Brooks, Matthews on illegal immigrants' "culture of criminality"; Parker: "[T]hey are not assimilating, they're not learning English"December 20, 2005 12:36 PM EST ››› ANNA DIMOND
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On the December 18 broadcast of NBC's syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, New York Times columnist David Brooks asserted that illegal immigrants come to the United States "with a culture of criminality." Discussing a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, columnist Kathleen Parker, dubbed by her syndication service as "a maverick conservative," attributed attitudes toward illegal immigrants to the feeling "that the loyalties of those people [Hispanics] are for their countries back home ... rather than to the United States. And because they are not assimilating, they're not learning English." NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell disagreed with both Brooks's and Parker's assertions. When Mitchell said, "[T]here's no way you can say that the people who are coming in now have a culture of criminality," host Chris Matthews disagreed: "No -- it's about them coming in illegally -- they come in illegally to start with."
From the December 18 broadcast of NBC's syndicated The Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: But what about people that choose to come in the country illegally? What are we going to do about that? What do we do?
MITCHELL: Well, there has to be a way, and the compromise that might emerge from this legislation might be the way -- but the most interesting thing in the NBC poll this week, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, is how huge majorities of people who are against the immigration now and think that they're -- they should not be coming, they're illegal, are in favor of the immigrants that came a hundred years ago. People have a very different attitude toward our ancestors who came --
MATTHEWS: -- from Europe.
MITCHELL: Our grandparents who came, our ancestors who came from Europe. And what's the difference? Skin color.
MATTHEWS: I think the -- vast-- further, Kathleen --
PARKER: No, I think it's because they feel -- basically, we're talking about Hispanics, right? And they think that -- they feel that the loyalties of those people are for their countries back home --
MITCHELL: I think it's racist.
PARKER: -- rather than to the United States. And because they are not assimilating, they're not learning English and, you know --
MITCHELL: Any more so than the Irish or the white, the white immigrants?
JOE KLEIN [Time magazine columnist]: A hundred years ago, people said the same thing about the Italians and the Jews that they're saying about the Mexicans now. There's an awful lot of -- There's an awful -- There's an awful -- There's an awful lot of nodding and winking.
MATTHEWS: So why do -- why do -- Go ahead, David.
BROOKS: This is important. This is important -- it's not racist -- when the immigrants -- Listen, I'm for pretty open immigration. But when the immigrants come, they come with a culture of criminality. It's out of control, and I can see people wanting to put the system in control.
MITCHELL: I don't how you can say that, David. I don't know how you can say that. I disagree profoundly.
KLEIN: This is the biggest domestic issue in this country right now.
MATTHEWS: I want to know what the counter-argument is. Should -- do -- has anybody openly say whether it's the organized Latino groups or business groups that say it's OK that people come in this country and the first thing they do is break the law by coming in, is anybody willing to say that openly?
KLEIN: There's a lot of nodding and winking. People say it, but they don't believe it. The business community wants the status quo.
MATTHEWS: They want illegal hire --
KLEIN: They want to be able to be able to keep on hiring people --
MATTHEWS: People that are in the country illegally.
MITCHELL: Absolutely. California and Florida growers depend upon these -- these migrant workers. And that is part of the economic underpinning of it. But I really believe that, that there's no way you can say that the people who are coming in now have a culture of criminality. No more so than you can say it about Jewish ancestors --
MATTHEWS: No -- it's about them coming in illegally -- they come in illegally to start with --
BROOKS: There's no control -- no system --
MATTHEWS: Kathleen. Kathleen. Last word. Is this going to be a big political issue the president has to bow to, whatever his politics are?
PARKER: Yeah, he's got to deal with it. Absolutely.