Democrats passed out the following poster at protests of illegal aliens in Texas. By way of Wizbang. I had no idea Democrats were fielding candidates in Mexico too!
As the backslapping among Senators eager to compromise on an immigration bill turned sour this morning, the delay may yet give constituents time to provide their Senators with a reality check over the Easter break.
The issue of illegal immigration is just too important to be pushed through, without amendments as Democrats demanded, in a rush to show that the Senate was "doing something."
Many of us would prefer the Senate "do something" about immigration, but do something right, not merely legitimize the presence of entire new underclass in American society without thinking through the potential consequences.
It's time for the Senators to walk away from the backslapping and self congratulations of yesterday and come home and listen to what the voters have to say. It's also time for some broader reflection on exactly what the problem of illegal immigration entails.
Reality Check: The Problem is Out of Control
The Pew Hispanic Center has one of the best visual studies describing who the current migrants, both legal and illegal are. Where they are coming from, where they are going, what levels of education they have. It's clear from this report that a massive influx of illegal immigrants, mostly uneducated and primarily from Mexico, has been taking place since the late 1990's.
In Reframing Mexican Migration As a Multi-Ethnic Process, Jonathan Fox of the University of California, Santa Cruz provides perhaps the best detailed and scholarly description of the ethnic makeup and geographic source of the illegal migrant wave. He documents that the poorest of the poor, the Mexican Indian indigenous populations are being removed from their ancestral lands and deprived of their heritage and encouraged to migrate:
At least since the Salinas presidency (1988-1994), the Mexican government's rural development strategy has been based on the assumption that a large proportion of the rural poor would leave their homes and move either to the cities or to the United States. The government abandoned support for family farming and peasant agriculture became a target of welfare policy rather than production support -- a shift that weakened the economic base of indigenous communities....
In the arena of Mexico's dominant national political culture, both indigenous peoples and cross- border migrants have long been seen, especially by political elites, as less than full citizens....
in Mexico political rights are systematically denied to both migrants and indigenous people. Changes in official political discourse notwithstanding, even a quick review of the dominant mass media shows that they also remain culturally excluded from the national imaginary....
[F]ull command of the Spanish language is another powerful mechanism for exclusion from full membership in the national polity and imaginary -- note the common analogous phrases "they don't even speak English" (in the US) and "they don't even speak Spanish" (among Mexicans, in reference to indigenous people).
Conclusion I: Mexico is engaging in a sanitized version of Stalin era collectivization and ethnic cleansing directed at the indigenous, illiterate citizens of Indian ethnicity. These, along with many other Mexican citizens are being encouraged to illegally enter the United States where they will pose no further drain on Mexican social services and instead send remittances back to Mexico totaling over ten billion dollars per year.
Assimilate My Ass!
As anyone who was actually taught American history, and not socialist/revisionism, in public schools can tell you America is a nation of immigrants. But America's greatness and the reason we have the economic prosperity that continues to compel people to come here seeking a better life is that we have in the past insisted that those who come here become Americans.
Teddy Roosevelt said it so very well:
Images of illegal aliens taking to the streets waving Mexican flags in recent protests has raised a warning flag for those who ask can this huge influx of people actually assimilate and become Americans? Do they even want to? And what are the dangers to our society if they do not?
In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile...We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.
(readers note: there seems to be some discrepancy as to when T.R. actually said this).
In the early part of the 20th Century when Teddy Roosevelt spoke the words above, the key to assimilation was the public school system, a government run institution. Young people were "Americanized" and taught American history, as well as English.
At the time, the idea of "Americanizing" was widely embraced and of course it's success is evident. But there were also the beginnings of new thinking on the issue. In Assimilation American Style, Peter D. Salins describes "cultural pluralism" promoted by Horace Kallen at about the same time T.R. spoke above:
Cultural pluralism is, in fact, the philosophical antecedent of modern multiculturalism--what I call "ethnic federalism": official recognition of distinct, essentially fixed ethnic groups and the doling out of resources based on membership in an ethnic group. Ethnic federalism explicitly rejects the notion of a transcendent American identity, the old idea that out of ethnic diversity there would emerge a single, culturally unified people. Instead, the United States is to be viewed as a vast ethnic federation--Canada's Anglo-French arrangement, raised to the nth power. Viewing ethnic Americans as members of a federation rather than a union, ethnic federalism, a.k.a. multiculturalism, asserts that ethnic Americans have the right to proportional representation in matters of power and privilege, the right to demand that their "native" culture and putative ethnic ancestors be accorded recognition and respect, and the right to function in their "native" language (even if it is not the language of their birth or they never learned to speak it), not just at home but in the public realm.
Ethnic federalism is at all times an ideology of ethnic grievance and inevitably leads to and justifies ethnic conflict. All the nations that have ever embraced it, from Yugoslavia to Lebanon, from Belgium to Canada, have had to live with perpetual ethnic discord.
By the end of the 20th Century, the public school system had been overrun by the politically correct crowd that embraces a dangerous multiculturalism akin to what Kallen advocated. The result has been that divisions between groups of Hispanic students and Anglo students have increased with disturbing results as we witnessed recently at one school in Phoenix where Mexican students took down the American flag and raised the Mexican flag.
Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies in a 1997 piece titled "Will Americanization Work in America?" describes in detail the danger we face from unacculturated immigration:
never before have attempts to deconstruct the American nation, to transform us into a collection of tribes, into the American "peoples" been driven by the coercive authority of the national government. In the past, these divisive notions ran up against a strong sense of shared national identity, a confident Americanism which demanded more than a minimalist contract obliging citizens to drive on the right side of the road and vote every other November. Today's insecure, tentative, apologetic approach to national identity in general, and to the assimilation of immigrants in particular, has encouraged these latent tendencies toward national balkanization.
Here we arrive at the fundamental problem: aside from the other dubious effects of mass unskilled immigration, aside from the anti?assimilationist nature of current immigration policy, does our society have what it takes to Americanize a large and continuing flow of strangers from overseas? Put differently, is it prudent for a nation which cannot agree on the meaning of its own history to welcome new citizens from outside?
These newcomers are bound to absorb some version of American?ness, some narrative of their new nation's past and present. The question is, which version? Do today's immigrant children in the Los Angeles or New York or Miami public schools learn to revere George Washington, or Malcolm X? Do they study the history of the Puritans, or the Aztecs? Do they memorize the poetry of Longfellow, or Amiri Baraka? Do they celebrate Lincoln's Birthday, or Cinco de Mayo? To ask the question is to answer it.
"Patriotic assimilation" is how John Fonte describes the "conscious self?identification by newcomers with our nation's heritage." In other words, beyond accepting the principles of liberal democracy, immigrants and their offspring need to embrace America's past (the bad with the good) as something "we" did, rather than something "they", people of northwestern European ancestry, did. In his book The American Kaleidoscope, Lawrence Fuchs described Japanese?American high school students in the 1920s speaking about "our Pilgrim forefathers." Contrast this with Donna Shalala, President Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services, who has said that "my grandparents came from Lebanon. I don't identify with the Pilgrims on a personal level."
But we need not rely on anecdote to know that this necessary is not taking place. Sociologist Ruben Rumbaut has studied students in San Diego who are children of immigrants or who immigrated themselves at a very young age. He first surveyed them in 1992, when the students were in the eighth and ninth grades; three years later the same students were surveyed again. In terms of ethnic self?identification, the change was dramatic. Three years of high school caused these students to see themselves as significantly less American; there was a 50 percent drop in the proportion (already small) of those who considered themselves simply "American," a 30 percent drop in the proportion of those considering themselves hyphenated Americans, and a 52 percent increase in the proportion of those describing themselves exclusively by national origin. Among the American?born students, the percentage who identified themselves solely by their parents' native country doubled, to one?third. As Rumbaut points out, the results "point to the rapid growth of a reactive ethnic consciousness. Change over time, thus, has not been toward assimilative mainstream identities, but rather a return to and a valorization of the immigrant identity."
This "ethnicization" of the immigrants and their children also has political implications. Immigrants are going to be incorporated into our national life somehow, but they are assimilating into a different polity than previous immigrants encountered. The America of individual rights and responsibilities, where each citizen was to be judged on his own merit (at least in theory) has been replaced by Multicultural America, where the state formally categorizes an atomized and anomic populace based on ethnicity, race, sex, sexual preference, disability status, language, age, etc., etc. Adding immigrants in large numbers is not likely to reverse this trend. Thus, whatever their views on abortion or the appropriate level of taxation or the propriety of government funding for the arts, immigrants are assimilating into an ethos that exalts and perpetuates tribalism, rather than one that promotes a common national identity.
Conclusion II: The public education system no longer serves the process of assimilation. Just the opposite, it promotes divisions which lead to racial and ethnic tension.
Krikorian also describes the problem of trying to "Americanize" such huge numbers of immigrants, many of whom congregate in clusters in various parts of the United States. They eat, live and work hearing very little English spoken and with little direct contact wiAnglosrican anglos.
In 1998, the Washington Post ran a series of articles on the immigration problem. The third article in that series "Immigrants Shunning Idea of Assimilation" reports the experience of Maria Jacinto, who became a U.S. citizen, but like other members of her family living in Omaha, Nebraska she does not speak English, nor consider herself an American: "I think I'm still a Mexican," she says. "When my skin turns white and my hair turns blonde, then I'll be an American."
Since the late 1990's when the above articles were written the problem has grown steadily worse as the chart from the Pew Hispanic Study (page 37) at left illustrates (full size image here).
Krikoroian points out that the consequences of this eillegal in illiegal immigrants will impact most dramatically on the poorest, least educated and skilled segment of our native population, which is predominatelycompetitionhe competion for low wage jobs is already depressing the ability of that group to see wages rise at the same rate as the rest of the population.
Racial tensions all across the spectrum of Jesse Jackson's "rainbow" will not be eased by the introduction of a new underclass that will compete with black Americans for jobs and services.
Conclusion III: The goal of assimilating segregated groups of mostly illiterate people is a fantasy. The dangers of economic competition and racial strife by legitimizing the presence of a new underclass are going unheeded in the current debate.
It's time for the Senate to rethink shortsighted band-aid fixes to the immigration problem and understand the long term implications of failure to address the ramifications for the years beyond the present day.
Also posted at the Wide Awakes.