Mark Steyn is my favorite political/cultural columnist-- funny, incisive, and right almost all the time. His Washington Times piece yesterday sounded the right alarms on illegal immigration:
First, on the true nature of the problem:
This is not an "illegal immigration" issue. That's when one of the Slovaks or Botswanans gets tired of waiting in line for 12 years and comes in anyway, and lives and works here and doesn't pay any taxes, so the money he earns gets sluiced around the neighborhood supermarket and gas station and topless bar and the rest of the local economy, instead of being given to Trent and Arlen and Co. to toss into the great sucking maw of the federal budget.He's right. What we're all really talking about is massive waves of workers (and others, I'm afraid) coming across the southern border, in most cases not to make a new life in America, but to send money back home:
But a "worker class" drawn overwhelmingly from a neighboring jurisdiction with another language and ancient claims on your territory and whose people now send so much money back home in the form of "remittances" that it's Mexico's largest source of foreign income (bigger than oil or tourism) is not "immigration" at all, but a vast experiment in societal transformation. Indeed, given the international track record of bilingual societies and neighboring jurisdictions with territorial claims, it's not much of an experiment so much as a safe bet on political instability.I am not sure I buy this 100%, but it's a worry-- a big worry. The biggest problem that illegal immigration poses is assimilation. American culture is powerful and has historically absorbed large waves of immigrants-- Irish, German, Italian, Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, Greek, and so forth.
But never from right across the border.
Never in a time when communications and other technologies allowed people to move away from home, but not really be too far from home. Telephones, Spanish-language television and radio, the Internet-- all those make leaving Latin America for the USA in 2006 very different from leaving Italy for the USA in 1890.
And never in such numbers:
By some counts, up to 5 percent of the U.S. population is now "undocumented." Why? Partly because American business is so overregulated there is a compelling economic logic to employing illegals. In essence, a chunk of the American economy has seceded from the Union. But, even if you succeeded in reannexing it, a large-scale "guest worker" class entirely drawn from one particular demographic has been a recipe for disaster everywhere it's been tried.I'm not sure that overregulation of business is the problem. But demographics are. Maybe-- just maybe-- the USA can absorb and assimilate the large number of illegals already here. As a practical matter, I think we have to try. But to allow the current flow to continue is an unacceptable gamble with our future; this cannot continue. A reconquista (re-conquering) of the American Southwest by the descendants of the Mexicans who lost those territories in 1848 is something spoken of seriously only by La Raza-type extremists and North American nativists, but I do think a slow-motion unraveling of American culture could take place in 20-30 years, if not sooner.
The uncontrolled in-flow of illegal Spanish-speaking immigrants needs to stop. Now. This is what has so many American (primarily conservatives) riled up right now. These are the essential elements:
- Control the border-- and do it seriously. This includes building the longest fence possible. I like the 700-mile one in the House bill. Build it with barriers going 10 feet beneath the ground to discourage tunneling. This will take lots of money but it needs to be done.
- Do something intelligent, practical, forceful, and humane about those illegals who are already here. Deport the felons and gang members and those who just got here. Figure out a way for others to earn their way to residency and citizenship, at the back of the line, behind those who played by the rules. (I don't think it's fair to call that amnesty, but if that's what people insist on calling it, fine-- we do the same thing for tax cheats all the time in this country. Amnesty will not destroy the fabric of our society.)
- Make those employers who facilitate illegals getting jobs here obey the law.
- Hire the staff of the Center for Immigration Studies to pick lettuce in California's Central Valley. (Just kidding on that one, but it is interesting to hear the screams of outrage that rise whenever anyone suggests there are "jobs that Americans won't do," or "are not doing.")
It's time for some statesmanlike policy to be made. Let's see if Congress can pull that off.