Using Rich People's Guilt to Sell Immigration Reform

Using Rich People's Guilt to Sell Immigration Reform

Earlier today I posted my interview with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who spoke with us after a bit of controversy around his joint appearance with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) in Chicago on Monday to promote immigration reform. Rep. Ryan gave a good presentation of his views. I don’t agree with him entirely on this issue, but at least he’s arguing rationally and in good faith. Rep. Gutierrez, on the other hand, is doing something else.

In his address, Gutierrez made a craven attempt to tweak the audience’s sense of class guilt, suggesting that they owed citizenship to the people who mow their lawns, babysit their kids, and pour their white wine:

Who are they? You know who they are. They pour the water in your glass when you go to dinner. And they wash the dishes before and after they pour that water in your glass. You know that. You can’t wash your car in the city of Chicago without coming across them. You know when you see that freshly-made bed and you see Maria walking out of the room as you–you don’t ask about her documentation. Does she bring any fear? No, you’re happy she made your bed and has it ready for you at the end of the day. Every day in Chicago, I see–I’ve seen this hundreds of different times. Undocumented women coming early in the morning to care [for] and to nurture the children of American citizens. You give them your most precious asset, your own children, to care for. And when they’re sick, they heal them. And when they’re hungry, they feed them. We know that they’re caring for American citizens’ children. And everybody that’s been on a golf course has seen them. And when José comes to mow your lawn–now, do you ever say, “Whoa! I’m scared,” in the presence of these people? “They are somehow menacing to me”? No. You drink the water, you drink the Chardonnay, right? You eat the fruit, and the salad, and you let them take care of your kids and mow your lawn. And now it is time, at the end of the day, after they sweat and they toil that they can receive the same satisfaction in being a citizen of the United States of America just like you.

Gutierrez’s guilt-trip demagoguery is not an isolated example. Much of the pro-amnesty rhetoric makes the same appeal–and to the same people. It may work on some audiences–after all, it is the leadership of the Republican Party, not the grass roots, that is pushing for immediate reform. Large majorities of Americans approve of finding a way to offer illegal immigrants some kind of path to normal status–but large majorities, including a significant minority of Hispanics, also favor Arizona-style law enforcement and border security

Note the implicit prejudice in Gutierrez’s remarks against Hispanics–the assumption that the people working for rich folk are illegal immigrants, that they could not be bothered to obey the laws of the country. And note the prejudice against sincere opponents of amnesty. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a lawn to mow, I haven’t played golf in years, and I’m not waited on hand-and-foot by white-jacketed wine-bearers. I’m also an immigrant, and the way Gutierrez is pushing his policies reminds me of the country my family left behind.


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