Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Consequences of illegal immigration

You don’t read much about the matter in the New York Times, but it appears that our Southern border is becoming more porous than ever. It is hard to know whether this disturbing situation reflects understaffing of INS enforcement personnel or covert orders to look the other way.

This flood of illegal immigration flourishes because of a bizarre triadic alliance. First, the Mexican government fosters the immigration because it provides a social safety net and a major source of income owing to the remittances sent back by the "undocumented" Mexicans in the United States. In our own country the Left favors looking the other way because it sees a need for more brown people to consolidate our "diversity" and to blunt the Anglo-Saxon foundational ethos, which it sees as increasingly out-of-step with the non-white world. The last of the three pillars of support is the most cynical. Business interests favor the illegal immigration so as to have a vast supply of cheap labor. It is presumably in aid of this group that President Bush, commenting on the activities of the Minutemen, spoke of "vigilantism." If Bush had been enforcing the law, the Minutemen would not be needed.

It is said that if another 9/11 occurs, brought about by terrorists who have come over the border, Bush’s reputation will suffer a fatal blow. I don’t know if that is a serious danger or not. What I do believe is that the policy implications of changing the country’s demography in this way need to be debated. We must not simply passively surrender to the three forces that are driving the permissiveness on our Southern border.

Two perspectives, diametrically opposed, confront one another. First, it is said that the current wave of Hispanic/Latino immigration, massive as it is, will lead to the same result as virtually every other ethnic group that has come to our shores: assimilation, with the English language as the primary medium of communication. In the past, of course, naturists have sounded the alarm, viz. that "too many" Germans, Irish, Eastern Europeans (or whomever) were threatening our national foundations. This is the hyphenated American bugaboo stirred up by Theodore Roosevelt and others a century ago.

The other perspective is a harder sell. This view asserts that Hispanic/Latin immigration, especially from Mexico, is sui generis. This will lead to a kind of binational situation, something already presaged, it would seem, by bilingualism. Samuel P. Huntington has espoused this view in his 2004 book “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity.” Huntington cites a number of factors for his sui generis claim (see esp. p. 222ff). 1) Contiguity. The Mexican Americans go back and forth across our southern border, unlike, say immigrants from Hungary or Greece, who once they got here tended to stay put (unless, as some did, they went back for good.) 2) Numbers. The absolute and relative numbers of the new Mexican arrivals completely dwarf any previous immigration phenomenon, even those of the Irish and Germans in the 19th century. 3) Illegality. Not only is the illegal status difficult for the “undocumented,” it is tended to erode respect for our legal system as a whole. 4) Regional concentration. This is particularly true with the Mexicans and Meso-Americans in the Southwest. 5) Persistence. Given Mexico’s apparently insoluble economic problems, there is no likelihood that the flood of immigrations will slacken off, at least not in the foreseeable future. 6) Historical presence. History, and what is presumed to be history fuel irredentist sentiment. Some Chicano activists claim to be taking back the mythical homeland of the Aztecs, Aztlán. More realistically, our Southwest was first Spanish and then Mexican (until 1848). In California Chicano activists speak openly of "Reconquista." Here there is a discrepancy that has gone largely unexamined. If it was acceptable for the Spaniards to conquer and rule the Southwest in their day, why shouldn’t the Anglos do it later?

All this is taking place in an atmosphere of doubt about our national foundations. In some cases it is accompanied (as seen in the field of education) by critiques of our European (largely British heritage) as the source of racism, intolerance and other ills. The only remedy is to balance the baleful heritage of the "ice people" with more "sun people," the more the better. All this is part of what we commonly term multiculturalism.

Yet there is a contradiction here. Multiculturalists tell us not to worry, the Hispanic/Latino groups will be assimilated like all the rest. Yet if they are so assimilated, where is the dividend of "diversity"? So it looks as if multiculturalism has a stake in r e t a r d i n g the progress of assimilation.

I speak fairly good Spanish, and am the proud possessor of some 1000 Spanish-language classics (from the Cantar del Mio Cid to Borges), which I dip into from time to time. I have just finished my Don Quijote project (though it almost finished me). Nonetheless, I support the goals of the US English movement. As the recent history of Belgium and Canada shows, bilingualism means disaster. It should be avoided if possible—and we can avoid it in this country.

As the illegal immigration continues to surge, there may be unexpected consequences for segments of our society. Gay people are a possible instance. My understanding is the variety of Catholicism brought by the Hispanic immigrants is less tolerant of homosexuality than that of our Italian and Irish Catholics. In any event, masses of Hispanics are going over to evangelicalism, and this spells trouble for us. One of the "ice-people" values they are likely to resist is tolerance for sexual minorities.

In this way we will reach a softer version of the situation found in Western Europe, where bands of young Muslims attack gay people, almost at will, while the mullahs call for restoration of the ban on homosexuality. Behind such behavior lies a tragic consequence of multiculturalism, which encourages the immigrant groups to resist assimilation, tacitly supporting their effort to transform the societies in which they have settled.


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