Ruben Navarrette Jr.

 Ruben Navarrette is a fresh and increasingly important voice in the national political debate. His twice-weekly column offers new thinking on many of the major issues of the day, especially on thorny questions involving ethnicity and national origin. His column is syndicated worldwide by The Washington Post Writers Group.

Navarrette draws on both his knowledge of policy and politics and his life experiences to provide meaningful and hard-hitting commentary. He is a widely sought speaker on Latino affairs, has worked as a substitute teacher in classes from kindergarten to high school, and has hosted radio talk shows. 
Honors & Awards:
  • 2004 2nd place in the National Headliner Awards
  • 2006 3rd place in the National Headliners Awards presented by the Press Club of Atlantic City
  • 2002 & 2003, the Dallas Observer named him Best Columnist at a Daily Newspaper
Books by Ruben Navarrette Jr.:  

A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano (1993)

Buy it from Amazon

Contributer to Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul (2000), of the best-selling "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series.

Buy it from Amazon
Recent Articles

RUBEN NAVARRETTE COLUMN

(Advance for Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Navarrette clients only)

By RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.

SAN DIEGO -- Immigration baffles both political parties. Republicans have made such a mess out of their handling of the issue that we often forget that the topic is just as messy for Democrats to deal with.

The GOP struggles to please two opposing wings of the party that want different things: Chamber of Commerce Republicans who want the country to admit more immigrants so businesses can fill jobs, and Make America White Again Republicans who want fewer immigrants so we can time-travel back to the days of "Leave it to Beaver."

Likewise, Democrats struggle to please two opposing wings of their party who have different interests: Latinos who don't have a problem with admitting more immigrants, especially from Latin America; and organized labor, which has a big problem with having to work harder as it competes for jobs with immigrants -- both legal and illegal.

In trying to strike that balance, Democrats sometimes do the wrong thing -- or nothing. Neither path is acceptable.

That was the message that protesters tried to send Joe Biden at last week's Democratic debate in Houston as he was answering a question about overcoming setbacks.

Biden had a humdinger of an answer. He was preparing to tell the country how he survived the death of his son, Beau, and years earlier, the death of his daughter and first wife.

The poignant personal story made the timing of the heckling unfortunate -- but no less important. According to Time.com, and the accounts of people in the audience, the protesters were immigrant activists and recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

They chanted: "We are DACA recipients. Our lives are at risk." One man wore a shirt that read: "Defend DACA, Abolish ICE, citizenship for all." On the back were the words: "No human being is illegal on stolen land." The disrupters were quickly escorted from the room by security.

I don't think it was a coincidence that, out of the 10 people on stage, the protesters chose to heckle Biden. The former vice president is the candidate most closely identified with Barack Obama, a point that Biden drives home every chance he gets. And, as debate moderator Jorge Ramos brought up earlier in the evening, and some of Biden's opponents have brought up at other debates, Obama had a spotty record on immigration.

On the one hand, Obama delivered DACA, which gave two-year work permits and temporary dispensation to prevent more than 600,000 young undocumented immigrants from being deported. On the other hand, he also set up the program in such a way that -- in order to get the benefit -- recipients would have to turn themselves in to authorities, get fingerprinted and photographed, and hand over their address and personal information.

Uncle Sam knows exactly where to find them. And now, their personal data has fallen into the hands of Uncle Scrooge. Donald Trump is one of the most anti-immigrant presidents in history. He canceled DACA in 2017, and, while lower federal courts have pushed back and tried to force the administration to reinstate it, we're at an impasse. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the legal challenges, and it will likely hear arguments before the end of the year.

DACA recipients have the right to be anxious. Some I've heard from regret going down this road. Others blame Obama for not honoring his pledge to achieve a permanent fix that would not have left them in jeopardy.

Obama also broke up families, caged children, sent refugees home without due process, roped local cops into enforcing federal immigration law and deported nearly 3 million illegal immigrants -- nearly all of whom were Latino.

Ramos grilled Biden about that record, asking if he had -- as vice president -- done anything to try to stop some of the deportations. He also wanted to know whether Biden thought Obama had made a mistake in removing so many people. Finally, Ramos asked Biden why Latinos should trust him.

Biden responded: "We didn't lock people up in cages. We didn't separate families. We didn't do all of those things."

But they did do all of those things and more. Why? See above. Not every Democrat in America wants an open border. In fact, very few do. Many Democrats approve of heavy-handed enforcement -- building walls, deporting people, separating families, etc.

And, if his attempt to bury the record is any indication, Biden is one of them. Surely, that's what the protesters wanted us to know.

Ruben Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, "Navarrette Nation," is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

RUBEN NAVARRETTE COLUMN

(Advance for Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Navarrette clients only)

By RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.

SAN DIEGO -- The reaction to recent columns has been colorful. Reading about how tough it is to be brown has white folks seeing red.

A reader offered this advice: "I strongly think you have to get beyond this 'ethnicity factor' that you're eaten up with."

What eats at me is ignorance, prejudice, dishonesty and blindness.

Do some people really not see that President Trump's opportunistic rants about how there is an "invasion" of "bad hombres" who are coming to rob, rape and ruin have put a target on the backs on the nearly 60 million Latinos in this country?

Six weeks after a massacre in El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 people and injured 24 more, the alleged assailant was this week indicted by a grand jury for capital murder. Patrick Crusius drove 10 hours from North Texas to El Paso so that he could -- as police said the 21-year-old told them -- "kill as many Mexicans as possible" and fend off what he called in his manifesto the "Hispanic invasion of Texas."

The ghastly events of Aug. 3 will forever haunt that border town. "El chuco" could teach the rest of the country a thing or two about bringing together people of different races and cultures.

The reader who was eager to play psychologist and diagnose my mental ailments got lit up by a column bashing Stephen Miller. The White House adviser wants to kick undocumented children out of public schools in defiance of a 1982 Supreme Court decision that prohibits that sort of thing. Trump's anti-foreigner hatchet man is also cracking on (BEG ITAL)legal(END ITAL) immigration by trying to scrap the refugee re-settlement program and end so-called birthright citizenship, which is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

So much for respecting the rule of law and defending the Constitution.

Move over, Montezuma. This is Miller's revenge. I don't know what happened to him when he was growing up in the mostly white city of Santa Monica, California, which lies west of heavily Latino Los Angeles. But something obviously did. And now he seems to be itching to get even.

I say these things and poke at the powerful because that's my job. But then, in the minds of some of my white readers, I'm the one who's hung up on race or plagued by an "ethnicity factor."

I might believe it, too -- if I hadn't majored in history in college. You see, while skittish and fragile white folks like to whine about identity politics and accuse people of color of having a chip on our shoulder or being consumed by race and ethnicity, none of it is very original. When we group people together by skin color and generalize about them -- or even when we ourselves cluster together with people who look like us and share our backgrounds -- we're doing our part to carry on a long-standing American tradition of drawing color lines.

It's why Benjamin Franklin, an Englishman born in Boston, hassled German immigrants in the mid-1700s because he considered them "aliens" who would never assimilate. It's why there's a Little Armenia in Los Angeles, a Little Italy in New York, a Little Saigon in Houston, a Greektown in Baltimore, a Little Bombay in Jersey City, etc.

Since the founding of the United States, Americans have done all this grouping and regrouping, and no one complained much about it. That's because, for the most part, the game was being run by white people. Only now that nonwhites have suited up and taken the field is it the end of Western civilization.

Maybe you think ethnic enclaves are harmless, and they are. But you freak out when I call myself a Mexican American?

It's the demographics, isn't it? You can tell me. It's one thing to wear a button on March 17 that says: "Kiss me, I'm Irish!" It's quite another to confront the reality of a future where, by 2030, roughly a quarter of the U.S. population will be Latino. You want to know where all that will leave you, and whether your "white privilege" card will be honored by all major corporations, universities, media companies and government institutions. Right?

Calm down. You're good. We're not looking to take over or get even. But some respect would be nice. The first step to welcoming a new day is not treating everyone else like they were born last night.

Now, I'll play psychologist. Amigo, you have a problem. Don't project and make it mine.

Ruben Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, "Navarrette Nation," is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

RUBEN NAVARRETTE COLUMN

(Advance for Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Navarrette clients only)

By RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.

SAN DIEGO -- Is the merit system dead? Can America -- this so-called land of opportunity -- really be called a meritocracy?

Once upon a time, if you got good grades, attended a good college, and landed a good job, you were guaranteed a good life. Nowadays, that argument is a tough sell.

One group that isn't buying it is a couple of dozen hardworking, veteran, award-winning Latino journalists I know who -- despite top-flight resumes -- are out of work, while many less-qualified white journalists are comfortably employed. After being booted out of radio, television, print and digital media, they've had a difficult time regaining their footing in what some are calling an industrywide "brownout," where the Latino voice in journalism is being slowly extinguished.

Ironically, the people who are snuffing it out are white liberals -- editors, producers, program directors -- who like to tell the country that President Trump is a racist who hates Latinos. Is unemployment what love feels like?

Trump has only a passing acquaintance with merit. He used family money and connections to get ahead by failing up.

From Hollywood to the presidential race, white privilege is in bloom. It turns out a white male can co-write a script about "Crazy Rich Asians" -- if crazy rich white studio executives are hiring. And, as Beto O'Rourke showed, someone can spend more than $80 million, lose a Senate race in Texas, run for president as he was "born" to do and land on the cover of Vanity Fair.

Merit, s'merit. That's only for immigrants, silly. Republicans think we should admit "high-skilled" people with advanced degrees and special expertise. How long before they realize that there are plenty of people of color from Africa, Asia and Latin America who are qualified to meet that higher threshold, so they have to come up with another way to bleach the immigrant pool?

You can't really blame Americans for rolling their eyes. Even if merit isn't dead, it certainly has seen better days.

Far away from Washington, Hollywood celebrities and other members of the 1% are trying to buy their kids tickets into prestigious universities by faking athletic ability and hiring smarter people to take their admissions test for them.

Sometimes, it's not even white privilege that corrupts the system. It's just plain ol' privilege, tied to wealth and fame.

And maybe athletic ability. Professional football player Antonio Brown signed with the Oakland Raiders, missed much of training camp due to a self-inflicted foot injury, and apparently got into a screaming match with the general manager, thus disrupting the franchise. The Raiders fined Brown a total of more than $250,000 and voided some contract payouts. The wide receiver asked to be released. The Raiders dropped him.

Yet, that same day, the New England Patriots rewarded him a one-year contract worth up to $15 million with a $9 million signing bonus. Later, the team added a second-year option in Brown's contract that would pay him $20 million if it keeps him on.

Is this how we penalize childish outbursts? Shouldn't "merit" also include following the rules and being a team player?

A new book by Yale Law professor Daniel Markovits makes an important contribution to the conversation that Americans ought to be having about merit in the post-merit age. In "The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle-Class, and Devours the Elite," Markovits argues that the wealthy are gaming the system while making a mockery of the assumption that those who get ahead deserve to get ahead.

One group that isn't getting ahead -- and may be going backward -- is Latino journalists who have largely disappeared from the media landscape over the last 10 years. You'll find a few scattered here and there, but that's a paltry offering for an industry that professes enlightenment at a time when Latinos are driving front-page news through hate crimes and the immigration debate. It started just after the 2008 financial crisis, when many media companies pared down staffs and many Latinos, who perhaps didn't fit into the black-and-white color paradigm in which the media operates, were shown the door. Even now that the economy has recovered and unemployment is at historical lows, many media companies have shown little interest in replenishing their Latino work force.

Now that Latinos are the talk of the nation, much of the nation's media doesn't care what they have to say. In many corners, it's still a case of white people hiring other white people to create content for white people.

Merit. Sure. Whatever you say.

Ruben Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, "Navarrette Nation," is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

About
Ruben Navarrette is a fresh and increasingly important voice in the national political debate. His twice-weekly column offers new thinking on many of the major issues of the day, especially on thorny questions involving ethnicity and national origin. His column is syndicated worldwide by The Washington Post Writers Group. Navarrette draws on both his knowledge of policy and politics and his life experiences to provide meaningful and hard-hitting commentary. He is a widely sought speaker on Latino affairs, has worked as a substitute teacher in classes from kindergarten to high school, and has hosted radio talk shows.
Books
  • A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano (1993)
  • Contributer to Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul (2000), of the best-selling "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series.
Awards
  • 2004 2nd place in the National Headliner Awards
  • 2006 3rd place in the National Headliners Awards presented by the Press Club of Atlantic City
  • 2002 & 2003, the Dallas Observer named him Best Columnist at a Daily Newspaper
Links