Since I just complained about the mindlessness of present-day discussions of immigration and related issues, I suppose I should set forth a few points that should be added to the mix to improve rationality:
- Free self-government requires common memories, loyalties, understandings, networks of mutual trust and the like. Large-scale immigration destroys those things, more so when the immigrants are culturally distant. Consider late 19th century urban politics, present-day multicultural censorship, and for that matter Linda Chavez on immigration. Are those examples we should aspire to?
- Emigration has costs that get ignored until too late because they aren’t immediately obvious. It divides friends, breaks up families, and alienates one generation from another. It puts people in an uncomfortable position with regard to both their own past and their new environment, so that immigrant communities are often troubled. Mexicans, for example, tend to lose their religion, family values and law-abiding habits when they emigrate to America.
- If immigrants are good for the United States, because they’re energetic and enterprising, it seems they would also benefit their own countries if they stayed there. The “brain drain” is not necessarily a good thing for the world overall. In a global economy of cheap transport and instant communication, it seems to make sense for the work to go where the people are rather than the reverse. Promoting local prosperity might require some reforms in places like Mexico, which might cause problems for local officials and oligarchs who can no longer export dissatisfied people to the U.S., but what’s wrong with that?
- Not all groups get along equally well. Blacks have been here 400 years and are still a troubled and alienated minority. My understanding is that Indians and Mestizos, who seem to predominate among immigrants from Mexico, are still rather marginal to the Latin American society the Spanish began to create 500 years ago. Whether such situations are due to the enduring effects of history, to stubborn and pervasive white racism, or to some other cause, it makes sense to avoid them where they don’t already exist.
- A country is not simply a piece of land, economy, or set of legal institutions. It’s a particular group of people with their own ways, attachments and relationships. In a country as big as America some diversity and foreign elements are good, but too much and there’s nothing there for anyone to attach himself to and feel part of. That would be a great practical and emotional loss. Where you draw the line is anybody’s guess, but millions of new arrivals every year in perpetuity strikes me and most Americans as well over the line. To assert that such concerns should be ignored as “racist” is simply abusive. It’s the act of someone who doesn’t care about America, Americans or justice.
- Mrs. Chavez likes immigration because her father was Mexican-American and she’s made that her profession. W. likes it because it secures his position at the top of the ladder and because he finds it so pleasant to be rich and powerful in a Mexican environment. Many people, Jews and Catholic bishops for example, like it for tribal reasons. Or at least such claims make sense. Should the discussion be based on imputing such motives to one’s opponents, which seems to be what Chavez and Bush prefer, or should we concentrate more on arguments relating to the public good?