Does Rep. Gohmert Think All Latinos Are Mexican?

December 05, 2011 5:15 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Living in a border state is no guarantee that you will be better at geography.

Case in point: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who is best known for coming up with inane conspiracies — including his theory that foreign terror groups were recruiting pregnant women to enter the U.S. and give birth to children who would become future terrorists — seems to not understand that Latin America is comprised of countries other than Mexico. Speaking on the House floor Friday afternoon, Gohmert suggested that "Other Than Mexican" (OTM), a term used by border protection officials to refer to non-Mexicans apprehended at the border, refers to people who "are not Latin American citizens," many of whom, he insinuated, are coming to the U.S. to do us harm.

GOHMERT: We've been told by Secretary Napolitano that the country just can't afford to build a fence on our southern border where our problems now are not Latin American citizens coming up here. We have what are sometimes labeled OTMs, "other than Mexicans," coming in, and many of them are coming in and they're not coming in to do us any favors, and they're not coming here to get jobs.

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Gohmert is wrong, of course. According to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Judicial Watch, the vast majority of OTMs are citizens of Central and South American countries. In fiscal year 2010, a total of 59,017 OTMs were apprehended by border patrol. Of that total, 45,709, or roughly 77 percent, came from just three countries in Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

During the same period, 9 Afghans, 10 Egyptians, 14 Iranians, 17 Iraqis, 17 Jordanians, 11 Lebanese, 3 Libyans, 6 Moroccans, 37 Pakistanis, 1 Qatari, 5 Saudis, 9 Somalis, 5 Sudanese and 5 Syrians were apprehended. To put things in prospective, 690 Canadians were apprehended at the border during that span of time.

Gohmert isn't the only one who does not understand what "Other Than Mexican" means. For instance, Steve Emerson, head of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, told C-SPAN's Washington Morning several weeks ago that OTM is a "euphemism" for "Middle Easterners that come in illegally."

EMERSON: I think there's a national security problem with illegals coming into the United States because within that bunch of illegals coming in, you're going to have a smaller percentage of people who threaten national security. You know, there's another euphemism that I just learned about four years ago. It was called OTM. I didn't know what that meant. I originally said, "OTM, what's—I thought they meant ATM." But OTM means other than Mexican and it's a euphemism to describe, by DHS and other agencies, Middle Easterners that come in illegally.

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Border security is a serious issue, but this tendency to ignore basic facts, advance far-fetched plots, and demagogue common terms is unlikely to bring about any meaningful measure to better secure the border. And it highlights yet again that Gohmert, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on immigration and ought to know better, should not be taken seriously on immigration, even if what he says seems plausible.

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