Geraldo Rivera presents the flip side of the great immigration debate
Nov 30, 2008
As the 2008 presidential election draws near what to do about illegal immigration has become one of the hottest issues on the campaign trail. Conservative talk show hosts all over America have been fueling much of the hysteria surrounding this issue and as a result reasonable solutions to the problem appear to be more elusive than ever. Earlier this year Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera released "His Panic: Why Americans Fear Hispanics in the U.S". Being of Puerto Rican descent and having spent decades as a working journalist, it seemed to me that Geraldo was uniquely positioned to discuss these thorny issues. I thought that this just might be a book worth reading.
Being a big fan of talk radio I hear the topic of illegal immigration being discussed all the time. Rarely do I hear this subject being talked about rationally. Rather, most hosts choose to fan the flames of fear and hatred and choose to charactorize these people as "criminalians". For most of these hosts this is simply a cut and dried, dollars and cents issue with absolutely no room for compromise. The prevailing climate is further poisoned by any number of popular books that offer precious little in the way of solutions and only serve to pour gasoline on an already red hot issue. It seems to me that what Geraldo Rivera is trying to accomplish with "His Panic" is to quell the worst fears of many Americans who are buying into all of the anti-immigration hype. As Geraldo correctly points out most Hispanics are in fact assimiliating into American society. Yes, it does take 2 or perhaps 3 generations for this to take place but this is really no different than what happened with the Irish, Italians and Jews more than a century ago. Rivera vigorously argues that most immigrants, be they legal or illegal, work hard and contribute a great deal to the American economy. Finally, in arguing passionately for amnesty for these illegal immigrants Geraldo observes on page 108: "Just as I believe the vast majority of Americans most emotionally opposed to amnesty for immigrants have never met one, I also suspect that those most offended by the public use of Spanish and other languages speak only English and have not travelled extensively. Nativism is an ugly brew best savored in cultural isolation." A very cogent point!
While I do agree with a number of the points made in "His Panic" there are couple of problems here. First and foremost, "His Panic" is hardly a scholarly work. The evidence that Geraldo Rivera presents is largely anecdotal and there are no footnotes or references in the book. Secondly, I thought that Geraldo failed to acknowledge the most valid point presented by the other side. The fact of the matter is that our schools and hospitals are being taxed to the max by the influx of illegal immigrants. If we are ever going to get serious about resolving this conflict once and for all then these issues are going to have to be addressed. It seems to me that it is in the best interests of all sides in this debate to get this issue resolved. Expelling 12 million people from the country is not an option. While I am by no means prepared to support a total amnesty after reading "His Panic: Why Americans Fear Hispanics In The U.S." I am more convinced than ever calmer heads will ultimately prevail and that a sensible resolution can be worked out after the election. In my view we are going to have to substantially curtail most immigration for a period of time. All sides will be required to make significant concessions. In the end "His Panic" is a useful and important addition to the literature on this most important subject. Recommended.
I was given Geraldo Rivera's book, His Panic, as a gift. I have to admit when I picked up the book I expected to find a screed filled with hyperbole and rancorous comments about people who are concerned about the immigration issue. Instead I found a well thought out, passionate but not overly emotional argument about why Hispanic immigration is good for America not bad. It is an outstanding treatment of the issue. Geraldo's main point in this book is that Hispanic immigration … more
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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