CU's conservative scholar

Ron Haskins, the third of three finalists for CU's first-ever visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy, will give a presentation titled "Why Worry About the Federal Deficit?: Our Kids Can Pay" from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Old Main on the Boulder campus.

Linda Chavez -- one of three finalists for the donor-funded position of visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy at the University of Colorado-- outlined her views on immigration at a campus presentation Monday, saying she is a proponent for more legal pathways to citizenship.

While liberals tend to favor open-door policies, Chavez said, conservatives take a more market-based approach and want guest-worker programs to help fill jobs in high-tech science, technology, engineering and math fields as well as low-skilled labor markets such as agriculture.

"I fall a little outside of that view and think that having more permanent residents is better because I believe citizenship is so important," she told the audience.

Chavez -- a White House public liaison and director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under President Ronald Reagan -- is the only finalist for the position who has ties to Boulder. She graduated from CU in 1970 and lives in Boulder now.

A search panel made up of CU professors and outside community members brought forward the finalists. Steven Hayward -- a "green conservative" who is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute -- gave his pitch on campus Friday.

Tuesday, Ron Haskins will give a presentation titled "Why Worry About the Federal Deficit: Our Kids Can Pay" from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in Old Main. Since 2004, Haskins has served as senior editor of "The Future of Children," a collaboration between the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the Brookings Institution.

Linda Chavez, one of three finalists for the University of Colorado s first-ever visiting scholar on conservative thought and policy, speaks at Old Main on
Linda Chavez, one of three finalists for the University of Colorado s first-ever visiting scholar on conservative thought and policy, speaks at Old Main on the Boulder campus on Monday. ( Mark Leffingwell )

In 2001, Chavez withdrew her name as George W. Bush's nominee for secretary of labor and told reporters that "search-and-destroy politics" would be a distraction to the incoming administration. In the early 1990s, Chavez allowed Marta Mercado, a battered woman from Guatemala, to live in her home in Bethesda, Md. Chavez said she helped the woman enroll in English courses and linked her with a women's support group.

Chavez gave money to Mercado, but she said it was charity, not wages. The woman is now a legal U.S. citizen, Chavez said.

'Assimilationist'

In her Monday presentation titled "A Conservative Approach to Immigration Reform," Chavez said that deportations actually have risen during the Obama administration.

The economic boom from 1995 to 2000 saw a large increase in immigration as those coming to the United States were looking for jobs.

In 2007, there were 12 million people living in the United States illegally, with 240,000 in Colorado, she said. In 2012, those numbers had dropped to 11 million illegal residents in the country and 210,000 in the state.

Chavez said that illegal Mexican males have a labor force participation rate of 92 percent, which is 20 points higher than non-Hispanic white males.

"They came here to work," she said. "They didn't come here to collect welfare checks."

Chavez described herself as an "assimilationist," saying that conservatives should be reaching out to newcomers and helping them learn English, learn the history of the country and to revere civic institutions.

"I think we've worked as a nation of immigrants primarily because we are one nation and one people," Chavez said. "No matter what language our grandparents came here speaking, we all speak English now and that means we can talk to each other."

'Illegal immigrants'

Following the presentation, Cecilia Chavez -- who was born in Mexico and came to the United States when she was 12 -- critiqued Linda Chavez's use of the term "illegal" when referring to immigrants.

"No human being is illegal," Cecilia Chavez said. "So, for me, it's a very offensive term. They should be called undocumented."

Linda Chavez responded that she thinks using the term "illegal immigrant" is a compromise that falls in between "illegal alien" and "undocumented." Linda Chavez said illegal immigrants have broken the law by trespassing across the border or staying in the country after their visas expired.

"The fact is it isn't just that they lack documents," Linda Chavez said. "They have, in fact, broken the law."

Following her presentation Monday, Chavez was scheduled to teach a class on campus about affirmative action. In her book "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal (Or How I Became the Most Hated Hispanic in America)," Chavez is critical of affirmative action programs at colleges.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.