A New Nowhere Debate?

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

Bad Time

Now would be a particularly bad time for the president to push for amnesty under the rubric of comprehensive immigration reform — an approach that failed Bush, despite economic good times and supposedly a supportive base.

With unemployment near 10 percent, with unprecedented violence pouring over the border, and with a divisive healthcare debate not yet healed, why go down that road? Most of the arguments of the last century are now dated: Already we are seeing more Californians mowing their own lawns, and students as never before willing to take most jobs that come up. (Unemployment is near 20 percent in the interior of California and most are not picky about the few jobs out there.)

The public is starting to correlate the massive amount of remittances sent back to Latin American (perhaps well over $40 billion) with commensurate rising public subsidies to illegal aliens, funded by the now-strapped taxpayer.

And Mexico has become far more violent than Iraq, suggesting to most that the border should be less, not more, porous. Simply enforcing the law — finish the fence, keep fining employers, increased patrols on the border, push for verifiable IDs — will stop the flow. Those newly arrived, or in trouble with the criminal justice system, will at some point come to the attention of authorities, if the latter wish it. And long-term, illegal residents can apply for legal residency in ways the Congress at its leisure can fight over — once the border is secure and the powers of assimilation, integration, and intermarriage are allowed to work at last on a static, and soon to be shrinking, population.

An amnesty bill at this time would be about the most divisive move imaginable.

Disobeying Federal Laws Always Trumps Obeying State Ones?

Something is not quite right with this statement:

“If every state had its own laws, we wouldn’t be one country; we’d be 50 different countries,” said by Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

In theory, Saenz is absolutely right; but his own credibility is questionable on this issue, since, if the federal government does not enforce its own laws protecting states’ international borders, then we most certainly will have 50 different countries.

In other words, what is surreal about the current Arizona illegal-immigration debate is that opponents of the new bill argue that we must respect the nation’s laws and its constitutional framework — even though they have for years been either advocating for or allowing the neglect of enforcement of federal statutes. Those who for years have been unconcerned with the enforcement of federal law can hardly now be taken as credible defenders of its sanctity.

In truth, the message of protestors is really something like the following — the disregard of federal statutes should always trump the enforcement of state laws.

Deconstructing the Outrage

I have been trying to collate all the furor over the Arizona law, much of it written by those who do not live in locales that have been transformed by illegal immigration. These writers are more likely to show solidarity from a distance than to visit or live in the areas that have been so radically changed by the phenomenon.

On the unfortunate matter of “presenting papers”: I have done that numerous times this year — boarding airplanes, purchasing things on a credit card, checking into a hotel, showing a doorman an I.D. when locked out, going to the DMV, and, in one case, pulling off a rural road to use my cell phone in a way that alarmed a chance highway patrolman. An I.D. check to allay “reasonable suspicion” or “probable cause” is very American.

On the matter of racial profiling: No one wishes to harass citizens by race or gender, but, again unfortunately, we already profile constantly. When I had top classics students, I quite bluntly explained to graduating seniors that those who were Mexican-American and African-American had very good chances of entering Ivy League or other top graduate schools from Fresno, those who were women and Asians so-so chances, and those who were white males with CSUF B.A.s very little chance, despite straight A’s and top GRE scores. The students themselves knew all that better than I — and, except the latter category, had packaged and self-profiled themselves for years in applying for grants, admissions, fellowships, and awards. I can remember being told by a dean in 1989 exactly the gender and racial profile of the person I was to hire before the search had even started, and not even to “waste my time” by interviewing a white male candidate. Again, the modern university works on the principle that faculty, staff, and students are constantly identified by racial and gender status. These were not minor matters, but questions that affected hundreds of lives for many decades to come. (As a postscript I can also remember calling frantically to an Ivy League chair to explain that our top student that he had accepted had just confessed to me that in fact he was an illegal alien, and remember him “being delighted” at the news, as if it were an added bonus.)

On the matter of equality, fairness, and compassion, it is even more problematic. Literally thousands of highly skilled would-be legal immigrants from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe wait patiently while others cut in front and illegally obtain what others legally wait for — residence in the U.S. Meanwhile, millions of Mexican-American, African-American, and poor white citizens have seen their wages fall because of competition from illegal aliens who will work for far less compensation. It is a bit strange that those of the upper classes are outraged over Arizona without empathy for entry-level U.S. workers or lower-middle-class taxpayers who end up paying the most for illegal immigration. But then, those who express the most moral outrage often are the least sensitive to the moral questions involved (see next).

On matters of Mexico’s outrage: The Mexican government has a deliberate policy of exporting human capital on a win/win/win/win logic: Dissidents leave central Mexico in a safety-valve fashion; Mexico saves on social services; remittances come back as the second largest source of foreign exchange; and a growing expatriate, lobbying community becomes nostalgic and fonder of Mexico the longer it is absent from it. To hide all this, the Mexican government usually plays the racial prejudice card, although most arrivals from Oaxaca will tell you that racism is more pernicious in Mexican society than north of the border. This is a government, after all, that cannot provide the security, legal framework, or social services for indigenous peoples in its central interior but has no such problems when it is a question of attracting affluent North Americans to live in second homes along its picturesque coasts.

There is plenty of cynicism involved — not on the part of the exasperated voters of Arizona, but rather from domestic political, religious, ideological, and ethnic interests that in patronizing fashion seek new dependent constituents; from Mexico that in amoral fashion censures others for the sins it commits; and from a strange nexus between corporate employers and ethnic lobbyists who see their own particular profit and influence enhanced through the ordeal of millions of poor aliens, and the subsidies of the strapped and now to be demonized taxpayer.

The Salad Bowl at Work

For those wondering about the effects of the four-decade experiment with divisive multiculturalism in our schools, consider this anecdote picked up by an NBC affiliate concerning Morgan Hill, Calif.

A few youths were sent home from the local high school for subervisely wearing American-flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo. “I think they should apologize,’cause it is a Mexican Heritage Day,” Annicia Nunez, a Live Oak High student, said. “We don’t deserve to be get disrespected like that. We wouldn’t do that on Fourth of July.”

Note the use of “we,” suggesting an ethnic allegiance that trumps the national one; note the equation of a Mexican Heritage Day with the Fourth of July; note the strange idea that the sight of the American flag leads to one being “disrespected”; and, of course, note the action by the school’s administration — banishing the boys for apparently politically incorrect, subversive behavior.

©2010 Victor Davis Hanson

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