Illegal Immigration: How The Mexican Government Makes It Worse, And Some Well-Meaning Americans Keep Us from Controlling It
Victor Davis Hanson analyzes the infuriating and perverse incentives created by our porous borders and the cynical policies of the Mexican government toward the flight of its own citizens to the U.S.
I think Hanson is an important commentator on this issue, but he does not address the major sticking point in getting Congress to address the immigration problem: What to do about the illegals already here? Hanson says only this:
"[T]he American poor who wish to organize for better wages; the reformers in Mexico who need pressure on the Mexican government; and the middle class, which pay the taxes and tries to obey the letter of the law, are increasingly against illegal immigration. And they no longer much worry over being slurred, by their illiberal critics, as nativist."This is an oversimplification and actually describes the mood of the electorate incorrectly. Yes, people are angry about unchecked immigration and all its costs (many laid out in detail by Hanson); but the evidence from this poll is that the same electorate does not think all 11 million of the illegals should be deported. Yet a substantial number of the same conservative politicians (and more importantly, lobbying groups) who are most vocal about the illegal immigration problem also vociferously oppose any type of guest worker program.
Hanson complains about the nativist label, but it seems to me that among that opposition bloc is a substantial group that does not like the idea of "all those Mexicans" coming into the USA. In my experience that group consists almost exclusively of my fellow white anglo-saxons. I'm not convinced that there is not a large element of nativist sentiment in that group. The same sentiment has been with us since the days of the Know-Nothings. Perhaps this sounds familiar:
Many in the anti-guest worker bloc bristle when they are compared with the Know-Nothings, but the uncomfortable similarities are there. Notably, the Know-Nothings were out of business after only a couple of election cycles, and in 1860 a new national party called the Republicans elected to the presidency a man named Lincoln, who was a fierce critic of the Know-Nothings:
The nativist movement, championing the so-called rights of Protestant, American-born male voters, grew out of fear about new waves of immigration, and about the future. From 1820 to 1845, the arrival of newcomers to our shores had been steady — 10,000 to 100,000 a year. Then immigration surged: from 1845 through 1854, some 2.9 million immigrants, including 1.2 million Irish and more than a million Germans, poured into seaboard cities like Boston and New York. These strangers were impoverished and disease-ridden, easy fodder for the burgeoning coalition of nativists. Membership in the new third party soared: by 1854, when the Know-Nothings formed the American Party and won offices nationwide in that year's election, they had scored an impressive coup.
Once they took on the hard work of enacting legislation, though, the Know-Nothings too became mired in political reality. Although they had transcended their own xenophobic rhetoric and tried to achieve desirable reforms, their accomplishments were transitory.
I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who
abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white
people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a
nation, we begin by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now
practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the
Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except
negroes, and foreigners, and catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer
emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty-to
Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base
alloy of hypocracy.
In this blogger's opinion, we need to control the borders, normalize those who are here already, and have some faith in American culture and the English language to assimilate the newcomers. It is true that we run a great risk if we continue to allow unchecked illlegal immigration, because that seriously endangers assmilation. That is where the anger should be directed, and that is the most important key to solving the problem. But if enough Republicans continue to insist that their agreement to a program for controlling the borders is conditioned on the total absence of a guest worker program, then we are allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good and we will not see a solution anytime soon.