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.