As a long-time advocate of open immigration, I’m as annoyed as anyone by Douglas Bruce’s comments about the “5,000 more illiterate peasants in the state of Colorado” should Marsha Looper’s guest-worker bill pass. While I have not read the details of the bill in question, I support the general idea. I first met Looper before she joined the legislature when she was working for property rights, and I respect her all the more for sponsoring such a bill.
However, The Denver Post is having a bit more fun with this than is necessary. Jessica Fender’s article, which also includes a link to the video recording of Bruce’s comments, carries the headline, “Bruce barred from speaking after ‘illiterate’ remark.” Fine. But, for a time on Monday night, the Post’s web page blared, “Bruce calls Mexicans ‘illiterate’.” That claim is not accurate.
It’s obviously not true that workers from Mexico are illiterate as a group, though I suppose a fraction of them are. I suspect that migrant workers are less-well educated than average citizens of both Mexico and the U.S. I’ve also met Mexicans — both in Mexico and in the U.S. — who are a lot smarter and better educated than either Bruce or me. Moreover, I suspect that a greater fraction of immigrants from Mexico are literate in two languages relative to the native U.S. population. However, while, according to the CIA’s World Factbook, 99 percent of the U.S. population is literate, only 91 percent of the Mexican population is so.
But Bruce’s main problem is not that he’s wrong in claiming that mostly-literate people are illiterate, but that suggesting that literacy is relevant to the issue. Even if it were the case that all 5,000 new immigrants would be illiterate, that would not justify a vote against the bill. U.S. employers have a right to hire willing workers, and people have a right to seek work, whether or not the employees are literate.
I knew as soon as Bruce kicked the photographer on his first day on the job that he had set himself up as a story. He now has a reputation that he’ll never be able to shake. And the Post is more than happy to report all of Bruce’s zaniness, because the Post has a long-standing antipathy to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which Bruce was instrumental in promoting. The Post loves the idea of making Bruce the poster-boy for TABOR. Which means that Bruce has done more than tarnish his own reputation; he has made it harder for advocates of restrained taxation to make their case over the noise.
The fact that various conservatives simultaneously claim to back TABOR and oppose immigration shows only that they don’t understand what economic liberty is all about. Not only do I welcome peaceable, productive Mexicans to the U.S., but I want them to bear the lowest tax burden possible.