Morning Joe | February 05, 2013
>>> live look at the white house . the sun has yet to come up in washington but the lights are on. maybe they're working on a budget. here with us, from the "new york times," frank bruni , took a personal look at the central issue in the national debate in his latest column. he wrote about his grandfather who came to the u.s. from southern italy and eventually lived out the american dream . you write in part this, about your grandfather who actually came here and worked up to own and run an italian market .
>> that's right.
>> like the 11 million illegal immigrants at the center of our current political debate , mauro bruni wasn't supposed to be here. he was trespassing in the country he came to love more fiercely than the one he'd left, the country in which his children and their children would lead highly productive lives, pay many millions of dollars in taxes over time and get to be a small part of the decision as voters about how we were going to treat his spiritual descendants. my grandfather and grandmother a deckers lina indeed wanted to wring america for all it was worth. that was selfish but very fruitful. their patriotism was all the stronger because america wasn't their birthright but their choice, their wager. they were invested in seeing it as the best possible decision, the only right call. it's an incredible story and there are millions and millions of those.
>> when we say the phrase " illegal alien " a terrible phrase or " illegal immigrant " a lot of us aren't recognizing how unusual that is in our past. i don't think i'm that unusual having an illegal immigrant being responsible for me being here years later. when we talked about my grandfather's story and how hard they worked to be successes and their children to be successes in this country we often glide over the part he came here without permission in 1939 and living off the books for 10 years.
>> and the law keeping legal immigrants out figurative ly, they don't even know their own history, don't realize it was the germans hated and irish hated when they came here and assimilated. and on and on.
>> we were once other.
>> we were once other. you take that all the way through the middle of the 20 20th --
>> absolutely. i talked to some immigration historians when i was writing this to flush out family history . i was reminded in the '20s, if you were southern europe that was much less desirable than northwestern europe and they would make notations between 18 1899 and coming from the north of italy or south of italy. you were deemed that much less desirable if you were from southern italy . you were not quite white.
>> how does this translate into what we're talking about today. most people see the value that immigrants bring to this country but now it's a question how to get them here and be fair to the ones who do it illegally and incorporate some illegally. what do you see as the best fair path.
>> i don't know what the legislation is they're talking about, seems very prudent making sure they have connections here and some employment history, and all that. i just wish when we talked about all this, we were honest about who we're talking about. what mika read before about my grandparents' patriotism. when i hear people who oppose any sort of amnesty, isn't any sort of amnesty, they act like these people want to mooch off of us. those i met, not just my grandfather's generation moving forward are among the most loyal patriots because they have so much invested in their choice coming here.
>> and so many new to the united states i talked to seem to actually have a better understanding of the promise.
>> of the country.
>> and the promise, most importantly, of america . they believe in the american dream , what we now take for granted and look at too cynically, they look at and dive straight in.
>> it goes without saying that those who are recent citizens, newly admitted citizens know more about the history of the country and have a great understanding of traditions and culture and why weas celebrate the fourth of july. many think it's an excuse to have a burger.
>> can i correct you? everyday is an excuse to have a burger.
>> even national weather person's day?
>> especially national weather person's day.
>> how much have you talked about the less desirable certain parts of europe, how much does that play into this immigrant debate today? as joe talked about from the middle of the 20th century on, most of these people were not people of color . does that exacerbate this conversation?
>> i think a lot has to do with skin color and country of origin . that just changes in time. the reason i brought it up is once southern italians were not seen quite right. and we have to realize our racism changes over time and standards change over time and we have to confront it honestly. when i talk about patriotic, people who have extraordinary drive and work really hard, i defy you to find people who work harder, have greater capacity to take risks than some immigrants that have come here because they really really have been up against odds many of us can only imagine.
>> the "new york times," grange brugrange -- frank bruni . thank you so much? every time frank comes in, i don't think willie reads the "new york times." he doesn't realize that frank is on the editorial page now.
>> he just knows i'm a good eater.
>> i just know he knows where to eat in "new york times." snow what's your recommendation?
>> we were just talking about a restaurant we both love. not a new recommendation but a validation of your tastes.
>> i could not recommend it more higher. perla. down in the west village .
>> okay. still ahead, we talk to house majority leader eric cantor about his speech today on reshaping the message of the republican party . keep it right here on morning joe .