Tolerant Young Fight AZ Immigration Law: Stick-In-the-Mud Baby Boomers Embrace It

Where's the contradiction? The Times' Damien Cave looks at the Times polling on Arizona's immigration law and divides people into young idealists opposed to it and old baby boomers supporting it: "Meanwhile, baby boomers, despite a youth of 'live and let live,' are siding with older Americans and supporting the Arizona law."

Is the Times trying to parse America's strong support for Arizona's immigration law to make the law's opponents seem idealistic, while painting the opposition as cranky, old, and intolerant? That's kind of how it played out in Tuesday's poll breakdown story "The Immigration Gap" by Damien Cave from Miami. The text box: "Baby Boomers Are Backing Arizona's Tough New Law While Young People Are Rejecting It."

Meaghan Patrick, a junior at New College of Florida, a tiny liberal arts college in Sarasota, says discussing immigration with her older relatives is like "hitting your head against a brick wall.

Cathleen McCarthy, a senior at the University of Arizona, says immigration is the rare, radioactive topic that sparks arguments with her liberal mother and her grandmother.

"Many older Americans feel threatened by the change that immigration presents," Ms. McCarthy said. "Young people today have simply been exposed to a more accepting worldview."

Forget sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll; immigration is a new generational fault line.

In the wake of the new Arizona law allowing the police to detain people they suspect of entering the country illegally, young people are largely displaying vehement opposition - leading protests on Monday at Senator John McCain's offices in Tucson, and at the game here between the Florida Marlins and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Meanwhile, baby boomers, despite a youth of "live and let live," are siding with older Americans and supporting the Arizona law.

Cave contrasted the (closed-minded?) baby boomers with the youngsters who have grown up around and are comfortable with all ethnicities - as if such tolerance should automatically lead one to support an open-borders policy.

Ms. Patrick, 22, said the gap reflected what each group saw as normal. In her view, current immigration levels - legal and illegal - represent "the natural course of history."

As children, after all, her generation watched "Sesame Street" with Hispanic characters, many of them sat in classrooms that were a virtual United Nations, and now they marry across ethnic lines in record numbers. Their children are even adopting mixed monikers like "Mexipino," (Mexican and Filipino) and "Blaxican" (black and Mexican).

Cave concluded with words of wisdom from the youngsters who can't understand why cranky old step-dad can't just "Press the button" for English (the supporters of the law, who make up the clear majority of Americans, don't get as much of a megaphone).

Still, in interviews across the nation, young people emphasized the benefits of immigrants. Andrea Bonvecchio, 17, the daughter of a naturalized citizen from Venezuela, said going to a high school that is "like 98 percent Hispanic" meant she could find friends who enjoyed both Latin music and her favorite movie, "The Parent Trap."

Nicole Vespia, 18, of Selden, N.Y., said older people who were worried about immigrants stealing jobs were giving up on an American ideal: capitalist meritocracy.

"If someone works better than I do, they deserve to get the job," Ms. Vespia said. "I work in a stockroom, and my best workers are people who don't really speak English. It's cool to get to know them."

Her parents' generation, she added, just needs to adapt.

"My stepdad says, 'Why do I have to press 1 for English?' I think that's ridiculous," Ms. Vespia said, referring to the common instruction on customer-service lines. "It's not that big of a deal. Quit crying about it. Press the button."