Matthews baselessly suggested Latino voters "want more of an open border"

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

Previewing the January 5 presidential debates, MSNBC's Chris Matthews discussed what he said would be "a good question" to ask candidates, such as one that would force the candidates to "choose between Latino voters who want more of an open border and the other voters ... who definitely don't want that kind of an open border." Yet, while Matthews did not offer any examples of "Latino voters who want more of an open border," in fact, a number of national and regional Latino groups have specifically rejected the idea of "open borders" while advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, as have members of Congress representing states and districts with large Latino constituencies.

On the January 4 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, while previewing the upcoming January 5 presidential debates sponsored by ABC News, Facebook, and ABC New Hampshire affiliate WMUR, host Chris Matthews said: "[S]uppose [moderator and ABC World News host] Charlie Gibson asks her [Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)] a good question like Tim [Russert] did, a decision where you really have to choose between constituencies: You choose between Latino voters who want more of an open border and the other voters, the Lou Dobbs types, who definitely don't want that kind of an open border, right?" Yet, while Matthews did not offer any examples of "Latino voters who want more of an open border," in fact, a number of national and regional Latino groups have specifically rejected the idea of "open borders" while advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, as have members of Congress representing states and districts with large Latino constituencies.

Senators taking the lead in efforts to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 included: Ken Salazar (D-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Mel Martinez (R-FL), and John McCain (R-AZ). The bill ultimately failed, but if passed, it would have provided legal status and a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, while including provisions to strengthen border security with increased surveillance, border personnel, checkpoints, border fencing, and barriers, among other measures. Moreover, numerous House members representing parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas also sponsored a comprehensive immigration reform bill (the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007 or "STRIVE Act") that included numerous provisions calling for increased border security. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus strongly endorsed comprehensive immigration reform, with many of its members taking leadership roles in efforts to secure its passage.

On January 8, 2007, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urging them "to make immigration reform one of your top priorities during the first 100 days of the new Congress." In the letter, the group rejected the notion that it supports "open borders," saying that "this is simply false":

The 110th Congress can find an immigration solution that keeps America's border safe, while dealing fairly with undocumented workers. Of course, the radical anti-immigrant forces will say that our objective is to open borders -- this is simply false. As proud and patriotic Americans, we value national security and we stand for strong borders that protect our families, our homes and our way of life. We also believe that as part of their earned legalization process, undocumented immigrants should learn English to be successful and productive members of society; pay any back taxes they may have accrued while undocumented; and hold no criminal record in the U.S. Undocumented immigrants should be subject to these requirements just like any other American or pay the consequences if they fail to do so. We are not asking for special privileges or hand-outs, just fair and humane treatment for people who have contributed so much to America.

Additionally, as part of its "OneMillionVoicesUnited" campaign, LULAC stated that proponents of comprehensive immigration reform "aren't for open borders or closed borders -- neither is realistic nor desirable" and that "reform would bring the overwhelming majority of well-intentioned immigrants through our legal system so that we can screen them and admit them if they would contribute to our nation, or bar them if they intend to harm us" (emphasis in original):

Are proponents of comprehensive reform advocating open borders?

No. The options aren't for open borders or closed borders -- neither is realistic nor desirable. Comprehensive reform would bring the overwhelming majority of well-intentioned immigrants through our legal system so that we can screen them and admit them if they would contribute to our nation, or bar them if they intend to harm us. The system we advocate has enforceable quotas and limits, in contrast to our current chaotic system in which unauthorized entry is a daily occurrence and enforcement resources do not distinguish between those who might try to harm us and those coming to work. By writing realistic immigration laws and enforcing them to the letter, we will finally achieve border control that is good for national security, our families, and our economy. We must replace random and ineffective enforcement with targeted and efficient enforcement.

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), an organization that claims to be "the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States" that "works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans," asserted on its website that it "does not and has never advocated open borders":

NCLR does not and has never advocated open borders. We believe that the U.S. is a sovereign country with the right to control its borders. We care a great deal about how our borders are enforced; NCLR has long argued that enforcement at the border and in the interior must be conducted in a way that maximizes effectiveness without undercutting our values as a nation. We are especially troubled that more than a decade of increased enforcement measures along the U.S.-Mexico border have resulted in a steep increase in the number of border deaths without much impact in deterring migration. NCLR takes the position that any border enforcement policies must be both effective and humane.

The Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR) -- whose board and strategy council includes several members of various Latino interest groups -- states in its "campaign principles" that Americans who advocate for immigration reform "want neither open borders, nor closed borders, they want smart borders":

Immigration is a defining feature of America's history and of America's future. Unfortunately, America's current immigration system is broken. Instead of legal channels, legal immigration, and orderly, screened entry, the immigration system has fostered a black market characterized by a ballooning undocumented immigrant population, widespread use of fake documents, increasingly violent smuggling cartels, and widespread exploitation of undocumented workers. The American people are frustrated with their leaders on this issue and hunger for a solution that will work. They want neither open borders, nor closed borders, they want smart borders. The time has come for the President and Congress to work together to enact comprehensive legislation that rewards work, reunites families, restores the rule of law, reinforces our nation's security, respects the rights of U.S.-born and immigrant workers, and redeems the American Dream.

As part of its comprehensive immigration reform platform, the National Immigration Forum, which describes itself as "the nation's premier immigrant rights organization" that is "dedicated to embracing and upholding America's tradition as a nation of immigrants," has said that comprehensive immigration reform "will make our immigration laws more realistic, permitting an intelligent enforcement regime that should include smart inspections and screening practices, fair proceedings, efficient processing, and strategies that focus on detecting and deterring terrorists and cracking down on criminal smugglers and lawbreaking employers." The Forum added that "[s]uch a system will better enable the nation to know who is already here and who is coming in the future, and will bring our system back into line with our tradition as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws."

From the 7 p.m. ET hour of the January 4 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

JENNIFER DONAHUE (senior adviser for political affairs at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics): I think [NBC Political Director] Chuck [Todd] just hit on something because here's when Democrats in New Hampshire will make their minds up and independents: tomorrow, the debate. How will Hillary perform? She does well in debates. She's disciplined. She learned a lesson last night. So --

MATTHEWS: Except in Philly.

DONAHUE: Except in Philly. And she's been hemorrhaging ever since.

MATTHEWS: Where Tim took her -- Tim [Russert] took her head off in Philly.

DONAHUE: Well, you know she had Philly happen, and then she has been campaigning in a negative fashion ever since. Bad combination.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, because something fell through that night.

DONAHUE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Inevitability fell through.

DONAHUE: It did. And so she's been in a freefall. But I do think Iowa leveled her out. Despite the fact that she looked stunned last night, and she did --

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you, suppose Charlie Gibson asks her a good question like Tim did, a decision where you really have to choose between constituencies: You choose between Latino voters who want more of an open border and the other voters, the Lou Dobbs types, who definitely don't want that kind of an open border, right?

DONAHUE: Yep.

MATTHEWS: And you have to choose on the spot.

DONAHUE: Right.

MATTHEWS: You've got to make a big political call on the spot. Can she do it?

DONAHUE: Go to the middle. Go to the middle. Go to the middle. She can do it. She doesn't need --

MATTHEWS: Does she need a lifeline? Does she need a lifeline, Joe [Scarborough]? Does she have to call up Mark Penn [Clinton's chief strategist] or somebody?

DONAHUE: She's got to go centrist, not liberal because she already voted centrist and right on the war.

Posted In
Elections, Government, Immigration, Border Security, Immigration Myths, Immigration Reform
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
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