Towards A Good Samaritan World

Thursday, December 02, 2004



Social Security used to be considered the untouchable "third rail" of American politics, but immigration soon may replace it.

Both candidates bobbed and weaved around the subject during the presidential campaign, and neither party has offered credible ideas for reform, fearing the political implications of being the first to propose unpopular solutions to long-ignored problems. A report released last week by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based group that favors tighter immigration controls, underscores the nation's need to confront the issue head-on.

The organization's analysis of census numbers found that more than 34 million immigrants now live in the United States — about 10 million of them illegally — and that the flow of foreigners into the country came at a steady pace despite recession and recent attempts to tighten border controls. The evidence suggests that bad economic conditions in the United States are still better than in immigrants' native countries, and that changes put in place after 9/11 have done little to curb migration, especially across the nation's southern border.

A market model would suggest that immigration to the US would depend on the labor market: if the labor market is strong, as in a boom, lots of immigrants would come here to fill the jobs, whereas if the labor market is weak, as in a recession, fewer immigrants would come. But that's in a free market. Immigration is tightly regulated, so it cannot operate in this benign manner (except illegal immigration of course).

A friend of mine sent me a link to Huntington's article "The Hispanic Challenge" from earlier this year. You can't get much wronger than this article. This, for example:

In this new era, the single most immediate and most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially from Mexico, and the fertility rates of these immigrants compared to black and white American natives. Americans like to boast of their past success in assimilating millions of immigrants into their society, culture, and politics. But Americans have tended to generalize about immigrants without distinguishing among them and have focused on the economic costs and benefits of immigration, ignoring its social and cultural consequences. As a result, they have overlooked the unique characteristics and problems posed by contemporary Hispanic immigration. The extent and nature of this immigration differ fundamentally from those of previous immigration, and the assimilation successes of the past are unlikely to be duplicated with the contemporary flood of immigrants from Latin America. This reality poses a fundamental question: Will the United States remain a country with a single national language and a core Anglo-Protestant culture? By ignoring this question, Americans acquiesce to their eventual transformation into two peoples with two cultures (Anglo and Hispanic) and two languages (English and Spanish).

English has become the predominant world language; to think it's threatened as the dominant language in the US is delusional. And hard-working, devoutly Catholic Mexicans are closer, culturally, to the Anglo-Protestants that settled the American coast in the 18th century, than are the post-Christian liberal elites that inhabit a city like Boston now. It took past waves of immigrants a couple of generations to assimilate, and anyway, assimilation was always a two-way street. America is a country based on an idea, not an ethnicity.

But if there is any substance to Huntington's paper at all, it is that the predominantly Mexican and Hispanic character of the present wave of immigration contrasts with the diverse character of immigration in the late 19th century. The solution: let in more immigrants from around the world! If there are cultural forces pulling in all directions, rather than just in a Hispanic directions, the center can hold.

Also: if we declare that people have the right to live and work in the United States regardless of birthplace, those who decide to make the US home (as opposed to earning money for a few years and going back, and serving as a super-charged and perfectly free-market form of foreign aid) will be more inclined to assimilate. If a country treats you as an illegal and a second-class citizen, of course you're likely to feel a bit alienated, and rightly so. If we want to make immigrants imitate our culture, let's win their admiration by doing the right thing. If we continue unjust policies, we deserve whatever is coming to us.

With their left credentials the Dems should be on the right side of this issue, but Mickey Kaus has some blood-curdling news that political opportunism may trump conscience:

End immigration as we know it! Alert kf reader M emails to note that
there is one national Democrat making a move to take advantage of the
obvious, yawning opportunity to get to Bush's right on immigration the way
Bill Clinton got to Bush's father's right on welfare. Coincidentally, her
name is Clinton too
! ... Here are some recent Hillary quotes collected by NewsMax:

"I am, you know, adamantly against illegal
immigrants." ...

"Clearly, we have to make some tough decisions as a
country, and one of them ought to be coming up with a much better entry and
exit system so that if we're going to let people in for the work that
otherwise would not be done, let's have a system that keeps track of

[Sen. Clinton said she favored] "at least a visa ID, some kind of
an entry and exit ID. And, you know, perhaps, although I'm not a big fan of
it, we might have to move towards an ID system even for citizens."

"People have to stop employing illegal immigrants. ... I mean,
come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties, stand on the
street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx; you're going to see loads of people
waiting to get picked up to go do yard work and construction work and
domestic work."

Note that this goes well beyond hack Dem grumbling about funding for "first responders" at the border. ... P.S.: If Hillary's attacked by Hispanic groups for these sentiments so much the better for her! Her husband had an unformed, fuzzy image when he ran--he could show his heartening anti-liberal streak by dissing an
out-of-line rap singer. Hillary, in contrast, has a hard, fixed liberal image--and probably needs to crack it with a high profile, revelatory fight against someone or something on the left more powerful than Sister Souljah. How about LULAC? ... 10:04 P.M.

Ugh. A sinister variation of the Dem Re-Invention. Pray that the Marc Rich's involvement in the oil-for-food scandal drags the Clintons' name through the mud and makes them unelectable forever.


  • Lancelot - as for Hilary, she has not a snowball's chance in hell of ever becoming president. The reason isn't her sex or her husband, the reason is that she has consistently come out in an attack-dog mode against Republicans and anyone who has different ideas than she does. To put it another way, her image across the country is predominantly negative. Such candidates aren't successful nationally. The rhetoric that sells on the coasts and in the liberal universities is anathema to a huge number of Democrats in the Midwest and South.

    As for immigration, in part I think you're right. Certainly the current situation, under which we have large numbers of people without official legal rights, people who are commonly victimized in various ways, is bad. In a way, we are repeating the tragedy of slavery in this country. Once again, we have an ethnic minority working under a different set of rules and conditions than the rest of us.

    The last thing we want to do is perpetuate the situation. But the only way to change it is to first enforce strongly the law against hiring illegal immigrants, whether as casual household labor or as farm or factory hands, and second, give those who are here working legal status and a place in society. Hilary is honest in pointing out a basic fact - that the "elite" is perpetuating this system in order to have access to cheap labor without legal protections. More power to her for her guts in doing so. Half the businesses in New York City are employing these people. It feels so good to prate about the evils of the South and the Jim Crow system, all the while ignoring the people, a shade or two less brown, who are working in your own Jose Cuervo system.

    The question is, do we have the votes to get anything done? The corporations wouldn't like this measure, the restaurants say frankly they would be put out of business by this measure, the farmers wouldn't like it, the wealthy suburbanites wouldn't like it, and a lot of small construction, landscaping and cleaning service firms wouldn't like it. The problem with junking systems of exploitation is that they enmesh themselves within the economy. The only way to get this done is to appeal directly to the huge mass of people in the South and the Midwest who have seen their real wages drop slowly over time.

    When you have a large number of immigrants coming in, wages are pushed down. True, they take some jobs others wouldn't and that wouldn't even exist without their cheap labor - but they also compete against the large number of workers who are going to pay living costs for their families based on this country's economy and tax structure, rather than the Mexican economy. It is a relatively a good deal to come here, work for four months, and make twice the money for your family when compared to what you could make working for a year in Mexico.

    I think our current situation is very similar to that of the 20's, and that similar labor resentments are emerging. We can't duck this one. It seems ironic that a Republican will have to jump this shark, but a civil rights issue it is. I guess we are doomed to repeat our original sins; I for one would like to cut the process short a lot earlier, with a better result, and a lower body count.

    Your point about the cultural similarities is excellent. The Catholic Central-Americans coming in are not a different culture - they fit right in, except that by perpetuating illegal status for so many of them, an anti-education fear-of-officials meme has crept into their communities.

    We should eliminate that by looking honestly at what we're doing and amending our practices, and only the federal government can do that. No state can afford the policing effort it would take, and most states have been driven to an official policy of ignoring the illegality of workers in order to prevent them from being the prey of criminals who would exploit their fear of the police.

    Once again, you're slamming them out of the park. It's a pity that no one writing for the major newspapers really wants to actually report on issues like this. But it's understandable when you estimate how many NY & Washington reporters and editors have a brown-skinned woman watching their kids and doing the housework, while brown-skinned men are mowing their lawns. It is one big beam and it's not surprising that we as a nation have trouble seeing past it.

    By Blogger MaxedOutMama, at 5:13 PM  

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