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'Burrito' logic at the border

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Sunday, July 20, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Here's a recent and supposedly racist message from the labor union that represents U.S. Border Patrol agents, as posted by the National Border Patrol Council: “New annual job rating areas: Babysitting, Diaper Changing, Burrito Wrapping, Cleaning cells. Law Enforcement? What's that?”

The message was designed to acknowledge and publicize the frustration and anger of agents who've been pulled from providing border enforcement and apprehending people who are illegally entering the United States and, instead, been assigned to multiple tasks of homemaking.

Specifically, the words “Burrito Wrapping” produced the instantaneous charge of racism from immigrant advocates, open-border activists and the ever-vigilant monitors of political correctness.

Those charging racism said it was typecasting to picture Hispanics eating burritos and to depict all illegal immigrants as Hispanic.

It may be true that the union committed a bit of burrito stereotyping and was, in fact, not exactly factual. I see people all the time in the lunch line at Chipotle for burritos who aren't, as they say, people of color. And conversely, not every Hispanic is genetically predisposed to prefer Cuban mojo chicken with mango salsa over Gen. Tso's chicken with gummy white rice.

It is also true that it's not only Hispanics who are illegally crossing the Southwestern border. Signs posted by the U.S. government in the Texas-Mexico corridor are now printed in English, Spanish and Mandarin.

So why did the union say nothing about egg rolls? Why couldn't its message have been less targeted at Hispanics and include some Chinese aliens and a few wandering Swedes?

As it turns out, the union was fairly accurate, with the actual food match to the country of origin of illegal aliens being 95 percent burritos and less than 1 percent fortune cookies.

As reported by the Austin American-Statesman, “A July 2011 fact sheet from the Department of Homeland Security states that nationally, immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries comprised more than 95 percent of Border Patrol apprehensions over the five fiscal years through September 2010, with immigrants from China accounting for 0.3 percent or fewer in each year.”

Replying to the charge that “Burrito Wrapping” was racist, the union's response was straightforward: “What is racist? Those are the duties agents are being assigned.”

Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, explained on Fox News that agents now feel as though they are just the “hired help.” Stated Moran, “There is a reason that we are ranked at the bottom of the federal workforce in morale, and it's because our agents are treated like grade-schoolers, not allowed to make decisions on our own — micromanaged. We live in some Godforsaken towns on the Southwest border and just don't have the type of morale that we need to effectively do this job.”

In its recent editorial “The Border Crisis,” The New York Times referred to a Times article by Frances Robles about the bloody starting places that are generating the huge increases in illegal immigration by children escaping from Central America, unaccompanied by their parents: “In El Salvador, murders of children 17 and under were up 77 percent from a year ago. More than 2,200 children from San Pedro Sula, a city in Honduras with the world's highest homicide rate, arrived in the United States from January through May, far more than from any other city in Central America.”

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (

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