Are Puerto Ricans Illegal Immigrants?

Sometimes, I'm dumbstruck by the insane things anti-immigrant folks say (for instance when the Heritage Foundation's Conn Carol suggested, during our Bloggingheads repartée, that one of the big problems with illegal immigration is the widespread epidemic of undocumented workers defecating on people's property). The National Review has another such gem today from Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies -- a hate group that masquerades as a think tank. Krikorian objects to the "pseudo-congressman from Puerto Rico" saying, "We are a nation of immigrants."

“We”? Puerto Rico is a foreign country that became a colony of the United States in 1898, no different from the French colony of Togo or the British colony of Uganda (or the U.S. colony of the Philippines). Congress granted residents of the island U.S. citizenship during World War I, but Puerto Ricans remain a distinct people, a distinct nation, with their own (foreign) language, their own history, their own culture. Like other remnants of late-colonialism (like Belize, Djibouti, Comoros, etc.), most Puerto Ricans don’t want independence at this point, because it would end the gravy train.

After establishing how distinct Puerto Ricans are (read: brown and Spanish-speaking), Krikorian then makes the case that the U.S. should slough off the territory, which one would assume means stripping all Puerto Ricans of their U.S. citizenship.

In the public debate over immigration, anti-immigrant crusaders strive to make the case that they oppose illegal immigration. They're fine with people coming through the door; they just don't want you jumping the fence. But the "argument" above shows what those who follow immigration politics already know: This fight is about racism and inclusion as much as it is about policy. This is why I think it's largely fruitless to point out, over and over, that immigrants are a net gain to the economy and consume less than their fair share of social services. Despite the misnomer "Center of Immigration Studies," Krikorian and his ilk aren't interested in examining the effects of immigration and improving our immigration system. They just think there are too many Latinos in the country.

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