PAUL GIGOT, recently appointed editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, has published an oped piece in favor of amnesty for illegal aliens that perfectly demonstrates the utter lack of worthwhile arguments for this position. He explicitly links illegal alien amnesty to the mass immigration of 1 million or more foreigners per year to the United States, and is in favor of both. But this support is politically ignorant and morally suspect. There are no good arguments for the mass immigration of 1 million foreigners per year to the United States. Arguments in favor of mass immigration turn out to be 1) irrelevant, 2) wrong or 3) arguments for strictly controlled immigration of about 50,000 foreigners per year. On the other hand, mass immigration decisively impacts a score of other critical issues: jobs, wages, traffic, sprawl, the environment, power shortages, school overcrowding, affirmative action, health care inflation, heath care coverage, among others. These are precisely the issues Republicans are getting clobbered on, and curtailing immigration is the key way to turn these around in a manner that accords with conservative principles. Gigot shows no awareness of any of this. Indeed, nowhere does he ever actually get around to making an actual argument for mass immigration.
Instead, he impugns his conservative opponents, snidely uses political correctness as a rhetorical stick to beat traditionalists, and slanders them without naming names. In its warped way, his piece is really quite a tour de force. Gigot is desperate. He must, as a globalist, defend globalism’s marquee issue: mass immigration. But he must do so without any good arguments, for there are none. So let’s have a look:
The right case for "amnesty."
BY PAUL A. GIGOT
Friday, August 17, 2001 12:01 a.m. EDT
One charm of conservatives is that they're suspicious of anything that seems too popular. And they're usually correct. But a notable exception is the backlash on the right against President Bush's trial balloon to allow a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants from Mexico. Business, labor, Catholic bishops and even the media all like the idea. Most American Hispanics are delighted, as is President Vicente Fox, the most proAmerican leader in Mexico's history.
The "proAmerican" Fox has:
Demanded that the world’s only superpower treat his impoverished, undemocratic and backward nation as "a peer." Demanded that we accept unsafe Mexican trucks on our roads. Demanded that we give medical and college benefits to illegal aliens that we don’t even give to our own citizens. Demanded, by way of his exCastroite foreign minister Jorge Castaneda, that the United Nations intervene to prevent us from defending our border against illegals. Demanded that the US not enforce its own laws against illegal aliens. Expressed support for Mexican nationalists who want to reconquer the Southwest. Failed to support the US in international forums like the UN. Sided with OPEC against us.
Gigot confuses Fox’s domestic policies, which are admirable and may eventually turn Mexico from a cronycapitalist oneparty state into a freemarket democracy, from his foreign policies, which are not.
So naturally many conservatives are glum, suspecting one more liberal plot.
"They fear that it will put millions of illegal Hispanic immigrants on the path to U.S. citizenship, with far more of them voting Democratic than Republican," writes conservativechronicler Ralph Hallow in the Washington Times.
And rightly they fear. That Hispanics vote Democrat is what my old sociology teacher used to call a mere empirical fact. Some facts are so simple that clever people can’t accept them. Bush got 35% of the Hispanic vote (compared with 54% of the white vote.) Despite his visible pandering, this is less than the 37% Reagan got in 1984 without pandering. So the situation is bad and trying too hard just makes it worse.
These rightists are wrong, however, and the reason is the between static and dynamic politics. Take a statistical snapshot of politics today and most Hispanics are Democrats.
Waving a clever and entrepreneurialsounding word like "dynamic" while conceding a fact doesn’t make it go away, even if a surprising number of immigrationists won’t even admit this. Gigot’s concept of "dynamic" politics is empty: it just means waiting long enough for the problem to go away, i.e. after it’s done its damage.
But look down the road and the only way Republicans can be a majority party is if they do better among Hispanics.
This is simply false. Hispanics are only 7% of the electorate today, and any increase through future immigration is entirely a product of the choice to allow that immigration. Gigot uses the antiRepublican results of mass immigration as an argument for why Republicans should enact mass immigration. Why not repeal it and avoid the results? And since Hispanics suffer from the same immigrationdriven problems as the rest of us, some of them will support curtailing it.
A Bush amnesty is precisely the kind of large political event that could shake up those allegiances.
Let’s examine the empirical evidence on this: how many votes did we get from the last amnesty in 1986? And why should they vote for us in exchange for something we’ve already given them? Gratitude is famously irrelevant in politics.
Former GOP Gov. Pete Wilson made a similar static blunder with California's Proposition 187 in 1994. With many more white than Hispanic voters, he figured he'd gain more by arousing antiimmigrant sentiment. He won that year, but at the longterm cost of turning millions of Hispanics into Democrats and the GOP into a minority party.
Hispanic Californians were Democrats before Pete Wilson; he didn’t turn anybody into anything. And as Gigot notes, the GOP did well when it stuck to its immigrationreduction message. It lost later when it went soft and PC about it. Gigot is pretending immigrants hate immigration reduction. But they’re already here, so they suffer the same negative consequences of immigration as the rest of us. It’s only potential immigrants who should logically hate immigration reduction, and they’re not in the country and therefore can’t vote in our elections.
Now the same people who egged on Mr. Wilson are saying every new immigrant will be a Democrat. Well, they certainly will be if that GOP attitude persists. By this logic the GOP can never attract enough Hispanics, so why even try? Better to use immigration as a wedge to drive more white voters into the GOP. Viva – sorry, long live – the white male majority!
For Gigot to use this PC rhetoric is shameful. And what is he, a lesbian Eskimo? Or does he think he deserves congratulations for his sensitivity in hating himself as a white man? And is he politically dumb enough to think that the natural audience for this rhetoric will ever be friends with him or the issues he professes to care about as a conservative?
For one thing, the advice often comes from British transplants,
If you can’t refute your opponents, you can always accuse them of being foreigners! Nothing could better illustrate his absence of real arguments. The groundswell for reducing immigration comes from ordinary Americans, and political advice against the mass amnesty comes from heartland Republican Congressmen and radio talk show hosts. A nationwide Zogby poll in February showed that 72% of Americans want immigration reduced. In 1996, Clinton adviser Dick Morris stated that there were only two issues which he was worried Dole could use to defeat Clinton: immigration and school choice.
As Grover Norquist quips, "they haven't assimilated yet" to America's proimmigrant culture.
Polls consistently show the vast majority of Americans support immigration reduction. They are not in favor of 1 million foreigners, legally and illegally, moving to America every year. Note the sly PC bashing of traditionalism. Gigot is naively willing to truckle with Political Correctness when it suits his shortterm agenda, but he gives no thought to the longterm cost. Given that big business supports affirmative action, (including for immigrants) how long before people like him sell out on this issue, too? Can conservatives trust them on anything that doesn’t have a dollar sign attached?
And Mr. Bush already took 60% of the white male vote in 2000; how much larger a share can he really expect?
Much larger, and especially in the Midwestern states Bush lost, but must win in 2004, places like Michigan and Pennsylvania where Bush ran less strongly among white voters than elsewhere. With the Democratic Party pandering to racial factions and separatism with governmentsponsored discrimination, why wouldn’t more white voters look elsewhere? Bush needs more white male – and female – votes to win.
Meanwhile, Hispanics are gaining in overall voter share, from 5% in 1996 to 7% last year and an expected 9% in 2004. Matthew Dowd, Mr. Bush's pollster, says that this trend is already turning safe GOP states into tossups, notably Nevada and Florida.
Sounds like a reason to curtail immigration to me. Aren’t safe GOP states good for the country?
And Hispanic voter growth will continue whether or not there is more immigration. The Hispanics already here and on the path to citizenship guarantee it. The U.S. Census Bureau calculates that at current immigration trends Hispanics would constitute 24% of the U.S. population by 2050. But even with no new net immigration, which no one is talking about, Hispanics would still be about 20% by 2050. Republicans couldn't write off Hispanics at either level.
If this is true, then it argues for not making the problem even worse through more immigration. And it also presumes that we have to give citizenship to everybody and that we won’t deport any of the illegals; neither are necessarily true.
The other mistake is assuming that Hispanics will always be mainly Democrats, like blacks and Jews. But as Michael Barone argues, they are culturally closer to Italians, who started their American lives as Democrats but have become much more Republican as they rise in income and assimilate.
It took nearly 90 years from the great wave of Italian immigration around 1900 to the election of Rudy Giuliani. This trend, even if true, has zero relevance in our lifetimes. And you’re forgetting that the mechanisms of assimilation have broken down since then. And Italians were never talking about "reconquering" Arizona. Furthermore, they are racially European and don’t have to overcome racial resentment to assimilate.
Hispanics are more culturally conservative than the rest of the Democratic base.
This is a gigantic myth that gets endlessly repeated without empirical support. Hispanics are culturally Catholic, but in the real world this implies conservatism on a few social issues and economic opinions to the left of the center of the electorate. And Hispanics aren’t even that culturally conservative: for example, they have a higher abortion rate and druguse rate than white Americans. And since they vote for senators, representatives and presidents who support every liberal outrage, their effect is to drag America culturally leftwards.
Unlike blacks, adds Mr. Dowd, Hispanics change their perception of the GOP as they move up the income scale. Liberalism is not part of their ethnic identity. A February 2000 Zogby poll showed that Democratic affiliation plunges among Hispanics who make more than $50,000 a year.
Principally because these tend to be Cubans, the highestearning Hispanic group. Most CubanAmericans are white and antiCommunist. But there are ten times as many Mexicans in America.
Then there is the potential political boost from Mr. Bush's leadership. Pete Wilson defined Republicans down for Hispanics. Now Mr. Bush has a chance to redefine his party's image back up. Republican Ed Goeas, who has polled the amnesty question for unions, says that "whoever leads on this issue will get tremendous credit" from Hispanics, who favor a qualified amnesty by more than 80%. Black and white support is in the mid50% range.
These numbers are suspect from polls carefully rigged with phrases like "undocumented workers" for "illegal aliens." Polled honestly, the public is against amnesty and everyone knows it.
Mr. Bush will also be able to frame whatever immigration deal he eventually cuts with Mr. Fox. Thus he will probably shy away from a politically freighted total "amnesty," in favor of a guestworker program.
Here Gigot admits that a guestworker program is essentially a fraud: amnesty in disguise. But if Bush thinks he can finesse this issue by using different language, he has a rude awakening coming.
Whatever it's called, it's bound to include a process by which illegals who've lived here at least five years can get green cards and eventually become citizens.
Bush has already pledged no straight amnesty, so no, it isn’t. The question is whether he’ll try to finesse things with a guestworker program. A genuine guestworker program, like the Germans have, is specifically designed to keep the foreign citizens foreign citizens. Citizenship is not to be given away lightly.
The best the only conservative argument against this is that it rewards people who've broken the law.
To dispute the validity of your opponents’ arguments is fair game; to deny that they exist, given the vast literature on the problems caused by immigration, is just bald ignorance of politics on Gigot’s part. It is astonishing that someone in Gigot’s position is so politically ignorant. So let’s repeat our list of conservative arguments against mass immigration:
Immigrants take American jobs. Immigrants drive down American wages. Immigrationdriven population growth worsens sprawl. Immigrationdriven population growth hurts the environment. Immigrationdriven population growth causes power shortages. Immigrationdriven population growth causes school overcrowding. Most immigrants receive affirmative action. Immigrants add to health care inflation because they tend to be uncovered. Immigrants have a higher crime rate than Americans. Immigrants increase welfare costs by going on welfare. Immigrants increase welfare costs by pushing down wages and pushing more Americans onto it.
12. Immigrants fragment our national identity and dissolve our common culture.
So perhaps the amnesty could include a modest fine,
The key word here is "modest." He treats the rule of law, which is the basis of civilized society (and which he was yapping about when trying to impeach Clinton) as a mere symbolic gesture. He desperately wants to reduce this whole issue to a play of mere symbolism.
as well as some requirement to pass an English course
A fine idea for all immigrants, past and present, but Gigot knows perfectly well this would never pass. Is Gigot prepared to halt mass immigration unless English requirements are passed? If not, this clause is simply a distracting lie. This is the classic immigrationist tactic of defending immigration in theory on grounds of assimilation and then abandoning assimilation in practice by being unwilling to enforce it.
Or otherwise show the desire to assimilate. As for the danger that amnesty will be an incentive for more illegal immigration, any reform is likely to include a regular workpermit system for future migrants as well.
How does that disincentivize future illegal immigration? Sounds more like a clear signal to one and all to come to America on a guestworker program and eventually you’ll hop on an amnesty and get citizenship. American citizenship as the last great free lunch.
The last amnesty, in 1986, flopped because it was traded for employer sanctions, which were unenforceable. The idea this time is to swap amnesty for temporary work visas
"Swap?" Swap with whom? Certainly not with immigrationreduction advocates. Turning one proposal to increase immigration into two proposals is a compromise? As for the idea that we have to negotiate with Mexico on how we govern our own country – that’s beyond comment.
that would help to minimize the black market in lowskilled Mexican labor.
So the only problem Gigot sees is a black market? How about the problem that we’re molesting the native American poor by dumping cheap labor into this country? How long must we support a welfare state for people who are only poor because their wages have been driven through the floor by this flood of cheap labor?
Even Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, who opposes amnesty, has his own guestworker proposal. But it lacks the political support to pass because he'd require illegals to return to Mexico first. Mr. Gramm, who has long favored immigration, might as well relax and enjoy the BushFox "amnesty"reform. Sometimes what's popular is even good.
Gigot destroys his own piece. Even as extreme a supporter of mass immigration as Phil Gramm is gagging on the Bush amnesty. Notice the false confidence of the last sentence: the laughable idea that mass amnesty is popular. Just ask any Republican Congressman if that is true. Or if Gigot really believes this, let’s hold a national referendum on it.
"No Amnesty" has probably become the "read my lips: no new taxes" of Bush II. Let’s hope he doesn’t make the same mistake his father did by trying to weasel out of it. Tens of millions of Americans who hope for immigration reduction are watching and will not forgive him. As for Gigot, it is clear that he is taking the Wall Street Journal’s longstanding halfserious freetrade plea "for a constitutional amendment reading: There Shall Be Open Borders" with the witless literalism of which only blind ideologues are capable.