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?


DaveKCMO

isn't it illegal to say something that might diminish the legacy of ronald reagan? i swear that was part of the patriot act...

dreck

Well, I'm no fan of Reagan's bill, but Thompson's comment confuses me.
Aren't most of these "suicidal maniacs" here...legally?

frankenduf

I'm tryna figure out which will give me more nightmares- living in a nation beset by suicidal maniacs or beset by terrorists

bsig

I think that if you would read the full quote Thompson means that when the country is beset by suicidal maniacs i.e. terrorists we can not afford to have our border unsecured.

Honestly some of you people posting about this seem to have no concept of reality.

goobler

The quote given here seemed quite whacky, so I went to the link and read the article. It's pretty clear to me that Thompson simply meant that due to the terrorist threat, he feels our virtual open border policy is a mistake.

The suicidal maniacs we are "beset" by MUST BE islamic fundamentalists, not immigrants in general. I don't think Thompson believes that we are under threat from all immigrants or that they are more whacko or suicidal in general. That's just moronic, and he seems like a pretty on-the-ball guy to me, not a hateful loose cannon.

I don't think it's very controversial to be concerned about our open borders due to the threat from terrorism. All he meant to suggest is that he opposes our current immigration policy, it's too lax and too open. And the reason is that the policy threatens our national security. Lots of folks agree with him. I don't see what's served by making Thompson look like a xenophobe, or by assuming he is... . I see no reason to assume the worst about the guy...

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egretman

I don't see what's served by making Thompson look like a xenophobe, or by assuming he is… . I see no reason to assume the worst about the guy…

This is so funny. The savior of the republican party. The man who will assume Reagan's mantle of straight talk. He sounds like a nut. And he did it all by himself. We didn't even have to help push him over the cliff.

He uses the one figure used by the anti-immigation crowd, 12 million. As in 12 million illegal immigrants. Why did he use the number if he wasn't trying to say that 12 million Hispanics are maniacal killers?

What a dolt. The point is that it doesn't matter what side of the issue you are on. He sounds like a xenophobe. I mean...even if you believe in what he says, wouldn't you just want him to shut up and try to get elected before becoming a big dope?

We can't afford two idiot presidents in a row.

Justin Smith

Fred Thompson is referring to the Fort Dix terrorists. Three of them entered the US illegally. This is a theme he also visited in a recent column: http://www.townhall.com/columnists/FredThompson/2007/05/19/the_immigration_bill_comprehensive_or_incomprehensible

Duh. The quote is obviously wildly out of context. This is typical of the Associated Press. But they didn't just stop there. These liberal media types must be really scared of a Thompson run if they're turning their own bad journalism into 'news'.

And as usual, McCain was happy to play along. At least Giuliani has some sense, even when offered a platform make a baseless attack on a potential competitor.

The real question: how many people besides John McCain and Steven D. Levitt are this gullible? Shame on you for falling for this and helping the liberal media 'scares the bejesus' out of people. I've come to expect better of the Freakonomics blog.

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brianm

To add to the comment above by Justin Smith

"Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Thompson, said he was not calling immigrants "suicidal maniacs" but, rather was referring to terrorists who seek to enter the United States through borders that have lax security." CNN

http://www.cnn.com/POLITICS/blogs/politicalticker/2007/05/thompson-finds-fault-with-1986.html

Thompson's choice of words was unfortunate, but I sincerely doubt that he believes all immigrants are terrorists. What is more believable is that he was referring to the Fort Dix incident, and that he was adding the element of fear to strengthen the effect of his anti-immigration polemic. If he's guilty of anything, it's adding to the climate of fear and detracting from any sort of rational rational debate.

bob_calder

The remarks that reference percentages of opinion from polls makes me wonder if the opinion of every person is given equal representation.

Wouldn't it be reasonable to cut some opinions out? I'm not sure where I'm going with this but let's say that in a presidential popularity poll we always have a certain number of people who give the guy kudos no matter how bad a bungler he is.

Is it possible that these people are representatives of populations who are marginally self-aware? I'm not for disenfranchising them but why do I have to hear about their opinions on the news? If the process were applied to television ratings, Fox would be out of business in a heartbeat. Luckily for them, there is purchasing power in that group just like any other.

Rob

Mr. Thompson is clearly making two separate, but related, points with his statement. We are indeed best by maniacs who want to kill us. And we do have a porous border through which they could easily enter (the reference to 12 million illegals gives weight to that point). He was obviously not trying to say that typical Mexican border crossers are terrorists. Only someone with a political axe to grind would choose that interpretation.

Tassos

interesting

Kurt Thialfad

I would like to see the full context of Thompson's comments, because it seems that Dubner is setting Thompson up as claiming illegal immigrants are suicidal maniacs, which is ridiculous.

What's not ridiculous, and actually very sad, is that the 1986 Reagan amnesty program was a total disaster which only further exacerabated the illegal immigration problem in the US.

Thompson is anther Teddy Roosevelt, and we need him.

Julie Rudnick

It is extremely disturbing to read that Fred Thompson stated that illegal immigrants in our country are suicidal maniacs wanting to kill innocent civilians. From this quotation alone, to say that our country needs Thompson seems ludicrous. Thompson voted “yes” on providing visas for skilled workers in May of 1998, and voted “yes” on allowing more foreign workers into the U.S. for farm work in July of 1998. Because he voted yes on allowing immigrants to continue assimilating in the U.S., it is shocking that he would make such a statement about those traveling here illegally. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 allowed undocumented immigrants who had been in the U.S. before 1982 to apply for legal residence. It established penalties for employers who hired undocumented immigrants, and required employers to obtain proof of work eligibility from all new hires. Because the act was a failure, how can we blame Reagan for “suicidal maniacs” entering? It is preposterous to suggest that the 12 million illegal immigrants that are here all pose a threat to our safety. If Thompson does think they are dangerous, providing them with the opportunity to legalize their citizenship may be a step for them to prove their eligibility. Suggesting that stricter border control may change the minds of these immigrants to murder innocent people seems unreasonable. Not only did Thompson say that these illegal immigrants want to kill innocent people in our country, but also around the world. This being so, how will higher security around our borders solve the major problem? Thompson is clearly discriminating against a certain type of person, and as we learn from history, this will not solve our problems. An example of our country's discrimination concerning immigration can be seen in the Chinese Exclusion Act. “The Chinese Must Go”, an article from by Bernard A. Weisberger in American Heritage Magazine, stated that the Chinese were “almost universally disdained by the advanced Americans.” Because Charles Crocker imported thousands of Chinese men to work on the railroads, the Americans living in San Francisco were bitter towards them. “The Chinese composed perhaps only 15 percent of the San Francisco labor force, but they were blamed and hated by apparently every unemployed or underemployed white San Franciscan” (Weinberger). We all are aware the outcomes of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and how racist our country was for those 60 years in which the act was in effect. To blame all illegal immigrants for acting like “suicidal maniacs” is similar to the Chinese Exclusion Act. We would be categorizing individuals as a whole, and discriminating, even though it would not be beneficial to our safety. On June 4, 2007, The Washington Post conducted a survey which stated that 52% of Americans would support a program giving illegal immigrants now living in the United States the right to live here legally if they paid a fine and met other requirements. It seems as though many Americans do not find illegal immigrants threatening to their own safety, but would rather try and aid them in their assimilation; making everyone feel safer overtime. Knowing who is in our country and feeling secure are both extremely important, but it is up to us as Americans to help immigrants and not generalize their threat. Thompson's statement should have caused a net loss in votes, for his words seemed unnecessary and made him seem naïve.

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Andrea J

I am completely disturbed that someone such as Fred Thompson, a person in
power that could have possibly ran for president can have such a
ridiculous almost comical statement about [illegal] immigrants. Whether he
was speaking about terrorists or not, the fact is that he's talking about
an assumed 12 million illegal immigrants and calling them ALL suicidal
maniacs is beyond the point of redemption. As Julie points out, this man
voted yes to providing visas for skilled workers and yes to allow more
farm workers into the U.S. in 1998. Has the terrorist attacks made him
suddenly ‘realize' that all Mexicans are terrorists? What about the
illegal immigrants that come into the country legally and stay past their
allotted time? Do they become suicidal maniacs then? This comment also
goes against what he said in his speech in Nashville, Tennessee five days
after 9/11, claiming that he would ‘act accordingly without hatred in his
heart'. If this is not hatred, then what is this? The point of the matter
is this: he is confusing Mexican immigration with terrorism. Mexican
immigration is a problem of its own, caused by a variety of things,
including the Mexican government for not providing jobs for its citizens
AS WELL AS the United States government for taking away jobs. First,
Mexico is plagued by unemployment, reaching a 25% of unemployment rate.
The United States didn't even come close to this percent during the Great
Depression, and Mexicans are living with this permanently, with no end in
sight. In addition to this, NAFTA, the North American Free Trade
Agreement, which is supposed to benefit all three countries has largely
decreased the employment rate and wages of Mexican farmers. The TIR, Trade
Impact Review, has analyzed the effect of NAFTA on Mexico and noticed that
the salary of a farmer went from 1959 pesos (Mexican currency) in 1991 to
228 pesos in 2003. Many independent farmers have had to put their farms
for sale, because they cannot compete with the American farmers and they
end up spending more money than they gain. So therefore, American
corporations are treating the Mexican worker badly within the United
States, but also within Mexico itself! So now, to say that everyone coming
into the United States illegally is a “suicidal maniac” is a maniac
himself, and completely oblivious to what's really happening at outside
our borders. People want to here to work or to find better work and that
is their pull factor, so the reason 12 million people come to the U.S. is
NOT to kill innocent people. Its almost as if Fred Thompson wasn't
thinking when he made this statement which is even scarier, because why
would he be talking about issues he doesn't about and get his credibility
ruined? Would we have really wanted a president who either doesn't know
about the issue or doesn't think before he speaks?
Fred Thompson is also encouraging two minority groups to bump heads for
the respect of the country because of his confusion about terrorists and
Mexicans. From a historical standpoint, several minority groups tend to
bump heads because they were lumped into the same category. For example,
the Irish and blacks were considered an impure and less than human. In
1889, Harper's Weekly published the “Journal of Civilization” cartoon,
which ‘showed' the similarities between the ‘Irish Iberian' and the
‘Negro' and then compared them a white man. Because the overall idea was
that Irish people descended from blacks, no one wanted to give either any
jobs and the blacks and Irish had to fight for the little jobs that
remained. We would be doing this to Mexicans and anyone who might be from
the Middle East because people fear that those people are all ‘suicidal
maniacs' as well.
The Emergency Quota Act of 1924 is also similar to the Mexican situation
of the day. The E.Q.A. limited the annual number of immigrants who came to
the U.S. to 3% of the people from that country living there in the 1910,
which, was significantly less southern and eastern Europeans at the time
(meaning, much less Irish people coming into the country. With all of the
restrictions and border security going up, you are limiting the specific
number of Mexicans that come into the country, being discriminatory to a
specific people, like the Irish were discriminated against. As Julie
points out, discriminating against a certain people, such as the Chinese
Exclusion Act is unbeneficial in the long run. It leaves countries around
the world with a s taste in their mouth because, isn't America supposed to
stand up for the Pursuit of Happiness? Isn't this the land of the free? Or
is the land of the free, sometimes? And only certain people can be in the
pursuit of happiness? Fred Thompson does not represent our country in the
correct way and this statement would have caused him a net loss of votes,
because of the recklessness of his words and stupidity of his
rationalization.

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Eritrea Woldehaimanot

To know that Fred Thompson was a potential Republican Presidential Candidate is alarming. He is a man who seems uncertain of how to address pressing issues like immigration. As a republican, Thompson prides himself on “being a real conservative…. fighting for conservative values,” yet he as Julie pointed out has voted in favor of allowing more foreign workers into the United States (Draft Fred Thompson 2008 Committee). It is embarrassing enough that Thompson, a potential leader of this country, fails at being consistent on an issue that he should, as a former Tennessee Senator, already have a working idea on but he further tarnish's his character by expressing offensive remarks, which contradict his actions. Thompson's ignorant claim that illegal immigrants are “suicidal maniacs” was a dim-witted move for him to make as a politician. The fact that this is no random individual but a former Tennessee Senator, and potential republican candidate is frightening because it is such a cold, strong, insulting remark and remarks like that are generally fueled by hatred. So it does not seem sensible to have such man in power.
Thompson blames The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986(IRCA), which was passed by President Reagan, as the source to what triggered the illegal immigration crisis. This immigration law granted amnesty to “illegal aliens that have entered the U.S. before January 1, 1982, have continuously resided in the U.S. unlawfully since that date; and applied for adjustment of status during the 12-month period beginning on May 5, 1987” (USA.gov). Thompson believes that granting illegal immigrants amnesty increases the amount of illegal immigrants who will gladly flock to the US in order to receive that amnesty. To a certain degree I agree with Thompson because even if the cut off date is January 1st, the fact that these immigrants are undocumented plays to their advantage since they easily can lie due to the fact that they are undocumented and claim that they resided in the U.S prior to that set date. There seems to be so many loopholes with this law; hence, it almost seems to not solve the immigration issue, which makes me question why Reagan passed this law in the first place.
Reagan passed this law in 1986; a year after a total of 972,250 immigrants from Mexico immigrated to the US (Immigration Preference Systems). As a conservative President, it is safe to assume that this law was not put in place by Reagan to attract more illegal immigrants but rather was a sad attempt to stop the influx into the U.S. This is not the first time that this approach of granting amnesty to illegal immigrants living in the U.S within a certain time frame has been taken. Senator Ellison DuRant Smith of South Carolina promoted such an approach during the 1920's. He advocated the idea of “shutting the door and assimilating what we have, and let us breed pure American citizens and develop our own American resources” (Smith). This idea of allowing illegal immigrants already within the US to be citizens has been advertised repeatedly over time. Yet it does not solve the immigration issue because it does not address how to tighten the border in order to make it more difficult to come into the US. Simply allowing illegal immigrants the chance to receive amnesty if he/she meets a certain criteria is like covering the issue with a band-aid because illegal immigrants will still continue to congregate to the US. Hence, it is up to the government to actually propose an idea that would find the root to what is driving people from their countries to the US. Any proposal that is taken to answer this question I feel would be a step forward to reducing the number of illegal immigrants in the US.

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Eritrea Woldehaimanot

REVISED BLOG:To know that Fred Thompson was a potential Republican Presidential Candidate is alarming. He is a man who seems uncertain of how to address pressing issues like immigration. As a republican, Thompson prides himself on “being a real conservative…. fighting for conservative values,” yet he as Julie pointed out has voted in favor of allowing more foreign workers into the United States (Draft Fred Thompson 2008 Committee). It is embarrassing enough that Thompson, a potential leader of this country, fails at being consistent on an issue that he should, as a former Tennessee Senator, already have a working idea on but he further tarnish's his character by expressing offensive remarks, which contradict his actions. Thompson's ignorant claim that illegal immigrants are “suicidal maniacs” was a dim-witted move for him to make as a politician. The fact that this is no random individual but a former Tennessee Senator, and potential republican candidate is frightening because it is such a cold, strong, insulting remark and remarks like that are generally fueled by hatred. It was not a sensible remark for him to make as a running Republican candidate, because it is really rare for a majority of Americans to share that extreme view on immigrants. I most certainly do not!
Thompson blames The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986(IRCA), which was passed by President Reagan, as the source to what triggered the illegal immigration crisis. This immigration law granted amnesty to “illegal aliens that have entered the U.S. before January 1, 1982, have continuously resided in the U.S. unlawfully since that date; and applied for adjustment of status during the 12-month period beginning on May 5, 1987” (USA.gov). Thompson believes that granting illegal immigrants amnesty increases the amount of illegal immigrants who will gladly flock to the US in order to receive that amnesty. To a certain degree I agree with Thompson because even if the cut off date is January 1st, the fact that these immigrants are undocumented plays to their advantage since they easily can lie about their status and claim that they resided in the U.S prior to that set date. This is one of the many loopholes surrounding this law, which makes me feel as if it was a waste of a law because it REALLY did not accomplish anything. Reagan passed this law in 1986; a year after a total of 972,250 immigrants from Mexico immigrated to the US (Immigration Preference Systems). Majority of the immigrants were from Mexico because Mexico borders the U.S, also “many of the immigrants came to the states seeking jobs and security” (Good Morning America). Pull factors that pushes individuals to the US continues to be economic prosperity. Now the question is what can the US do for individuals to feel as if they could be financially well-off within their native countries?
As a conservative President, it is safe to assume that this law was not put in place by Reagan to attract more illegal immigrants but rather was a sad attempt to do the exact opposite. This is not the first time that this approach of granting amnesty to illegal immigrants living in the U.S within a certain time frame has been taken. Senator Ellison DuRant Smith of South Carolina promoted such an approach during the 1920's. He advocated the idea of “shutting the door and assimilating what we have, and let us breed pure American citizens and develop our own American resources” (Smith). This idea of allowing illegal immigrants already within the US to be citizens has been advertised repeatedly over time. Yet it does not solve the immigration issue because it does not address how to tighten the border in order to make it more difficult to come into the US. Simply allowing illegal immigrants the chance to receive amnesty if he/she meets a certain criteria is like covering the issue with a band-aid because illegal immigrants will still continue to congregate to the US. Hence, it is up to the government to actually propose an idea that would find the root to what is driving people from their countries and into the US. Any proposal that is taken to answer this question I feel would be a step forward to reducing the number of illegal immigrants in the US.

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XopherMV

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.

broham

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.

Terp82

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.

jcl

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...