Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Illegal Immigration: Mark Steyn Gets It 90% Right

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.")
The problem of what to do with illegals present in the country remains the thorniest. I think the Bush guest worker plan is the most reasonable approach I have heard. I have heard no serious counter-proposal from those who so ardently oppose guest workers.

It's time for some statesmanlike policy to be made. Let's see if Congress can pull that off.


Blogger Harold C. Hutchison said...

The remittances are probably one of the most efficient forms of foreign aid that the United States could provide to Mexico. The money in question goes straight to families - and does not get stolen by corrupt bureaucrats or used for other purposes, as past experience with other government-to-government programs, most notably the UN's Oil-for-Food program, has shown.

Cutting that off would be a huge mistake. The present situation is also unacceptable. At least with a guset worker program, we will know who comes in as a guest worker, and we also will know who is employing them. As an aside, a guest-worker program gives employers no excuse for violating the law.

A fence with underground barriers isn't going to benefit anybody but the contractors who build it. Mexico will be annoyed with the US over building it, and the folks who dig tunnels will just make the tunnel deeper than the barriers. Why waste the money for so little gain? 

Posted by Harold C. Hutchison

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 7:25:00 AM  
Blogger The Hedgehog said...

Harold: I hate to admit this, but the fence's symbolic value is very important. We won't get legislation without a fence, either. 

Posted by The Hedgehog

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 7:53:00 AM  
Blogger Powder Tracks and Fever said...

Agreed on Mark Steyn's Brillance, Charm and Insight! He nailed the Issue on Hugh Hewitt's Show  "And the argument is made(at NRO) that he(Pres. Bush) actually feels a genuine special bond with Mexican people, and that he doesn't look on them as foreigners in the same way he loos on, I don't know, Beligians or Slovenes as foreigners. And I think that actually is...there's something to be said for that, that that's the idea that's motivating him on this immigration issue, because it's not just at odds with his base, it's at odds with sanity. The idea of willingly embracing, actively embracing a large, specifically bi-cultural identity, I think, is very dangerous. Bi-cultural societies all over the world are the most unstable."

Our leaders need to inform the world that a High and Thick and Deep Wall on the Border will help Protect Mexico's huge influx of Ex-patriot dolares($)fueling their economy(greater than its Tourism and Oil revenues), its legal and illegal workers in the USA, Americans (of Hispanic & other origins) in the Southwest and indeed the entire Occidental World since we are the Economic and Democratic Engine of the Planet! If some Islamo-Jihadists posing as a Mexican/Hispanic Worker crosses the Border and destroys us by a 1000 slashes the Free World is Doomed! A Wall is good for everyone and it is not Racist it is Smart and this should be the message from our Leaders and all Americans to the World! Why lock the doors to the Car and leave the Windows down! Glad to see that if I can't convince you, Mark Steyn can do 90%of the JOB! I'll take his help anyday. Nice piece and keep it coming, Lowell!


Posted by Francisco Xavier Yubero aka Powder Tracks

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 7:04:00 PM  

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