One Inspirational Story Doesn’t Blot Out Realities of Illegal Immigration

During Sunday's "Al Punto" program on Univision, host Jorge Ramos spoke with renowned brain surgeon Alfredo Quinones, a former illegal immigrant from Mexico. They spoke about plans to make a feature film about Quinones's remarkable story of entering the United States illegally in 1987, working in the fields near Fresno, and beginning a remarkable ascent that took him to Berkeley, Harvard Medical School, and on to the Johns Hopkins Hospital to become one of the country's most respected brain surgeons. It is, as Dr. Quinones told Ramos, "a Cinderella story".

The news that Brad Pitt and Disney are collaborating on the movie comes five years after publication of Quinones' autobiographical book, Becoming Dr Q. As he told C-SPAN a few years ago, he wrote the book because, "I wanted to tell the story about this underdog, this kid, who came to the United States with nothing and now — based on hard work, mentorship, and doors being opened, and opportunities being given, and me taking those opportunities — I was able to show the world that you can still fulfill the American Dream and that America is still the most beautiful country in the world."

The Quinones story truly is an inspirational tale about someone who found acceptance and opportunity in the United States despite entering illegally, being arrested by the Border Patrol, and being returned to Mexico. But he immediately turned around, crossed the border again, and made it to the fields near Fresno, where he began picking tomatoes and sending money back to his family. He also started attending classes and receiving encouragement from those who recognized his potential.

The Quinones story fits well with the theme that shapes much of Ramos's journalism. Ramos, himself an immigrant from Mexico, opines that the United States has a moral duty to accept illegal immigrants. He believes that bigotry is the motivation for those who are bothered by illegal immigration and the problems associated with it. He and his team of correspondents rarely report on the perspective of Americans whose lives have been disrupted by illegal immigration.

Well, as columnist Michael Barone wrote back in 2007: "You don't have to be a racist to be bothered by such things. You just have to be a citizen who thinks that massive failure to enforce the law is corrosive to society."

Now Donald Trump, with his reprehensible, sweeping denunciation of Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, is stoking the outrage of Ramos and others who believe it is wrong for the United States to deport those who cross the border illegally unless they later commit major felonies.

Another of Ramos's guests on yesterday's "Al Punto" was former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda, who understands the importance of U.S. immigration rules even as he seeks to shape them to Mexico's advantage. Castaneda has written that illegal immigration "runs counter to the legalistic nature of a society that has little else to hold it together beyond the belief in and devotion to the rule of law."

Playing by the rules is one of the sustaining, unifying, and clarifying values of our society and our country. One of the things that bothers me about illegal immigration is that it is corroding that value. And one of the sidebars of the heroic story of Dr. Quinones is that he and many others have fled Mexico because of its failure to establish the rule of law.

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