Fred Thompson on Immigration

From an A.P. article published widely the other day:

Fred Thompson, a potential Republican presidential candidate, suggested that the 1986 immigration law signed by President Reagan is to blame for the country’s illegal immigrants and he bemoaned a nation beset by “suicidal maniacs.”

“Twelve million illegal immigrants later, we are now living in a nation that is beset by people who are suicidal maniacs and want to kill countless innocent men, women and children around the world,” the former Tennessee senator said.

One question of many prompted by this quote: assuming that Thompson does run for President, does this statement lead to a net gain or net loss in votes?


The quote doesn't necessarily mean that all 12 million are suicide terrorists. Even though a good number of those illegal immigrants are otherwise upstanding people, a good many are not. Since we don't know who these illegal immigrants are, where they come from, what they believe, and what grudges they hold, it is safe to assume that some of them could be terrorists.

This statement won't hurt Thompson at all. In fact, it may help him considering McCain's position. The majority of the American population, including the majority of conservatives, are against illegal immigration and amnesty.


Frightening that such a question could even be asked!

One of Thompson's assets seems to be lack of exposure (other than the fictional charaters he's protrayed on TV). As he's already fairly popular in polls I think it's likely extreme comments will hurt more than help his potential candidacy.


People always seem to want what they can't have. Right now they seem to want the Fred Thompson they see on Law and Order. I think the quote shows that the real Fred is someone quite different. If he actually throws his hat in the ring, I think quotes like this (extreme in nature) will ultimately hurt him.


I fail to follow the logic. Is Mr. Thompson trying to equate illegal immigrants to suicidal maniacs? You have to read between the lines to really draw that conclusion.

Me being Asian, it's easy to imagine that Mr. Thompson is referring to the Virginia Tech tragedy, where a legal Korean immigrant committed those horrible crimes.

Perhaps Mr. Thompson needs to take some classes on presenting his points clearly and concisely. Oh wait... they are politicians, they are trained to not offer anything concrete...


Oh that 22% majority that is against amnesty...


Considering the current Republican love for all things Ronald Reagan, I would say this should hurt him pretty badly. RR in this day and age can do no wrong, and to blame him for the immigration mess will hurt Thompson with the low number of people who actually vote on primary day.


As usual, statistics depend a great deal on exactly what you ask.

* 89% of Americans think illegal immigration into the U.S. is a problem (30% "extremely serious," 33% "very serious," and 26% "somewhat serious." (Time Magazine, Jan. 2006)

* 82% think that not enough is being done along the borders to keep illegal immigrants from crossing into the country. (Time Magazine, Mar. 2006)

* 68% feel that the number of immigrants who cross the border, whether legal or illegal is “too high”. (Polling Company, Sept. 2006)

* 62% oppose making it easier for illegal immigrants to become citizens of America. (Quinnipiac Univ., Feb. 2006)

* 88% find it very important (72%) or somewhat important (16%) to improve border enforcement and reduce illegal immigration. (Rasmussen Report survey, May 21-22, 2007)

* 56% agree with an enforcement-only approach to immigration reform. (Rasmussen Report survey, May 8-9, 2007)

* 53% agree with building a 700 mile long fence on the border with Mexico. (CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, May 4-6, 2007)


A McLaughlin & Associates poll conducted from April 12-15, 2007 of 1000 likely voters found that:

* 82% (82% of Latinos) support requiring voters to show valid identification to prevent fraud.

* 78% (73% of Latinos) agree with a tamper-proof identification card system to establish which applicants are legal immigrants.

* 77% (67% of Latinos) think that repealing local sanctuary laws allowing illegal immigrants to avoid punishment is a good idea.

* 75% (59% of Latinos) want to prohibit the issuing of drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants by the state.

* 73% (53% of Latinos) support altering citizenship laws so that a child born in the United States does not automatically become a citizen, but must have a parent who is a citizen in order to do so.

* 72% (67% of Latinos) endorse tamper-proof identification cards with a national database.

* 71% (57% of Latinos) agree with passing new state laws to stop the use of taxpayer services for illegal immigrants.

* 68% (56% of Latinos) would like to enact a policy of zero tolerance where all illegal immigrants are deported.

* 63% (50% of Latinos) believe that illegal immigration is problem in the United States.

* 59% (69% of Latinos) support a guest worker program.

* 51% do not agree that measures that President Bush and Congress approved in 2006 will decreases illegal immigration.



Thompson is scary. He makes Reagan look like Mr. Rogers. If he is elected, there will be a harsh domestic policy, and I can't even imagine how many different countries he would like to bomb.


I'm not following the intended logic. Thompson refers to a nation "beset by people who are suicidal maniacs and want to kill countless innocent men, women and children around the world."

Is he suggesting that if we were better at policing our borders, suicidal maniacs wouldn't want to kill countless innocent men, women and children around the world? Umm, so they kill because of our haphazard border control?

If this is what he means, he's clearly a few pages short of a full script.

Or is he just suggesting that the suicidal maniacs would still kill countless innocent men, women and children around the world, just not in the U.S. (I.e. the suicidal maniacs would still be suicidal maniacs, but they'd be killing non-Americans, and he prefers this outcome.)

If this is what he means, it is a pretty lousy moral position to take.


Regarding XopherMV's polls as responding to whether or not Americans are for/against "amnesty."

None of those questions actually ask the question concerning amnesty. It is entirely possible (and true at least in my case) to support stiffer laws and enforcement and also support a one time amnesty.

I don't mean to start the debate about whether or not this is a good idea. I only meant to suggest that while most Americans are for stiffer enforcement and laws, I don't believe they are necessarily against a one time Amnesty.

From the polls I've seen, support for amnesty hovers at about 50/50. But if the poll asks the question within the context of what would have to happen if Amnesty didn't occur, support for amnesty tends to increase significantly. Of course, when the question is asked in association with the question "Do you believe that a one time Amnesty will encourage future illegal immigration?", with the usual answer being yes, support for Amnesty decreases again.

On the whole, its tough to stay were the true level of support is at. I would guess about 50/50. The problem is that like oil, this country is addicted to illegal workers. Its much easier for a smoker to swear off buying another pack than it is to throw out the pack already purchased.

I think Fred Thompson's words (if they get out) will hurt him. This country seems to have at least mixed feelings about this issue, and coming off extreme one way or the other will hurt more than help a candidate.



Pretty bold (and stupid) move to blame Reagan and illegal immigrants for terrorism! This is either colossally stupid or a very clever way to get attention.
Of course, even anti-immigrant Republicans are hard pressed to blame Latin Americans for terrorism.
Maybe Fred is going for the liberal vote by taking avoidance of stereotyping Arabs and Muslims to a new level - blame Catholic Hispanics instead. Could be pure genius ;-)

Jeffery Faulk

Seems to me that the only terrorist acts we get here in America are those committed by white folks in white supremist or fundamental religious groups. Stupid is barking up the wrong tree.


What an unfortunate (or incredibely stupid) quote! It is simply incredulous that one would actually posit that illegal immigrants were responsible for generating suicidal maniancs who desire to kill "countless innocent men, women, and children around the world." While I would love to learn more about the context of this quote - as we all know that quotes can be miscontrued - I also fear that this may be the sentiment of many in our proud nation. Who will be the next scapegoats after the "illegal immigrants"?


Intrade traders don't seem to think it's a huge deal - his contract jumped a point (21 to 22) in a concentrated, but not especially large, burst of trading the next afternoon, and has stayed pretty level since. And hard to see much effect on the other major Republican candidates' contracts.


This whole thing is certainly "colossally stupid" as you suggest but, definitely not by Fred.
I see that many of you tripped your way into this spin promoted by disengenuous writers and I can't help but laugh at the drivel...Get a real thought here people.

What any reasonable person fully understands from this segment of Fred's speech is two distinctly seperate points he made which combine in relationship, not description! How utterly embarrassing for all of you.

Our federal government hasn't secured our borders as was clearly and distinctly promised in 1986 on the passage of the last amnesty bill. The solemn "promise" ofwhich we would not ever be asked again to accept criminals into our society which never materialized wherein 12+ million more illegal aliens as well as terrorists who are the "suicidal maniacs" have crossed our porous borders. The laws they propose now to protect us are the exact same from 1986. THIS is what Fred clearly announced and I know many people who are very grateful that he has brought it out into the open, for all of you have proven that many still hold no clue.

The terrorists who easily can and have entered our country is fact, this evidence I have seen was shown to us by FOX News through border patrol officers who provided military shoulder patches in Arabic writing. A muslim prayer blanket was found on the Arizona border in 2001 as well as log books, diary type booklets, bits and pieces of paper all with Arabic writing on them. These illegal entries have their own special category called OTM's ( Other Than Mexicans ). Of those whom are caught and then sometimes whisked away by federal agents to destinations unknown are referred to as SIA ( Special Interest Aliens, which means possible terrorists. ). It is said that double the amount of SIA's cross from Canada as opposed to the number captured from the Mexican border as some of the 9/11 attackers did. Nationalities include Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria.
From the beginning of 2002 to 2004 ( 3 year period ), three hundred twenty were captured at the Mexican border, four hundred seventy-two at the Canadian border and one hundred fifty-four in Miami, New Orleans and Puerto Rico. These are the numbers of only the ones that have been caught and there is much more evidence of what is happening here. If you would like to educate yourselves further on worldwide terror attacks you may like to start here;

All of this information is readily available and you all certainly have access, therefore, there are no excuses for this display of ignorance.



What I don't understand is how can Republicans, the defenders of free trade, be anti-immigration. I believe that a man's labor is the most fundamental and basic unit of trade and as such should also be free. Newt Gengrich said that the immigration bill strikes at conservative values, I ask, “what values are those?” Racism, bigotry, intolerance, exclusion, fascism must be the conservative values he glorifies. George Gilder, an early conservative though kinda nutty today, identified hard work, family, and faith. I have to believe people who walk across the desert to get here have some of those values. I personally prefer the values of courage, personal responsibility, and a sense of tolerance and cooperation. Be that as it may, anyone who knows what conservative values are today and how they relate to immigration, I would be interested. The liberals, of course, seek to reward cowards, the irresponsible, and the lazy and because of that, I believe, are completely reprehensible.



Sort of early to be self distructing, isn't it? Has he even announced yet?


Mr Dubner,

I see your question as a test of Al Gore. If Al is right, then a statement such as this one, which is short on reason and long on emotion, should help Mr Thompson. Of course, I'm referring to "An Assault on Reason" rather than "An Inconvenient Truth".

The meta-question would be: is Mr Thompson consciously avoiding the appeal to reason because he agrees with Al Gore?

Jed Lewison

Although I'm not aware of a statistic on suicide rates for America's native-born versus foreign-born population, I do know that white non-Hispanic Americans have the highest rate of suicide of any major ethnic/racial group (more than 250% higher than that of Hispanic Americans).

That said, it sure seems like Thompson was referring to terrorists (roughly 90% of terrorist victims are from foreign terrorists, about 10% from domestic terrorists like McVeigh or the Unabomber), not rampage killers like the one from Virginia Tech (and less people have died in our nation's history from all rampage killings than died on 9/11).

As for the political implications, Thompson can probably whether this quote alone, but I think it's a sign that he might not have the mental capacity to run for President. Gaffe's and gotcha's are a key part of any campaign, just ask John Kerry or George Allen, and Thompson should have been much more precise in his language. It might win him some right-wing support right off the bat, but it's an indicator that he will be a bad candidate. Therefore, I hope he's the GOP nominee, because we definitely need to switch parties in the White House!



“Twelve million illegal immigrants later, we are now living in a nation that is beset by people who are suicidal maniacs and want to kill countless innocent men, women and children around the world,”

Holy crapatoid! As usual, I had not actually read Dubner's post before commenting the first time. But this quote scares the bejesus out of me.

Although Fred Thompson is not a sane person, he does play one on TV. Clearly he knows of what he speaks. You yankees can joke about this issue all you want. But we living in Texas are clearly at risk from all the maniacal Hispanics that surround us.

The next Alamo is going to be huge. Huge...I tell you.