Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Class, Race, And Illegal Immigration

Photo via Hoover.org

Photo via Hoover.org

by Victor Davis Hanson // Peregrine

The driving forces behind three decades of de facto non-enforcement of federal immigration law were largely the interests of elites across the political spectrum.

Employers in agriculture, construction, the hospitality industry, landscaping, and food processing wanted access to cheap, industrious foreign national laborers. So do the well-off households of the American Southwest, whose current aristocratic reliance on immigrant nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, and handymen rivals something out of Downton Abbey. Such facts were why Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers were known once to have patrolled the border to keep out illegal aliens and thus not depress wages of American workers and thereby ruin their own efforts at unionization. Large employers like open borders; entry-level and poor American workers obviously do not.

Identity politics elites are the other advocates of open borders. Since the 1970s they have became self-appointed spokespeople for group rather than individual grievances. Without a large and constant pool of 11 to 20 million unassimilated foreign nationals, the Mexican-American and generic Latino communities would follow closely the Italian-American assimilated experience of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Indeed many do.

But unlike the case with recent past immigrants, millions of illegal alien residents increasingly warp federal and state statistics, from health to education, that guide policy. The result can be often surreal: a third-generation American, such as a typical middle-class suburbanite named Jason Lopez, now has grounds for preferential treatment in hiring and college admissions, as if his mere patronymic resonates solidarity with the plight of poorer illegal aliens and thereby earns him all sorts of offsets. Apparently because huge yearly influxes of terribly poor people cross the border each year illegally from Latin America and Mexico, lots of American citizens of Hispanic heritage, who have never been to Mexico and cannot speak Spanish, suddenly are felt to be deserving of special compensation to help rectify statistical imbalances among those with Latino heritages.

There are other mythologies about illegal immigration. Many who favor open borders are either helped economically by the influxes or avoid in the concrete the ramifications of their own ideology. A community like Silicon Valley is emblematic of the hypocrisy: the louder wealthy elites call for border relaxation and amnesties, the more likely they are to yank their children out of public schools that border the Redwood City or San Jose areas, which are struggling with second-language students, gangs, and the usual problems of adjustment arising from hundreds of thousands migrating from an impoverished central Mexico to barrios bordering an affluent Menlo Park or Palo Alto. California’s expenditures on infrastructure as a percentage of its yearly budget have dived, as medical, law enforcement, legal, educational, and social welfare expenses have soared—a phenomenon that falls largely on the middle classes through higher state taxes and reduced services.

Ethnicity is terribly misunderstood in the immigration debate. Racism, xenophobia, and nativism are the usual slurs leveled as supporters of immigration enforcement. In fact, they and the public in general favor generous legal immigration, based on ethnically-blind meritocratic criteria, rather than family ties, political pressure, and mere proximity to the border.

In contrast, ethnic chauvinism drives too much of Latino support for amnesties: if there were small numbers of Hispanic illegal aliens, but large numbers of Chinese or Nigerian aliens residing in the U.S. illegally, the issue would largely disappear from the concerns of most Latinos, or, rather, they would likely favor strict immigration enforcement. Indeed, one reason why there has not been so-called comprehensive immigration reform is that Latino elites quietly, but vehemently, oppose any serious effort at making legal immigration meritocratic, and based on considerations other than ethnic ancestry—a fact the Democratic Party, which benefits from open borders and periodic amnesties, likewise prefers to keep silent about.

Illegal immigration, embraced by liberals and many affluent conservatives, is illiberal to the core. Take away the ethnic, economical, and political self-interests of our elites, and illegal immigration is mostly about ethnic chauvinism (La Raza is a fossilized racial rubric first given currency by Francisco Franco in fascist Spain), the exploitation of cheap labor, higher taxation on the middle class to pay for the social costs of labor for the well off, and a callous indifference shown the unemployed and low-wage American worker. The solution is to close the border, enforce existing laws, remove immigration policy from the political arena, and adopt a generous, legal immigration protocol that in ethnically blind fashion evaluates all potential immigrants on meritocratic criteria such as education and work skills.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

5 Thoughts on “Class, Race, And Illegal Immigration

  1. Jonathan Soss on February 20, 2015 at 7:16 am said:

    Once again a well thought out and accurate post. Well done Mr. Hanson. As a native to SoCal, current resident of San Diego and related (by marriage and blood) to many people in the Central and Imperial Valleys of CA, I can attest firsthand to the accuracy and legitimacy of your writings on this subject and many others – particularly our state’s foolish current water policies.

    What can be done, Mr. Hanson? You very eloquently lay out the problems in our state/country/world, yet as a resident of the ‘middle class’ (I think), I have no idea what I can do to correct the course. It is exasperating. Taking up arms is not a solution – at least not now. Burying my head in the sand and pretending it all away does not work for me. Relocating anywhere else is a very unattractive option. So what else is there? The vote? Yes, the vote… a very powerful tool for a citizen, yet one not need look far to see the corruption in that process.

    Sigh. My foremost concern is the safety and welfare of myself and my family. This is where I put my efforts, though in the back of my mind I feel somehow like things are closing in on all of us. A strong leader standing up for what we believe in and what once made us very powerful would be a good start to reverse this course. But who?

    • S. Plankenberg on February 23, 2015 at 10:29 am said:

      While not a resident of California ( I live in southwest Missouri ), thank God, I have watched with sadness what has happened in your state over the last 30 years. But let’s face it, California is lost to the socialists
      Why can’t you relocate? Civilization and quality of life does exist outside the boundaries of California. Would Nevada, Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming be so bad? The state governments in places like these are usually more aligned with constitutional rights than where you presently live.
      Moving your family and the state income taxes you pay would do more to stick it to the people who have ruined your state than anything else you can do. By remaining there, and dutifully funding the very people who are screwing things up, are you not paying for the very rope that they are slowly stretching your neck with? When enough of the actual taxpayers leave the state and take their money with them, maybe that will be the wakeup call. Is not staying there and being disgusted with the politics like living next to an airport and complaining about the noise?

    • S. Plankenberg on February 23, 2015 at 10:38 am said:

      Not bustin’ your chops, Johnathan. Just making an observation. Life is about choices and priorities after all. Maybe you should move here to the southwest Missouri Ozarks . Sounds like you might be a good neighbor to have around.

  2. Sick of Politics on February 20, 2015 at 2:21 pm said:

    Can you run for congress???

  3. Daniel Roll on February 22, 2015 at 2:24 pm said:

    Rarely mentioned in the open borders discussion are the interests of the drug cartels. Serious enforcement along America’s southern border would be a major inconvenience to this multi-billion dollar enterprise. Most people do not realize the drug cartels support politicians who support policies friendly to the drug business with campaign contributions. I do not think left or right ideology plays into the cartel’s thought process much, if a candidate is for lax border enforcement, money will be forthcoming..

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