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MARTINEZ: I think the debate is already quite ugly in many corners, and I think that's what leads to the timidity in Washington. I mean, this is something that George Bush was talking about on 9/10, so to speak, and was one of his first priorities, and he keeps putting it on the back burner. And he had excuses initially, but his reticence to get back to it and really kind of force the issue really has to do with how ugly the debate could get, and has been.
JOHNSON: There's another way in which the immigration question kind of intersects with another major trend, which is the future of cities. In the early days of the Internet, there was this sense that cities were emptying out and the Internet was going to increase that because everybody was going to live in their ranch in Montana and telecommute and all this kind of stuff, and exactly the opposite has happened. And it's a global phenomenon. [Cities] are going to be increasingly central, maybe more important than they ever were. And the suburban trend of everyone kind of moving out there and sitting around watching television hasn't happened nearly as much as we thought it was going to.
TIME: Why is that?
JOHNSON: One of the reasons is connected to immigration. People tend to come over, and they have existing communities in these big cities, so they're kind of taking over large sections of them, which creates this amazing world culture. The other side of it is that people, for whatever reason, have begun to realize what makes cities so alluring and powerful and why so many interesting ideas come out of them, and they have started to embrace that.
MARTINEZ: It feels very much like past waves of immigration, and yet the political discourse is a bit different. Samuel Huntington had his book that said that basically there was a fifth column of people trying to take back portions of Mexico that were lost. But the reality is different. There is assimilation. The 2000 Census showed that 71% of third-generation Mexican-American immigrants speak only English. And yet even mainstream media tend to make the mistake of equating Latino with Spanish speaking. One of our columnists, Gregory Rodriguez, likes to make the point that nobody would ever think of scolding Rudy Giuliani for not speaking fluent Italian, but everyone seems surprised that the Latino mayor of Los Angeles speaks broken Spanish, but they shouldn't be.
FLANAGAN: But what's going on that we're seeing the Latino community in Los Angeles move so quickly from poverty to middle class, often with no help from the government, when we see people stuck in intractable poverty who have been in America for generations?
CUBAN: America's being America.
FLANAGAN: What does that mean?
CUBAN: It's equal opportunity, but not equal experience or levels of success.
FLANAGAN: I think what people don't like is paying taxes. People living here in Los Angeles, no matter where they are in the political spectrum, they're saying, "Boy, we got a lot of people here who are succeeding and not paying taxes, and public schools are failing because they're filled with people who are here, and, yes, they work in our houses, so we are conflicted, so we're not really going to raise too much ire." But I think that it's a much more mercenary thing that people are angry about. I really think it's money and pocketbooks.