June 23, 2007


Bush’s Stance on Immigration Has Roots in Midland (JIM RUTENBERG, 6/24/07, NY Times)

Late last spring, Republicans in this West Texas oil town called for a boycott of Doña Anita’s Mexican restaurant, a retaliatory step against its owner, Luz Reyes, for closing shop and showing up at a rally against proposed new penalties for illegal immigrants.

But President Bush’s three best friends here defied the boycott and went to the restaurant, Mr. Bush’s favorite when he lived here, regardless. One of them, the president’s close confidant and former commerce secretary, Donald L. Evans, told Ms. Reyes: “Luz, you didn’t do anything wrong. We love you.”

The hometown divide helps to shed light on a broader rift, as Mr. Bush and like-minded Republicans engage in an unusually contentious fight with the rest of their party in the national debate over immigration.

Mr. Bush has pursued a goal of providing citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants with rare attacks on his conservative supporters, who have derided his approach as tantamount to amnesty. There are various political motivations for Mr. Bush to push for his plan, including the rapid growth in the nation’s Hispanic population, a voting group that he has long considered to be potentially Republican.

But the roots of Mr. Bush’s passion lie here in Midland, now heavily Hispanic, the city where Mr. Bush spent much of his childhood, and to which he returned as a young adult after spending his high school and college years in the more genteel settings of Andover and Yale.

As a boy, and later as a young, hard-drinking oilman, his friends say, Mr. Bush developed a particular empathy for the new Mexican immigrants who worked hard on farms, in oil fields and in people’s homes, and went on to raise children who built businesses and raised families of their own, without the advantages he had as the scion of a wealthy New England family.

Our fraternity used to send groups of guys to Midland/Odessa to work on geoseismic crews during our semesters off. You got payed minimum wage, but working 100 hour weeks got you a boatload of time and a half, plus there was $5 a day meal money and a $25 per diem. The last was because turnover was so high and it was thought daily cash would get folks to show up at 6am every day. They put up with us Yankees because we were as reliable as the one third of the crew that was illegals.

Not only did the latter have taxes withheld from their paychecks, but so many of the natives had DWIs and suspended licenses for other reasons that when the crew moved from town to town they ended up driving the company vehicles--the bosses having made the determination that it was better to put guys with valid Mexican licenses driving behind the wheel. Such dependence on illegals, while typical, hardly endeared them to all the Texans, but it made pretty much everyone a coyote. You covered for the guys, helped them get hotel rooms, etc.. On crews that worked close to the border and used their infrequent day off to go over to Nuevo Laredo, or wherever, it was not unheard of to sneak a few guys back and forth over the border so they could go with you.

Some of the guys had been in the states for years and were raising families, but others just wanted to make enough money to be able to open a business back home. One young guy who we became particularly friendly with dreamed of nothing but owning a cinder block business back in Mexico. He was 17 and missed his parents.

The reality a George Bush would have exprienced in Midland is so at odds with the phobias that nativists foster that it's hardly surprising he has so little patience with them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 23, 2007 7:33 AM

Most of the people you describe as "nativists" are folks who simply want secure borders before they are asked to begin thanking illegals for not rebelling against their own socialist POS Mexican government.

When the borders are secure, let's get those breeding catholics in here as fast as possible to save our child-hating morals-hating country. It's the order of things that gets you to name-calling every time.

Posted by: Palmcroft at June 23, 2007 5:20 PM

I like the idea of immigration. American whites and blacks aren't having enough babies to support the economy, so what else are you going to do. I also think immigration is good for the sould of the country.

What I don't understand is why Bush has instituted de facto Mexican only immigration. Why isn't he working at eliminating all restrictions so Poles and Chinese and Africans and Germans can come over. That just seems like such a better solution than Mexican only immigration.

PS I'm also not a conspiracy guy, but I'm pretty sure there is a concerted effort to undercount the number of mexican illegals. Like I said, I'm not all up in arms about it, because we need the workers, but I'm convinced it is happening.

Posted by: Benny at June 23, 2007 5:33 PM

Boycotting an American for expressing "bad" political views. Nice, very leftist of these "conservatives".

Posted by: Bob at June 23, 2007 6:34 PM

No they aren't or they'd favor legalization and lifting the quotas.

Libertarians like you are right to fear the importation of tens of millions of Christians. It's a simple political calculation. I oppose letting atheists in.

Posted by: oj at June 23, 2007 8:15 PM

But not marxists.

Posted by: Sandy P at June 23, 2007 9:13 PM