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« How to Adapt a Dick? | Main | Moviegoing: "The Company" »

January 07, 2004

Bush and Immigration

Dear Friedrich --

In celebration of Bush's plans for illegal immigrants -- and because I seem to be in a quoting-from-books groove -- here are some passages from a new book about immigration:

One in nine Americans is now foreign-born. The new immigrant groups are by far the fastest growing segments of the nation, with Latinos already the largest minority ...

Between 1980 and 2000, 15.6 million legal immigrants came to the United States, and another 5.5 million entered the country illegally. The vast majority of these people -- 85 percent of documented migrants and 95 percent of those without documents -- were non-Europeans, mainly from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean ...

A lion's share of these newcomers have settled in a few cities and states. Hispanics make up nearly one-third of the people in both California and Texas ...

Together, immigrants and their children account for more than 60 million people, or a fifth of all U.S. residents. And by 2050, if today's projections are borne out, a third of all Americans will be either Asian or Latino ...

The immigrant influx of the last forty years is a demographic shift of historic proportions. The percentage of the population that was born abroad is slightly lower than it was when the last great wave of immigrants arrived at the beginning of the twentieth century: 11 percent now compared to 15 percent then. But the absolute number of newcomers living in the United States today is the highest it has ever been: some 31 milion. Roughly 1.2 million arrive on our shores every year. One in nine Americans is an immigrant. And half the laborers entering the American workforce in the 1990s were foreign born ...

Just over half the foreign-born are Hispanic ... Mexicans, by far the largest category, account for roughly one in three first-generation immigrants, almost ten times more than any other nationality...

Contrary to popular perception, there is significantly less ethnic diversity among post-1965 immigrants than there was among early twentieth-century immigrants. In 1990, for example, Mexicans made up almost 30 percent of the immigrant population. In contrast, Germans and Russians -- the two largest groups of the First Great Migration -- accounted for only 15 and 12 percent of the influx. The relative lack of ethnic diversity in post-1965 immigration may greatly reduce the incentives for assimilation by allowing the largest ethnic groups to develop separate enclave economies with few links to the economic mainstream ...

Welfare opportunities may attract immigrants who otherwise would not have migrated to the United States; and the safety net may discourage immigrants who fail here from returning to their home countries. In short, the welfare state may change the immigrant population in ways that are not economically desirable ...

Punchline: these quotes are from a book that is pro-immigration-status-quo. I don't know about you, but what occurs to me when I look at these figures is, "Are we out of our skulls?" The writers of these passages, like President Bush, apparently look at these figures and think, "Bring it on!"

In case anyone's under the impression that the situation described above is a natural and inevitable thing: it isn't. It's a direct consequence of the 1965 Immigration Act, which became law as part of the same '60s nuttiness that brought us such joys as racial quotas and welfare benefits structured in such a way as to encourage single motherhood among the poor. We've been saddled by the Act's consequences ever since. And while we seem to have gotten some of the excesses of the '60's welfare programs under sensible control, the immigration situation continues to run amok.

A bit of history from the same book:

The 1965 immigration reform act not only opened the door to a sharp increase in total immigration to the United States. It was followed by a dramatic shift in the sources of immigration. By the 1990s, only one out of seven newcomers to the United States hailed from a European country, while nearly half were from Latin America, and almost a third from Asia.

By the way, and correct me if I'm wrong here, but I thought one of the lessons of Amy Chua's work on racial rivalries and market-dominant minorities was that playing with the basic ethnic makeup of a nation is playing with nitro. Yet on we gaily waltz.

How many black people do you suppose even realize that black people are no longer the country's pre-eminent minority? And I wonder how grateful the ones who are in the know are feeling these days towards Teddy ("Friend of Black People") Kennedy, a major sponsor of the 1965 act.

* Here's a startling q&a Bill O'Reilly did with a couple of immigration experts about how eager the Ford Foundation has been to help fund immigration insanity.
* Steve Sailer comments and informs here and here.
* Michelle Malkin explains the disastrous consequences for Social Security here.
* Here's a brief history of the 1965 Immigration Act by Ben Johnson.
* Lou Dobbs offers some facts and figures here.
* Mark Krikorian argues in National Review that Bush's proposal doesn't even make economic sense, here.
* Here's a Victor Davis Hanson speech about immigration.
* Peter Brimelow fumes here.
* Here's a fun posting by John Derbyshire.
* The evo-bio brainiacs at Gene Expression have some lively postings and conversations going here and here.
* Joel Mowbray raises some worth-a-wrestle points here.
* Here's a brief description of Harvard economist George Borjas' views on current immigration policies.
* Scrappleface does one of his parody news items on the topic here.
* The book I lifted the above quotes from can be bought here.

Hey, I've got an idea: Why don't we pay them to come? Or maybe we should just cut to the quick and hand our country's fate over to the President of Mexico. No, wait, we're already doing pretty much exactly that.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at January 7, 2004




Comments

Honest question" what's up? If the Left wanted to bring in a new proletariat, why is BUSH proposing this? To get a higher amount of the Hispanic vote to put him over next November? But...these are the voters who are supposed to vote Dem, which is the theory of O'Reilly's interviewees. So they won't help Bush...

And how is anyone in the Bush admin (or anywhere for that matter) squaring this with Homeland Security?? If we Green Card more, we can keep track of them better, or something? Lotta good giving visas to highjackers turned out to be---we still couldn't keep track of them.

Posted by: annette on January 7, 2004 6:18 PM



It really depends on how you view immigrants: are they a constituancy for welfare case workers, poverty advocates, and bi-lingual educators, and every sort of government handout? ...or are they people willing to leave home and travel, endure hardship, work hard and send money home, and live the American dream? I think they are generally the latter, unless we Americans turn them into the former by misguided policy - which is a huge danger.

Posted by: Paul Mansour on January 7, 2004 7:03 PM



Gee, Michael, I expected this from Friedrich, but not from you. You think that immigration is "disastrous" for Social Security? I think it's the only thing that can save it. The Social Security time bomb is wholly demographic: it basically consists of a decreasing number of working-age labourers supporting an increasing number of retirees. Now the number of retirees isn't going to go down, so the only way to redress the balance is through immigration, so that more workers pay their social security taxes and support the oldies.

And pray tell what are the consequences of the Immigration Act that we've been "saddled" with? You and I both live in a city built on immigration, with a well above averge proportion of immigrants. Has this harmed New York? Quite the contrary.

But then again, I'm the kind of person who thinks that this country WOULD be a lot better off if it was being run by Vicente Fox. At least he knows what a halfways-sensible fiscal policy looks like.

Posted by: Felix on January 7, 2004 7:34 PM



Wow, reading Felix, I think I'm in Bizzarro World -- twice in a week I agree with him!

Posted by: Paul Mansour on January 7, 2004 7:40 PM



I think my name is being taken in vain here.

Hey Felix, I thought you were social justice kind of guy. How exactly is it that you, a socialist, are advocating that poorly educated Mexicans (working as gardeners) should be paying social security taxes to support Anglo baby boomer retirees (who will be the ones lolling around playing golf)!

Gee, you don't think that structuring Social Security as a generational income transfer program could have been a questionable decision, now do you? I mean, encouraging massive immigration is kind of an extreme measure to prop up a social welfare program, don't you think? Do you think Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson could have sold the current version of social security if this had been presented as the only way to pay for it? (And, of course, that's just Social Security; the real financial crisis is in Medicare!)

Personally, I've found the best way to avoid worrying about these sorts of issues is to tell myself that the government is so much smarter than I am that I would just be wasting my time questioning its wonderful, all-wise decrees. Occassionally I have twinges of doubt, particularly when I consider the financial fortunes of my children, but then I come back to sanity and realize that no one in politics would ever stoop to pandering to current voters at the expense of future generations! Of course, before I read your comment, I didn't realize that not only is the U.S. government all-wise, but so is Vincente Fox! Gosh, he's sure made a success of it south of the border, hasn't he?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 7, 2004 8:50 PM



"It's a direct consequence of the 1965 Immigration Act, which became law as part of the same '60s nuttiness that brought us such joys as racial quotas and welfare benefits structured in such a way as to encourage single motherhood among the poor."

But this is horribly misleading, if not downright doublespeak. The 1965 Immigration Act REMOVED quotas on immigration. Before then, immigration was based on the pre-existing racial makeup. That meant Europeans got preferential treatment over anyone else. THAT was racist.

Now, immigration is based generally on who wants to come, not on who is already here.

How can you call racial quotas "nuttiness" in the process of criticizing a law that removed them?

Posted by: Rv. Agnos on January 7, 2004 9:34 PM



Yes, Friedrich, you're an absolute genius: the best way to solve the Social Security problem is... never to have gone there in the first place! Great. Now let's try something which doesn't involve time travel.

In general, though, I don't have a problem with legal US workers paying taxes to fund a safety net for seniors. That's one of the great things about global capitalism: those Mexican gardeners are still making a lot more money, even after taxes, than they would be in Mexico, so everybody's happy. Except Michael, of course, who doesn't want them here at all. Maybe because he doesn't have a garden.

As for politicians pushing problems onto future generations, that was exactly the point I was making about US fiscal policy, and there's no doubt that the Bush Administration has been the worst offender on that front. You're right, Vicente Fox has not been a huge success in Mexico, but that's because he has no control of the legislature. If he had the same sort of control of both houses of Congress that Bush has, he'd be in clover.

Posted by: Felix on January 7, 2004 10:27 PM



"Before then, immigration was based on the pre-existing racial makeup. That meant Europeans got preferential treatment over anyone else. THAT was racist." --Rv. Agnos

There is nothing at all racist about preserving ethnic balances. It is common sense. You get stability and maintain unity. Now, if immigration policy had been structured to somehow "purify" the nation for one race or some such, then it would correct to call the thing racist. But importing all sorts of new ethnic groups into a democracy and expecting everyone to just get along is not the brightest idea in the world. I don't think that there are many people out there who would wish Europe's problems with mass Muslim immigration on America. (Though it is America's problem too, of course.)

There is a broad dividing line between recognizing ethnicity as something both serious and important and being "racist."

Posted by: Thrasymachus on January 7, 2004 11:55 PM



Republicans love illegal immigration because it drives wages down. Yeah, there's a Pat Buchananesque nativist wing but it's pretty marginal now. That's what Bush is up to. All that cheap labor helps his corporate fat cat buddies in all sorts of ways.

(I'm more-or-less a libertarian myself so I hate to sound all lefty here but it's true).

Posted by: dude on January 8, 2004 12:34 AM



So is someone here actually positing that Bush has proposed this as a way of shoring up Social Security??

And what...f@#k Homeland Security?

Posted by: annette on January 8, 2004 12:37 AM



If you guys are interested in numbers, you might be interested in this post, this post and this thread (scroll down).

If you don't feel like wading through all that, here is the case for real immigration reform (not Bush's amnesty) in bullet point terms:

1. Supermajorities (more than 75%) of both Reps and Dems want immigration reduction.

More Than Three-Quarters of Americans Want Stricter Immigration Controls. (November 2003, by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press)

77 percent of Americans say “we should restrict and control people coming into the country to live more than we do now,” including 82 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of both Democrats and Independents.

full poll: http://www.pewtrusts.com/pdf/pew_research_values_110503.pdf

47 Percent of Americans Want Immigration Decreased; Only 13 Percent Want It Increased
(June 2003, by Gallup)

Gallup's annual poll on immigration issues consistently finds that a majority of Americans wants to decrease immigration and that only a small percentage wants to increase it.

full poll: http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr030710.asp

Policy Leaders and The American Public Not In Agreement on Immigration
(June 2002, by Harris Interactive for Chicago Council on Foreign Relations)

85 percent of the public said that protecting the jobs of U.S. workers should be a “very important” foreign policy goal. Sixty percent think immigration is a critical threat to U.S. interests. 57 percent want to see legal immigration decreased.
full poll: http://www.worldviews.org/detailreports/usreport/index.htm


2. Unskilled immigration reduces both GDP-per-capita and GDP-per-capita growth.

a) Reduces GDP-per-capita by requiring massive transfer payments for health/bilingual/education/crime/etc. California, for example, is on the hook for at least $4.6 billion dollars - more than half the $8 billion budget deficit.

It is also worth noting that cheap labor is not cheap to the taxpayer. The problem with unskilled illegals is that they are a net loss for the economy. They pay far less in taxes than they occasion in expenditures. Consider: Education alone costs about $7000 per child per capita in California. As the majority of unskilled immigrants are Hispanic (with a significant Asian minority), we'll use the Census figures for growth. Your average Hispanic immigrant family has about 3 children.

Do the math. 21000 dollars per year in *expenditures* for at least 13 years. That's more than a minimum wage (or lower) worker makes, let alone pays in taxes. doesn't begin to include all the other expenditures - bilingual ed, bilingual signs, higher crime rates, etcetera.


b) Reduces GDP-per-capita growth by retarding the incentive for automation and by taking up slots that would have gone to company-founding skilled immigrants.

3. Our current immigration criteria is based primarily on nepotism, queue-jumping, and geographical proximity rather than merit.

a) Nepotism: There is no reason that one should be able to bring in more relatives than your spouse and children...but chain reunification does exactly that, by allowing siblings/parents/grown children in.

b) Queue-jumping: no explanation required.

c) Geographical proximity: There is no a priori reason that Mexicans, who are 2% of the world population, should be 30% of our immigrant pool.

4. Consider the reductio ad absurdum. If we just opened up the borders, tens of millions would come here overnight. You can get a sense of the demand by realizing that 10 million applicants applied for the 50000 spots in the "diversity lottery", an ill-conceived idea to give out immigration visas at random. So a true open borders policy would mean the immigration of tens of millions of people. Russian neo-Nazis, Communist Chinese, Islamic fundamentalists - you name it. We couldn't possibly assimilate that many people. We couldn't possibly create a bureaucracy large enough to run background checks on them.

Bottom line: An aracial skilled immigration policy would be a *vast* improvement over our current situation. We have the pick of the world. We could take 1 million scientists and engineers per year rather than 700 thousand without high school degrees and a million more illegals.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist on January 8, 2004 12:43 AM



One of the seldom-discussed benefits of increased Asian and Latino immigration is that you can find a decent, reasonably priced Chinese or Mexican restaurant just about anywhere in the US. That's a major comfort when you're vegetarian, or traveling with someone who is.

I've had terrific Mexican food in Juneau AK, Emporia VA, Hardeeville SC, and a few small towns I can't quite recall in Arkansas and Alabama. I've had adequate-to-excellent Chinese food in Americus GA, Mount Pleasant SC, and Dickson TN. As road food goes, it beats the hell out of Denny's ...

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on January 8, 2004 2:39 AM



"And by 2500..."

Surely you mean 2050?

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on January 8, 2004 11:10 AM



There is nothing at all racist about preserving ethnic balances. It is common sense. You get stability and maintain unity.

Am I the only person who got shivers down his spine when I read this? I mean, even the Jorg Haiders of this world hesitate to talk like that.

But going on the charitable assumption that Thrasymachus is not a raving neo-Nazi, what could he mean? Let's say that 80% of the population is white, and that 80% of the people who want to immigrate aren't. Do you still give 80% of the visas to the 20% of the applicants who are white?

Besides, I have to ask, what "unity"? The unity of white people arrayed against the brown, yellow and black Others? Although I have to say I almost can't believe I'm actually responding to this kind of thing seriously: there are some statements which deserve nothing more than contempt.

Annette, on the other hand, seems to be simply confused. Just to clear things up: no, unskilled Mexican immigrants are not a major threat to homeland security. Remember, Annette, Bush is making border controls tighter, not looser. (Every time I enter the country now, I have to be fingerprinted.) Turning an illegal immigrant into a legal immigrant is in no way going to increase the chances of a terrorist attack.

Godlesscapitalist, on the other hand, makes some very good points. The Bush policy is clearly aimed at winning vital Electoral College votes in California and Florida -- if he has those two states, he has re-election in the bag. The Republicans in both states are not going to get pissed off at his immigration policies and vote Democratic, but the conservative-with-a-small-c Hispanic vote might well move, at the margin, to him, by enough to give him the election.

That said, I'd like to see the figures on the marginal extra cost to the public of making an illegal immigrant a legal immigrant. I'm not convinced it's nearly as big as this comment implies.

Posted by: Felix on January 8, 2004 11:23 AM



I've seen studies concluding that the kind of immigration we have now leads to a net loss; Felix has pointed out studies concluding that it leads to a net gain. Me, I'll step back and let the experts blast away at each other over this.

But why would we base decisions about something as important about the future makeup and size of of the country entirely on economic factors? Surely other considerations are just as important.

A few that my sorry brain tends to dwell on:

* The preferences of people already here. As Godless points out, poll after poll has shown that a large majority of people who are already Americans think that immigration is out of control and needs reform. Why shouldn't their preferences -- oops, make that our preferences -- be listened to and respected? This strikes me as an enormously important point, and I've never heard a good argument made about why it should be ignored. Certainly the people already inhabiting a place should have an important and respected voice in debates about such questions as who's allowed in, how many, and on what basis?

Incidentally, while everyday Americans dislike current immigration policies and rates, American elites love the idea of open, or near-open borders. Why? Business loves cheap labor; academics love multiculturalism on principle (and are probably anti-American anyway); Democrats love the idea of tons of poor immigrants who'll vote Democrat. I ran across one study showing that there's no single issue on which there's such a huge gap between the preferences of the elites and the preferences of everyday people.

* The basics of governance. There aren't many matters so fundamental on the list of what a government should be occupying itself with than control of the borders. Our government loves nothing better than passing fussy new regulations about this and that, yet the situation especially in the southwest is pretty crazy. What are we paying our political class for if not first securing the basics?

* Moral hazard: every time we grant amnesty, every time we look away, we're sending a message to Mexico that it's OK for them to use us (illegally, BTW) as a safety valve. We're encouraging this behavior rather than discouraging it. If we do that, how will the situation ever get better? Of course, we should also be doing whatever's possible (if anything) to get Mexico to make itself better off and more appealing. One way might be to make it clear to them that they can't rely on us to play endlessly-indulgent parent any longer. Sometimes you have to stop bailing someone out in order to help them get on their feet.

* Ethnic composition. You've got to be pretty ignorant of history to believe that you can blithely subject a country to wrenching changes in its fundamantal ethnic composition without running a strong risk of bad consequences. (In other words: you think we've got identity-politics problems now? Just you wait.) The US has been a successful multiethnic society, but who knows how much more stress you can subject it to before something begins to crack? Think about India, Iraq, even Canada -- let alone the old Yugoslavia, or many ancient cultures. It's a spectacle of unhappy ethnic groups squared off against each other in not-attractive and not-healthy ways. As many have noted, there's been a trend since WWII for nations to devolve into smaller states precisely because ethnic groups want their own identities and their own countries, and can't stand sharing power with each other. Can you guarantee that our ethnic groups will go on coexisting in peace and harmony if we jerk the ethnic composition of the country around dramatically? On what basis can you guarantee that?

Given these concerns, and given the fact that the current situation isn't an inevitable natural occurrence but an outgrowth of a specific law, I'd love to know why we'd continue in the direction we're going, let alone throw the doors even more widely and more indiscriminately open. Even if there might be a small economic upside, who can deny the risks? And why even bother running the risks? Do you want to be the person who, in 20 or 30 years, looks at a much-changed, strife-ridden country and says, Oopsie, I guess that didn't work out so well?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 8, 2004 11:44 AM



OK, can I just point out something which seems blindingly obvious to me yet completely overlooked by everybody else?

The Bush plan does not increase total immigration. It only increases legal immigration, while decreasing illegal immigration.

Michael's last comment seems to completely miss this point. He -- along with Annette -- seems to think that the proposal will involve less secure borders: quite the contrary.

He also seems to think that India, Iraq, Canada and Yugoslavia went through "wrenching changes in their fundamantal ethnic composition" at some point. Not true. In all of those cases (I'm assuming when he's talking about Canada he means the Quebec situation, rather than the highly successful immigration situation), the ethnic tensions were built in to the country's borders when the country was born.

What we have in those countries is clear national divisions within a country, and those nations desiring greater autonomy. There is no risk of that happening in the USA: the Hispanic community isn't going to start asking for its own independent nation-state carved out of what is presently the US.

Posted by: Felix on January 8, 2004 12:52 PM



"(In other words: you think we've got identity-politics problems now? Just you wait.)"

Exactly the opposite. Identity politics has only worked so far because there are relatively few identities. So far, really, only black and Hispanic (and in some places Native American) have been large enough to have noticeable effects on anything.

Identity politics won't work if there are too many identities floating around.

Meanwhile, I believe that there have been periods in America's past with a larger percentage of foreign-born residents than there are now. The U.S. has previously tried to stop German immigrants from sending their kids to German-language schools. The problems of integrating large minorities is no more of a problem now than then.

Also, I was as chilled as Felix was by Thrasymachus. I'm not sure what, exactly, "unifies" those of European extraction except their general skin color.

Posted by: Rv. Agnos on January 8, 2004 12:57 PM



"Bottom line: An aracial skilled immigration policy would be a *vast* improvement over our current situation. We have the pick of the world. We could take 1 million scientists and engineers per year rather than 700 thousand without high school degrees and a million more illegals."

Hmm... In general do you all think that foreign elites make better future Americans than foreign "unwashed" masses? In my personal experience, the elite immigrants have often been viciously anti-American, even as they exploit America's benefits. The average Senegalese guy, on the corner selling watches out of a brief case will probably make a better American than, say, a Saudi scientist, or an Indian programmer.

And just out of curiosity, how many of us making comments here are descended from scientists or other elites? My grandfather was an immigrant peddler.

Posted by: Paul Mansour on January 8, 2004 1:04 PM



Felix -- You're a man possessed! And evidently equal to the task of predicting how an unprecedented experiment will play out in the future too.

Rv Agnos -- As one of the quotes from the pro-status-quo book I cited says, "Contrary to popular perception, there is significantly less ethnic diversity among post-1965 immigrants than there was among early twentieth-century immigrants." Given that, I think your hunch that more diversity equals less identity politics may need some reworking; perhaps we'll get less diversity and more identity politics instead. Can you guarantee me we won't? Also, you seem to be under the impression that, since assimilation was no big deal in the past, it'll be no big deal in the future. But that's wrong at its base. Assimilation in the past was always a big deal; it was treated and discussed as such -- how to turn immigrants into Americans was one of the great subjects of public conversation. And periodically rates of immigration would be nearly shut down, which helped the country digest the crowds that it had taken in. We've had 38 years now of high immigration rates, made even more dramatic by tolerance of illegal immigration from one specific source, and we've had very little discussion about how to assimilate who's arrived.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 8, 2004 1:07 PM



"What we have in those countries is clear national divisions within a country, and those nations desiring greater autonomy. There is no risk of that happening in the USA: the Hispanic community isn't going to start asking for its own independent nation-state carved out of what is presently the US."

I agree here, with the proviso that the government focuses on integration and gets out of the business of celebrating diversity, affimative action, etc. Celebrating different cultures should be left up to private organizations. With public bi-lingual education, the "diversity industry" and congressional gerrymandering, it is not that far out of the realm of possiblily that some ethnic group would not want to carve out some bit of the country.

Posted by: Paul Mansour on January 8, 2004 1:12 PM



Michael, you can be very hard to parse sometimes. One minute you're saying that the US has had a nightmarish immigration policy for 28 years and that we have to stop it now; the next minute you're saying that US immigration policy is an "unprecedented experiment" and we have no idea how it'll turn out. So which is it? The same as it's been for 28 years, or unprecedented?

And no, I haven't made any predictions, beyond the one about national movements wanting to carve out pieces of the country.

As for the diversity of immigrants in the early 20th century vs today, I think you're basically eliding race and nationality.

Posted by: Felix on January 8, 2004 1:34 PM



Here's am editorial in a major midwest paper today on this very subject.

"President Bush's "guest worker" plan announced Wednesday is a combination of fairness, practicality and election-year politics. Many of the 8 million to 10 million undocumented workers, here to fill jobs that many Americans disdain, could finally become legal residents freed from the threat of deportation. The proposal, which must be approved by Congress, is the first serious revision of immigration law since the Reagan administration's amnesty program in 1986.

Among its provisions: A Web-based registry would match employers with foreign workers, who could then apply for guest-worker cards for a three-year period, which is renewable. Those already in the U.S. illegally also would be eligible.

Cardholders would be able to travel back and forth with their families between the U.S. and their country of origin. They would be covered by the same minimum-wage and workplace laws that safeguard U.S. workers. And if they qualify, they would be eligible for Social Security payments upon retirement.

It's a sign of the post-9/11 times that Homeland Security, the same department now enforcing stricter guidelines for entry by foreigners into the U.S., was chosen to oversee the guest-worker program. With immigrants passing through regular channels instead of sneaking across borders, the Bush administration expects entry points into the country to be more secure.

Announced just before the start of the Summit of the Americas that begins Monday in Mexico, the proposal is likely to appeal to the nation's 8 million Hispanic voters, the fastest-growing electoral bloc.

The National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group, argues that the proposal fails to significantly ease the process of obtaining permanent legal residency. Opponents on the other side say amnesty for undocumented workers rewards illegal behavior. But Bush administration officials insist there is no link between participation and issuance of green cards, which can lead to citizenship.

Undocumented workers are part of the U.S. work force. They contribute significantly to the economy, they pay taxes, they use social services, they often are willing to work for low wages. It's long past time to recognize reality and give them legal status to live and work among us."

Posted by: annette on January 8, 2004 1:53 PM



I am sorry for chilling certain people and forcing them to "charitably assume" that I am no Neo-Nazi. Thank you so much for your charity.

Let me put it like this: 1000 Somalis move into your home neighborhood or 1000 Italians move into your home neighborhood. Are the only people in your neighborhood who care more about one than the other racists? Will you hound out anyone who might be concerned about crime or social services costs? This PC stuff is insane. A person can talk about ethnicity without being a racist.

Really, I would have a lot more respect for the types who castigate others for talking openly about this if they did not tend to live in the most lily-white neighborhoods they could find. (I live in quite an interracial neighborhood in New Mexico, thank you. I like it. But I do not have the illusions so easily fostered by distance. You would have to be kidding if you think I will raise kids out here.)

"Bring in all the Somalis and Bantu and whomever else you want -- just make sure they're sent to live in the poor neighborhoods where I don't live" does not show up "anti-racist" credentials so well.

Posted by: Thrasymachus on January 8, 2004 2:09 PM



Thanks to all for a fun and civilized discussion, and let's not leave it here if we've got still more to say. But, excellent point, let's also remember to do our best to avoid accusations and name-calling, and let's also do our best to cut each other slack.

So: no attacking motives, please. Deal with the arguments and the points, not what you suspect is going on underneath. (At least not until something really awful leaps out.) Let's assume that we all (even those on the other side) wish everyone well, even if we disagree about what might best be done (or not done) about it.

Thanks, and now back to the gabfest.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 8, 2004 2:15 PM



"The Bush plan does not increase total immigration. It only increases legal immigration, while decreasing illegal immigration."

Now you're just being dense, Felix. By that logic, if you passed a law that made theft legal, you could call it an anti-crime measure: it doesn't increase total thefts, you see: it only increases legal appropriations...

Posted by: jimbo on January 8, 2004 2:17 PM



Thras, everybody who's commented on this blog so far has talked about ethnicity; you're the only one who sounded explicity racist, when you started talking about White Unity. Now you seem to be saying that you wouldn't want to bring up your children in an interracial neighborhod. Not that you're racist or anything. Personally, a lily-white neighborhood would be the last place I would want to either live or bring up children. But I'm one of those people who thinks that diversity is a good thing.

Both you and Michael think that "preserving ethnic balances" is, prima facie, a good and important thing. You have adduced no reasons why at all; Michael seems to think it will prevent racial strife, although all of his examples have nothing to do with immigration or significant changes in the ethnic balance.

Fact is, the most racist viewpoints tend to cluster not where there's most immigration, but in the communities next door to where there's most immigration. That's one reason why Americans tend to oppose more immigration: they still, generally, live in very homogenous communities, and are scared of what immigration represents, having not experienced it at first hand. Those of us who live in places like New York City, on the other hand, are much more likely to embrace immigration and immigrants with open arms.

Posted by: Felix on January 8, 2004 2:33 PM



Tweet!

Let's have a time-out, let's all enjoy a good moment's chill, and let's all scroll up a couple of comments to where I sweetly urge everyone to cut the name-calling and deal with the arguments instead.

OK? Now back to the conversation. Civility from all, please. Remember: we aren't setting policy, we're just gabbing about it.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 8, 2004 2:36 PM



Jimbo, are you saying that immigration is something bad (like theft) whether or not it's legal? In that case, would you like to take legal immigrants like me and make us illegal, so that we could then be deported?

Posted by: Felix on January 8, 2004 2:40 PM



OK, Michael, no more accusations of racism -- I was drafting my last comment to Thrasymachus when you posted your "time out" comment, so I hadn't seen it when I seemingly ignored it.

That said, there is an elephant-in-the-room aspect to talking about immigration and attitudes towards immigration without talking about racism.

Take a hypothetical country -- let's call it, oh, Poland. It's racially homogenous, and also extremely racist and anti-semitic. Its citizens oppose immigration for the bad reasons, the wrong reasons: simply because they're racist. But the country joins the EU, and is forced to accept immigration anyway. When it does that, something interesting happens: the towns with the highest amount of immigration also see both the highest amount of economic growth and the highest drop in racist attitudes. As immigration and ethnic diversity spread across the land, the population slowly loses its knee-jerk antipathy towards immigration, and starts to understand how immigration can make countries (Canada and the UK spring to mind, along with, yes, the USA) much nicer places to live.

Now I'm not saying that's exactly what the real Poland is like. I'm just noting that that (a) you have thrown public opinion out there as a good reason to cut back on immigration, and that (b) you have come close to banning any discussion of what might be driving that public opinion.

Public opinion can be wrong, Michael -- that's one thing that we've certainly learned from the civil rights movement. A vast majority of Southerners in this country did not want civil rights, and they were wrong, and they were wrong because they were racist. To use your words, "This strikes me as an enormously important point, and I've never heard a good argument made about why it should be ignored."

Posted by: Felix on January 8, 2004 2:59 PM



Michael wrote:

"As one of the quotes from the pro-status-quo book I cited says, "Contrary to popular perception, there is significantly less ethnic diversity among post-1965 immigrants than there was among early twentieth-century immigrants." Given that, I think your hunch that more diversity equals less identity politics may need some reworking; perhaps we'll get less diversity and more identity politics instead. Can you guarantee me we won't?"

You are mixing two unrelated issues. It would make sense if it were the case that most of the post-1965 "identities" were immigrants. But most of them (black/gay/women/Jew) were here already.

The new immigrants may be less diverse (within the immigrant community), but they end up making the country more diverse.

It's already happening in Los Angeles, where black-identity and Latino-identity political groups haven't been able to form any solid alliances, and end up in-fighting, with the result that neither group is able to claim a substantial portion of the pie for themselves as a "group". Add in more California Asians, and it gets even more complex.

In the end, I predict that minorities will start seeing less advantage to identity politics when they are surrounded by other identities who use the same tactics.

Posted by: Rv. Agnos on January 8, 2004 3:04 PM



I apologize for getting a bit heated in that last post. Civility is both more important and less likely in internet discussions where we argue with other nicknames rather than face-to-face.

Felix, I said nothing about White Unity. I said that preserving ethnic balances is a good way to preserve unity -- and by that I mean national unity. In fact I specifically argued against trying to "purify" the nation for one race or another.

As for bringing my kids up, it is not that I plan to look at the racial makeup of where I will raise my kids. I will look for low crime rates and high quality schools. But I don't think that it is a big secret what the racial makeup of those sort of places is most likely to be. I wish everybody made good communities for themselves (or, if you like, did not have bad communities thrust upon them). That is only a wish though.

As for the second argument, "preventing racial strife" sounds like a very good thing to me. A great many places in the world could do with a lot less of it.

More than that, I place a high value on American culture. The American system is dependant on more than words on pieces of paper. (Just the argument used against starry-eyed democratizes in Iraq.) It is a mistake to think that other peoples can be "assimilated" into our nation easily and without consequences as is often imagined. (If diversity means acting like a white liberal, then the very idea is meaningless, of course.) I do not have anything against other cultures. Quite the opposite. But I do like my own for some reason – strange in this day and age, I know. The day before yesterday I heard Jorge Ramos on CSpan talking about the Latinization of America – in a hundred years, he said, there will be more Hispanics than whites. Yet more than just demographics, he thought it meant something real about culture. I agree. Looking south across the border and looking at the various communities around me tells me that I should be a bit worried about that.

And finally, to Agnos, whose comment I see upon preview. I know of no case where increased numbers of ethnic interest groups made ethnic identity less important rather than more so.

Posted by: Thrasymachus on January 8, 2004 3:13 PM



"And finally, to Agnos, whose comment I see upon preview. I know of no case where increased numbers of ethnic interest groups made ethnic identity less important rather than more so."

How about the case of the British, French, German, Scandanavian, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Romanian, and Russian immigrants of the early 20th century for whom racial strife and multiplicity of identities have, over several generations, led to a category of "European" all of whom now share a single "identity."

Posted by: Rv. Agnos on January 8, 2004 3:22 PM



One of the main secrets to our overwhelming success is that we've been attracting and welcoming the best that humanity has to offer for centuries. We'd be well advised to keep doing that.

How do we do that? Obviously, closing the borders will be counterproductive.

Only let in "skilled" immigrants? That didn't prove to be a good metric... lots of immigrants showed up penniless and worthless in the eyes of their home societies, and wound up making good here.

The only reasonable answer I can see is to let people in without giving them welfare benefits of any sort. The ones that need them won't show up at all, and the ones that do show up will be the ones that want the chance to trade and make deals to our benefit as well as their own.

"Ethnic composition. You've got to be pretty ignorant of history to believe that you can blithely subject a country to wrenching changes in its fundamantal ethnic composition without running a strong risk of bad consequences. (In other words: you think we've got identity-politics problems now? Just you wait.) The US has been a successful multiethnic society, but who knows how much more stress you can subject it to before something begins to crack? Think about India, Iraq, even Canada -- let alone the old Yugoslavia, or many ancient cultures. It's a spectacle of unhappy ethnic groups squared off against each other in not-attractive and not-healthy ways. As many have noted, there's been a trend since WWII for nations to devolve into smaller states precisely because ethnic groups want their own identities and their own countries, and can't stand sharing power with each other. Can you guarantee that our ethnic groups will go on coexisting in peace and harmony if we jerk the ethnic composition of the country around dramatically? On what basis can you guarantee that?"

In the United States, we have a powerful non-ethnic identity that ties us together - we're Americans, with all of the ideals of liberty and freedom of opportunity that implies. Such ideals can be and in fact are held in common by all sorts of different people. Unlike other states that are held together by ethnic identity, we're held together by shared ideals that outweigh those other considerations.

And the best way to ensure that our ethnic groups don't get paranoid about those "other" guys ruining their lives is to maintain our commitment to a government that exerts minimal interference in everyone's personal and cultural lives.

Posted by: Ken on January 8, 2004 3:22 PM



Felix -- That's awfully uncharitable, isn't it? Do you have any basis for thinking that many Americans' misgivings about current immigration policy have to do with racism?

Rv Agnos -- I hope you're right. And I'm often a fan of gridlock myself -- at least the bums aren't screwing anything up. But I'm not sure how many people will find the famous ungovern-ability of LA to be an attractive model to emulate.

Ken -- It's a lovely notion, that Americans are held together by shared ideals, but I've always found it a little too sweet to swallow, or at least swallow whole. Seems to me that most people come here to make good, not to devote themselves to sharing ideals. And while I sincerely hope along with you that our political class will show the brains and decency to devote themselves to minimal interference, I haven't seen much evidence that they've got any desire to do so.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 8, 2004 3:22 PM



I am not sure whether the material about market-dominant minorities really applies to immigration into the United States. There's a risk of this work being taken out of context and used to argue that it is always a bad idea to mix ethnic groups that start out with different levels of wealth, even though the history of previous migrations (Hugenots, Jews and Indians to the UK; Jews, Irish and Italians to the US, to pick arbitrary examples) imply that poor migrants tend to assimilate fairly rapidly and iron out the economic differences as they do so.

As far as I can tell, from my rather cursory reading on the subject, market-dominant minorities tend to come about where, for some reason, two groups of people living in the same geographic area have some kind of cultural divide keeping them apart, and making the circumstances different enough that they do not adopt similar customs and habits. That is, after all, what determines whether people operate well in a market economy: not their genes, or even the amount of capital they start out with.

This does not tend to happen with modern mass migration. From the history of previous migrations, and my limited personal experience, it seems that most migrants - especially poor migrants, in fact - want to assimilate, to educate their children in the culture of the host country, and to better themselves. In fact, they often do better, on average, than the average member of the host culture. This applies especially to migrants to the US, as opposed to other minoritiy groups who found themselves forced to live in the USA against their will, one way or another.

Is there any reason to suppose that this precedent does not apply ot Hispanic migrants, including the illegals Bush is trying to amnesty ? I would be concerned if it seemed that Spanish-speaking migrants were generally not assimilating, but from what I read, it sounds as if they are generally quite diverse, both politically and otherwise, and in particular that most are keen to learn English. Most of the concern seems to centre on the fact that a large number of people, of the same ethnicity, are migrating, but this does not seem to be an obvious problem in and of itself, if the people concerned assimilate.

Posted by: Simon Kinahan on January 8, 2004 3:34 PM



"Ken -- It's a lovely notion, that Americans are held together by shared ideals, but I've always found it a little too sweet to swallow, or at least swallow whole. Seems to me that most people come here to make good, not to devote themselves to sharing ideals. "

But "making good" is a fundamental part of those ideals. Not only that, but all of our shared ideals attract foreigners that already share them as well; if we let them in, they'll continue to share them and to embrace the opportunity to truly live by them for the first time in their lives.

"And while I sincerely hope along with you that our political class will show the brains and decency to devote themselves to minimal interference, I haven't seen much evidence that they've got any desire to do so."

While there's no shortage of disappointment on that front, we're still better at it than most places - and to the extent that we do practice minimal interference, we can have a more successful multiethnic society, and reap the benefits of continuing to siphon off the best that the rest of humanity has to offer.

Posted by: Ken on January 8, 2004 3:37 PM



Agnos, the "over several generations" part is key. It took a very long time -- and a decades long immigration moratorium -- for the assimilation of these rather similar groups to occur. The battles of ethnic identity through most of the last century were very real, and only started to subside with World War II. Not only that, but it occurred in a time where the "native" birthrates were not in a decline, so no huge demographic imbalances appeared to throw a wrench into the gears of assimilation.

Posted by: Thrasymachus on January 8, 2004 3:42 PM



"Assimilation in the past was always a big deal; it was treated and discussed as such -- how to turn immigrants into Americans was one of the great subjects of public conversation. And periodically rates of immigration would be nearly shut down, which helped the country digest the crowds that it had taken in. We've had 38 years now of high immigration rates, made even more dramatic by tolerance of illegal immigration from one specific source, and we've had very little discussion about how to assimilate who's arrived."

I had disagreed with Michael's point of view pretty much completely until he put it this way. I think this is a fair statement of the situation. I don't know that we need virtually to shut down immigration for a while in order to accomplish it, but I do think we--collectively--need to take more seriously the challenge of getting recent immigrants and descendents of earlier immigrants--i.e., us--feel at home with each other. Otherwise we could turn into, in many respects, the kind of Third World country the newcomers are trying to escape.

Nobody's mentioned globalization, but it strikes me that world economic integration is changing the world political environment in ways that will be very difficult to control or even predict. Eventually, it seems it would even reduce immigration: why should Asians come here when our jobs are being exported to them in their home countries?

Mexicans are a bit of a special case, both because of their proximity and because of our history with them. In a sense, they are simply reoccupying parts of their country we won in the Mexican War. In fact, many of them seem to see it that way. I was startled to hear a Hispanic political leader in California recently tell an NPR correspondent (in essence) that there were no "illegal alien" Mexicans in California because the annexation of California had itself been illegal. And I don't think it matters whether we old-timers like this point of view or not: the horse has left the barn.


Posted by: John Hinchey on January 8, 2004 3:52 PM



Thras -- what is this "national unity" of which you speak? Is it the same as Ken's shared ideals? And in what way is it threatened by the US having a different ethnic makeup? I have to admit I'm having a hard time understanding the difference between "white unity" and "national unity which would disappear if the nation stopped being white". It's certainly not a religious thing: immigrants are just as Christian as the country they're emigrating to, in aggregate.

You're worried about your culture changing as the US becomes increasingly Hispanic. I don't think you need to be. Chicken Tikka Marsala is now the de facto national dish of Britain, and nobody seems too concerned about that. Why is all change bad? I think that one of the great things about the US is precisely that, historically, it has embraced change rather than opposed it.

Ken -- your idea of letting in immigrants without giving them welfare benefits -- guess what -- it's exactly what Bush seems to be proposing! This "guest worker" program would not carry any welfare benefits -- as soon as you stop being employed, you have to leave the country. Much like people on H1-B visas right now. Consider me, for instance: I pay social security taxes, but am ineligible for unemployment or any other kind of welfare.

Michael -- do you have any reason to believe that Americans' misgivings about immigration don't have anything to do with racism? Or do you think that racism was magically eradicated from an entire nation within the space of a generation?

And while you consider the idea that Americans are held together by shared ideals "too sweet to swallow", you think that, on the other hand, they are held together by shared skin colour? Or what is your point here?

Posted by: Felix on January 8, 2004 3:53 PM



Well, I certainly now know what topic to post on whenever I think our "comments" numbers are slipping ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 8, 2004 4:03 PM



It is the opposite of cosmopolitan to speak as if food and dress are what separate cultures. Food and dress are the smallest and least consequential parts of culture. Other peoples are not simply white liberals who dress differently.

Posted by: Thrasymachus on January 8, 2004 4:10 PM



OK, Thras, you've now told us that the unified national culture you're so keen to protect is:

a) nothing to do with being white;
b) almost nothing to do with food and dress;
c) nevertheless threatened by immigration.

I feel like I'm in some kind of an intelligence test here! Come on -- I give up -- what's the answer? Now we know what it isn't, can you tell us what it is?

Posted by: Felix on January 8, 2004 4:15 PM



John -- You're reminding me that it can be a good idea to pause every now and then to avow that I'm not remotely anti-immigrant, god bless 'em, just someone who thinks current immigration policy as written and enforced is screwy.

Heavens, Felix, you do take a prosecutorial tone. Do you need to be reminded that people are innocent till convicted? And that conviction usually requires some evidence? You seem to be proceeding in the reverse direction, but I can't see why the burden of proof shouldn't be in your lap, not mine.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 8, 2004 4:21 PM



As someone who lives about an hour from Mexico (in Tucson), assimilation is very uneven. There are indeed parts of this country where immigrants AREN'T assimilating; as pointed out by someone above, this happens when there is a large enough concentration in an area for it to not be necessary to function.

You can do almost anything in Tucson without knowing English, as long as you're fluent in Spanish. Work, shop, go to school, pay bills, banking, you name it.

As a matter of fact just the other day there was an ad for the local community college on TV with a hispanic Political Science major. All in Spanish (with English subtitles!) Bi-lingual PoliSci!!

Not that I'm averse to Latin culture, I've thought of moving to parts of Mexico before, but *surprise* Mexican immigration law makes it difficult to work there if you are a US citizen (even though my work would be telecommuting to the US).

Now this whole business with Mexico is not the normal kettle of fish we're used to in the US regarding the perceived 'justness' of our wars. President Polk had only one campaign promise: to start and win a war of conquest against Mexico.

So while not being in the camp of the La Raza idiots in favor of creating the nation of "Aztlan", I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to open borders and residency in States that were formerly Northern Mexico. But that would probably take a constitutional amendment to make legal (if you let them in now, you have to let them into all States).

Posted by: David Mercer on January 8, 2004 5:41 PM



"Ken -- your idea of letting in immigrants without giving them welfare benefits -- guess what -- it's exactly what Bush seems to be proposing! This "guest worker" program would not carry any welfare benefits -- as soon as you stop being employed, you have to leave the country. Much like people on H1-B visas right now. Consider me, for instance: I pay social security taxes, but am ineligible for unemployment or any other kind of welfare."

My idea is not nearly as convoluted. I think that requiring newcomers to stick with a particular employer is a really bad idea, and that it's perfectly fine if newcomers have short periods of unemployment, as long as they don't hit us up to bail them out. Let them in, let them sink or swim, succeed or go home, and then if they stick around long enough to become citizens, then they're eligible for the same goodies the rest of us are.

"Nobody's mentioned globalization, but it strikes me that world economic integration is changing the world political environment in ways that will be very difficult to control or even predict. Eventually, it seems it would even reduce immigration: why should Asians come here when our jobs are being exported to them in their home countries? "

More to the point, how do we entice them to come here and compete with us while bearing our cost of living, rather than stay home and compete with us while bearing a much lower cost of living?

"It is the opposite of cosmopolitan to speak as if food and dress are what separate cultures. Food and dress are the smallest and least consequential parts of culture. Other peoples are not simply white liberals who dress differently."

But the ones that would choose to come here will be just that, in many respects. If they have to sink or swim when they get here, then most of the ones that choose to come, and nearly all the ones that manage to stay, will be people that embrace our system and our way of life.

Posted by: Ken on January 8, 2004 5:47 PM



Ken, I think you've been immersed in a lot of the anti-immigration rhetoric for far too long. Your heart is clearly in the right place; you just seem to think that the problem with immigration is there are vast numbers of immigrants who don't have jobs and who are simply mooching off the welfare system. Not true. Nearly all immigrants, legal or illegal, have jobs here.

But I do like your idea of "if they stick around long enough to become citizens". How long did you have in mind, exactly?

Posted by: Felix on January 8, 2004 6:15 PM



Michael, what am I convicting you of?

Posted by: Felix on January 8, 2004 7:28 PM



What are you convicting me of? I can't imagine.

But you do seem determined to portray the 75% of Americans who aren't keen on current immigration arrangements as racist, which strikes me as a little ... I dunno. But why leap to the conclusion? Why isn't it far more likely that such people

* think the country is full enough already,
* or like the country's ethnic composition the way it is,
* or dislike letting anyone get away with what's been ruled illegal,
* or worry about what might happen if a giant demographic tidal wave crashes on us.

Nothing dishonorable about any of that, let alone many other possible reasons for disliking current arrangements. And what about the person who wants to see a higher percentage of African immigrants and a lower one of Latino immigrants?

So why keep throwing the word "racist" around? Or does mid-America stand guilty in your mind until it proves itself innocent? Which of course it never can, since that'd be proving a negative, not an easy thing to do. Why not instead assume that we're all people of good will, a few bums and stinkers aside? Which bums and stinkers, in my experience, you're as likely to run across on the left as on the right, and in the elites as well as in flyover country ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 8, 2004 7:44 PM



Ah, the racism thing, that's what you're talking about. Just interested -- have you taken any of those "hidden bias" or "implicit association" tests? You can find one example at http://www.tolerance.org/hidden_bias/02.html -- but there are loads of them all over the web. I've taken the racism ones, and demonstrated a preference for whites over blacks -- a preference which most whites, and even some blacks, share. Do I think that peoples' anti-immigration views reflect conscious racist biases? No: most people these days do not consider themselves to be racist. But do I think anti-immigration views reflect an unconscious (and, from your evo-bio point of view, even perfectly natural) bias against people visibly different from ourselves? Yes. Given the huge racial divide in this country, and the very recent nature of the civil rights movement, I would be astonished if racism had been eradicated in just a generation or two.

Posted by: Felix on January 8, 2004 8:25 PM



But you do seem determined to portray the 75% of Americans who aren't keen on current immigration arrangements as racist, which strikes me as a little ... I dunno.

Gee whiz, Michael. I don't know how one could get that idea.

Why isn't it far more likely that such people ... like the country's ethnic composition the way it is [....?]

Oh, wait a minute. That's how.

Never mind.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on January 8, 2004 11:41 PM



So Tim, if I say I like breakfast cereal, that means I have a prejudice against bacon and eggs?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 9, 2004 1:51 AM



Mr. Mercer:

If possession by military conquest doesn't count as a legitimate means of changing borders, I would love to see how you would draw the "legitimate" borders of Europe, or any other part of the world...including Mexico, which has quite a turbulent history of military conquest both prior and after the arrival of Europeans. You do realize just how few 'Mexicans' were actually living in the territories that were transferred (by treaty) to the U.S. in 1848, right--maybe 20,000? In millions upon millions of square miles? And what exactly was the super legitimating nature of the Mexican claim to this area?--I'd love to hear it. (No doubt so would the Pueblo Indians.) Plus, let's get real: Mexicans don't crave 'the land' as it existed in 1848--they want the post-1848 'improvements'--schools, factories, airports, hospitals, infrastructure, economy, etc. The whole reclaiming of the Southwest by its so-called rightful (i.e. Mexican) owners is a transparent fairy tale, obviously concocted to justify massive emmigration (illegal or otherwise) out of their own country and its sadly limited prospects.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 9, 2004 11:41 AM



So Tim, if I say I like breakfast cereal, that means I have a prejudice against bacon and eggs?

Bad analogy. There's a major difference between a private choice -- such as what you eat for breakfast -- and a social policy -- such as maintaining a certain racial and/or ethnic composition in your community or nation. The one does not involve coercive force, while the other probably will.

The Chinese were barred from California in the late nineteenth century for many of the same "reasons" we're articulating in this thread -- too many ghettoes, too many poor people, too many non-English speakers, too many non-Whites upsetting the precarious ethnic balance, too much cheap labor undercutting native workers. Funny how the Chinese are California's most prosperous ethnic group today. But don't take my word on all this. Check out those "anti-coolie" laws from the late 19th century -- or better yet, don't. Those statutes might give some of us "ideers."

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on January 9, 2004 4:39 PM



Few points here:

1) Big changes in the ethnic balance of a nation frequently lead to civil war or - at a minimum - fractious identity politics. Just a few examples: Yugoslavia, most of Africa, Southeast Asia, India, and the Middle East. I am not white - I'm Asian. Can I now say this with impunity? It's a fact.

Let me put it another way. One of the big Mexican American groups is called National Council of La Raza. Yes, La Raza. As in "The Race" . You might also want to read about MECHA. This kind of explicit racialism is considered legitimate because Hispanics are a minority. But what happens when whites are a minority in 2050? They are already not a plurality in California. Do you really want to see explicit white identity politics? Do you really want to see "the Race"? Think about it.

2) There are several big difference between previous waves of European immigrants and this wave.

a) First, there was an immigration moratorium from 1924-1965 that resulted in assimilation into one common American identity. It didn't happen by magic.

b) Second, voluntary newcomers did not receive hiring preferences on the basis of race, unlike today's Hispanic and African immigrants. They also were not plugged into a large network of social services. Contrast this to the relatively successful performance of Middle Eastern, European, and Asian immigrants. I can cite income figures if you're dubious.

c) Third, today's unskilled immigrants are substantially less educated than the average American. This is very different from the 1880's, when much of the population was unskilled.

d) Lastly, we don't need massive pools of unskilled labor anymore. This is the information economy. Large pools of unskilled labor retard the move towards automated agriculture, a move which has happened in the Midwest - but not in the Southwest. It is just like the situation in the antebellum South - it did not industrialize because it had large pools of slave labor.

3) Finally, what Thrasymachus is trying to say (I think) is that neighborhoods with large concentrations of Hispanics and blacks tend to have high crime rates and tend to not have very good school districts. That is not true for areas with large concentrations of whites and Asians. Ask yourself whether that is true before you react to it. Alternatively, you can use this city compare tool to analyze the trends in your local area by comparing the demographics and crime rate of any two cities.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist on January 9, 2004 5:18 PM



Tim -- I dunno, you still look to me like you can't resist concluding that X, who says he likes Jello, must therefore be convicted of disliking meatloaf. But have it your way.

Where do you get the idea, by the way, that current immigration policies and practices are somehow a model of unbiased, even-handed impartiality? Given the open border, given the loosey-goosey attitude towards illegals, given that Mexico is right next door, given their poverty and our welfare system -- it doesn't seem to you that the system as it exists is blatantly biased towards Mexico?

Do you think that someone from CapeTown, who'd have to travel a zillion miles and go through customs, has anything like as good a chance of immigrating as a Mexican who can just walk in? If the system isn't biased, then why do Mexicans so wildly outnumber other immigrants? Surely many other people in the world want in to the US just as badly as Mexicans do. Why aren't they showing up in anything like representative numbers?

Read a bit about the 1965 Immigration Act and let me know how perfect a piece of law you think it is. It was no act of inevitable nature; it really was one of those well-intended but nutty '60s pieces of legislation that we're still paying for. (Hint: its sponsors explicitly said that it wouldn't lead to immigrations in the millions.) I don't mind if you tell me you like the law and the way it's being enforced/not-enforced. But please don't pretend that it's an inevitability.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 9, 2004 6:27 PM



Big changes in the ethnic balance of a nation frequently lead to civil war or - at a minimum - fractious identity politics. Just a few examples: Yugoslavia, most of Africa, Southeast Asia, India, and the Middle East. I am not white - I'm Asian. Can I now say this with impunity? It's a fact.

Is it? As far as I know, Yugoslavia never saw big changes in ethnic balance. South Africa and Rhodesia, of course, saw a large influx of white settlers, causing dreadful racial strife, but problems like the Hutu/Tutsi war in Rwanda had nothing to do with immigration. Southeast Asia -- are you talking about anti-Chinese feelings in Malaysia and Indonesia? Are they really a result of big changes in ethnic balance? Has the Chinese population in those countries increased significantly in recent years? India, of course, has always had both Hindus and Muslims, while the Middle East -- well, I think we can all agree that Israel is sui generis.

My point is that it's actually very difficult to think of a situation where big changes in the ethic makeup of a country led to civil war. The USA, weirdly, is the closest I can get.

Posted by: Felix on January 9, 2004 6:32 PM



I don't know how cushy our welfare system is anymore, especially after the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. But the medical care burden is vast. If we wanted to actually toss illegals out in large numbers, the INS would just have to patrol hospital emergency rooms.

FvB: I was mostly tounge in cheek about legitimacy of US control of the SouthWest. I do recognize the right of conquest. Funny how Arabs can't in the Middle East, huh? (oh wait, it's only illegitimate if it's Jews doing the conquering!)

However this entire immigration business turns out, I am heartened by the fact that Hispanic immigrants are much less likely to fall into PC victimology and the hands of the Democratic Party by default than they used to. Legal Mexican immigrants were strongly against the short-lived drivers licenses for illegals bill in CA. From my direct experience, Mexcian immigrants seem to, by and large, have a very good work ethic and commitment to civil society.

The nicer parts of Mexico I've been to are all fairly indistinguishable from similar areas of the US and Canada. Shakedowns by the Federales of tourists and suchnot have actually gotten to be rare from what I hear from friends who travel extensively in Mexico.

The health care and education costs are the main things holding me back from being in the open immigration camp.

Posted by: David Mercer on January 9, 2004 8:46 PM



Felix:

Perhaps it's more accurate to say that high ethnic/religious/racial diversity frequently leads to conflict. It's not the *only* thing that does so, but it aggravates underlying fault lines. When I talk of "big changes in the ethnic balance of a nation", I include things like putting people who effectively had their own (premodern) state under the same roof as others. Examples:

1) India: remember partition? Indians and Muslims were artificially put in the same box by the British Raj. India's muddling through and doing ok now, but there is undeniably a lot of ethnic/religious conflict.

2) Middle East: not just the Israel-Palestine conflict. Middle Eastern borders were also arbitrarily drawn by the British. Look at the Kurdish independence movement from Iraq or the Christians vs. Muslim Lebanese.

3) Soviet Union: Artificial union caused tremendous ethnic conflict, though underappreciated in the West. Mass deportations of entire nationalities took place. more here.

4) Africa - again, artificial borders = ethnic strife. It's not the only cause of Africa's woes, as there's often intrastate strife, but it is a major factor. Also, sub-Saharan Africans murdered many Indians in Kenya and Uganda. Algeria is another example.

5) Sudeten Germans after WW1 - fifth column, as we both know.

6) Southeast Asia: Chinese-Malay ethnic conflict = pogroms, violence. The Chinese did migrate there fairly recently.

This book covers various phases of the history of the Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia from the time up to the 1960's. There were only a small number of Chinese settlements in the first phase and until the first three decades of the twentieth century, this immigration increased to a flood to meet the demand for manpower and during this period , the Chinese began to form a completely separate community on their own. After the Japanese occupation, the immigration of Chinese had virtually stopped. The author had analyzed the relationship among Chinese with the local inhabitants, the European colonial government, the China government, and later with the post-war independent governments. This book, provides sound historical and demographic materials, examines the patterns of the Chinese immigration , the economic activities, the education, the social life and the political involvement in various Southeast Asia countries

I could go on. I guess a more precise way of stating my point was that ethnically/racially/religiously/linguistically diverse countries often experience internal conflict. Not always, but more frequently than homogeneous states. Whether that diversity arises through a migration (i.e. immigration or invasion) or through artificial grouping (as in the post WW2 boundaries), it is still a potential source of conflict.

That doesn't mean we should wall ourselves off to other cultures. It *does* mean that erasing the US-Mexico border is not necessarily a good idea.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist on January 9, 2004 10:26 PM



I would agree that putting multiple nations into a single artificial state is a recipe for disaster, whether it's in the Middle East, Africa, the FSU, Yugoslavia, or anywhere else. But that's simply not the case in the USA: with the exception of a handful of native americans, there aren't any coherent nations within the US which are likely to cause ethnic strife. (The closest thing I can think of would be the Texas independence movement, which is anything but ethnicity-based.)

So no, I still don't see any reason to believe that immigration can cause civil wars.

Posted by: Felix on January 10, 2004 12:35 AM



I dunno, you still look to me like you can't resist concluding that X, who says he likes Jello, must therefore be convicted of disliking meatloaf. But have it your way.

Okay, Michael, I'll try to explain this principle to you one more time. It's pretty simple. Meatloaf and Jello are your choices, Michael, and you have a right to them. But if you wanted to say that the US government should create a national policy to discourage meatloaf and/or promote Jello, that'd be a different ball of earwax. As long as you don't try to impose your preferences through governmental policy, they're strictly your own affair. To put it another way (which may offend some of you narcissists out there): The business of government is not to make the world exactly the way you would like it.

Given the open border, given the loosey-goosey attitude towards illegals, given that Mexico is right next door, given their poverty and our welfare system -- it doesn't seem to you that the system as it exists is blatantly biased towards Mexico? Do you think that someone from CapeTown, who'd have to travel a zillion miles and go through customs, has anything like as good a chance of immigrating as a Mexican who can just walk in?

Are you suggesting that US immigration policies are reponsible for our geographical proximity to Mexico? If so, I have a few migrating coconuts for you. But I'd say our proximity to Mexico sort of happened naturally: Cross the Rio Grande (raw sewage, yecch), and you're Over There ... or Over Here. If our geography shows a bias in favor of Mexicans and against South Africans, what precisely could our government do about that, except pick up stakes and move to Angola?

I'm not sure you can blame US immigration policy for Mexican poverty, either. Indeed, it appears that Mexicans who cross into the US -- legally or not -- do so to escape that poverty. Shouldn't Americans encourage this sort of individual initiative -- especially given that even our legal immigrants have been barred from the welfare system (part of "welfare reform" in the mid-'90s, by the way)?

Of course, there's a major inconsistency in the debate over immigration. For as close as we are to Mexico, we're even closer to Canada: You don't even have to wade across a sewage-clogged river to get there. Thanks to our lax border policy (and Canada's socialist economy, which also stifles individual initiative), Canadians cross into the US every day.

And these people take American jobs. Look, for example, at the prominence of Canadians in the entertainment industry: Michael J. Fox, Bryan Adams, and so forth. Under ordinary circumstances, I'd wonder why no one seems to mind the infiltration of Kanucks into the US, especially given that our long, unprotected border with Canada presents the same threat to homeland security that our border with Mexico does. But I suspect we already know why no one objects to unchecked Canadian immigration ....

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on January 10, 2004 6:52 PM



Let me put it another way. One of the big Mexican American groups is called National Council of La Raza. Yes, La Raza. As in "The Race" . You might also want to read about MECHA.

True, and they're scary groups. So are the Nation of Islam and the Ku Klux Klan, for precisely the same reasons. But precisely how important are they? MECHA and the Nation of Islam have a following on some college campuses (which sort of begs the initial question), and the KKK appears to have a small following in the backwoods of Arkansas, sort of.

Sorry, godlesscapitalist (great name, BTW!), but I don't think we can extrapolate very much from the existence of these racialist hate groups, other than that some racialists are hateful -- a conclusion so banal it hardly warrants mention.

(I'll grant that Cruz Bustamante was a member of MECHA and never repudiated his membership in that organization. In the California governor's race, Bustamante assumed his ties to MECHA would shore up his support among the Hispanic vote. Instead, it gave California's Hispanic vote to Schwarzenegger. Oops.)

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on January 10, 2004 7:09 PM



Good lord I just jumped on and only made it through 75% of the comments before my eyes crossed and I fell off my chair. I am bad at blogging and probably shouldn't even make a comment here as I haven't read the entire comments page - - - but,

Guys, wasn't this country built on one big rape? I think nationalism in this and other countries is dangerous. We have really, no right in certain respects to have any American pride. I'm still getting over slavery (my family once owned 1/4 of Alabama land - and were some of the first white people to be murdered by slaves in an uprising near Montgomery... I'm sure they were real stand-up folks, my relatives). I think as citizens of the west we should be humbled by our past and live with others who want the fruits of what this country has to offer. I don't mind giving away the farm. In fact, I'm not "giving away" shit. I don't want to work out there on the farm and other people from Mexico do, because their standard of living is different. Men from the middle east come to work as taxi drivers or deli owners in NYC and send home money to their families. Fantastic! Good for all of them, isn't it wonderful that the they can do this in the US? It's the only sense of American pride that I get, that people can begin again here. All they are doing is taking care of family responsibilty or are following their own goals and being pro-active people. I admire that and am quite happy to shell out some of my tax dollars to give them that opportunity. It's better than watching my money go torward a war I don't believe in.

My general sense of all these comments which are against immigration is fear. Fear of having too many people in the US. Well, as some of them come in, others will go. There ARE other cool places to live in the world. I'm not afraid to have this country filled up by different immigrants of different countries. Sounds pretty exciting to me. What is everyone so afraid of?

I grew up in California and my best friend growing up was Mexican. Her grandparents made LA their home long ago, and Suzanne's father was the first to be educated in his family - ever. He and his wife are incredibly cultured and now live in Paris where he works. Some people stay, some people go. Mr. Garcia had tremendous opportunity from his parents taking a huge risk and moving here. Why is this bad??? I love them and would have not have the kind of appreciation for their culture (her mom taugh me how to cook) had Suzanne not been in my life. My other best friend was Thai - and although the story varies, her family also exposed me to the Asian scene in Orange County. How would I have the appreciation of these two cultures had I not been randomly thrown into a school which had Mexican and Asian kids whom I befriended and still love to this day?

Dunno - throw your statistics out there but it doesn't change how humans can relate torward one another if you let them try and integrate into communities. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - it's a risk.

One of my favorite movies: "Do The Right Thing" - if I ever have a kid, this will be part of their education.

Posted by: TurboKitty on January 11, 2004 4:36 PM



Mexico is NOT a third world country (michael's first link). Immigrants are NOT terrorists. America's culture of fear and isolationism, even racial superiority, can only be beneficially diluted by an influx of people that bring, hopefully, political, cultural and social diversity to a country with far too many aggressive and scared white men with guns. Also re immigrants/minorities voting democratic, lets not forget that the democratic party was founded to protect the right of southerners to own slaves. Open up. welcome change. learn spanish. think wider. Join the international community!

Posted by: Jemima on February 2, 2004 6:58 AM






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