Monday, April 3, 2006

Today in the letters section, the National Council of La Raza, which declares itself the “largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States,” takes issue with our March 30 editorial, ” ‘Room but for one flag’.” Responding to our suggestion that Latino community leaders should condemn the radical reconquista movement, La Raza says that is like asking them to “prove [their] loyalty to this country.”

To suggest such a thing, the letter continues, “maligns the hundreds of years of contributions that Latinos have made … [and] dishonors every Hispanic who has served in this country’s armed forces, from the Revolutionary War to the war on terror.”

Leave aside for a moment how asking a Latino civil-rights organization to condemn an anti-American message being promulgated by “radicals” — as we clearly identified them in the editorial — “dishonors every Hispanic who has served” in the U.S. military. This is the same quality of rhetoric that accuses anyone opposed to a guest-worker program of being a racist.

We take no credit for being the first to notice the desecration of the American flag at the recent rallies throughout the country. Americans of all backgrounds saw the images we did on their computer screens at work and at home on the nightly news. For those civil-rights groups with a responsibility to articulate the wishes of the immigrant community, it was a public-relations catastrophe. Serious immigration advocates should disassociate themselves from the radicals and their anti-American message. La Raza chooses not to.

Instead, the letter puts forward a patriotic public image, which is interesting in light of an internal e-mail by a La Raza staffer. The e-mail cautions members against an amendment to the Senate immigration reform bill that would provide grants to immigrants interested in learning English and American history and organizations that offer those courses. Sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander, the amendment would also allow immigrants proficient in English to apply for citizenship in four years instead of five.

The Alexander amendment, wrote Michele Waslin, La Raza’s director of Immigration Policy Research, is “very problematic.” Of the three “big problems,” she notes, is that “while it doesn’t overtly mention assimilation, it is very strong on the patriotism and traditional american [sic] values language in a way which is potentially dangerous to our communities.”

“Very strong on the patriotism” is an apt description of La Raza’s letter today — even much stronger than anything in the Alexander amendment. Behind closed doors, however, patriotism is “potentially dangerous.”

Once the e-mail leaked, La Raza claimed its position on the Alexander amendment was “unclearly communicated,” as reported by CNN. To which host Lou Dobbs remarked: “So, in other words, they’re backtracking and running from this as fast as they possibly can?” Of course. The National Council of La Raza is interested in protecting only its own image.

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