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Dallas Morning News: Wow, people are mad about our illegal immigrants-as-Texan-of-the-year editorial

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By Michelle Malkin  •  January 8, 2008 08:34 AM

Over the weekend, editorial page editor Keven Willey penned an Ask The Editor column about the paper’s illegal aliens-as-Texas-of-the-year declaration. In Willey’s follow-up, we learn that the vast majority of reader responses were negative. Guess what she found out? Newsflash: People care about illegal immigration!

A radio host asked me at the top of his show whether it was true that I’d asked to be put into a witness protection program.

He was joking – and so was I when I retorted something along the lines of, “Not yet, but that might be a good idea” – but his comment pretty well captured the intensity of the reaction we’ve received since last weekend, when we designated the illegal immigrant as The Dallas Morning News 2007 Texan of the Year.

Yes, it’s true, we actually did that. We devoted some 3,000 words in last Sunday’s Points section to explaining the “why” behind this most un-PC of choices. And, yes, we expected a great deal of pushback against the idea.

Still, the intensity of that pushback did surprise us. Now that a week has gone by, it seems like good time to reflect a bit on what happened and why.

Frankly, the volume of reaction is evidence a good choice. People care about this.

Guess what else Willey discovered? If you intentionally try to provoke people, some of them might get–prepare yourself–mad.

It was never our intent to anger readers – at least not gratuitously. Our goal was to provoke, yes, but in a way designed to elevate the issue of illegal immigration to the prominence it deserves and to increase the pressure on Congress to enact meaningful reforms to a system we called “a joke” in our essay.

Guess what else? If you don’t state what your editorial positions are on immigration policy, people might not know where you are coming from. I suggested in my blog post on the DMN’s editorial that the paper should have spelled out its specific policy recommendations. Willey offered a few in her column:

In hindsight, I wish we’d thought to include a summary box noting for readers the editorial board’s position on illegal immigration. This might have put the purpose of the TOY essay last week in better context and clarified that while this designation isn’t meant as a condemnation or a glorification of the illegal immigrant (for all the reasons already explained) we do, as an editorial board, have a strong position on illegal immigration.

In fact, we’ve editorialized on this topic nearly two dozen times in the past year (not counting the number of news stories and op-ed columns published by this newspaper). In those editorials, we’ve made clear that:

• The existing immigration system is a joke.

• It is unconscionable that Congress has refused to reform the system.

• The Department of Homeland Security should get on with it and “finish the rest of the barrier” along the border, noting as recently as last month that this is clearly “the will of the people.”

• It’s not as simple as just “deport them all” or “ignore it and the problem will go away.” We’ve called for comprehensive immigration reform, which includes tighter border security and workplace enforcement, as well as a guest worker program to create a system of documentation and a pathway to regularization that includes touchback provisions and doesn’t put those who have broken the law ahead of those who came here legally.

• We support the city of Irving’s efforts to partner with the feds to deport those in city jails found to be here illegally.

The bottom line is that none of us should settle for snappy sound bites from politicians pledging gratuitously to “crack down” on illegal immigrants. We must push elected officials to move beyond the rhetorical appetizer and dig into the meat and potatoes.

“We must push elected officials to move beyond the rhetorical appetizer and dig into the meat and potatoes.We must push elected officials to move beyond the rhetorical appetizer and dig into the meat and potatoes.” This smacks of “Do As I Say” finger-wagging. The DMN’s Texan of the Year editorial, unfortunately, was exactly the kind of rhetorical appetizer the paper professes to want to move beyond.

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Noel Sheppard dissects the newspaper’s rationale for naming illegal residents “Texans.”

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