Misinterpreting Immigration Statements

20746959299_dc9366f2fd_bYou have to pay careful attention to the immigration debate to understand who is saying what. This is especially true in interpreting statements of the current presidential candidates.

For example, does Sen. Marco Rubio support president Obama’s DACA temporary amnesty for aliens who illegally entered the country as minors? Some commentary has suggested that he has expressed support for the program when speaking in Spanish and then reversed his position when speaking in English.

A translation from Spanish of what Rubio said in a Univision TV interview was, “I believe DACA is important. It can’t be terminated from one moment to the next, because there are already people benefiting from it.” That was interpreted to mean that he supported the program and would not end it. Then in English he commented, “Well, at some point it [DACA] is going to have to end, that is to say, it can’t continue being the permanent policy of the United States.” That was interpreted as a commitment to end DACA. The Spanish version was seen as an appeal to Latino voters, and the comment in English was seen as an appeal to non-Hispanic, conservative voters.

Examined critically, there was nothing incompatible between the two statements. Rubio supports immigration reform legislation that would provide legal status to the so-called ‘dreamers,’ even though he has distanced himself from the Senate legislation termed comprehensive immigration reform’ that he sponsored in 2013. Sen. Rubio’s comment was nothing more than a statement that the temporary DACA amnesty implemented illegally by executive action needs to be made permanent by legislation. His policy position seems designed to appeal to Latino voters, while his carefully chosen words in English are intended to avoid alienating his party’s political base.

A similar disagreement erupted recently over whether Donald Trump supports restricting competition by foreigners with American workers for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs. He said there are already enough STEM graduates in the country, so the entry of foreign workers with the same credentials into the country on visas to compete with U.S. graduates should be restricted. This was interpreted as being pro-U.S. worker – thereby appealing to conservatives who favor limiting immigration. But he did not suggest that the flow of foreigners coming as students to earn a STEM degree should be limited. With optional practical training (OPT), which allows the foreign students of U.S. universities to work in the United States, and proposals to grant immigrant status (‘staple a visa to the diploma’) for those graduates, the competition that undermines opportunities for U.S.-born graduates would be perpetuated or even increased.

A third example of confused interpretation over immigration statements concerns a November 3 MSNBC discussion about support among Hispanics for liberal immigration policies. Conservative columnist A.J. Delgado made the comment that a majority of Latinos favor reduced immigration. The MSNBC host, Chris Hayes, disputed that, and said polls establish that large majorities of Latinos support ‘comprehensive’ reform.

The two were talking past each other. ‘Comprehensive reform’ is a term designed to include a very broad array of immigration changes, including an amnesty for illegal aliens and increases in immigration. Supporting one aspect of the proposal – amnesty – does not mean support for all of the provisions. Delgado was correct to say that when Latinos were asked if they supported increased immigration only about a third of the respondents supported that. The remaining about two-thirds supported a reduction in immigration (also about a third) or maintaining the current level.

avatar About Jack Martin

Jack, who joined FAIR in 1995, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar SecBorders says:

    The number of STEM students in our country needs to be reduced, especially from China. Some excerpts from a 2012 Bloomberg article titled “American Universities Infected by Foreign Spies Detected by FBI”


    –“We have intelligence and cases indicating that U.S. universities are indeed a target of foreign intelligence services,” Frank Figliuzzi, Federal Bureau of Investigation assistant director for counterintelligence, said in a February interview in the bureau’s Washington headquarters.

    –“….universities are an “ideal place” for foreign intelligence services “to find recruits, propose and nurture ideas, learn and even steal research data, or place trainees,” according to a 2011 FBI report.”

    –“Unlike its counterparts in other countries, which rely on their own operatives, China’s intelligence service deploys a freelance network including students, researchers and false-front companies, said David Major, president of the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies in Falls Church, Virginia and a former FBI official.

    China has “lots of students who either are forced to or volunteer to collect information,” he said. “I’ve heard it said, ‘If it wanted to steal a beach, Russia would send a forklift. China would send a thousand people who would pick up a grain of sand at a time.’”

    China also has more than 3,000 front companies in the U.S. “for the sole purpose of acquiring our technology,” former CIA officer S. Eugene Poteat, president of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers in McLean, Virginia.”

    –“Over the years, American universities have enabled China “to leapfrog into the cutting edge of military capability on the way to superpower status,” Richard Fisher, senior fellow on Asian Military Affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Alexandria, Virginia, said in an e-mail.

    –“A university may not know that a visiting engineer could be conducting sponsored research on a military program that could hurt Americans in the event of a conflict,” Stokes said. “An engineer supporting a People’s Liberation Army program is unlikely to advertise his or her purpose.”

    –“Stanford does not, nor will it, restrict participation of students on the basis of citizenship,” President John Hennessy testified at a January 2010, congressional hearing in Palo Alto, California. More than half of Stanford’s doctoral candidates in the physical sciences and engineering come from outside the U.S., he said.

    Asked by Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican congressman from California, if he had read that Chinese military intelligence uses Chinese students, Hennessy said, “I am aware of that.”

    “Universities need to think that they are patriotic Americans, too,” Rohrabacher responded.

  2. Any Politician That Calls Amnesty Immigration Reform

    Can’t be trusted.

  3. avatar Raul Allegre says:

    I really don’t like it when people say one thing in one language and something different in another language. It happens all the time with the Arabs, where they lie to the west in English but then encourage terrorism in Arabic to their people. I want to like Rubio, but like most of the Republican field, he’s weak on illegal immigration. And it’s a telling issue because you have the political class and big money donors on the pro-amnesty side and the people on the other side. Very few politicians side with the people on the illegal immigration issue, which is disappointing. I’m tired of hearing we can’t do this because there are already people in the program or we can’t do that because it would split up families. Darn it – just do what the people want and stop dithering and trying to figure out ways to convince us that amnesty and open borders is good for the country.

  4. avatar William says:

    Excellent analysis! Trump does have me worried a bit. I now look at him as the lesser of the evils. Still he says he will address at least the illegal alien problem. Trump is unaware or unfeeling about the forced exodus from the work place of older workers who were replaced by cheap foreign workers. The OPT program is a disgrace and if Trump is for real he should address it along with the other visa (H-1B, L-1) and green card nightmares.

    But I have a dream… I dream that President Trump when tasked to nominate a candidate to the Supreme Court nominates Senator Jeff Sessions. This would be the pinnacle of justice on the liberal assassins that attempted to destroy Senator Sessions career many years ago. Now just think if these hateful liberals had not opposed Mr. Sessions from being appointed a Federal judge where we would be at today? The term “hoisted by your own petard” comes to mind when I think of those ultra liberal and just so politically correct goons.

    Senator Sessions has demonstrated his grasp of the constitution better than any public servant that I know of. I can not think of another individual that I would prefer sitting on the Supreme Court than Senator Sessions.

    • avatar larry says:

      So correct there is no need for further comment. Senator Jeff Sessions has been one of my heroes for years and

    • avatar Topcat13 says:

      I agree with the analysis and the comments by Williams.

      Mr. Rubio is one of my senators. After the recent release of publicity over the Disney American IT workers that were forced to train and were eventually lost their jobs to Indian H1-B visa holders I sent Mr. Rucio’s office an email asking for a statement of his position on the abuse of the H1-B program. This was about 4 months ago and I have never even received even a courtesy response.

      I also note that my Democrat senator Bill Nelson asked the DHS for an investigation of the Disney actions. I also sent Mr. Nelson’s office an email thanking him for looking into this abuse of the H1-B visa program. I did receive a prompt response from Mr. Nelson’s office. in which he said that the purpose of the H1-B program was to allow companies to recruit scarce STEM talent and not to replace American workers with cheaper labor. Mr. Nelson said he asked for the investigation because the Disney action had the appearance of potential abuse of the program.

    • I Have a Best Friend That’s a Latina

      She called me in Seattle from Dallas yesterday and in her own words, “I’m voting for Donald Trump, this country needs to have a real business man negotiating trade deals”….

      I also noticed from TV shots of Trump’s Ralleys….lots of brown skinned clapping seals in the giant crowds, not all white Caucasians at all. An ethnic mixture.