My opinion Andrés Oppenheimer
Arizona Daily Star
 June 18, 2005

Wow! I had no idea that my column criticizing such close-the-border crusaders as CNN's Lou Dobbs, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly and Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington would trigger such emotional responses. They do have a following, indeed!
In last week's column, which has since been published by The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Arizona Daily Star and several other U.S. newspapers, I disputed claims that Hispanics are "taking over" the nation.
I had quoted Dobbs' April 14 on-air comment that "the invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans," because "highly contagious diseases are now crossing our borders." And I criticized Huntington's claim that "the biggest" threat to America's national identity "comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America."
These claims are wrong, I said, because Hispanics over time are assimilating and because no amount of fences along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border will stop the flow of undocumented workers as long as the per capita income gap between the United States and Mexico remains as wide as it is ($36,000 vs. $9,000 a year.) The solution, I concluded, is helping narrow the U.S-Mexico per capita income gap.
It was only a matter of hours before my e-mail inbox started to fill up. Among the most polite ones:
● "Lou Dobbs and Bill O'Reilly are not anti-immigrant. They, like the overwhelming majority of Americans, are opposed to illegal immigrants." - Jim Reid, San Diego
● "I feel immigration should be stopped because of overcrowding. Your article missed the point! In California, our roads and schools are packed. The highways are a mess. And you want to add more drivers? … It has nothing to do with race." - Frank Lucia, San Diego
● "Question: Are you advocating open borders to permit anyone to enter our country from anywhere at any time? Sounds that way to me. … What's wrong with you reporters? Are you un-American?" - Bryan Fulk, Tucson
● "Your suggestion (that) the Lou Dobbs comments regarding diseases coming in with illegal immigrants was aimed at Hispanics is simply a calumny." - D.P. Jones, Miami.
● "I was pleased to see you speak out about the bigoted nonsense that spews forth nightly on what I call 'The Lou Dobbs Hour of Hysteria.' Every night, the major segment of that program is called 'Broken Borders,' and it's never the Canadian border. … (It) can basically be reduced to, 'Oh my God, all those brown people speaking their funny language are flooding across the border and inundating the country!' " - Larry Jurrist, Hollywood, Fla.
My conclusion: For the record, I understand the concerns of critics of uncontrolled illegal immigration.
What I'm disputing is their assumption that spending millions of dollars to erect a 3.5-mile fence along the 2,000-mile-long border, or doubling the number of guards along the border, will stop the migration flow.
It's more likely to be a waste of time and money. The only solution will be helping narrow the income gap on both sides of the border.
Andrés Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. Contact him at