by Victor Davis Hanson
In the last 48 hours almost everything that can be said about illegal immigration has been said. But I am more interested in a few truths that are never quite spoken.
1) Why the Sense of Exemption? Why and how exactly do the supporters of illegal immigration justify massive disobedience of federal law? I suspect the answer is predicated in large part on the source of illegal immigration — that if it were a question of a half-million entering illegal Rwandans or Balkan peoples each year, the issue would have remained strictly a matter of legality.
I posed a hypothetical once to a Mexican consular official in a public debate, framing the request by inquiring whether he thought there would be anything wrong, say, with freighters coming ashore on the California coast, and unloading 1-2,000 Chinese nationals on average each day — few of whom would be legal, English-speaking, or with high-school diplomas.
He seemed shocked, outraged even — more so, when I added that Chinese-language facilities would be soon mandated within public services, and a sort of Chinese cultural appreciation movement would be embedded within the schools to help encourage and invigorate illegal Chinese immigrants in their own personal odysseys within California.
My own puzzlement lasted mere seconds, since the consul quickly cited Mexico’s historical affinity with, and indeed (emotional, linguistic, legal?) claims upon, the southwestern United States. Presto — here arose the unspoken assumption of the advocates of open borders (or at least of those who feel that illegal aliens should be exempt from federal immigration statutes): historical grievances have made enforcement of the law rather debatable, given that sovereignty, national borders, and the notion of a definable America altogether are “problematic.”
2) The Great Paradox. Also not mentioned is another contradiction that goes to the very heart of illegal immigration, multiculturalism, and assimilation: millions risk their lives to opt for a different paradigm (whether that is primarily economic, cultural, political, or social, as the particular case may be) that entails a sort of rejection of Mexico and acceptance of its antithesis in America.
In other words, millions (as in the case of immigration everywhere) are willing to cast aside cultural, linguistic, ethnic, familial, and tribal ties for something quite different across the border. That said, why then would not both immigrant and the host facilitate and amplify that choice by insisting on English, assimilation, and immersion within the mutually preferred host culture?
Americans are increasingly confused by the tone of the debate, in which self-appointed spokesmen for illegal aliens and indeed, on occasion, illegal aliens themselves seem so critical of policies embraced by 70% of the American populace of all classes and races that they so eagerly wish to join. In cases of the May Day parades, why would alien demonstrators appear so critical of the country (or at least its law) that they so desperately wish to stay in, and so fond and romantic about the country that they so desperately wish to leave? It all makes little or no sense, other than the emotional anger at the paradox of wanting to be in a lawful America without being lawful. Even if the Mexican flag is a symbol of ethnic solidarity, in the manner of the Italian flag for a few East Coast communities, it nevertheless conveys the message of romance for a nation that by all accounts has treated its own quite poorly. And when we get to the purported racialist charges against supporters of closed borders, it all becomes Orwellian, given that Mexico’s ruling elite is as about as racist a government as one can imagine — a Spanish heritage aristocracy glad to see its own indigenous peoples fleeing northward while charging their receptive host with racism.
3) The Distortions of Affirmative Action. I do not understand how mere transit across the border enables the illegal alien to plug into the industry of affirmative action. And, yes, that happens sometimes in the first, more often in the second generation. Someone born, raised, and living in Mexico can cross illegally into the U.S., have a child, and, ipso facto, that child is entitled to a sort of historical reparation or, perhaps, is seen as a beneficiary of “diversity” programs.
All this is predicated on the unspoken assumption that by virtue of Mexican ancestry the current alien has encountered more discrimination or adversity in a few years of the new millennium than say the Arab- or Punjabi- or Armenian-American immigrant of long duration. This is as absurd as it is an ignored consideration.
4) A Cultural Elite. We know roughly the politics of illegal immigration: the open borders libertarian and corporate right wanted access to cheap workers, with the ensuing social costs borne by the state. In contrast, liberal Democratic interests favor the notion that millions of new constituents will need some public assistance, that hundreds of thousands of new federal and state employees will be needed to administer to them, and that both groups will record their thanks at the polls — especially important in existing 50/50 state and federal congressional districts of the American southwest.
But left unsaid is that such overt politicking is matched in the cultural sphere. Take away a half-million person influx of illegal aliens of the Hispanic underclass, or take away a permanent group of largely Spanish-speaking, largely poor, and largely undereducated Mexican nationals, and within 30 years the vast majority of Mexican-Americans will assimilate in the pattern of other contemporary minority groups — and, in terms of education and compensation, achieve rough parity. Unfortunately, that would also mean that the argument for a Chicano-Latino Studies program (rather than, say, an Irish Studies program), for the self-identified Chicano journalist, or for any activist who sees his Hispanic heritage as essential rather than as incidental to his persona simply disappears. (We do not have a National Council of Das Volk; nor a self-identified “wise Greek” on the Supreme Court.)
In short, without the arrival of the illegal alien in massive numbers without education, capital, legality and English, the Hispanic activists and cultural elite have no reason to be, since soon there would be no disparity that can be blamed on oppression or racism — and thus no need for self-appointed collective representation. La Raza would have no raza when a Hilda Lopez marries Larry Smith and their daughter Linda Lopez Smith marries Billy Otomo and so on.
5) Profiling. Of course, one can profile with some reasonable certainty who is illegal and who not. Do we believe that if 1 million French-speaking Canadians were invading New England, we would then be likely to suspect an African-American English-speaking citizen pulled over for speeding as an illegal alien? Ponder the current Border Patrol: it apparently profiles near the border any Mexican nationals who are spotted in the general vicinity (and who speak no English?), but yet at some magical spot — 10, 20, or 30 miles from the border — it mysteriously loses that ability or legal sanction?
If the Border Patrol can question those on the American side of the fence on reasonable grounds, then why cannot the policeman do so too a few miles distant? If not, the Mexican national, by reason of his stepping one foot on American soil, could say, “Wait, I am just walking by the fence, breaking no law, and so how dare you inquire whether I am legal?”
In fact, the Border Patrol makes millions of such inquiries yearly and in the vast majority of cases has developed logical criteria that are applicable as well a few miles inland. In passing, I note in a recent seven day period (I counted), I produced an ID six times, once to gain admittance to a radio station, four times to validate a credit card usage, and once to check into a hotel. Were they profiling me as a credit risk, possible criminal, undesirable?
6. There is now no law. Reader, let us walk through the new immigration labyrinth: (a) the federal government has chosen not to enforce, or cannot enforce, immigration law, evident by the continual residence of over 12 million illegal aliens, and an annual influx of some 500,000 to 750,000 more; (b) neither the federal government nor states (nor the courts) can demand enforcement of an existing federal law; (c) those states that pass laws emulating federal immigration statutes will have their legislation either voided by the court or neutered by the federal government; (d) but those cities who pass sanctuary laws in direct violation of federal illegal immigration statutes will have their legislation either validated or ignored by both the court and the federal and state governments.
Conclusion? The federal government and federal courts prefer to ignore laws that violate their own, but void those that copy them.
We are in revolutionary times when the law is a malleable thing, its validity predicated only on its perceived social utility at any given moment.
This is how nations are lost.
©2010 Victor Davis Hanson