BratBy Peter Galuszka

It must have been an interesting scene. Congressional candidate David Brat had been invited to a meeting of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce along with his Democratic rival Jack Trammell to outline his views on immigration and undocumented aliens.

Brat, an obscure economics professor who nailed powerhouse Eric Cantor in a Republican primary for the 7th Congressional District in June, danced around the topic, according to a news account.

It took several attempts to get him off his spiel on just how wonderful free market capitalism is to actually address the issue at hand. Before him were a couple dozen business executives, many of them Hispanic.

They, naturally, were interested in Brat’s views because of his over-the-top Latino-baiting during the primary campaign. One of Brat’s ads trumpeted: “There are 20 million Americans who can’t find a full time job. But Eric Cantor wants to give corporations another 20 million foreign workers to hire instead.”

Finally, Brat claimed, “I have never said I’m against legal immigration.” He later said, “nations that function under the rule of law do well.” Brat also said he wants to “secure” the U.S. border with Mexico. Trammell said he supports the DREAM Act that could provide a path to U.S. citizenship for some of the 11 million undocumented aliens in this country.

Brat’s immigrant-baiting and his “rule of law” smacks of a lot of ugliness in American history. “Know–Nothings” of white Anglo Saxons beat and harassed Catholic immigrants, primarily from Ireland. Chinese were harassed on the West Coast and Japanese-Americans were locked up in concentration camps during World War II. Jewish newcomers were met with restrictive covenants and college quotas.

In Richmond during the 1920s, efforts by Catholic Italian-Americans to build a monument to Christopher Columbus were fought by the Ku Klux Klan, which insisted that any such statue not dirty-up Monument Avenue and its parade of Confederate generals. Columbus had to go elsewhere in the city.

There’s a new twist and judging from Brat’s behavior on Tuesday. He seems uneasy by getting so out front on immigrant-bashing. He’s not the only Republican to take such strident stands. Look at New Hampshire, where Scott P. Brown, a Republican, faces Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, in a closely-watched race for the U.S. Senate.

Groups backing Brown, such as John Bolton, the surly former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, have run anti-Shaheen ads showing throngs of people clambering over a border just before showing Islamic militants beheading James Foley, a journalist and New Hampshire native, according to the New York Times. The ad was pulled after the Foley family complained, the Times says.

A major coincidence is that the Times‘ description of New Hampshire almost matches that of Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. Neither seems a hot bed of immigrant strife and threats.

The Granite State has one of the smallest populations of illegal immigrants in the country, the Times says. Of the state’s 1.3 million residents, only 5 percent are foreign-born and 3 percent are Hispanic.

The Virginia district has a population of 757,917 of whom 12.7 percent are foreign born and 4.9 percent are Hispanic. Most of the residents, 74.3 percent are white.

The district runs from the largely white and well-off western Richmond suburbs in Henrico and Chesterfield Counties and scoots northwest across mostly rural farmland to east of Charlottesville and up to Madison. With only 7.6 percent of the people living below the poverty level, it isn’t exactly a barrio of Los Angeles.

It is hard to imagine hordes of brown-skinned people swarming from up Mexico or Central America displacing the managerial executives, small business people and farmers in the Seventh. People that Brat seems to be worried about are employed in other nearby areas, such as the poultry plants of the Shenandoah Valley. But those workers are there because of local labor shortages. One wonders where Brat gets his ideas that illegal immigrants are going to steal true-blue American jobs in his district.

Last June during the primary, there was plenty of news about thousands of young Hispanic children coming across the southern border from Central America. At the time, there were estimates that up to 90,000 such children might come illegally into the U.S. this year. Many are fleeing gang violence in their homelands.

This is apparently what Brat is running against – a bunch of poor, 12-year-old Nicaraguans out to steal jobs and provide cover for Islamic terrorists. Their plight is a serious issue, but it is a humanitarian one. Brat chose to make it an odd classroom lesson in economics. He says the U.S. should not put up “green lights” and “incentivizing children from other countries to come here illegally and at their own peril.”

The news from the border seems to have calmed down since June. Brat may have found that now it is likely he’s going to Washington, playing the Hispanic-baiting card may not work as well on the national scene as it apparently did in his mostly-white district. It could be why he was hemming and hawing so much before the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Illegal immigrant Ayn Rand
Illegal immigrant Ayn Rand

Perhaps other Republican politicians are having the same epiphany. As the New York Times writes: “Republicans have long relied on illegal immigration to rally the conservative base, even if the threat seemed more theoretical than tangible in most of the country. But in several of this year’s midterm Senate campaigns — including Arkansas and Kansas, as well as New Hampshire — Republicans’ stance on immigration is posing difficult questions about what the party wants to be in the longer term.”

There’s another strange contradiction with Brat. He’s a former divinity student interested in probing how unfettered free market capitalism can magically make the right choices for the betterment of mankind.

He draws a lot of his thinking from Ayn Rand, the famous thinker, refugee from the Bolsheviks and backer of her own brand of anti-government capitalism.

It may interest Brat that by today’s standards, Rand would have been an illegal immigrant.

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8 responses to “Brat’s Strange Immigrant-Bashing”

  1. NoVaShenandoah Avatar

    Where can I begin? I will leave aside the irony of a divinity student being an adherent of Rand, since her views are as contradictory of the Abrahamic religions as anything else mankind has conceived off.

    I will instead address Republicans/Conservatives and immigration: I am an immigrant, and very proud of that. For a long time I ignored the stupidity of the ‘go back where you came from’ comments, simply because those who utter it are ignorant. But beginning with Reagan I have seen that ignorance and attitude (bigotry actually) become the norm among Republicans/Conservatives. Many of them are ironically the children of immigrants, which proves that ‘stupid’ knows no bounds.

    I have a question for the Republicans/Conservatives here: why should I listen to you? The words and legislation that Republicans keep pushing represent sheer bigotry of the ‘other’, even if the ‘other’ is native (glaring example being the birthism movement). The confederates are trying to make the legacy of hate standard, and concentrate it against anyone who is not a WASP. Actually ‘their’ kind of WASP. Since Republicans/Conservatives keep putting these bigots in positions of power, they obviously agree and support them, regardless of any statement to the contrary.

    So, why should I listen to you, let alone vote for you?

  2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    I’m somewhere in the middle on immigration reform. I cannot see deporting people who have lived here for 10 or 20 years, paid taxes and have not been convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony. Infractions should not be considered, IMO. I can see giving some leeway to people brought here illegally when they were mere children.

    But as a parent of two children who immigrated here as babies and who had to follow all sorts of laws and jump through all sorts of hoops, including providing proof we could aff0rd to raise these children, I resent the hell out of the idea that we need to close our eyes to the rule of law. If we can totally ignore the immigration law, why can’t people pick and chose what parts of the Internal Revenue Code they want to follow? I also feel no empathy for businesses who want open borders so that they can keep wages low. Ditto for the professional caring class who thrives on poverty.

    At the same time, importing poverty is stupid. It creates a big need for extra social, educational, medical and law enforcement services. It also drives down wages for those Americans with the least education and skills.

    1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
      Tysons Engineer

      Or grazing laws/permits on federal land. Am I right?

      The modern republican stance on immigration is one of the major sticking points on why I dont vote republican for national elections. Its xenophobic base mongering. Immigrants make this country, and the GOP has been cutting back year after year on how many can legally come here thereby creating this monster after two decades. It shouldn’t take 10 years to legally move here.

      I also came here legally as an immigrant, in the 1980s it was easier. Today its impossible, and its not the fault of illegal immigrants, its the fault of policy makers.

      Amnesty for those without criminal records, increase funding/total allowances for legal migrants moving forward so the paperwork doesnt take 10 years and tens of thousands of dollars, and improve border security. Pretty simple, but will never pass.

      As far as importing poverty, I don’t remember that being on the plaque at Ellis Island. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”… its literally the second one.

      I guess it was different when it was Irish, Italians, Asians… but hispanics? Oh nooooooo

      Hispanics make up a huge portion of our military, are hard working people who take multiple jobs so the next generation doesn’t have to go through the same stuff, etc. Every immigrant wave to the US has always been the poor and huddled masses, otherwise they would stay rich and in their own country.

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        TE, you failed to answer any of my points. Do you support open borders? Do you support enforcement of immigration laws? How about the Internal Revenue Code? Amnesty for those who have engaged in tax fraud. How about the Patent laws? Amnesty for those who violate patents? We need reasonable laws that are enforced. And that should include faster processing times for well educated and skilled immigrants. I agree wholeheartedly with you on the processing issue.

        Do you support laws that would favor immigration of people with skills and higher education or people who are often illiterate in their own language in order to keep wages for the unskilled down? How does bringing in more poor people help poor Americans?

        Years ago, my father supervised telephone company employees who installed and repaired service in the South St Paul packing plants. The workers there made good pay for a tough job. Most of the workers were unionized. Illegal immigration has allowed packing plant employers to pay low wages for what is still a tough job. Open borders means lower wages for many workers. How is that in the public interest? The feds should aggressively enforce immigration laws against employers. Or allow private parties to file suit against employers and make the latter pay attorneys’ fees if they lose. I’m sorry, but people who live in the United States should have more rights than people who don’t.

        Neither the Democrats nor Republicans have tightened how many people can immigrate legally to the United States. It cannot be done unilaterally, but only through laws passed by Congress and signed by the President. Of course, Mr. Worst Ever President believes he does not need to follow the Constitution.

        1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
          Tysons Engineer

          Why should worker visas only be for well educated immigrants? Again, no one said the irish or italians had to hold doctorals from cambridge on their entry to the country. This country has a shortage in labor not in high tech. In high tech companies are simply being stingy by not hiring from a local pool for adequate american wages.

          Again. I said the following pathway should be taken

          “Amnesty for those without criminal records, increase funding/total allowances for legal migrants moving forward so the paperwork doesnt take 10 years and tens of thousands of dollars, and improve border security.”

          I think that pretty much answers you question. Laws are important, but then again there have been plenty of laws that were not supported by changing times that had to be broken before they were fixed too. Eh? Im not saying a farm worker from Honduras is engaging in political protest coming here, but it is a sign that the law is broken and needs to be fixed. It is opposition from the teaparty after the 2012 election that stopped that fix, no one can deny that. In fact many in the teaparty are proud of it.

          Mr. Worst Ever President is doing just fine in my opinion, much better than the last president and plenty of others. I can’t take you seriously when you make such uneducated statements.

          Go ahead, point out what you think makes him the worst ever. Number of Americans killed by terrorists? Nope not even close to the top Bush and Reagan and then Clinton take the cake on that one. God could you imagine if a terrorist action occurred on obama’s watch? Shut down the internet because the trolls would be let loose screaming for his head.

          Economics? Nope statistics all show in delta Obama is actually one of the leaders in terms of jobs gained. We are sitting in a pretty decent shape right now. I’m happy, much happier than I was through the credit driven DoD crazed 2000s.

          Social? Not as far as I am concerned. I support full rights for all people, not DOMA’s bigoted sentiment.

          Popularity? Sorry that once again goes to a couple republicans in Bush Junior and Nixon, in fact even at his lows Obama is in the middle of the pack of media era presidents. On average over the past 6 years he’s actually one of the top in popularity.

          So whether you think he’s the worst, there’s a significant population that would disagree with you. But go on, tell me how he’s to blame for everything while no other president was given the same crap about things of vastly greater crisis. Ebola is obamas fault, thats what rush is telling you on the story de jour right? Lol.

          This idiot congress (cough you know which side) has given up its credibility to lead on anything. They are worthless. I am fine with him telling them to go take a nap if they refuse to do their job. Tell me one thing the GOP has done to govern instead of obstruct.

          Enjoy 2014, you will possibly hold the senate for 2 years before completely losing it and several other more important races in 2016 when you guys are both facing a national election (man it sucks when the actual full electorate speaks doesn’t it?) and several GOP senators defending spots in blue states. Its chess, not checkers, and the politics of stupid will lose nationally.

          Perhaps after the complete collapse of the GOP in 2016 they will finally return to logical positions that I can agree with that Northeast republicans of yore (you know the guys the cable channels call Rinos) supported.

          Republican congress has more powers than the democratic president, on budget, and on immigration policy (not enforcement). Yes they very much screwed up everything when in power between 2000 and 2006. Look it up.

  3. TE and TMT, you both raise issues that could be the subject of whole blog postings here, but those are for another day. On the subject at hand, as framed by PG, I think it says a lot about Richmond that Mr. Brat can find a receptive audience for his views on immigration, and that says a lot about how poorly those who care about this complex and emotional issue have educated the electorate about it. I am no fan of the simplistic name calling and jingoism on Fox; but I’m equally unimpressed with sob stories about families ripped apart as though that alone could justify open borders and open social pocketbooks. TMT I agree with your ambivalence on reform, but where are the moderate positions and legislation we could actually build support for, across the aisle?

  4. billsblots Avatar

    So, where’s Brat’s “bashing” of illegals??? Any quotes, policies, or is the article just a flimsy excuse to headline some deeply ingrained anti-Republican bias?

  5. Andi Epps Avatar

    Thank you Peter, for writing a very informative post. I’m glad to see someone is not controlled by Brat’s media mouth. That entire campaign is the most unethical, rude “we’ve already won so we don’t care about you” campaign I have ever seen; they take ” low blow” to a totally new realm.

    We had a great debate on the 14th (actually, we had the ONLY debate in the entire election). Of course, Brat backed out but I think it made for a better debate. I can’t remember the last time I was at a debate and could literally feel the positive energy in the room. It was refreshing.

    What I don’t understand about the Hispanic Chamber, is why they didn’t include James Carr? I know at least one occasion where Brat refused if Carr was included, (Carr is more conservative than Brat, and I think he knows it) but they are missing a significant point of view. He understands the issue and link between the “free markets” and immigration better than Brat ever will, professor or not.

    We had a few specific immigration questions that both Carr and Trammell answered, debated and made their opinions crystal clear. And the Hispanic Chamber would be VERY receptive to Carr’s opinions.

    Oh, and take a few moments and read Brat’s “God and Advanced Mammon-Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?”…before the election. I have NO doubt that it would even give Jim a mind blowing shiver.

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