhetoric that Krikorian and his organization clumsily blurt out.

To peddle his bought-and-paid-for results, he chooses to ignore years of polling done by independent sources that clearly show he is wrong.

This smells of desperation. And here is why. Krikorian and his cronies are seeing a crescendo of voices demanding reform, from all over the country and from many different perspectives: law enforcement, faith, labor, business, conservative and progressive groups of all shapes, denominations, and backgrounds are increasing the call for Congress and the administration to fix our broken immigration system. Yes, even conservatives are struggling to figure out a way to address the issue of immigration reform so they can start repairing their relationship with Latinos, the fastest-growing electorate in the country (see Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Washington Post, and American Principles Project).

And this scares Krikorian and his allies. They are afraid that if the conversation turns sane and pragmatic, which is where the vast majority of the American public is, they will be left out since they are not interested in fixing the system. Their obstructionist, "blame everything on immigrants" strategy is getting stale, particularly among Americans who want solutions, not empty rhetoric.

It's easy to understand why they would resort to unscientific methods and commission an online poll, first determining the outcome and then artfully shaping the results to make their point: The facts do not support their position.

What has shaped Latino sensitivity to the issue of immigration is easy to understand. According to the latest research, when asked if Latino voters "know any undocumented immigrants personally; in other words, are any of your friends, family members, neighbors or co-workers undocumented?" close to 70% of Latino voters answered that they do. Is it realistic to believe that the majority of Latinos would support policies designed to deport their friends and family? I don't know how Krikorian feels about his coworkers, friends, and family, but I'm glad that I'm not one of them.

Further evidence that Krikorian is grasping at straws is that overwhelming majorities of Republican and Independent voters support solutions that would strengthen our workforce by making unauthorized workers legalize their status.

Krikorian betrays his worldview in sometimes oafish ways. He admonished Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor for having a name that sounded too foreign and argued in his conservative column after the earthquake that Haiti's problems stem from not being colonized long enough.

I think I can say without fear of contradiction that whichever Latinos Mr. Krikorian thinks he knows well enough to speak authoritatively about the true pulse and aspirations of the Latino community, they are not the Latinos I grew up with in my family, among my friends, in my schools and neighborhoods. Those Latinos want a legal immigration system that works, a way for immigrants to work with dignity and keep their families together, and to be part of the United States like every generation of immigrants before us has. In fact, what my family and fellow immigrants want is not unlike what the Krikorians wanted when they first came here from Southeastern Europe. It may do him well to reconnect with that, before he goes claiming he knows what Latinos want.