My last post somewhat obliquely considered an objection to President Bush's nomination of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general. That objection relies on some expectation that he would be unable to carry out his duties enforcing the law on the issue of immigration, and the support for this is primarily from the fact that he wants to change immigration law. My argument is that this line of reasoning almost exactly parallels the Democrats' arguments against confirming John Ashcroft to the same position four years ago. It was a bad argument then, and it's bad now. What I want to assess now are all the foaming-at-the-mouth claims about Gonzales that go beyond the more reasonable (but still indefensible) argument I already dealt with.
Around the internet it's not too hard to find conservatives, I'm sure many of them racist themselves, claiming that Gonzales belongs to La Raza (NCLR), a group they say is un-American and insisting upon racist policies. They've been claiming Gonzales is a racist Hispanic supremacist who wants the southwest to become its own country. They say La Raza is a Mexican version of the KKK, which somehow is supposed to be supported by the fact that the term means 'the race' in Spanish. How is that racist? Maybe they have deeper views that they don't admit to, as the KKK actually does (look at the KKK website for all they'll admit to publicly). I haven't seen anything showing that they agree with the one seemingly racist quote I've seen that they supposedly say in private (though even that apparently doesn't necessarily mean what's it's being said to mean). It even goes so far as taking a quote as a declaration of war that obviously just means that Mexican citizens in the U.S. are still technically part of Mexico. Two things make me suspicious of all these claims, besides the fact that some of them are just outrageous. One is that these things seem to be originating from sources where white racists are clearly present (who think George P. Bush is a sign of Mexican invasion of the U.S.) who are at least adding fuel to the fire but are possibly actually originating much misinformation in the process. The other is that I always give someone the benefit of the doubt when I know little about them. I haven't seen enough to justify what people are saying here. Given that Latinopundit, whom I consider a political moderate, defends the outgoing president of La Raza, I just can't believe much of what I've been seeing.
Even La Shawn Barber has bought into some of this. All I want to argue is that there's little to no evidence of any of this, even to the point of doing to illegal immigrants what some do to Islam -- painting them all the same way. Christians who take the Bible seriously should have no trouble saying that Islam is a false religion but admitting that many Muslims are peaceful, and many Muslims are Americans with many core American values. They can work with Muslims on political matters, as Bush has insisted on doing. They can recognize the good that is in Islam because there is good in everything God created, and the doctrine of common grace teaches that God's work is present in everything, even in false religions. Similarly, illegal immigrants did something wrong. They violated the law. They deserve some penalty for that. That doesn't, however, require that we treat them without compassion. Some of the people Jesus dealt with had done things worse than being somewhere without going through the proper channels. They repented, sure (which Bush's plan will require), but Jesus treated them as if they hadn't even done it. I don't think an immigration policy should go that far, since legally repentance doesn't justify removing of all penalties, but showing more grace to illegal aliens who are in fact contributing the American economy and could do so more if they paid taxes and were regulated and kept track of (why wouldn't we want to do so in an age of higher security?) can only be a good thing. It's not rewarding lawbreakers any more than God rewards us for sinning. It's extending grace and recognizing their contributions despite their lawbreaking. It's desiring to make them part of our country despite their illegal entry. It's like what we do with criminals in prison when we try to help them reform. It just doesn't take sending them to prison to do it.
That's why I have little problem with the basic idea Gonzales has had Bush construct. It really depends on the details, of course. There are ways to do this very badly. I don't want them to follow Jesus' example exactly and treat them as if they entered legally, the way Jesus said God will do in the parable of the workers who all started at different times in the day but got paid the same amount as a flat wage for the day. The reason is because we're in a situation where we still want to discourage doing it the illegal way. There needs to be some difference. That doesn't mean the penalty needs to be as severe as it is, especially for those who can show they've been here for longer and have been working to help the American economy. It doesn't even mean that they can't ever be allowed on the path to citizenship, though it shouldn't be as easy for them as it is for those who begin the path legally. Maybe it should cost them more money. It should definitely require more time, and it should have lots of demonstrations of responsibility and contribution to America through work and perhaps other ways. In general, I like the president's idea, though I may end up disagreeing with the details.
That may explain some of why La Shawn and I differ on our attitude to Gonzales, but there are other things that I find inexplicable. She says he belongs to La Raza, a group that at times has defended more radical views than the one I just outlined. I don't know if the group is monolithic or if it's more like the NAACP. I don't know if Colin Powell and Condi Rice are members of the NAACP. I suspect that they are. Even if they're not, there are moderates and conservatives within that group, and belonging to it does not in any way require subscribing to what some of its more radical members (who have happened to occupy leadership positions of late) will say. I believe Ed Brown, who blogs at Vision Circle, is a member of the NAACP. If not, he very well could become one easily. He's a black moderate who thinks many black conservatives are way too harsh on the NAACP but agrees with much of what someone like Bill Cosby has said positively about the solution to racial problems coming from within black America. If La Raza is similar to the NAACP, then I don't see how being a member of it should tell us anything about Gonzales.
Even so, I haven't seen anything that supports the claim that he's a member. Maybe he is, but just stating it doesn't make it so. The only evidence I've seen so far is a statement from La Raza defending Bush's choice of him on the grounds that we haven't had "one of us" in the cabinet since Mel Martinez resigned to run for the Senate and that there has never been a Hispanic attorney general. If "one of us" could only mean "a member of our organization", then this would count as the evidence I haven't seen, but the most obvious meaning of that phrase is that they meant a Hispanic. There's no question that they were putting both him and Martinez in that category, and I haven't seen anyone saying Martinez must belong to La Raza on the grounds of this quote.
Finally, I'm not so sure much of what's been said about the group is even correct. Are they really racists? If so, what kind of racism is it, and is it the kind that would prevent a member (assuming he agreed with their views; see above) from becoming attorney general? Many people think affirmative action is racist (and not just against whites but against blacks) on the grounds that it's harmful along racial lines and therefore is institutional racism. I don't know many people, even conservatives who agree with this very strongly, who think those who advocate affirmative action should be considered unqualified for attorney general on those grounds. It may be a reason not to want the person in the position but not for doing what was done to Ashcroft in labeling him as a racist because of something that had little to do with race (and the black man involved admitted as much). Here it may be no different if he merely holds views that many will think harmful along racial lines but not intended for harm and not because of any views having to do with racial superiority or moral subordination.
Here's what I know about La Raza. They support keeping track of illegal aliens, which requires giving them ID. They also want to be able to fine them for traffic violations, so they support giving them licenses. They want to go further than President Bush in relaxing some immigration laws and lowering penalties for others. I'm not sure about all the details here, but I know their view is more extreme than his, which is one thing that leads me to doubt that Gonzales is on the same page as them. As far as Gonzales, I know that he was worked with and even been a leader in groups promoting Hispanic advocacy and progress and overcoming discrimination and other illegal or immoral activity directed against Hispanics. Some of these groups have had some connection with La Raza, though what that connection amounts to is hazy.