In this special edition of Frontpafe Symposium, we have invited a distinguished panel to debate the immigration issue. Our guests are:
John Fonte, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
Mark Krikorian, an executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and a visiting fellow at the Nixon Center. He is a NRO contributor.
Joe Hicks, the former executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (founded by Martin Luther King) and director of the LA City Human Relations Commission. Currently he is the vice president of Community Advocates, Inc., a political think tank in Los Angeles that concentrates on issues related to race, ethnicity and culture.
Linda Chavez, chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics.
Clint Bolick, the director of the Goldwater Institute Center for Constitutional Litigation in Arizona and research fellow at the Hoover Institution. He previously headed the Alliance for School Choice and has litigated in support of school choice and against eminent domain abuse.
FP: John Fonte, Mark Krikorian, Linda Chavez, Joe Hicks and Clint Bolick, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
John Fonte, let’s begin with you.
What is your take on the immigration battle and where the debate appears to stand now?
Fonte: Thomas Sowell wrote, “Every aspect of the current immigration bill, and the arguments for it, has ‘fraud’ written all over it.
The Kennedy-Bush-Kyl bill promises (1) secure borders, (2) work place enforcement, (3) a temporary guest worker program, (4) greatly reduced illegal immigration, and the (5) legalization of 12-20 million current illegal aliens. Only number five, “legalization” or amnesty will actually occur.
Here is an example of the fraud associated with this bill. The proposed amnesty for the 12-20 million people is not supposed to occur until certain enforcement “triggers” are first meet. But the “triggers” are phoney. They don’t mean the border is secure. The “triggers” are met if a certain number of border patrol agents are hired and if part of the border security fence is built (actually only half of the miles already authorized by Congress last year)
Work place enforcement meaning employer sanctions has been on the books since 1986, but has almost never been enforced. The Bush Administration has a much poorer record on employer sanctions than the Clinton Administration. Why would anyone believe that if we pass another law the Administration will suddenly start enforcing it.
Under the guest worker provisions, the “temporary workers” are supposed to leave the country, but since the “Entry-Exit” system mandated by Congress in 1996 has never been implemented by either the Clinton or Bush Administrations, there is no way to know when foreigners enter or leave the country. Thus, the temporary workers will not leave and just become illegal aliens; and since the border will not be secured more illegal aliens will enter.
If the Bush Administration-Ted Kennedy et al were serious about immigration reform, they would first secure our borders and implement interior (work place) enforcement. At that point we could have a real discussion about how best to deal with the 12-20 million illegal immigrants currently in the country. But, of course, the supporters of this bill are not serious about our national security.
Hicks: John is correct in his assessment of this extremely dangerous piece of legislation. First the good news; the stake may have finally been driven through the heart of this bill; requiring at least 60 votes to pass, it was defeated in the Senate this morning 46 to 53. The question now waiting an answer is how will the Bush administration respond? That’s the bad news. I believe that Bush will now argue that his administration has done its best to deliver “comprehensive immigration reform,” and will act in a petulant manner by stonewalling any further efforts to secure the borders.
I have consistently maintained that, while the problem of 12 to 20 million (we in fact don’t really know how many illegal aliens are in the country, just a bunch of estimates) is a daunting one, it isn’t exactly rocket science. Securing the borders in a post 9/11 world is an obvious requirement that Americans, Democrats as well as Republicans, get in a fundamental way. Task two is interior enforcement of immigration laws. The fact that most illegal aliens in the country currently have not crossed the border illegally, but have overstayed visitation visas of various kinds, highlights the feeble nature of this kind of immigration enforcement. Third, the enforcement of laws prohibiting the use of illegal labor must be something more than simply show-case raids, conducted to make us believe the administration is “getting tough” on employers. If several CEOs were prosecuted and sent to prison for extensive sentences you would begin to see corrective behavior by the nation’s business sector. Finally, let’s review the nation’s immigration requirements to determine the appropriate levels of lawful immigration on an annual basis. Peggy Noonan believes that the level should be zero until greater levels of assimilation have occurred – then we can talk about who to let in. I’m gravitating toward her stance.
The larger dimensions of the illegal immigration dilemma are quite troubling. What happens to a nation that allows other nations with Third World economies to quite literally dump their poor and their criminals into another nation’s economic mix? What happens when people immigrate illegally, with no desire to actually become American citizens, but with the aim of using that nation as an ATM machine? What happens when a nation absorbs a population of aliens who view the host nation as “racist” because it will not automatically grant them the immigration status they demand at street demonstrations across the nation? In my view, what happens is a negative alteration of that society and a further distortion of the concept of law and order – something that places our great nation jeopardy.
John is right. If Bush and the “cheap labor at all cost” crowd were really serious about so-called immigration reform, the administration would have initiated a robust national debate on the question, moved slowly with a reform bill that actually helped solve the problem, and allowed for vigorous, lengthy debate in the Senate. The fact that this bill’s passage was attempted over and against the will of the American people and significant portions of the Republican Party and the conservative movement indicates the insidious intent behind it all. The charge now is not to relent, but to push hard for serious, verifiable border security. Build the damn wall!
Chavez: First, Mark Krikorian is absolutely right the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act has never been enforced. But he and other critics are wrong in their assessment of why this is so. It has little to do with political will and much to do with the inherent flaws in the system. As many of us warned 20 years ago, the employer sanctions provisions are impossible to enforce.
Most of the people screaming the loudest in this debate have never worked one day in private industry and have no idea how Kafkaesque a world IRCA, combined with necessary civil rights protections and entirely outdated and Social Security and immigration information systems, has created for employers. I have served for 12 years on the board of directors of several public companies and have seen from the inside what problems the system creates for employers who are absolutely committed to following both the spirit and the letter of the law. Joe Hicks’ suggestion that CEOs of companies who hire illegal aliens should be sent to jail is simply laughable—there may be a handful of bad apples out there, Enron surely taught us that. But the vast majority of employers want to do what is right. The idea that all we need to do is “enforce the law” is naïve at best.
I actually work in industries that have to wade through the morass created by bureaucrats to enforce our immigration laws by essentially foisting responsibilities onto the private sector. When we hire an employee we must be scrupulous not to do or say anything that suggests we are subjecting any person to extra scrutiny because of their ethnicity or national origin. So if Linda Chavez shows up and presents a Social Security card and a picture I.D. from some government entity that look “reasonably” authentic (this is the language in the law), we are not allowed to question her about the documents and must rely on them at face value. Nor is ethnic profiling allowed, nor should it be. Employers cannot choose to reject applicants whose appearance, language, or mannerisms suggests they might not be Americans. If we do, we are subject to fines, law suits, and civil prosecution by the Department of Justice and other civil rights enforcement agencies. As I’ve reported many times, complaints stemming from IRCA are now one of the largest categories of civil rights complaints DOJ’s civil rights division now receives. And, of course, those complaining are by and large U.S. citizens or legal residents who have been the subject of ethnic profiling by employers who are scared to death of running afoul of IRCA.
And participation in Basic Pilot, the government’s pilot program that allows employers to check quickly whether someone is actually eligible to work, is no panacea. It does provide a safe harbor for employers who are later determined to have employed an illegal alien, but the data bases on which Basic Pilot relies are so inadequate they cannot determine whether the information provided by a prospective employee actually is valid for the person presenting it (only that the Social Security number are government I.D. numbers are valid and no one else is using them). But the system also rejects many citizens and legal residents simply because the data bases are out of date, making it difficult for them to correct the errors and even depriving these persons of employment. Until the government has reliable information on the more than 150 million people eligible to work and has a fool-proof way of matching the documents an employee presents with the actual person they claim to identify, employer sanctions and any other enforcement mechanism at the work site will remain unenforceable.
Second, John Fonte’s worry that guest workers won’t return after they have been admitted on a temporary basis is legitimate cause for concern—but it’s fixable. I have long argued (see my 1995 Commentary article “What to Do About Immigration”) for a way to give incentives to guest workers to return after their stint here is over. A portion of their pay, for example, could be put in trust for them and available only when they returned home. In speaking with Charles Krauthammer about this recently, he came up with the idea of providing this incentive in the form of vouchers that could only be used in the country of origin. Of course, there could be abuses of such a system, as was the case with the Bracero Program, but this is something at least worth debating.
The bigger problem is that a guest worker program should be only one component of an immigration overhaul. We also need more legal permanent residents if we are to satisfy our labor needs, on the order of about 1.5 million a year when our economy is creating 1.5 to 2 million new jobs each year as it is now. And these should be new persons, not just those already here adjusting their status, which is the current practice. I have no problem with a point system based on our economic needs in determining who gets in—with the caveat that we need not only more scientists, engineers, and mathematicians but also more people who can fill jobs that require little education but can’t be outsourced to another country or done away with by automation. What sense does it make to encourage Americans with 13 years of schooling (on average) to take these jobs—even if an employer could afford to pay wages to such workers to entice them into the jobs? And if any of the critics actually spent time with employers who have seen their industries transformed by immigrant workers, they would learn that having employees who are eager for these jobs-- not resentful as most American high school dropouts are that they’re stuck doing difficult, often dangerous and dirty, work, even at $20 an hour-- they would understand why employers are so eager to hire immigrants. It is worth remembering that the labor force participation rate of illegal alien men from Mexico is 94 %, while the comparable rate for native-born white men is 46% and the rate for blacks is 40%, and many of those not in the work force are in school or entangled in the criminal justice system. These men are largely unemployable.
I am convinced that the real opposition to immigration reform is culturally-based, and Fonte hints at this when he worries that the newcomers believe America is racist and therefore will resist assimilating. I think the evidence suggests otherwise, which I’d be happy to elucidate. So let’s debate this.
Krikorian: To say that the 1986 immigration law (banning the employment of illegal aliens) or any other part of our system of regulating immigration is unenforceable, as Linda claims, is to ignore the evidence. The reason immigration laws are not enforced is that there are no elites who want them to be enforced. Our law in this area follows a consistent pattern -- legislation contains tough language to mollify the public while it is paying attention to the issue, but after that attention wanes, the interest groups with an intense interest in the outcome make sure the law is unenforced.
This happens because immigration is the policy issue with the single biggest gap between public and elite views. Research from the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations showed that even issues where you'd expect a large gap -- like support for foreign aid or the UN -- didn't display as large a gap as immigration.
The result is that the occasional attempts at serious enforcement of the immigration laws are usually quashed by the political and business elite, as we saw late in the Clinton Administration in Georgia's Vidalia onions fields and in Nebraska's meatpacking plants. The Bush Administration's record is even worse, with worksite fines falling to just three (3) in the whole nation by 2004.
Bush's Silent Amnesty is by no means the only possible path. The White House could prove it's serious about enforcing the law by starting with two steps: first, require that all federal contractors and recipients of federal funds have to use the government's online verification system to confirm that a new hire is who he says he is. This is something that requires no Congressional action, and yet could go a long way toward making legal status be accepted as a labor standard (like not employing 11-year-olds in factories). The problem that Linda highlights of the same legitimate Social Security number being used by multiple illegal workers was foreseen by Barbara Jordan's Commission on Immigration Reform more than a decade ago, and is fixable with a few lines of computer code that would flag numbers used repeatedly for further inquiry.
The second, smaller but symbolically important, proof of sincerity on immigration would be for the White House to permit the publication of a 2002 Justice Department memo that it spiked making the constitutional case for the inherent authority of state and local police to make arrests for civil violations of federal immigration law. It's important to make clear that illegal aliens won't get a free pass once they sneak past the border and embed themselves in our communities.
All this talk of unenforceability is baloney -- the truth is we have never tried to enforce the law.
Bolick: Thanks to Frontpage for inviting me to join this exchange on a subject that is vital to our nation’s future. I speak only for myself and not for any of the organizations with which I’m associated.
I’m not sure why the debate so far has focused on the comprehensive immigration reform bill, which is akin to beating a dead horse. The enforcement-only conservatives and their union allies who defeated the legislation now bear the onus of defending the status quo that they so adroitly preserved. (It was ironic and more than a bit amusing to see Duncan Hunter and Dennis Kucinich on CNN yesterday disagreeing about everything except about how wonderful it was that the immigration bill was defeated.) Although the bill was flawed, the appropriate question was whether it was preferable to the status quo---which I believe it was. But now that it is defeated, any meaningful prospect of immigration reform has evaporated for some time. So the question is, where do we go from here?
The enforcement-only strategy, despite the fervor with which its proponents advance it, is both politically and practically unviable. Politically because those who oppose a legal path to citizenship are a distinct minority among Americans, and they cannot command a majority in Congress. Anti-immigration rhetoric works well in Republican primaries and for Democrats running in red states or districts. It does not work well for Republicans in general elections, as witness the substantial number of defeated GOP senators and representatives who lost their seats after hitching their wagons to the immigration issue.
The politics will get worse. George W. Bush needed every single bit of the 40 percent of the Hispanic vote he won in the 2004 election. Given demographic trends, the Republican presidential candidate will need even more in 2008. But with their strident opposition to a legal path to citizenship, Republicans largely have written off the Hispanic vote, which plummeted to 30 percent in the 2006 congressional elections and appears headed downward.
Where do Republicans go to make up for those lost voters? Certainly not to the business community. Forcing businesses to police national immigration policy is the biggest regulatory imposition on the private sector in years. Watch small business owners---the heart of the Republican Party---warm up to Democrats who take a less hostile approach. Both now and for the foreseeable future, enforcement-only is a political nonstarter---yet the naysayers offer nothing that will improve upon the status quo.
Building a wall on our southern border will not halt the flow of illegal immigrants. Immigrants want the something we have: freedom and opportunity. People who would risk their lives to come to our nation---like our forefathers and mothers---are not easily deterred. Conservatives usually understand the laws of supply and demand. Our immigration laws have not been overhauled in more than 20 years. Millions of people want to come here, and employers hunger for them. Why don’t opponents of comprehensive reform---who love to say they are not anti-immigration but only anti-illegal immigration---ever propose approaches that lift the number of immigrants who can lawfully enter from Latin American countries? Until that issue is addressed---until those who enter illegally because there is no hope for legal immigration perceive a meaningful change---true border enforcement is a pipe dream.
John’s comment that “the supporters of this bill are not serious about our national security” is offensive and so absurd that it undermines the credibility of everything he says. Jon Kyl is not serious about national security? John McCain? If you were a terrorist, why would you enter across our southern border? If this issue is about national security in the traditional sense, building a wall across our southern border is dramatically both over- and underinclusive. I agree with Linda that much of the rhetoric evinces hostility toward the particular immigrants who are coming; the vast majority of whom do not view America as an “ATM machine” but as a land of opportunity for themselves and their families, and who are willing to work extremely hard to make their dreams come true. To me they extol American values more than many who were lucky enough to have been born here.
The argument over immigration---which echoes every debate that has taken place since our nation’s founding---does violence to our heritage. Yes, we are a nation bound by the rule of law; but we are also a nation devoted to freedom. Why can’t we find a compromise that reflects both principles---true border security accompanied by greater access to a legal path to citizenship? The latter makes the former far more easily accomplished. If by contrast our sole focus is walling off those who aspire to the American Dream, I suppose we can build it with scrap metal from the Statute of Liberty.
Fonte: Linda, you really should pay better attention to what I am saying. No where do I “hint” that “newcomers believe America is racist”. You can argue with Joe about that if you want. However, you do “hint” that many African Americans. Latinos, whites, and other Americans at the low end of the wage scale, are “resentful” and apparently “largely unemployable.” This did not turn out to be the case during the last few months in Nebraska, Georgia, and Massachusetts. After three well publicized immigration raids forced employers to let go of their illegal alien work force, scores of what turned out to be, “largely employable” Americans came forward to take those jobs.
We are a nation of citizens before we are a market of consumers. We should be concerned with the well-being of our fellow citizens before the welfare of foreign nationals who break our laws. Unfortunately, you reveal a somewhat haughty attitude towards our fellow Americans who are not doing as well as some of the rest of us (“resentful,” “entangled in the criminal justice system”).
Clint, I notice you don’t dare defend any of the actual parts of the Kennedy-Bush-Kyl legislation such as: the one day legalization and security check; the so-called enforcement “triggers” that don’t secure any of border but only “hire” more border patrol agents; the fact that the former illegal aliens only have to pay three of five year back taxes (try that yourself Clint with the IRS and see what happens) and so on. No wonder that John Ashcroft’s former immigration advisor, Kris Kobach, stated that Kennedy-Bush-Kyl was an “open invitation” to terrorists and criminals.
But let me step back for a moment, after all for decades we have all been on the “same side” of the core arguments over the future of America. For the sake of argument let’s say that Linda and Clint are right, that our 21st century high tech U.S. economy “needs” hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers (in effect, high school drop-outs) in order to function well. And, at the same time, all of us want to dismantle our current anti-assimilation legal regime.
For example, I would like to end bi-lingual education, dual allegiance voting by naturalized citizens in their birth nations, foreign language voting in US elections; the existence of Executive Order 13166 that mandates multilingualism in all federally funded organizations; and any affirmative action for new immigrants.
In this context, I have a question for Linda and Clint: would you agree to end these anti-assimilation measures before we increase low-skilled immigration? If you agreed to an assimilation-first approach, many of us would be a lot more open to arguments over the specific labor concerns of particular sectors of the economy.
Hicks: I think that continuing the debate about the now-dead Senate amnesty bill is “beating a dead horse” there is indication that it may yet make a re-appearance. I am troubled by several things in the arguments of my good friend Linda Chavez and also by Clint Bolick. Linda asserts that “employer sanctions are impossible to enforce,” while Clint claims that Republicans needed this bill desperately in order to compete for Latino votes.
Linda finds my assertion that jailing a few corporate CEO’s might cause others to “find Jesus” naïve. But while she finds the laws against hiring illegal labor “unenforceable,” a contention that’s highly arguable, I do not hear from her what would make the law enforceable. And she must agree that enforcement efforts against employers have been sporadic at best – or have been “show-case raids” intended to deliver a message of sorts that the administration was “getting g tough.” The claim, seems to be that it’s the law against hiring people who have simply ignored the law that’s the problem. Any assertion that confusion is causing employers to flout the law is disingenuous. I live in Los Angeles, a city that has thriving “sweat shop” garment industry, among a host of other businesses that are separate and apart from the agriculture operations that operate with the knowledge that immigration raids are rare occurrences at best. In fact, as Linda must know, “enforcement” of employer sanctions has been weaker under the Bush administration – indicative perhaps of the President’s views on the problem of illegal immigration.
I would join Linda in arguing for reform of the existing laws – reform that would make it easier for employers to verify the status of potential employees. This would require some form of national I.D. that would be resistant to fraud, certainly something possible with the current state of the technology. I would also join in arguing for revisiting the number of immigrants allowed to come to this country, something that could adjust for the number of people from abroad we need in various categories – including slots at the lower levels of the job market.
However, her review of the percentage of those participating in the labor force is troubling and slanted. It’s not startling that 94% of illegal workers are participating in the work force – after all, this is a category of workers often paid “under the table” (as is often the case with day laborers) and are quite often able to undercut the prevailing wage scale in many entry level work positions. The more crass discussions of the 46% participation of native-born white workers and the 40% rate for black workers is that these workers have lost the desire to be competitive … or are just flat lazy. It is insulting to argue that it is solely the work ethic of illegal Latino labor that is affecting the labor participation rates, and not ability of unlawful labor to become viewed as highly beneficial to employers.
While I’m no Lou Dobbs fan, the question needs asking “is this phenomenon (ever new arrivals of Third World illegal labor) good for American workers?” There is a real basis for debate about the black labor force participation – I have argued that racial victimization, as preached by today’s racial hucksters, has affected the work ethos among many urban blacks, but his can’t possible explain why, for example in South Los Angeles (neighborhoods shared by blacks and largely Latino immigrants), you can drive for miles and not find a single black employee working in the ubiquitous fast-food restaurants that dot the landscape. Blacks have been driven from entry level positions to a remarkable degree and this has caused much resentment and anger among poor black residents in urban communities across the nation. Drop by a black barbershop in almost any urban neighborhood from Chicago to Houston and you’ll hear an animated discussion of the perceived affects of illegal immigration on black entry level job opportunities.
Clint Bolick’s argument, that “anti-immigration rhetoric” will drive away needed Latino votes needs a closer examination. The anti-immigration rhetoric condemned by Bolick was, with rare exceptions, directed not at legal immigration – but was aimed at the obvious problem of some 12 to perhaps 20 million illegal immigrants (no one really knows how many are in the country, only estimates). The left has tried mightily to conflate the difference between those who have patiently endured the maze of bureaucracy and come here legally, with individuals who have snuck across the border or have overstayed the time limits of various visas. Now it seems that some of my friends on the right are guilty of this as well.
It’s really a quite odd argument. Republicans, he asserts, are losing Latino votes because of positions on “immigration.” But wait … Isn’t it a Republican administration and George Bush himself that was castigating conservatives for not wanting to “do what’s right for America?” Wasn’t it Linda Chavez who wrote that opposition to the now-dead amnesty bill came with a fair amount of “anti-Mexican” sentiment? Need I list the Republican Senators, and some Republican members of the House, that asserted that conservatives opposed to the bill were a bunch of “know nothings?” So, are Latino voters too unsophisticated to note that many Republicans, as well as conservatives like my friend Tamar Jacoby and others – some included in this Frontpage discussion – were friendly to some version or other of immigration reform. Latino voters, new and otherwise, have skewed toward the democrats for some of the same reasoning that blacks have voted solidly for this party’s candidates for decades. The perception by these ethnic voters is that the Democrats support the working class, advocate for the welfare state, and uphold “civil rights” for ethnic minorities. The Republicans won’t win Latino votes by pandering on the immigration issue. Did Bush win any votes in the black community by speaking at last year’s NAACP national convention? At the meeting of this group, sounding more like Barak Obama, Bush pandered shamelessly as the NAACP delegates enjoyed the president’s groveling.
The real need for the Republican Party is not to find ever-new ways to condescend and pander for minority votes, but to compete for their votes by making the case to all Americans for low taxes, a strong national defense, taking the fight to those who hate America, opposition to racial preferences, individual liberties, support for families, and workable humane immigration policies.
Clint also seems to take exception to my characterization of illegal immigrants viewing America as some grand ATM machine. He apparently views this as rhetoric that evinces hostility toward “immigrants.” I find this exceptionally insulting. I have spent an adult lifetime fighting for civil rights and equality for all of this nation’s citizens and the assertion that people like myself, who are seeking border security and enforcement of immigration laws in the interior of this nation, are “hostile toward the particular immigrants who are coming” simply obscene. We can differ on approaches to our border enforcement and immigration policies, but hints at hostility based on skin color or language is outrageously off-base.
There are, as we all know, elements in the anti-illegal immigration crowd that do flirt with racism and nativism – but comments in this regard must be directed toward individuals that have made clear their disdain for the ethnicity of illegal immigrants from “Latin America.” There is ample evidence to make the claim that many immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico are far more concerned with earning opportunities in America, and supporting families in their home lands than the appeal of American citizenship. It’s also surprising to hear from a conservative the argument that a justification for ignoring law is the need to come to America and “work extremely hard.” There is simply no right to come to America. If that were the case literally half of the world’s impoverished people would come to America for the economic opportunities and freedoms found here. It is equally confounding to have people come to this land illegally, live and work with little penalty or actual threat of expulsion (oh yeah, they do live in the shadows don’t they) and then have marches of illegal residents and their leftist supporters demanding the immigration status they feel entitled to. That’s chutzpah!
Finally, Clint argues that a wall on our southern border will do little to stem illegal entry. I disagree. There is ample evidence that a well-designed wall, in combination with dramatically beefed-up border agents and high-tech surveillance methods, can significantly impact illegal entry. Ask the Israelis about the effectiveness of their anti-terrorism wall. No wall can be 100% effective – but it can manage the numbers who might successfully breech a security wall. Other than the lame argument coming from the Mexican government that the wall would “send the wrong signal” I find it hard to understand the opposition’s position on building a security wall. Major points of entry on the southern border already have fences in place – albeit poorly constructed and vulnerable to crossings.
The immigration bill is dead. I don’t believe anyone is prepared to argue that it was actually a good piece of legislation. Most of its supporters seemed to assert it was simply better than the status quo. The question is now what? The issue of what to do about illegal immigration has split the Republican Party and has divided the ranks of the conservative movement. Nonetheless, the debate can be a healthy one, if the supporters of amnesty will relent in their insistence that those who favor an enforcement first approach are the equivalent of some new flat earth society.
Chavez: I don’t have a problem with Mark Krikorian’s suggestion to require government contractors and federal aid recipients to participate in the Basic Pilot program, provided that the program itself becomes more efficient and accurate. The suggestion that the program could be fixed by adding a few lines of computer code sounds unlikely, but, if true, who could object? I don’t like IRCA—and would like to see it replaced by an entirely new law—but so long as it is on the books, I am in favor of making employee verification more reliable. But Mark doesn’t address the larger issue which is the need for more legal immigrants for our workforce. As for his and John Fonte’s extolling the positive labor impact of tougher enforcement by pointing to the raids at several companies over the last year, they must not have been reading the same stories I have.
John says that after raids in Georgia, Nebraska, and Massachusetts, “scores of ‘largely unemployable’ [mocking comments I made earlier] Americans came forward to take those jobs.” Well, not exactly, John. According to the Wall Street Journal, for example, the Georgia chicken plant that was raided ended up hiring 200 black workers to replace the largely Hispanic workforce, but “the plant has struggled with high turnover among black workers, lower productivity and pay disputes between the new employees and labor contractors,” and this even though employers set up free transportation for the new American workers and free rooms in a dormitory near the plant, which of course they did not do for their previous workers. Months after the raids, the plant was also still short 300 people, despite offering higher wages and more benefits. Similar stories cropped up in local news coverage of the aftermath of the raids in other locations as well. Now I am astonished that self-respecting conservatives think it makes good economic sense to force employers to hire less productive workers and pay them more. Is this really the direction we conservatives want to go? Again, the only way we can solve the problem with illegal immigration is to make it possible for more people to come here legally.
Now to respond to my friend Joe Hicks’ concern that I’ve unfairly characterized the causes behind low labor force participation rates among black workers. This is a subject for a much longer discussion, but let me address a couple of his points. Joe asserts that “you can drive for miles in South Los Angeles . . . and not find a single black employee working in the ubiquitous fast food restaurants that dot the landscape,” and he goes on to say that “Blacks have been driven from entry level positions to a remarkable degree….” He seems to believe that illegal (or perhaps legal immigrants as well) are primarily the cause. But black labor force participation has been on a steady downward spiral since the ‘60s (80% of black males were in the labor force in 1965, while barely two-thirds are today) having nothing to do with the recent flood of immigrants into these jobs. It isn’t because wages are too low in these industries—my goodness, Joe, John, and Mark sound like John Edwards, next thing you know they’ll be arguing for a “living wage.”
Joe was on the right track when he acknowledged that racial victimization being hawked by black hucksters has affected the work ethic among urban blacks, but the breakdown in the black family has probably been a more important cause. The decline in marriage among blacks, and the concomitant increase in out-of-wedlock childbearing, has had a devastating consequence across all social and economic indicators. Simply put, married men are much more likely to work, and their families—especially their children—will be better off, and not just economically. Kids who grow up in two-parent households are healthier, more likely to stay in school and do well there, and stay out of trouble. Hispanic immigrants are more likely to be married and live in married couple households with children than are the native-born Americans across racial and ethnic groups. And even though unmarried childbearing is up among Hispanic immigrant women (about a third of Latino immigrant babies are born to single women), most of these women will marry the fathers of their babies, unlike their white or black counterparts, according to one of the few studies on the subject.
Finally, a word about the politics of immigration. My good friend Clint is right that the current approach to immigration is a loser for the GOP in the long run. Recent reports suggest that Latino immigrants are naturalizing at a faster rate than ever before, spurred on in part because they want to have a voice on the immigration issue. And, though the data is sporadic and may be biased, those same reports suggest that new registration is overwhelmingly Democratic. Since the 1960s, Republic candidates have been able to win Mexican American votes in far larger numbers than among blacks. Former Texas Sen. John Tower, a staunch conservative Republican, won 30 percent of the Mexican American vote in 1966. Richard Nixon won 35 percent of the Mexican American vote in 1972; Ronald Reagan won about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 1984; and George W. Bush won 35 percent in 2000 and, depending on whose numbers you believe, anywhere from 40-44 percent in 2004. If Republicans cannot continue to win anywhere from 30-40+ percent of Latino voters, they may well have to write off states like Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and others where Hispanics are becoming a growing percentage of the population, and may even be at risk in states like Texas. And it didn’t have to be this way—but the know-nothing populism that seems rampant in the GOP today threatens to drive many otherwise conservative Hispanics away.
Krikorian: Each of the two broad ideological tendencies has its unique political weakness. Voters are rightly suspicious of liberalism for being insufficiently serious about matters related to national defense and law and order. The validity of this stereotype was a boon to Republicans during the Cold War and the cultural revolution that started in the 1960s, as well as in the wake of 9/11.
Linda is reinforcing the corresponding stereotype about conservatives -- that we are unconcerned about ordinary working people, promoting instead the interests of Capital. In response to concerns about the federal immigration program artificially undermining the bargaining position of workers, Linda writes, "my goodness, Joe, John, and Mark sound like John Edwards, next thing you know they’ll be arguing for a 'living wage.'" The surest way to get John Edwards elected is to cement in the public mind the image of Republicans as lickspittles of the plutocracy.
Linda writes that "I am astonished that self-respecting conservatives think it makes good economic sense to force employers to hire less productive workers and pay them more." Actually immigration policy isn't "forcing" employers to pay certain wages or benefits -- that's the job of the free market. But it is the job of government to set the parameters of the market, the limits of the permissible, which is why child labor, for instance, is prohibited. "Self-respecting conservatives" like myself are right to decry excessive or absurd regulations, but what mass immigration represents is the government's thumb on the scales in favor of employers. To use a different image, the sellers of labor (workers) and the buyers (employers) will always be in a tug-of-war over wages; this is a normal and healthy competition. What is unhealthy is when government departs from setting the rules of the game and instead joins in the tug-of-war, either on the side of workers (through "living wage" laws) or the side of employers (though the immigration program).
Let's be clear about the implications of Linda's position: Any and all rules regarding immigration -- numerical limits of any kind, eligibility requirements of any kind -- will always cause employers to have to pay more that they would otherwise. Total immigration -- legal and illegal -- is now running at more than 1.5 million a year; why not double it to 3 million a year to reduce labor costs? And wages would go down even more if immigration were doubled again to 6 million a year. If driving down wages is her goal, there's no logical reason for Linda to oppose unlimited immigration, which is, after all, the position of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. If that's her position as well, she needs to own up to it; if not, she needs to explain where she draws the line.
And beyond the issue of numbers, Linda is explicitly saying that immigrants are better than Americans -- they work harder, they're less morally dissipated, etc. This is the opposite of nativism -- it's what might be called "xenomania," the pathological preference for foreigners over Americans -- especially, in the case of immigration, over black Americans. Reporter Jonathan Tilove notes this in the recent book "Debating Immigration," edited by Prof. Carol Swain of Vanderbilt, where he writes that "indifference to the fate of black America, or in some quarters a passive-aggressive hostility toward African Americans, has become an animating feature of support for a liberal immigration policy." He explains the angry reaction to his reporting on "white flight" caused by immigration this way:
"My reading of the unspoken, even unconscious thinking at work goes like this: Of course there was white flight from blacks. Who wouldn’t run? But white flight from immigrants? Why would someone run away from immigrants? Blacks are scary. Blacks lower property values. Immigrants aren’t scary. Immigrants rehabilitate property values. Immigrants have great restaurants. And so on."
The problems of the underclass -- not just among blacks, of course, but disproportionately among them -- are very grave national concerns, and have a wide variety of causes. They would not magically disappear if immigration laws were enforced and immigration levels reduced. But ask yourself this in considering whether continued mass immigration is in America's interest: If there's a young black man in Liberty City, Miami, who's good with his hands and wants to become a carpenter, which is more likely to help him achieve that goal -- amnesty and more immigration, or enforcement and less immigration?
Which is more likely to help an ex-convict or recovering addict in South Central L.A. get hired at an entry-level job and start the climb back to a decent life -- amnesty and more immigration, or enforcement and less immigration?
Which is more likely to persuade a teenager in Bed-Stuy to reject the lure of gang life and instead stick to honest employment -- amnesty and more immigration, or enforcement and less immigration?
Bolick: This debate provides a good illustration of the division that is tearing apart the Republican Party (although I own to no longer being a Republican). As many in the party decide that immigration is the pre-eminent public policy issue and that there can be no compromise, it also will be the death-knell for the party. Not only does it turn off Hispanics---who indeed appear not to notice the differences between nativists and enforcement-only conservatives because the policy ends are the same---but also libertarians and business-oriented conservatives who were core parts of the Reagan coalition.
It puzzles me that Republicans who would be the first to oppose imposition of racial preferences upon businesses as a means to enforce civil rights laws---and who oppose onerous environmental and health and safety regulations---would welcome provisions that turn business owners into policemen. Should we have mandatory drug testing in private businesses to ensure that employers are not hiring drug users? If not, what is the principled difference?
Even worse is that economic conservatives ignore the laws of supply and demand in the context of immigration. The millions of people who are willing to risk their lives and freedom to cross illegally into America are telling us something---as are the employers who are hiring them. They’re telling us that the number of legal immigrants from Latin America is way too low. We can build a fortress America to keep people out. But the best way to enforce border security is to confront supply and demand issues that have not been addressed in a fundamental way in decades. It seems to me that an advocate who fails to come to grips with that issue is truly anti-immigration rather than anti-illegal immigration. Though I have seen many who supported the Kyl-Kennedy bill who are serious about border enforcement, I’ve seen few if any opponents who are willing to lift numbers of legal immigrants. Hence compromise is impossible and the status quo will remain the status quo.
Do I support what John describes as removing anti-assimilation measures? Absolutely---and more. Our courts today likely would uphold limits on welfare benefits for newcomers. In fact, I think all of that is a useful part of a comprehensive immigration bill. Do I support making all of that a prerequisite to boosting legal immigration? No. Immigrants are not responsible for our crazy welfare state. Forcing them to remain in countries that are bereft of opportunity while we take on the welfare state is unfair. Addressing perversities in our welfare and assimilation policies is something we should do in tandem with creating a path to citizenship for newcomers.
Mark raises an interesting argument: that those of us who hold positive views of immigrants exhibit a subtle aversion to the disproportionately black underclass. That attack certainly misses the mark with Linda and me, who have made boosting opportunities for the American underclass a major focus of our advocacy, especially in the context of school choice. Clearly there are serious and multiple obstacles among the underclass to engagement in the workforce. If there were not, the demand for immigrants would be less. But isolating the underclass from economic competition---another left-wing notion seeping into conservative conventional wisdom---as a means to preserve jobs for the underclass seems a perverse way to solve those problems.
Do I view immigrants through a romantic prism? Perhaps so, but it is an historical vision. Every generation of immigrants was greeted with hostility; every generation enriched us. Immigrants tend to remind us why it is special to be an American. Today’s immigrants are no different. Surveys from Pew and elsewhere find that Latin American immigrants value hard work and exemplify family values more than most indigenous Americans.
Living in Arizona, which seems to be the epicenter for anti-immigration sentiment and policy innovation, I do see hordes of people pouring over our border and bringing alien values. As a result I advocate building an impervious wall on our western border. As to our southern border, the folks coming over, more often than not, truly exemplify American values, and I welcome them.
The question I raise is whether there is any common ground between us? Linda and I are typical of those on the right who support comprehensive immigration reform (and Linda please correct me if I speak errantly): we are willing to support strong enforcement measures and removing anti-assimilation barriers, but believe it essential to create a path to citizenship and employment for greater numbers of Latin-American immigrants and to extend a genuinely welcoming attitude to people who value hard work, education, family, and other core American values. I do not understand why those are mutually exclusive; and indeed, I do not believe you can have the first without the second, as we witness every day.
If the answer is no, our internal debate will grow increasingly marginal as the decision-making shifts to the likes of Hillary Clinton. The days of divided government seem fleeting; I suspect all of us will look back at them with nostalgia, and wish we had taken advantage of the opportunities they presented.
Fonte: Clint stated: “The question I raise is whether there is any common ground between us?” I tried to do that and offered an “assimilation-first” (not assimilation-only) compromise in the last round, but Clint turned me down. Nevertheless, I still hope that the possibility of compromise exists because everyone in this debate is for national security, patriotic assimilation, and a strong American economy. Let us assume that we have reached an enforcement compromise and I will talk only about assimilation.
Let me address Linda first and then I will get back to Clint.
Linda, you wrote in a syndicated column (“Mexican Law to Challenge Loyalties,” Creators Syndicate, April 7, 1998) on potential problems of dual allegiance among Mexican immigrants to the United States.
“Never before has the United States had to face a problem of dual loyalties among its citizens of such a great magnitude and proximity. Although some other countries¾such as Israel, Columbia, and the Dominican Republic also allow dual nationality¾no other nation sends as many immigrants to the United States nor shares a common border. For the first time, millions of US citizens could declare their allegiance to a foreign country.”
In the article you then discuss a series of changes since the 1960s that have diminished national loyalty and cohesion and make this statement.
“All of these changes, no doubt erode loyalty to the United States but, until now, have involved relatively few people. What is significant about the change in the Mexican law is its potential to affect so many newcomers at a time when other pressures also diminish attachments to the immigrants’ adopted nation. Unlike previous immigrant groups, Mexicans travel only a short distance…. Not only can they travel easily back and forth, keeping ties to their homeland stronger, but many live in large immigrant enclaves in the United States, where Spanish is heard more frequently than English….”
You were right to see increasing dual citizenship, particularly dual allegiance voting (along with bilingual education, foreign language voting, and Clinton’s executive order 13166 promoting official multilingualism), as a challenge to American national unity.
There is plenty of evidence that “Americanization” or patriotic assimilation is not proceeding as well as we would like. The Portes and Rumbaut longitudinal study reports that children of immigrants are not “assimilating” but “selectively acculturating.” That is to say, they are learning English, but identifying emotionally (in terms of national identity) increasing with their parents’ birth nation (Mexico, El Salvador, etc.) instead of with the USA. The Pew Hispanic survey taken about seven months after 9/11, shows the same pattern. Only 34% of Latinos (who are American citizens) considered themselves Americans first. 42% identified with the old country, first; and 24% considered themselves as pan-ethnic, as “Latino” or “Hispanic” first. Remember these are American citizens.
The person in charge of “integration” in Illinois, working directly for the Governor, Jose Luis Gutierrez, is a dual Mexican and US citizen. He told the Chicago Tribune, “The nation-state concept is changing. You don’t have to say, I am Mexican or I am American. You can be a good Mexican citizen and a good American citizen and not have that be a conflict of interest. Sovereignty is flexible.”
Linda, these attitudes are the direct result of mass immigration without assimilation. But you and I have often found common ground on assimilation. Therefore I propose the following compromise¾we enact an “assimilation-first” policy (ending: dual allegiance voting in one’s birth nation; foreign language voting in US elections; the executive order 13166 that legalized multilingualism; and bi-lingual education). Once these measures were realized my side would then agree to increase immigration. These two initiatives cannot be done in tandem (as Clint suggests) because, as good conservatives, we don’t trust the federal government. The governing elites would simply prefer to increase immigration and not bother with assimilation, if they could get away with it. So if we are going to get real assimilation (Americanization), we would have to insure that it comes first. What do you say Linda, is there common ground here? You get your increased immigration for the work force and both of us get guaranteed assimilation?
Clint, you have turned this compromise down. You stated that, “forcing them [potential immigrants] to remain in countries that are bereft of opportunities…[while we address assimilation] is unfair.” This is a convoluted argument on a number of grounds. You are saying that if we look out for America’s national interest by insisting that we assimilate immigrants already in America before we increase immigration, we are being “unfair;” you are saying that it is somehow America’s fault because we are “forcing” people to remain in their own countries.
Well, as John F. Kennedy used to say, “life is unfair.” For example, on the whole, it is better to be born in the US than in Bangladesh. Should it be American national policy to try to make life, “fair” for everyone in the world? Presumably only a John Rawls philosophical utopian leftist would think so.
Clint, you seem to be telling us is that assimilation is really a secondary matter to you, not of crucial importance. Assimilation is fine, but you could live without it. Your bottom line appears to be: increase immigration, and the rest, including assimilation, is expendable. I hope you change your mind.
Linda, what is your response to the proposed compromise?
Hicks: I’m interested to see what response John might get from his compromise proposition. I find it hard to believe that conservatives, no matter if they consider themselves republicans or not, would oppose a thrust to increase assimilation among America’s newcomers. I think most conservatives would that the left politics of America’s post-Vietnam War era have succeeded in making the word “assimilation” an epithet. Multiculturalists have waged non-stop warfare on the concept of the melting pot – arguing that America is either a “salad bowl” or a “mosaic.” The argument coming from the left and ultra-liberal camp is that blacks need not “melt” into the mainstream. Doing so, in this view, results in the loss of racial authenticity. And of course, the left claims that any effort of Latino and Asian immigrants to adjust home-country language use or to give up cultural practices is … selling out.
The left’s control of the academy has made it difficult for students to emerge from the other end of the educational process feeling good about what it means to be an American or valuing mainstream culture – often ridiculed as “white, lame, middle class values.” Is anybody willing to argue that any of this has been a good thing for national unity and patriotism? For God’s sake – it not as if we don’t have lessons to learn from what’s occurred in Western Europe. Some observers of Europe’s plight say that the combination of low birth rates and lack a rejection of assimilation by largely Muslim newcomers threatens the very existence of Europe as we have known it. While we are not Europe in this regard, downplaying assimilation is the slippery slope to cultural chaos.
My friend Linda’s discussion of lowered labor participation rates continues to downplay the effect of competition coming from illegal labor. I completely share her view that the disintegration of urban black families since the Sixties cannot be blamed on immigrants that have, in many cases, moved into communities that previously were predominantly black, and have aggressively moved to dominate work opportunities. But to state that black joblessness “has nothing to do with … the flood of immigrants” ignores the realities facing black urban workers. We agree that black cultural dysfunction affects labor participation rates.
However, one of the reasons for the scarcity of black youths (or blacks of any age!) working in fast food locations, or in other areas of urban employment (guess who’s shining shoes at shoe shine stands throughout South LA and other parts of LA? – a hint, it ain’t black folks) is the difficulty of competing with an illegal labor force that is willing to undercut any prevailing wage levels and the perception of employers that Latino illegal labor is compliant and “hard working.” This perception limits the hiring of non-Latino immigrant labor and combines with the fact that Latino immigrants now control the avenues to job acquisition in many urban environments. If the Non-Latino boss believes that immigrant labor inherently will perform better, and if the job-site foreman or shift supervisor is Latino, and job recruitment is conducted among Latino immigrant laborers – who’s going to wind up being employed?
Now, this isn’t the first time that an ethnic group has sewn up a particular area of the labor market (Filipinos in the nursing trade, Indians in the motel business, Cambodians controlling retail donut shops, waves of different ethnic groups dominating the taxi cab industry), but to my knowledge, this may be the first time that illegal labor from a particular region of the world has dominated major parts of entry-level job markets like agriculture, poultry and fish processing, fast food, and construction, among others. Advocating for a “living wage” won’t solve the problem of low participation of blacks in the work force – and it’s simply unsound economic policy.
However, it is naïve to believe that blacks who have played by the rules, have good work skills, who will work hard if given the opportunity, should be expected to compete with workers who are in the country illegally, but are prepared to work for Third World wages in conditions that most American workers rightly reject. Illegal immigration played no role in the creation of the dysfunctional black urban culture. However, competition from illegal labor has a hand in perpetuating the problem of black joblessness and the inability to get a fair shake in the entry level job market.
Linda’s cheap shot, that the “know-nothing populism … rampant in the GOP” will drive away the Hispanic vote would smack of opportunistic politics if I didn’t know her better. It isn’t the rejection of bad immigration “reform” that is driving away Latinos from the Republican Party. What is driving down the numbers of Hispanics willing to vote for Republican candidates is the continuous charge - with the complicity of main-stream, liberal-oriented media - that opposition to illegal immigration equates with ethnic bigotry. This charge comes not only from crazed left advocacy groups and Democratic Party blowhards like Ted Kennedy – it now also comes from some conservatives and elected officials from within the Republican Party. Playing the race card in this manner, and refusing to admit that there is principled, deeply-considered opposition to the amnesty argument, will harm the conservative movement in various ways for years to come.
I’m frankly not sure how to respond to Clint’s comments. He admits that he may view “hard working” immigrants who “exemplify American values” through a romantic prism. However, the problem we are discussing demands a clear-eyed examination – not romanticism.
Chavez: As usual, Mark creates a straw man and then knocks it down. He claims I don’t want any limits on immigration—nonsense. Every country has the right to determine whom to admit; I’ve never claimed otherwise. The substantive question is how best to determine what is in the country’s interest—and here, Mark and his friends at FAIR would enact a moratorium on legal immigration—or at least roll back legal immigration to the point that the number of new immigrants admitted equalled the number of immigrants who leave or die each year, so that there is no net increase in the foreign born population. If Mark succeeded, our economy would suffer and all of us would be the poorer for it. It is just naïve to assume that the contraction in the labor supply that would result from such a scheme would not have problematic results, and relatively quickly.
The market currently sets the number of immigrants needed at about 1.5 million (the current number of legal and illegal immigrants, which Mark concedes, not his 3 million straw man), a figure that should not surprise anyone. It is roughly equivalent to the number of new jobs we create each year. Our current birthrate is insufficient to supply workers to fill these jobs, and without new immigrants, who have higher fertility rates, we would quickly fall to the disastrous negative population growth experienced among Europe’s native-born populations.
Markets are self-regulating. We don’t need the bureaucrats at ICE or the anti-natalists at FAIR to decide the ideal number of immigrants we should admit; the market will do it for us and in a far more efficient manner. In general, the flow of immigrants, legal and illegal, mirrors the expansion in the number of jobs in the economy. Just look at immigration (legal and illegal) over the last decade or so: it increased dramatically when the economy was purring along, and increased at a far slower rate job when fewer jobs were being created. From 1995-2000, immigration, for example, increased, with more than 1.6 million (legal and illegal) persons arriving at the peak in 2000; after 9/11 and the ensuing recession, the number of immigrants dropped to about 1.1 million in 2002 and 2003, up-ticked again when job prospects improved after 2004, and fell again as the recovery slowed in 2006-2007. There is nothing new about this pattern. During the Great Depression, there was a net decrease in immigration to the U.S. as immigrants returned home when work became unavailable here.
As for Joe’s contention that illegal aliens “undercut prevailing wage levels,” I don’t think he’s actually looked at the data. It is simply a myth that illegal aliens, in general, are working at “Third World wages in conditions that most American workers rightly reject.” According to an analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center of weekly earnings among foreign-born Latinos, the median wage in 2005 was $400/week in this group. Assuming a 40-hour work week (probably an over-estimate of the hours worked, since the data base includes part-time as well as full-time workers), more than half of all foreign-born workers made more than $10/hour, hardly “Third World” standards. (By the way, their wages are still substantially below that of American blacks, whose median weekly wages were $480 in 2005.) The data don’t distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants, but even so, since so many foreign-born Latinos are here illegally (more than half of the Latino foreign-born population), illegal alien workers are likely represented above and below the median line.
And speaking of the Pew Hispanic Center, I’m not sure which Pew study my friend John is referring to when he cites low American identity among Hispanics. It is true that most of the foreign-born (who now comprise half the Latino population) identify primarily with their country of origin or as Latinos or Hispanics, as do their children. But among the third generation, according to the 2002 National Survey of Latinos commissioned by the Pew Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 57 percent use “American” as the only (or first) term to describe their identity, while 97 percent have used “American” to describe themselves at some point. (I am betting that the remaining 3 percent include a disproportionate number of tenured college professors and Chicano activists from the ‘60s) Even among the foreign-born, nearly a third had described themselves as American at some point in their lives, as had 85 percent of their children. Given our preoccupation with reinforcing ethnic identity through multicultural education, preferences in college admission and the like, we shouldn’t be surprised that not all third-generation Hispanics identify exclusively as American.
But John’s challenge makes no sense. I oppose dual citizenship, preferences based on race or ethnicity (and sex), bilingual education, multi-lingual ballots, etc., and have spent my entire professional career trying to rid the country of these policies. But if we were to eliminate net immigration tomorrow, we’d still be stuck with this nonsense for the foreseeable future. The primary beneficiaries of affirmative action remain American-born blacks—not foreign-born Latinos or immigrant blacks for that matter. While a few colleges may appoint Peruvian- or Nigerian-born professors to fulfill their diversity quotients, it is American-born blacks, and to a considerable lesser extent Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans, who benefit from such programs, especially in college admissions. And the federal bilingual education program was created in 1968 primarily for Mexican American children, not for immigrants (as counter-intuitive as that might seem), and was later modified to include a bicultural component aimed specifically at Mexican Americans. So, too, bilingual ballots were added to the 1975 amendments to the Voting Rights Act as an appeasement to Mexican American and Puerto Rican groups clamoring for the same clout in drawing voting district lines as blacks had attained, not because there were large numbers of non-English speaking persons eligible to vote.
I support large-scale immigration and assimilation because both are good for the country. The latter happens more or less naturally, despite the best efforts of the ethnic lobbies; and the former leads to a higher standard of living for all Americans by feeding new workers into America’s job-creating machine. I’d like to see more efforts on the part of government to encourage assimilation, but even the ill-conceived policies John and I deplore have not stopped the assimilation from proceeding apace. I don’t worry that we’ll be overwhelmed by people who want to re-create their homelands here. Even among immigrant groups that tried to do so—most prominently, German immigrants in the 19th Century—their efforts failed. American culture is simply too attractive and immigrants too eager to succeed for there to be much cause for concern.
Krikorian: Linda writes “The market currently sets the number of immigrants needed at about 1.5 million (the current number of legal and illegal immigrants, which Mark concedes, not his 3 million straw man).”
Putting aside the fact that the “straw man” is itself a straw man, this is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve read in all my years of working on the immigration issue. The market has virtually nothing to do with the level of immigration. First of all, only about 60-65 percent of these immigrants are workers; the rest are family members whom the “market” is not demanding. Even focusing just on workers, it’s clear that the supply of, and demand for, immigrants is for all practical purposes unlimited. Instead, the level of immigration is capped only by the byzantine body of law regulating legal admissions and the various enforcement measures that, deficient as they are, keep illegal immigration from growing even faster.
For instance, there are at least 6 million people on the waiting lists for various family immigration categories – while some are already here illegally, most are still overseas, and they’re only waiting there because of statutory caps. And tens of millions of other, more distant, relatives would apply if there were categories for cousins, grandparents, nephews, etc., which there are not. Also, 5.5 million people applied last year for the Diversity Visa lottery, which is only for people from countries that send few immigrants to the United States (i.e., it’s not for Mexicans, Filipinos, Indians, et al.) Only 50,000 of them are admitted each hear, but virtually all would come if we let them (which, after all, is why they’re applying). And next year, 5 million more would apply, and 5 million more after that.
Even illegal immigration is limited – the difficulties and costs of sneaking into the United States dissuade some significant portion of those who would come if the route were risk-free. In fact, some supporters of mass immigration see such a Darwinian process of selection as a good thing; as George W. Bush used to say while governor of Texas, “Hell, if they’ll walk across Big Bend [a remote area of west Texas], we want ‘em.” (see p. 73 of Boy Genius).
Linda’s whole paragraph claiming that with regard to immigration, “Markets are self-regulating,” is baloney. The numbers she uses to claim that immigration levels fluctuate from year to year in response to the economy come from a Pew Hispanic Center report (online at) that simply doesn’t show what she thinks it shows (see a detailed examination of the nuances of the report here, starting on p.3). Immigration may well fluctuate from year to year (though we can’t know with any degree of precision whether it does or not at that level of detail), but such fluctuations don’t necessarily have anything to do with the economy – after 9/11, for instance, it may be that fewer illegal immigrants came because of the mistaken impression that immigration laws were going to be enforced. Or, alternatively, maybe the same number came, but fewer responded to the Census Bureau surveys that Linda’s numbers are based on. What we can know is the total level of immigration over a period of several years (rather than trying to slice the data too finely), and the first half of this decade saw about 7.9 million immigrants arrive, the largest five-year total in our history.
Not to pile on, but the second most ridiculous thing I’ve read during my years in this business is Linda’s claim that “without new immigrants, who have higher fertility rates, we would quickly fall to the disastrous negative population growth experienced among Europe’s native-born populations.” Oy vey. There isn’t a demographer in the world who could say this with a straight face. With or without immigration, the average woman in the United States can be expected to have about two children during her lifetime, the highest fertility rate of any developed nation, and higher than even many developing nations. Even with zero immigration – zero – America’s population would be more than 60 million larger in 2060 than it is today. What “negative population growth”?
This fact is neither to be celebrated nor mourned – it’s simply what economists call the “revealed preference” of the American people, who decide on their own how many children they want to have. Linda’s argument is that Americans aren’t breeding in large enough numbers to suit business and therefore must be supplemented by foreign imports – a form of social engineering so egregious that it rivals the eugenics nonsense of a century ago that Linda rightly decries.
Immigrants come because life is better here than in their home countries, a description that captures virtually all of the planet. And our economy certainly grows in size and is able to absorb those flows, because compared to most, it is extraordinarily flexible and dynamic. But policymakers have to consider the side-effects: Will mass immigration artificially undermine the bargaining position of our less-educated countrymen? Will mass immigration result in a constantly growing clientele for the welfare state? Will mass immigration slow the process of technological advancement in labor-intensive industries by artificially lowering wages?
The answer to these questions is Yes. Therefore, rather than relying on non-existent market mechanisms to regulate immigration, we need (for non-economic reasons as well) zero-based budgeting in immigration – start from a base of zero, and then admit those narrowly defined groups of people whose admission is so compelling that they need to be let in regardless of the problems their admission might cause. This would include spouses and young children of American citizens, a handful of genuine Einsteins, and some share of the world’s most desperate refugees.
Fonte: The ultimate key to America’s success or failure with immigration in the 21st century remains, as it always has been, with the concept of “patriotic assimilation” or “Americanization.” Will the newcomers and their descendants (including Muslims, as well as Latinos, Asians, and Europeans) become patriotic Americans or will they be ambivalent or indifferent to Americanization? In the last round I described Jose Luis Gutierrez, the head of the office of assimilation for the Governor of Illinois. Gutierrez, a dual US-Mexican citizen told the Chicago Tribune he is part of a “third nation” that transcends the borders, that “sovereignty is flexible.” Clearly, Gutierrez is not patriotically assimilated; he is ambivalent about America. He is not, Linda and Clint, a woolly-headed academic or Chicano studies professor, but a major political aide to the Governor of an important state; and, unfortunately, he could be the face of the future.
Linda, I am going to continue to explore the assimilation issue with you in some detail. Pew Hispanic Center/Kaiser Family Foundation 2002 National Survey of Latinos (pg 31) states:
…Hispanics who are American citizens are still more likely to identity themselves primarily by country of origin [or parent’s origin] (44% than to identify primarily as an “American” (33%) or as a “Latino” or “Hispanic” (22%).
Linda, these are all American citizens either native-born or naturalized. The new citizens have gone through the moving naturalization ceremony and taken an oath of loyalty to the US and “renounced” all previous allegiance. The survey was taken 7-9 months after 9/11 at the height of patriotic fervor across the country. These results are very disappointing only 33% of Latinos who are American citizens consider themselves “first and foremost Americans,” as the Pew Report, itself, puts it. This is empirical evidence that rebuts the non-empirical happy talk by Tamar Jacoby and others that new immigrants are somehow “more patriotic” than the native-born.
You note that “among the third generation” 57% consider themselves primarily Americans. More accurately this category (pg 30) is described as (“third generation and higher.”) Thus, the 57% would include Latinos whose families have been in US territory for hundreds of years, like your own family. Moreover, 41% in this category consider their primary identity as either family’s origin country (Mexican, etc.) or Latino/Hispanic, and 1% don’t claim any of the three identities. Thus, the 57% pro-American identity figure that you tout is rather tepid. One would think it would be more than 90% in the days after 9/11. Indeed, the Pew report also notes that, “even among Hispanics born in the United States, fewer than half (46%) choose to identity themselves as an American first” (pg. 29).
Linda, as proof of the success of assimilation you often point to the Rumbaut-Portes longitudinal study of the children of immigrants. You usually refer to Rumbaut-Portes findings that the children of immigrants are learning English. This is true enough. However, your use of Rumbaut-Portes is selective. These researchers also found that although knowledge of English increased American identity decreased.
“we should have seen an increase over time in the proportion of youths identifying themselves as American, with or without a hyphen, and a decrease in the proportion retaining an attachment to a foreign national identity. But…the results…point in exactly the opposite direction.”
In plain language, linguistic assimilation has increased, but patriotic assimilation has decreased. Moreover, the heightened salience (or importance) of the foreign identity is very strong. Portes and Rumbaut declare that “foreign national identities command the strongest level of allegiance and attachment ” and that the plain “American” category “emerges as the thinnest identity.”
Rumbaut-Portes further state:
“In this survey Hispanics demonstrate a very strong association with their countries of origin¾identifying as ‘Mexicans,’ ‘Cubans,’ etc.¾whether it be their birthplace or their parents’ or a land that ancestors hailed from generations ago. In most cases that association is stronger than their identity as ‘Americans.”
Linda you state that assimilation “happens more or less naturally” and cite the case of German immigrants assuring us that American culture is too attractive and there is little cause for concern. Actually many German immigrants were not very well assimilated in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, there were public schools taught in the German language in Midwest cities. For many German immigrants assimilation finally came through coercion during World War I, when American authorities suppressed use of the German language and ethnic organizations.
In the 1890s Theodore Roosevelt decried a “laissez-faire” immigration policy and, later, he (and his chief political rival Woodrow Wilson) launched government-backed programs that insisted upon the “Americanization” of immigrants. Besides positive government and private sector promotion, in the final analysis, assimilation was tremendously aided by the immigration restriction legislation of the 1920s. Although I would probably have opposed that legislation had I been around at the time, realistically, it is hard to deny that the 1920s restriction legislation aided the social cohesion of the “greatest generation” during World War II. They all became Americans¾not “Italians, Germans, Poles, and Jews in America.”
None of the above suggests that assimilation happened “naturally” in the past, nor will it in the future without conscious “Americanization-promotion” by both the public and private sectors.
Therefore the basis for my compromise proposal still stands: assimilation first and then we could proceed with the increased immigration in the sectors of the economy where needed, as you suggest. In the last round, you and Clint rejected this proposal.
Permit me to go even further in the effort to get a compromise agreement. (Remember we are assuming an agreement on security concerns) Would you (and you too Clint) accept any of the four assimilation pre-conditions I listed or any other assimilation pre-condition before increasing immigration? At that point we would have an agreement in principle (the principle that increased immigration must be tied to successful assimilation) and the possibility of a conservative compromise. If not you are saying, in effect, that all that matters to you is increasing immigration and that assimilation is a rather secondary concern. If this is true, then the possibility of intra-conservative compromise on the core principles of immigration-assimilation reform are bleak indeed.
Hicks: Since this is our last round on this, I suppose its time for some friendly parting shots. I don’t think Linda and I have a major disagreement over legal immigration and the need to revisit the levels allowed under current law. However, I find her assertion that “markets are self-regulating” to be a bit self-serving in the interest of her argument. I don’t think this is the case at all, for some of the exact reasons pointed out by Mark. Were she and I have pointed disagreement is with the issue of assimilation, and the extent to which current immigrants – in particular, those who’ve come without the blessing of law – are not “getting with the program,” that being the acceptance of Americanism as their prime identity. It must be noted here that it is not just immigrants from Hispanic nations of origin that are rejecting American identity in troubling numbers. According to a recent Pew poll only a quarter of young Muslims in this country identify as “American first.” That thought ought to keep us all up at night.
What illustrates the problem of assimilation among illegal Hispanic immigrants is the recent flap generated by the arrest and deportation of Elvira Arrellano. This is a woman who had entered the US originally in 1997, was caught and deported to her home nation of Mexico. She reentered within a few days and was arrested and convicted of using fake documents (stolen social security document). Fake I.D. or not, she had been employed at O’Hare International Airport cleaning planes. So much for airport security! Ordered to be deported again by a judge, Arrellano has been holed up in a Chicago church, virtually thumbing her nose at immigration authorities. But, what finally caused her to be arrested and deported (again) was the fact that she had become identified as the “Rosa Parks” of the sanctuary movement, and had traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles to speak on behalf of this cause, something that’s been resurrected in the past year by the liberation theology wing of the catholic Church as well as the nation’s leftist and “immigrants rights” advocates.
Despite being in the nation for 10 years, Elvira Arrellano speaks virtually no English and has expressed hostility toward the nation she resided in and was been allowed to work in – even though she had broken the law to do so. Its important o note that she has been welcomed as a hero in Mexico, where a newspaper (Frontera) headline blared “Elvira unites Latinos behind her.” Rather than express gratitude for being allowed to stay and work in the US, and in the process support her American-born child, she has attacked the US in language that could have been taken from some Marxist group’s written platform. How prevalent is Arrellano’s attitude among America’s undocumented? Need I remind others of the large marches that took place in this nation’s largest cities a year ago? The featured attitude was one of supreme arrogance as marchers, initially, swirled Mexican flags and loudly demanded that they be given the immigration status that they “felt” they should have. Posters were displayed by demonstrators accusing the nation of racist behavior toward Latinos (because of resistance to amnesty a second time in 20 or so years?) and Latino youth swarmed through the streets demanding “justice for immigrants.”
Little wonder, since many arriving from Mexico have views of America that are less than sympathetic. According to a Zogby poll, taken after we were attacked on 9/11, 58 percent of the Mexican people believed the U.S. Southwest belongs to Mexico, and 57 percent believed that Mexicans have the right to enter the US without permission. Advocacy organizations like The National Council of La Raza, the Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, as well as various Mecha chapters on high school and college campuses across the nation encourage the view that Latinos are a victimized group and that “justice” means the granting of amnesty only as an initial discussion of “rights” for illegal residents. Of course, this issue of “immigrants rights” has been taken up with a vengeance by America’s leftists and ultra-liberals, always eager to pronounce the nation racist and oppressive towards “people of color” – just as they have also entered into a bizarre and unholy alliance (to borrow David Horowitz’s language here) with Islamic groups hostile to western values, and all things American.
Now, I’m actually not a hard-ass on the issue of illegal residents. I am convinced that we will eventually have to regularize the status of the 12 million (or is it really 20 million?) who are here illegally. Other than the utter wrong-headedness of the recently-defeated Senate immigration package, I do not think there is the political will to eject all those living here “in the shadows.” An essential component of the American ethos is “fairness.” However, I think my stand has been consistent: First, fix the problem of a porous border, track down those who’ve overstayed the provisions of various visas, summarily deport all criminal aliens, put in place realistic, verifiable work-place rules and then figure out what to do with illegal workers and residents who have broken no additional laws.
My prime concern is that of assimilation of America’s newcomers. For the sake of the nation’s future, we cannot allow a laissez-fare immigration policy that assumes immigrants will gravitate toward a common language and shared culture. The effects of the multicultural left have made this a shaky proposition. Following America’s great wave of European immigration, social organizations sprung into existence that prodded and pushed Poles, Jews, Italians and others toward the mainstream. Today’s immigrant organizations, like the Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles, are active arms of the organized left, arguing in effect that assimilation is a cop-out and a cave-in to a oppressive governmental system. As much as I am a small government conservative, what is required is – as John suggests – a conscious “Americanization-promotion” by the public sector. Unfortunately, given the influence of diversity and multicultural ideology, I don’t have much hope that such promotion will spring up in the private sector any time soon.
Chavez: Let me make a few final remarks in response to Mark: First, while it is true that stricter border enforcement has undoubtedly dissuaded many people from attempting to enter the US illegally, it also has had an unintended consequence with far less salutary effects. Those who do manage to sneak in are far less likely than in the past to return home knowing that they may not succeed next time, which means that some illegal aliens who would have spent only a few months in the US each year are now stuck here, even when work is less plentiful. They are also more likely to want to bring their families here with them since there are no opportunities to return for periodic visits. The result is a swelling permanent illegal alien class.
In addition, because entry is so difficult, those who want to cross are more likely to employ coyotes, who are often drug-smugglers as well as human traffickers. This has led to more crime on the border--most of it directed at illegal aliens (overall, the increase in immigrant populations has been accompanied by a decrease in crime, especially violent crime. While it is difficult to know whether this is cause and effect or just coincidence, the numbers are striking. In Los Angeles, home to the largest Hispanic immigrant population in the nation, violent crime declined 37 percent from 2000-2005. Indeed between 2000 and 2005, of the 10 cities with the largest immigrant populations, violent crime went down in 8. Only Houston experienced an increase in violent crime, and this was almost exclusively the result of homicides and other violent crimes committed by native-born criminals from New Orleans who fled Hurricane Katrina and were resettled in Houston. San Diego, for example, violent crime went down 8 percent while the immigrant population increased 21 percent.
Second, I think I understand free market economics pretty well, Mark. You and your colleagues on the anti-immigration side of the debate have to twist yourselves into pretzels to argue that limiting the free flow of labor will have positive impacts on the overall economy (I've yet to see a successful, well-reasoned argument on this from your side. Even George Borjas admits that immigration adds a small net positive to GDP and he is by far the best, I venture to say one of the only reputable economists on your side; Borjas isn't anti-immigrant, he just wants more skills-based and fewer family-based immigrants in the mix). But let me just cite this week's NYT front-page article, "Short on Labor, US Farmers Shift to Mexico," which describes the effects of the illegal alien crackdown. If Mohammed can't come to the mountain, some employers are taking the mountain to Mohammed. Hard numbers of how many farmers, poultry producers, etc. are shifting their operations south of the border are difficult to come by, but the NYT found at least 12 agribusinesses employing 11,000 people had picked up and moved recently.
No doubt some will say good riddance-- that means 11,000 fewer Mexicans here illegally. But be careful what you wish for. It also means tens of thousands of other American jobs that depend on those workers have also been lost: the managers, landlords, home builders, retail clerks, car salesmen, etc. who would have benefited from having the wages of these workers earned and spent in the US rather than in Mexico. But that won't bother Mark. His outfit believes we should only have 150 million people living in the US anyway. Since I'm frequently invited to go back to Mexico by my critics, let me return the favor. Mark, you want half of all Americans to disappear; well, I plan on staying, but maybe you guys ought to lead by example. Vaya con Dios my friend.
Krikorian: Oh, brother. Though there are indeed people who believe that “we should only have 150 million people living in the US.” Linda knows perfectly well that neither I nor my organization hold such a position. She clings to what can only be described as a lie to distract from her own call for social engineering – using the federal immigration program as a way to “fix” the mistaken childbearing decisions of Americans; in her own words, “Our current birthrate is insufficient to supply workers to fill these jobs.” So, Linda is explicitly stating that immigration is needed because Americans are not breeding in sufficient numbers to satisfy the Chamber of Commerce. I, on the other hand, think that American couples today should decide how many Americans there will be tomorrow, and the government has no businesses manipulating the results of those decisions.
Linda also makes the oft-repeated claim that our border-enforcement efforts are self-defeating – that making it harder to get across the border is causing an increasing proportion of Mexican migrants to stay here for good once they get in rather than risk another crossing. She derives this claim from Doug Massey, the leftist Princeton sociologist who has emerged as a major advocate for open borders. But when you actually look at his work, the connection to increased enforcement falls apart. For instance, see the testimony he offered earlier this year when he and I appeared before the House immigration subcommittee. Figure 7 in that document sums up his data, and it shows that the likelihood of a Mexican illegal alien settling permanently in the United States has been increasing steadily for a generation, long before the recent enforcement increases, long before the border initiatives of the 1990s, long before even the 1986 bill that banned the employment of illegals. This phenomenon is part of the accelerating Mexican surge to the north caused by Mexico’s own development combined with our unwillingness to enforce our borders – a combination that has caused the Mexican immigrant population to grow from less than 800,000 in 1970 to nearly 12 million today. And even in 1980, when Massey’s data begin, the majority of illegal settled here permanently, rather than going back and forth. This whole idea that enforcement is causing people to depart from the “normal” back-and-forth patterns is utterly without foundation.
As a final specific point, let me respond to Linda’s warning that tougher enforcement will cause more American farmers will shift some of their operations to Mexico, rather than importing the labor here. I actually don’t fear this at all – I think trade is good, and development in Mexico is good, and people being able to earn a living staying in their home country and community is good. If there are food-safety concerns with imported produce (and we already import lots and lots of produce), then we should increase safety inspections, and make importers pay for it – and if that extra cost helps our domestic farmers be more competitive, that’s OK too. But this irrational fear of offshoring some share of farming (which the Wall Street Journal shares – the only kind of offshoring they’ve ever been against!) is nothing but mercantilism, the kind of beggar-thy-neighbor economic thinking that the Right succeeded in discrediting a long time ago.
More generally, this whole discussion among John, Joe, Linda, Clint, and me has, I think, been quite illuminating. The substantive, documented critiques by John and me, and the glib, breezy responses by Linda and Clint, really highlight the unbridgeable divide on the Right over immigration. On one side is the majority of conservatives, who, despite many differing views on the specifics of immigration policy, nonetheless give first priority to Americanization, borders, sovereignty, and national cohesion. On the other side is a small but vocal group that places first priority on continued high levels of immigration, without any preconditions regarding assimilation or sovereignty. This faction is part of an odd-bedfellows coalition of business lobbyists, libertarian ideologues, racial-chauvinist groups, and left-wing open-borders activists that have been very successful over the years in preventing consistent, across-the-board enforcement of our immigration laws.
It’s long past time to establish the first of these two competing views as the consensus position of the Right: Assimilation first; Secure borders first; Sovereignty first. Those who disagree should either keep their own counsel or find a different political home.
FP: John Fonte, Mark Krikorian, Linda Chavez, Joe Hicks and Clint Bolick, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.