Today’s New York Times has an opinion piece that is sure to bring cheers or cheers from our not so subtle readership. Obviously the writer had chosen sides, so it is very much an opinion.

Notes From the Immigration Battlefield

Published: March 18, 2009
Here’s a thought. What if illegal immigrants really aren’t America’s worst nightmare? A lot of energy has been spent insisting that they are, but are they really as dangerous as, say, zombie banks? Or as evil as retention bonuses?

In truth, our biggest domestic menace never was waiting outside Home Depot, hoping to clean your basement. Unauthorized immigrants are not about to destroy anything, not even when they get angry and loud and march in large groups. On the contrary, they are inspiring. Their ethic of self-reliance and hard work is one that Americans should recognize and celebrate.

Exhibit A: Riverside, Calif., where I went recently to watch immigrant advocates march against the Border Patrol.

Riverside is 100 miles from Mexico, but the Border Patrol has an office there. Its agents have accused supervisors of imposing arrest quotas — 150 illegals a month — that forced them to swoop into day-labor corners and bus stops to keep their numbers up.

The marchers wanted to make the point that arresting people in bulk because they look Hispanic is grossly unconstitutional. They wanted to denounce the raids as a cruel misuse of crime-fighting resources — fishing for minnows instead of sharky predators.

The day of the march dawned wet, cold and calm. The crowd at City Hall grew to about 300, then set off for the Border Patrol office, three miles away. They looked like any Americans, though maybe more cheerful. They chanted and sang and got soaked. The ink on their signs bled. They looked like poor people marching for a better life, the kind we root for in movies like “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Drivers gave friendly honks, but not everyone was nice. A guy on a townhouse balcony silently held up a Confederate flag as the Latinos marched by. When he saw my camera, he became a frightened little man. He whipped the flag behind his back, as if it were a dirty magazine.

At the march’s end, a band of Minutemen with American flags and bullhorns was waiting across the road. “We support the Border Patrol!” they yelled over four lanes of blacktop. “Viva la Migra!”

I had thought these outnumbered soldiers might be tense. But I saw no fear, only loathing. It was a party! I met a smiling man named Jim. “What’s your heritage?” he asked. As immigrant sons, we talked about what a great country it was.

I asked him why we couldn’t all just get along. He said because these aliens were not the good Ellis Island kind. They were soaking California for billions in social-service tax dollars while hatching evil schemes. “Reconquistas,” he called them, citing a Mexican plot to seize the U.S.A. through mass migration. It’s fictional, but Jim believed it.

He gave me his card.

Jim Gilchrist!

Mr. Gilchrist founded the Minutemen. I asked for a picture. He pointed to a tree and suggested posing there.

“With a noose hanging from it?” he said.

“Pardon me?”

“With a noose hanging from it?”

I asked him to repeat it again. He said he was joking. I tried to make the words fit together as humor, but couldn’t.

I went to the Latino side, where the singing was better. The speeches were interrupted when shoving broke out on the Minuteman side. Uh-oh.

I ran over and got Mr. Gilchrist out of a huddle. He told me one of his troops had been spit on by a reconquista. He was keeping everybody calm while the victim, a frail-looking woman, got ready to press charges.

A police officer was taking statements. A lawyer for the marchers, a skinny white guy, put a gentle hand on her shoulder. “Did he really spit on you?” he asked.

“No,” she said, “but he could have.”

It was a Perry Mason moment. But it was more. It was the Minuteman worldview wrapped up in one sad little psychodrama: The alien threat, so scary, yet so imaginary. The officer took note.

20 Thoughts to “Cheers or Jeers?”


    “No, but he could have”. Well that about sums up the xenophobic mentality. One wouldn’t want a dirty Latino in close enough proximity to possibly spread their nasty germs. Nice.

  2. Elena


    Pretty sad I’d say. So many serious ills facing our country, so many difficult complicated issues facing our country….healthcare, poverty, global warming, war, out of control greed, financial scandals, etc etc! I guess when problems become so overwhelming, as a human species, we resort to blaming the helpless “others” because it’s just plain easier.

  3. JustinT

    I like the part where he says “even when they march.” It’s when they started marching that all the nativists got restless. No one, or almost no one in this country has a problem with minorities. It’s when the minorities look like they’re not so minor, that’s when you have a problem with nativism.

  4. Moon-howler

    Justin, I think that you have a point, ‘when the minorities look like they’re not so minor, that’s when you have a problem with nativism.’

    I am not so sure that people don’t have a problem with minorities. I think many do, but polite society keeps them from saying so.

  5. Rick Bentley

    What a smear piece.

  6. Moon-howler

    Third rhyme Rick. Maybe I should have said cheers or jeers or smears.

    Some of the opinion piece did seem so outlandish to me I wondered if it was a spoof.

  7. TDB

    This is a lovely story AND it’s told so well!!
    So, now you’ve resorted to commenting on people’s opinions that you share. Just like Sgt. Friday used to say: “Just the facts, maam!”

  8. Alanna

    That quote about ‘he could have spit’ on me, is what stands out to me as well.

    By the way, more wackiness on BVBL about anarchy and killing illegals. Are they insane?

  9. YankeeForever

    This reads like a fiction made up of caricatures.

  10. Second-Alamo

    Disgusting! How dare Americans stand up and voice their opinions concerning illegal immigrants. Surely there must be a law to prevent such outburst! When will Americans learn to just keep their mouths shut and let the world, and their country, go by. You’d think the country was something worth fighting for. Heck, voicing your lawful opinion in public, how shameful!

    There, that should make everyone feel better about themselves. Well, at least there wasn’t any bias on the author’s part! ………Right.

  11. Moon-howler

    TDB, I am not sure what you are saying. I posted the piece and stated that it was an opinion piece. We have people who comment here who will hate it and others who will agree with it. Isn’t that is what blogging is all about? Who wants to hear a bunch of preaching to the choir?

  12. Moon-howler

    SA, What pushed you over the edge on this one?

    I was not certain where the border agents belonged in this dog fight. It sounded to me like they were being forced to do something they felt was wrong or perhaps illegal to make quota. Did anyone else read that in to it?

  13. Second-Alamo

    No, just trying to throw some sarcasm into the fray. At some point it becomes obvious what the author’s intent is, and then you stop paying attention to the details. It’s just that in most cases it’s the legal US citizens that are portrayed as the big bad people when it comes to the issue of enforcing our immigration laws, as if we are suppose to stick our heads in the sand and pretend people aren’t flooding across our borders. This may come from people who as teenagers viewed the police with distain, I don’t know.

  14. Moon-howler

    Didn’t everyone view the police with distain as a teenager? Maybe just a little bit of fear because we all had a guilty conscience over something.

    And I was counting on you to do just that, SA. I still want to know if the border agents are being forced to do something against their better judgement. It sure wouldn’t be the first time.

  15. Whats being described in this New York Times article is not patriotism.

    It’s fascism.

    The Minutemen have a mindset similar to the brownshirts. Hitler took this raw material, refined and purified it into the terrifying Waffen SS.

  16. Second-Alamo

    People complain about rounding up groups of Hispanics under the assumption that they may be illegal. Legal citizens may get caught up in the process, but then how would you suggest that we do gather up illegal aliens? Other than not doing anything I don’t know how we are expected to enforce the country’s immigration laws in a manner that would please everyone. The easiest way would be the requirement for every individual to be issued a secure ID. That way, after a certain date, those not coming forward would then be properly assumed to be in the country illegally. No collecting of innocent people in group raids would be necessary. However, even though we all (legal citizens) have to have a drivers license to drive, people are against the ID as though it is some government plot to control the populace. Folks, the government already knows more about you through tax forms, so what’s the worry? Why, they even have your Social Security Number, along with all those that process your tax forms!

  17. TWINAD

    People complain about rounding up groups of Hispanics under the assumption that they may be illegal. Legal citizens may get caught up in the process, but then how would you suggest that we do gather up illegal aliens?

    Can you say, LAME-O?

    So it’s perfectly fine with you that perfectly legal people could get caught up in this mess, spend time in jail, miss work, possibly miss out on their son’s hospitalization as charactarized in a post a few months back…just so we can find out who is here legally?! And I suppose you would be all for it if our “illegals” were mostly white people? Because then YOU would be one of the people that could possibly get caught up in this mess. So, SA, if most illegals in our country were white, would you still recommend this as the way to do it? I doubt it. Your comment totally illustrates the fact that it is ALL ABOUT THE BROWN SKIN!!!! HOW do you not see that?

  18. Elena

    Thank for responding to SA! The very idea of “rounding” people up based on skin color or accent should concern EVERY free minded person!@TWINAD

  19. TWINAD

    Forehead hitting keyboard.

  20. Second-Alamo


    Once again the focus is changed to race to avoid my suggested solution. Did you even bother to read the entire post? The subject was a method of avoiding detaining legal citizens, and that includes ‘brown skin’ legal citizens, so knock off the racial BS. No one is willing to put forth a solution, because people like you are so brainwashed into thinking any solution is anti-immigrant when it’s really anti-illegal immigrant. The fact that most illegal immigrants are ‘brown skin’ is not my problem!

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