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Commentary: 'Do I offend? I must'

By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
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SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- Do I offend? I must. Why else would immigration restrictionists be trying to pull the plug on commentaries like this one?

Part of it is about ethnicity. Consider the reader who wrote in response to one of my columns that, "Getting advice from a Mexican on controlling illegal immigration is like asking the Germans for advice on planning the D-Day invasion."

I responded: Sorry, Senor. As Bergman said to Bogart in "Casablanca": "You'll have to do the thinking for both of us." We'll keep quiet, keep working and keep paying taxes. C'mon, Burro!

The latest group to get their sheets in a bunch is a Raleigh, North Carolina-based outfit that calls itself Americans for Legal Immigration. The group's Web site invites people to "join the conversation" and says it plans "to educate lawmakers, the media, and the public about the wishes of the vast majority of legal citizens to control illegal immigration."

Good for them - as long as these folks can stand a little educating themselves. They can't. Apparently, the only "conversation" they're interested in amounts to hearing themselves talk.

Recently, some members of the group were blogging about me. They disapproved of an earlier commentary where I pointed out the hypocrisy of states and localities adopting initiatives to curb illegal immigration while profiting from it. (Read commentary)

TexasCowgirl posted a link to the commentary and urged her comrades to e-mail CNN.com to complain. She advised the others to camouflage complaints as "positive" feedback and boasted that she was planning to deceptively fire off another e-mail from another account, in a lame attempt to misrepresent the few as many. About 10 of her comrades joined in the criticism. One said about me, "Looks like there's another one to deport!!!" One schemer -- PhredE -- even suggested that they organize a campaign to get my commentaries removed from CNN.com by combining "some unfavorable publicity with the assistance of a major lobbying group in D.C. to help Mr. Navarrette see the error of his ways."

What do I think of such threats? Not much. In the words of my generation: Whatever.

Two bloggers dissented. One -- Aracely -- wrote, "There is freedom of speech in this country. ...Silencing him is not the answer." Another -- iamtired 23 -- asserted, "Just because you don't agree with someone doesn't necessarily mean you must try to quiet them. ...Not everyone thinks like us." Both were shouted down.

Here's the rub. I bet these folks sided with Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist last year when he was prevented from speaking at Columbia University. Back then, I bet they extolled the virtues of free speech and claimed that those who try to censor opinions with which they disagree have simply run out of arguments.

Sounds right. At the time, in another commentary, I defended Gilchrist's right to speak and scolded those who tried to silence him. (Read commentary) Now that I'm under attack, where did all the civil libertarians go? It turns out that immigration restrictionists will defend free speech -- but only if they agree with what is spoken.

That's bad form -- another dose of hypocrisy in a debate that is already loaded with it.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of The San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist. You can read his column here.external link

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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Ruben Navarrette Jr: Immigration restrictionists will defend free speech -- but only if they agree with what is spoken.

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