Conservatives are overwhelmingly right on our political and cultural issues, but the Immigration issue stands out as the rara avis example of a particular case in which most of the political right is wrong.
Even Rush Limbaugh (who is right 99.something % of the time) is wrong on this one.
When conservatives talk about immigration, they sound to me like liberals, because they insist on talking in slogans and have lost touch completely with practical reality.
Illegal immigration to the United States, overwhelmingly by poor Hispanic laborers, has occurred over a long period of time on a massive scale. The number of illegal immigrants in residence today can only be estimated, but the conventional estimate is more than 11 million persons.
Liberals want to ban private possession of firearms, tra la! and fail to reflect on inconvenient realities: that countless millions of guns exist in private hands, that large numbers of Americans have the technical ability to manufacture guns in basements and garages and that the point at which you can produce the essential components of the most advanced firearms using a 3D printer has already arrived. In the event of a national firearms ban, there would additionally be in the United States massive-scale non-compliance. (I, for instance, would never surrender all of my guns.) So the only way such a ban could actually be made effective would be to turn the country into a police state, and knock down doors, searching house by house for privately-held guns. And we are never going to do that. It would be too expensive. It might provoke armed resistance. And it would be both alien and repugnant to our national culture and laws.
Deporting 11+ million poor laborers and their wives and children is really equivalently far-fetched. We aren’t going to do it, because we are not that kind of country. Americans would never have the heart to do it. And, personally, I think people who indulge in fantasies of that kind need to consult their consciences and think again.
Why are there enormous numbers of illegal immigrants?
There are so many illegal immigrants because we have ill-conceived, unenforceable, sclerotic immigration rules which make legal immigration impossible, while we also have a national need for cheap low-skilled labor for which we typically lack a domestic supply.
The vast majority of Hispanic immigrants come here for precisely the same reason our own ancestors did: to seek better opportunity through hard work for themselves and their posterity.
The United States is a nation of immigrants, and American history is a long story always featuring the same kind of need for cheap labor and the arrival of wave after wave of humble people of backgrounds dissimilar to their predecessors to supply that need. And American history is also a long story of complaints from established residents about the alien and exotic recently-arrived riffraff cluttering up the landscape and spoiling old school Americans’ views, some of whom additionally go around causing trouble and committing crimes, while many refuse to speak English and assimilate.
Benjamin Franklin, in the 18th century, was bitching about all the fringe-group religious heretics from Central Europe coming to Pennsylvania to practice weird religious cultisms, then insisting on hanging out in their own communities, not assimilating, and often never even learning English, forsooth! And he was right. The damned Amish, Mennonites, Dunkards, and Schwenkfelders are still to be found in Pennsylvania, often still living in their own bizarre communities, and some of ’em still, by God, have not learned proper English, over two centuries later. Of course, we tend to look upon this sort of thing today as a quaint bit of surviving Americana and a great tourist attraction rather than, as Franklin did, a cultural menace and a political threat.
We must face it, too, that fond as we all are of John Ford movies, Jimmy Cagney, and St. Patrick’s Day, not all Americans were completely overjoyed when, in the late 1840s, large numbers of poor, illiterate, vulgar, rowdy, and (shudder!) Roman Catholic Irish primitives poured into the United States, grabbing up all the low end jobs and producing massive waves of drunkenness, violence, and crime, and finally corrupting the political culture of every major city with machine politics, graft, patronage, and downright plunder.
It got even worse around the turn of the last century, when instead of basically Aryan German peasants and Irishmen speaking something resembling English, still more bizarre and exotic Roman Catholics from Eastern and Southern Europe, and Jews (Heavens to Betsy!) as well, poured into America in a truly massive wave. None of them spoke English properly. They all settled in ethnic ghettos of their own kind, shopping at the own stores, attending their own churches, and even reading their own newspapers.
Long-resident Americans were commonly horrified. If you want to learn how they felt, I can recommend the letters of H. P. Lovecraft, who was totally revolted by the pollution and adulteration of the American race and culture by Slavs and Wops and Jews. The early 20th century Ku Klux Klan that we hear so much about was actually a lot more exercised at all the immigration by representatives of inferior European races and followers of the Roman Antichrist than they were about the Negroes.
(My own grandparents, of course, were Lithuanian members of that particular wave of immigration.)
The last negative reaction was, in fact, to that same turn-of-the-last-century massive immigration. The US got its first seriously restrictive (if you were not East Asian) immigration laws in 1921 which were tightened up further in 1924. It was those Progressive Era laws which ended the United States previous essentially wide open (if you weren’t Chinese or Japanese) immigration policies. We have monkeyed with them since, but only in the interests of political correctness (Let’s let in Muslims and Africans!) or special interests.
When conservatives talk about “enforcing the law” anent illegal immigration, that kind of talk doesn’t move me in the slightest. I had no hand in writing any of the existing regs and they certainly in no way embody my personal ideals, sentiments, or opinions. If somebody violates existing US Immigration Law, it is no skin off my nose, and I couldn’t care less. Hell, I’m not all that law-abiding myself. When I was underage, I gleefully drank illegally. I often trafficked in my youth in illegal fireworks. I smoked pot and experimented with other illegal drugs when I was in college. I burned my draft card. And I still drive faster than the speed limit all the time.
Obviously, we ought to revisit our immigration laws. I have no confidence myself that today’s American society can conduct a rational debate on any issue. We certainly can’t conduct one on immigration. So, I propose doing the sensible and fair thing and just rolling the whole immigration regulatory system back to 1905 (with very minor updates). What was fair for my grandparents, I think would be fair for Hispanic immigrants today. They can arrive and enter, as long as they are not diseased, criminals, polygamists, and let’s substitute Muslims for the 1900-era exclusion of Anarchists. They fill out a Declaration of Intent at the local courthouse after a few years, and they can then be naturalized a few years later.
My grandparents supplied three sons and one daughter to the US Armed Forces during WWII. I’d say the country did well by itself to have let them in. The next time the US has another major war, this country will be damned glad that we admitted all those riffraff Hispanic immigrants, because then it will very commonly be their sons and daughters serving in the ranks.
Immigration is necessary because we have a natural dynamic of social progress and increased affluence in this country. All Americans (excluding a residuum of criminals, bums, and idiots who will not work) typically move up and out of the laboring classes. So there are now no native-born Americans in most of the country who are going to dig your ditches, pick your tomatoes, carry your bricks, hang your sheetrock, and mow your lawn. We need those Hispanic guys for that. Their presence here is a blessing to us and we conservatives and Republicans ought to have the good sense to recognize that. We should sympathize with the struggles and hardships today’s immigrants endure and we should recognize in them the contemporary equivalents of our own ancestors.
No great wave of immigration has ever come without the accompaniment of social flotsam and jetsam. Most immigrants were always decent and hard-working people, but they were always accompanied on the way by some recognizable constituent of bums, thieves, whores, and radicals. That’s how life is. There is always a certain negative inevitably attached to any positive. When political commentators stigmatize the whole 11+ million Hispanic immigrants by identifying all of them as welfare spongers, La Raza agitators, and LA gangbangers, I think they are wrong and unfair. For years and years, in different parts of the country, whenever I looked around and saw the day’s work getting done, I have seen a poor Hispanic immigrant holding the tool or lifting the load. I have hired them myself from time to time, and I’ve been amazed at how the ethic of industry, skill, and integrity is so commonly found among these humble people at a time in which that ethic is practically extinct among Americans.
Nobody is more rightwing or more Republican or less politically correct than I am, but I’m on the side of the illegal immigrants. I’d be glad personally to trade ten community of fashion liberals for any one of them. If I were running some branch of the GOP, I’d let the Hispanics know how I feel. I’d throw the biggest Cinco de Mayo party in town. I’d go to church now and then at the Latino Catholic Church, and I’d be running Republican Hispanic voter registration drives. I do not believe that a hard-working Roman Catholic population with strong family values is destined in perpetuity to be a democrat party fiefdom. We don’t have ’em at the moment because we have all these airhead nativists and because we don’t go after them.
Yes, conservatives may be commonly wrong on immigration, while progressives are often wrong on immigration as well. In both instances being wrong has more to do with administration of the program than whether we “care” about the immigrants or not. The fact that many of these immigrants are wonderful people is not at issue. Administration of this alleged reform as proposed by the Gang of Eight would transform our civilization forever. As constituted, this bill would be administered by community organizers (U. S. Citizenship Foundation). This bill would facilitate the establishment and continued funding of an ACORN-like group (it may even be ACORN) to oversee immigration reform in America. Can you imagine? The idea that these new citizens will be self-supporting is preposterous. That we’re in this mess is proof that we are pitifully served by our representatives whoever they may be and no matter which party they claim to represent. The elites of both major parties have been well served by illegal immigration and the mess theyâ€™ve created is all around us. Thanks.
Mickey Kaus: â€œ[…] the Congress is about to change America in a more profound, permanent way right under your noses. In the process it will hand President Obama the major second term achievement that will help him overcome the very scandals that are distracting youâ€“or, rather, make his survival or re-ascendance unimportant. He will have won. Democrats will have shaped the future electorate to their own liking. Theyâ€™ll have transformed what America is.â€
Glad to see other intellectual conservatives taking the right side. A great essay with excellent points. Love the analogy to guns.
Looks like Rush is 100% correct.
Dry up the work and illegals self-deport. We don’t have to go door-to-door. Go after employers, not illegals.
The difference between previous waves of immigrants and the human wave assault occurring today is that today we are a welfare state.
You’re ignoring the change that millions of stone-aged people of low production capabilities, tolerant of government corruption and ripe for the dole, is going to have on this country.
Sultan Knish has a good observation on this one:
“The logic of libertarian amnesty would fill the voting rolls full of
supporters of big government and the welfare state in the name of
It’s not the worst illustration of how ideologies commit suicide
through following the siren song of their logic to the farthest north.
It’s not even the worst such example involving immigration. That honor
belongs to the European left whose immigration policies have doomed
the survival of every value it claims to care for. But it is typical
of the destruction wrought by dismissing people and their nations as
interchangeable cogs in a machine of ideas.”
-Sultan Knish: Coming to America
I SEE. FINDING AN UNLOCKED WINDOW, HE SLIDES QUIETLY INTO YOUR HOUSE IN THE DARKNESS. AND YOU’RE GONNA WRITE HIM INTO YOUR WILL?
YOU DEMEAN LEGAL IMMIGRANTS.
THIS IS NOT IMMIGRATION, IT’S HOME INVASION.
Tuesday morning links…
Nicaragua Revives Its Canal Dream Hollywood Star Embraces Incest 10 Misconceptions I Had About Parenting Before I Became a Parent Airbus test-flies A350 to rival 787 Dreamliner Scenes From a Nashville Convenience Store Johns Hopkins…
I’m sorta-mostly libertarian and I am sympathetic to your argument. However, as Milton Friedman said, you can have a welfare state or open borders, but not both.
11 million illegals since the last amnesty of 1986. What brought them here? “Free stuff” the very same free stuff that is bankrupting our country and will cause an economic collapse. How do we solve the problem? Some say give them amnesty which of course makes them all legal and viola no problem! But isn’t that what we did in 1986??? So how many new illegals will we get once we reinforce this belief that all you have to do is get here and we stupid Americans will support you, give you housing, free medical care, cars in some cases, food, education and even preferences over our own citizens for jobs and schools. So next time there will be 20 million or 30 million illegal aliens and in less time then this last 11 million took to get here. This is a solution!!!
The writer is wrong. He believe we wouldn’t; couldn’t deport 11 million illegals and their kids. We could; I could. I’d do it in a heartbeat. Put them in handcuffs, take fingerprints, DNA and pictures for a database of people who could never enter the country again and a one way bus trip to Mexico (or whatever country they came from). Why not? If you think it is so friggin humanitarian to support these freelaoders then YOU do it but do it in Mexico or China or where ever these lawbreakers came from.
What it’s about is securing forever the vote for the Democrat party, where the realities of economics are like the fly on your plate.
I disagree with this self admitted serial law breaker.
David — I don’t think most conservatives are arguing against increased immigration. I certainly wouldn’t. But most of us don’t agree with your “couldnâ€™t care less” attitude about the law. It’s obvious that liberals “couldnâ€™t care less” about the second amendment. Do you think that if someone can make the case that we would be better off without its provisions that we should simply “roll the whole thing back” to before it was enacted?
Multiculturalism, immigration, democracy… pick any two. There is no successful examples of all three in combination.
I agree with you basic attitude toward immigration, absent certain practical realities, but those realities are hard to overcome. Your history lesson re: German speaking immigrants in colonial Pennsylvania is inapt when considering Latin American and Mexican claims to what is now American territory, and widespread Spanish language only enclaves within a country that has embraced the multiculturalist ideas without thinking them through.
We can’t fix what has happened in the last two or three decades, but we need to set new rules for future immigration that assert our sovereignty rather than undermine it. And we must reject the multicultural cult for recognition of a shared Americanism based upon our highest ideals as expressed in our founding documents, not the fashion of the moment.
You are wrong. You have failed to learn your history. What difference is there between THIS iteration of amnesty and 1986? NONE. ZERO, ZIP, NADA.
Those who received amnesty the last go round are not conservative, pro-USA, good to hook citizens. They are liberal obama voters who are part of the Free Sh!t Army.
This new amnesty will only increase the ranks of the FSA. If Boehner goes ahead with a vote, the Republican party is dead to me…. And it was not I that abandoned it, but the other way round.
Stephen M Lawrence
I usually agree with you on everything, being an almost daily or weekly reader, but, and this is a big one, things were different then. I live in NEPA, the land of your youth, descended from Slovak/Ukranian stock, and the huge difference is that then there were no social safety nets, no federal government taking by force of gun barrel the honest wages of it’s citizens to help support those who illegally enter the country. Reading the stories around the web is a telling tale, the latest tale of free cell phone subscribers selling said phones so that Carlos Slim, the wealthiest man in the world, can extract huge sums from the US government for telecommunications charges. The whole thing is a scam! Milton Friedman said it best, “you can have an immigrant society, or you can have a welfare society, but you cannot have both” is just as true today as when he spoke them. I am from the original stock of those murdered and tortured by the Wasp’s in Wyoming Valley, My grandmother’s first husband died in the mines, his body dumped on the front porch of the rental property, and grandma marrying Mr Mikitish down the street so that she could take care of her remaining and his, so that he could continue working. I understand the Catholic imperative to take care of others, but you should use your own money to do that, not your fellow citizens.
Xenophobia remains as American as baseball and apple pie. It’s pretty cool how our ancestors came here when immigration rules were quite generous, and now their offspring pull up the ladder with complexities that make legal immigration virtually impossible; plus we celebrate the sudden and harsh incarceration and deportation programs in force. It is such fun sharing the GOP “big” tent with the Xeno-conservatives.
“Xenophobia”! Really? Name calling is how you shrug off serious issues. Every citizen should come first. Our government is not in the business of funding and caring for the other 6.7 billion people on earth. The illegals cost us in excess of $330 billion a year in federal costs and a similar amount from the states. It isn’t fair that this be forced down the throats of the taxpayers simply so politicians can get voters or others can feel good that they at least are not “Xenophobics” like the white trash that is tired of having their taxes handed to non-citizens. To look at past immigration as a reason to continue massive new immigration is ludicrious and naive. At one time we were an underpopulated country and today we are the third largest population in the world. We have a real unemployment somewhere between 16%-20% and we simply do not need more uneducated people to make the problem worse. It is illogical and ultimately will be suicidal.
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