Oberweis Serves up 10,000 Scoops Of Bigotry
Mark Brown, Chic. Sun-Times, Mar. 11
Given time, we could probably come up with 10,000 good reasons why Jim Oberweis ought to be retired from public life next week, without even getting into a discussion about whether his ice cream is overpriced.
(It is, but you’ve got to admit it tastes pretty good, too.)
Since time is short, however, let’s stick with reason No. 1: the guy has run the creepiest campaign Illinois has seen since Bernie Epton’s “Before it’s too late” slogan against Harold Washington in the 1983 mayoral race.
Part of me hopes Republican voters will nominate Oberweis for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, his track record to date showing that he’d be a lot of fun to smack down over the course of the summer and fall.
But the better part of me would rather see our state send a clear message that we won’t reward fear-mongering tactics that try to exploit immigration concerns.
No matter where he finishes in the balloting, the enduring image of the 2004 primary election is going to be Oberweis looking back over his shoulder and shouting over the engine of a helicopter as a camera zooms down on a view of Soldier Field, while he intones:
“Illegal aliens are coming here to take American workers’ jobs, drive down wages and take advantage of government benefits such as free health care, and you pay. How many? Ten thousand illegal aliens a day. Enough to fill Soldier Field every single week.”
Now there’s a thoughtful argument. You can almost see the Mexican hordes gathering at the border, can’t you? It’s amazing the Chicago Fire can’t fill Soldier Field for their soccer matches with that kind of a potential fan base, don’t you think?
That’s actually Oberweis’ milder commercial. Here’s what he says in his “10,000 Reasons” spot, available for viewing on his Web site:
“Think about this. From dawn till dusk, 10,000 more illegal aliens will come to America, and no one in Washington seems to notice. But 10,000 more American jobs will be risked. Ten thousand more illegal aliens will take advantage of tax-funded free health care every day. I’m Jim Oberweis and I approve this message because I just gave you 10,000 reasons I’m running for the U.S. Senate, and you’ll have 10,000 more tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next . . . “
To help complete the picture for you, Oberweis has a radio commercial directly speaking to the issue of Mexican immigrants, just to differentiate his concern from the Irish, Polish, Ukrainians and other Eastern European immigrants who have to be part of any serious discussion about who is living here illegally.
I hope Oberweis appreciates my helping get his message out there. A lot of people probably saw his commercials without it ever sinking in that he was warning us that all 10,000 “illegal aliens” coming here every day were going to sign up for our free health care, a leap of logic that transcends his use of the questionable 10,000 a day figure — which translates to more than 3.6 million “illegal aliens” coming here every year.
Not even the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization in the national forefront of trying to limit immigration, makes such a claim. It cites estimates by the Census Bureau and the Immigration and Naturalization Service that show the number of illegal aliens in the U.S. growing by a net 500,000 per year. That’s a lot, too, but I guess it wasn’t dramatic enough for Oberweis if he could only fill Soldier Field once a month.
Oberweis bases his 10,000 illegal alien assertion on a study conducted for INS by a Michigan management consultant who determined that 4.2 million people were entering the country illegally each year by passing improperly through official entry points. The study looked only at people coming through the front door and talking their way past customs officials and had nothing to do with any of the middle of the night cross-border traffic that characterizes the Mexican immigration that seems to have Oberweis so worried.
I spoke at length Wednesday to the author of the study, Palmer Morrel-Samuels, who stands by his numbers, which he points out actually computes to more than 11,000 illegal entries a day. And while I still have questions about their accuracy, I think it’s more important to focus on what Morrel-Samuels had to say about how his report was being exploited by Oberweis.
“The reason the study is important is it highlights an issue that requires remedial intervention, not inflammatory rhetoric,” Morrel-Samuels said. “This is a complex issue that will require careful thought and a sensible response.”
I understand that there’s a real issue here and that there is a need for thoughtful immigration reform.
We won’t get it from the likes of Jim Oberweis.