Saturday, November 18, 2006

Immigration a gogo

We New Yorkers generally favor of immigration. The cliché that the city is a mosaic of immigrants and descendents of immigrants is true. My own encounters with immigrants--in taxis, at the supermarket with newsagents, as well as at the ethnic restaurants I frequent--are generally pleasant. We are all happily practicing capitalism. They have goods and services I want. I get them and pay for them, and all is well.

Still I must remind myself that much of the country does not share this view. Far from being the dumb rubes of the caricature propagated by the Eastern elites, they detect an insidious alliance between left and right that is not good for this country. While the left-liberal faction is generally not honest enough to say that they favor open borders, they are quite content with the present situation of looking the other way. Many secretly harbor the hope uncaring, individualistic ice-people like us will be countered by the growing presence, soon to be a majority, of compassionate, communitarian sun-people. The new America is to “look like the world.” For its part, business doesn’t care what the ethnicity and language of its workers are, as long as they have access to a docile work force.

The two groups overlap in the way that Hollywood stars, professors, pundits and the whole tribe of well-healed symbolic analysts benefit from cheap maids, nannies, and kitchen help in the fancy restaurants they favor.

Absent any real discussion, we are undergoing a fundamental reconfiguration of the demography of this country. It is a revolution by stealth.

Now comes Aristide R. Zolberg with a big book, A Nation by Design, that is intended to support the policy of immigration a gogo. Zolberg cites a 1965 law as evidence that the United States “redesigned itself as the first nation to mirror humanity.” We must be grateful to Mr. Zolberg for stating so clearly the aims of the unlimited immigrationists. Yet the 1965 law had no such purpose. It allotted a quota of 20,000 to each country in the Eastern Hemisphere. Many European countries failed to fulfill their quota, while third-world countries did. But that was not the intention. Also unforeseen was the “family reunification” scam, whereby one immigrant can bring in, through a chain process, an unending series of others. A single baby born in the United States can anchor this process. The US is indeed coming to look more like humanity, but when did we as a nation agree to adopt this policy?

Zolberg further claims that there is no way to stop immigration without turning the United States into a police state. This is nonsense. Japan, which allows virtually no immigration, is not a police state.

To be sure, Japan is a series of islands, and its borders are easy to protect. We could protect our borders too-—if the power elite would only allow it. Many of those who say that a fence would never work acknowledge, ruefully or not, that Israel’s fence is effective. And that fence is not even complete.

We are seeing a shell game here. Congress has passed a bill for a 700-mile fence, but without allocating the money to build it. We can be sure that if such a thing is ever created, the honchos in Washington will see that it is constantly breached. Business needs a cheap workforce, and liberal Harvard professors and Hollywood stars need maids, nannies, and landscapists.

We have been told that one thing Bush and the Democrats agree on is the “comprehensive” immigration bill. That, of course, will make sure that the spigot is kept turned on. The scenario may be a little different, but not much so. It seems certain that if we do not get the “comprehensive” bill, we will get the status quo. Either way, the floods of immigrants will keep coming.

Cynicism is amply justified, but it is also important to understand why the chicanery is happening. The virtually unimpeded flow of immigrants across our Southern border is a facet of the Washington Consensus, a set of arrangements that suit the power structure in the most important countries in the world, but which are inimical to their peoples. NAFTA is a good example. It has done us in the US little good, but has allowed Mexico to be flooded with US businesses that choke out native enterprise.

H. Ross Perot was right when he said that we were going to hear a loud sucking sound as jobs left this country. He was only wrong about the source of the sound. It is coming from Asia, not south of the border. In addition, bilateral arrangements masquerading as “free trade” encourage of flood of cheap goods from China and other Asian countries, driving down US wages and killing many of the manufacturing jobs that managed, just barely, to survive. In the meantime third-world countries are suffering because advanced Western nations keep out their agricultural products with quotas and high tariffs. This too is “free trade.”

The insidious thing about the Washington Consensus is that it doesn’t matter which party you vote for. You will get it anyway. NAFTA, for example, was the joint creation of Clinton and the Republican moneyed interests.

Let the elitists beware, for revolt is in the air. The arrogance of the Washington consensus is one of the principal factors fostering the rise of blue-state populism. This new orientation will be protectionist and xenophobic. It will probably consort with socially repressive policies regarding freedom of speech, abortion, and gay rights. Watch out elitists, the nativist yahoos are organizing.

I see nothing to celebrate here. If it happens, though, this repressive populism will constitute yet another baleful legacy of the Washington Consensus.

There is a concluding issue that is personal. When I buy food at my local minimarket or get into a cab, I do not ask my server for his papers. For all I know many of these people are “undocumented,” as the anything-goes types like to put it. Could it be that in my small, small way I am one of those business people who is looking the other way at illegal immigration?

I could do better in daily life, I suppose. But what's the point. I am irretrievably damned because I live in the People's Republic of Manhattan


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know my POV on immigration. Controlled, good. Uncontrolled, bad. Worse, it's exacerbating the demise of the middle class, as employers dip into cheaper labor (with governmental complicity).

Another, perhaps more serious consideration, is advanced by James Q. Wilson in The Moral Sense. The Western Enlightenment, particularly in Britain and France, ended clans and lineage in favor of individualism, liberty, and rights. Wilson is among the first to think some have taken this Englightenment to its extremes, but his more careful observation is that our moral senses developed out of this new sense of autonomy, liberty, and individualism, and that other cultures (all) lack the same perspective, defaulting to "clans, family, and lineage" as their inheritance.

He's not positing a Clash of Civilizations, ala Huntington, only that the uniqueness of the Enlightenment requires enculteration of those who did not experience anything like it. Thus, assimilation must be gradual, or the Enlightenment ideals will be lost, overwhelmed by the more primitive instincts and values that preceded it. Rights will be trumped by familial privilege, law trumped by clan orientation, and freedom trumped by historical lineage.

As much as I enjoy and revel in different cultures, I don't want to surrender the Englightenment to "old world values." (Nor do I want the demise of the middle class.) The 1890s-1920s Eastern European onslaught of immigration, lacking the Englightenment experience, should have taught us how subversive ignorance can be. It's not their fault, but without perspective and enculteration they almost toppled the entire liberal experiment.

Something about "repeating history" rings loud and clear. Encountering untutored immigrants confirms this dissonance still, no matter how much I enjoy everything else about them. Between the fanatic Evangelical and immigrants with "old world values," we need liberal space.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Dyneslines said...

On Sunday (November 19) C-SPAN carried a talk by Tom Hayden, the ageing radical. Hayden rejoiced in the prospect that before the end of the century our nation will be more than half Hispanic. In that way (though he didn't say so) we can attain Latin American levels of corruption, poverty, and oligarchy. Come to think of it, thanks to the war on the middle class, we are well on our way to achieving those three without benefit of Hispanization.

The editorial page of the New York Times, always a barometer of PC opinion on these issues, weighs in today. For these folks the McCain-Kennedy bill (the one that Bush favors) is still too "restrictionist." We must have full amnesty, no two ways about it. And of course the fence is a "pretend fence." Yes, it is, but not because the idea won't work, but because Congress refuses to fund it. Even if it is built, the Administration will make sure that it is not guarded adequately. The fence won't work because powerful forces in this country are determined that it will not fail.

The Times does note that anger over immigration a gogo continues to simmer. They are disappointed that "The new Democratic leaders, including speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, have conspicuously not listed immigration amont their most urgent priorities."

That's OK for the PC-and-profits crowd though. For them it's heads we win, tails you lose. The existing situation, with its continuing human tide, suits them just fine.

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Republican deference to "business" interests has never been in question. So, for Republicans, being torn between serving business and our founding ideals has always been in tension. (Present class, excepted.) I get that!

But what about these Democrats? Have they so lost touch with the middle class and founding values that short-term success with a new "constituency" is all they see? I cannot comprehend it in any other way.

I'll grant the subversives (like Hayden) may find illegal immigration a device for its agenda. Tear-down the existing order by any means possible. I get that too!

I just don't get the "liberal Democrats'" reasoning. The "new" constituency adversely affects an "existing" constituency in an obvious lose-lose transaction (illegals can't vote, the existing class will vote against them). Or, is it a tree-huging embrace of all humanity without cognizance of scarcity? But not even altruism trumps cheater detection, both of which are biologically imprinted on us! I just do not have a clue why they have no clue.

12:44 PM  

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