Is there any issue more divisive and confounding than immigration?
Is there any other issue that has become so diffuse that it has been absorbed into debates about national security and terrorism, has maliciously donned the masks of “social justice” and civil rights, or threatened the sovereignty of a nation in a more seditious and disruptive manner?
Peter Skerry in Comprehensive Immigration Confusion writes that, “even when presented with evidence, my students are extremely reluctant to see immigrants as risk-takers making rational choices…They prefer to see them as victims of global forces beyond their control.”
“There is nothing more expensive than cheap food.”
He argues that there are two major beneficiaries of immigration apart from corporations: the immigrants themselves and upper-class, affluent Americans that are able to employ legal and illegal immigrants as “gardeners, house painters, au pairs, house cleaners, waiters, and factory laborers.” Meanwhile, he adds, “most Americans can neither afford such help nor easily insulate their neighborhoods” from the negative consequences of immigration.
In brief, when our agricultural industry demands migrant laborers, the most insidious costs are implicitly paid for by the working and lower-middle class Americans. Or, as Philip Martin quipped, “there is nothing more expensive than cheap food.” The undeniable reality is that immigration results in a net increase in racial tension, crime, poverty, single-parent households, and birthright citizenship to a host of people ill-equipped to assimilate and succeed in American society.
Attempts to discuss immigration rationally are met with skepticism and derision. Immigrants–both illegal and legal–have been framed in the language of refugees and been discussed as if they are members of a civil rights movement akin to that of African Americans fighting Jim Crow laws. This racialization and asylum-seeker terminology purposely clouds the conversation and allows immigration proponents to dismiss valid concerns as mere bigotry.
The results have been deadly whether they are applied to the issue of chain migration from terrorist sponsoring nations or to legal and illegal immigration contributing to urban crime-rates.
What follows is a discussion of why immigration has failed and how the expectations of the immigrant plays a role in disastrous outcomes. We’ll cover the strategies used by Republicans and Democrats alike to not only avoid the issue, but to also mask it and deceive Americans. Most importantly, we’ll discuss how Donald Trump’s views on immigration are our greatest hope to crafting real policies that can make a difference. He needs the wall and his supporters overwhelmingly demand it but our efforts cannot stop there.
So, is there any issue more divisive and confounding than immigration?
Likely not, and the writings of Skerry, a professor at Boston College and a former senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, only support this assertion. Skerry was one of the most challenging professors I encountered at Boston College–more than anyone else he impacted the way I think today. He helped formulate and contextualize a foundation that I already believed in but hadn’t sufficiently developed the skills to articulate.
“How Do You Do Community Policing When There Is No Community?” – Santa Ana Police Lieutenant
Naturally, I am biased, but I firmly believe that—at least among academics—he is one of the most blunt and honest assessors of the risks of unrestrained immigration. While his solutions are not always palatable, his overview of the negative impacts are a crucial step towards understanding the problem.
How Immigrants Undeniably Harm Our Way Of Life
At First They Intend To Go Back: If you consider for a moment the reasons that drive both legal and illegal immigrants across our borders, you’ll recognize some immediately troubling characteristics. Skerry notes that immigrant waves often come here under the pretense that they will someday leave and return home. This should make sense with some consideration of the poorly assimilated, their motivations for coming here, and their familial attachments to their home nation.
Naturally, the immigrant’s immediate intention is to earn money to send back. And at least until the late 20th century, they eventually would return to wherever they called home. In fact, half of all Italian immigrants that came to our shores in the early 20th century did return to Italy. Until recently, this was the rule for immigrants.
But They Do Not Go Back: While immigrants today might at first intend to return home, more than ever they end up staying. And while they ultimately choose to remain here, their behavior is much the same as their Italian and Irish predecessors. First, they tend to live in an over-packed squalor and “skimp out on expenses and crowd into substandard living quarters to maximize their expense.”
Skerry says that the direct result of this behavior is that extreme concentrations of “unattached males” end up living in urban environments. At best, that results in petty crime, the defacement of public property, and contentious race-relations. When things get bad, however, the result is violent civil unrest.
LA Riots: A Quick Study
The Hart-Celler Act of 1965 modified our immigration laws and opened our borders to millions of new immigrants seeking their own slice of the promise land. At the time Senator Ted Kennedy promised the American people that “our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. … Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset.” This was a bold faced lie since Democrats like Kennedy insisted the immigration should be prioritized towards “family unification” over “employability.” The results of these “unification” procedures developed into the phenomenon known as “chain migration.”
Take for example the difference between the 1965 Watts Riots and the 1992 Riots. Both riots took place in LA and both were justified using an incident of police violence. But, as for the participants and scale of damage, things couldn’t have been more different.
LA Hispanics Grew By 60% In One Decade: Between 1980 and 1990, LA saw an increase of over 1,300,000 Hispanic residents–that was a 62% jump in ten years. As groups that once enjoyed majority status in LA neighborhoods became just one of a number of minorities, racial tensions increased according to Peter Morrison and Ira Lowry. Morrison and Ira write that this “ethnic succession…set the stage for competition and conflict” and that by 1992, LA had become a powder keg ripe for a deadly explosion. When the powder keg finally detonated, the results were unlike anything seen before. And, despite the perceived wisdom, the riots were NOT a ‘black riot,’ but rather the majority of arrests were Hispanic.
Immigration “Reform” Brought The Hispanics To LA: The Hispanics that moved in were largely young, male, and immigrants from Mexico according to Morrison and Ira. They were the product of the 1965 immigration reforms known as the Hart-Celler Act. While Hart-Celler was being vigorously debated, then Senator Ted Kennedy told Americans that it would not change the racial or ethnic demographics of the United States. This did not prove to be the case.
As young Hispanics moved into LA they began competing for jobs with the blacks that had been living there. Morrison comments that the black population “may [have regarded] the incursion of Hispanics as ‘threatening,'” noting that these two populations were competing for the same political power and patronage. When riots broke out, these blacks and Hispanics ultimately targeted stores they believed were owned by whites and Koreans. Koreans had nothing to do with the supposed cause of the riots–white cops cracking down on black residents–but tensions persisted. Morrison comments that Korean-black relations had been strained since the killing of a black teenager at the hands of a Korean store owner in 1991.
The Rioters And Their Targets: Despite the prevailing narrative that call ’92 LA riots a product of white-black racial tensions, the reality is far more complex. While its true that the initial spark that triggered the riots had to do with the Rodney King incident, the situation developed into something far more complex.Korean-owned stores were the primary targets for looters and the typical looter was a young male of Hispanic origin. The clash between these two ethnic groups is incredibly important to recognize. Pictured below are Korean-Americans protecting their store with rifles during the riots. If this was simply about blacks being targeted by white cops, why did Hispanic join the fray and why were Koreans the prime target?
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Because more rioters were unemployed, young males that had the ability to do so. They were upset about their political efficacy shrinking and they weren’t keen on the economic competition. In short, blacks were competing for the same jobs as Hispanics and both were envious of the self-employed, small-business Koreans. Rodney King was an excuse that set it off.
The Rise Of Trump
If any single issue can be pinpointed as the reason Donald Trump won the presidency, it’s immigration. More specifically, since that is too broad a concept to call a pinpoint, the issue is found in the divide between the views of political elites on the matter and how their constituents themselves understand it.
Anyone willing to listen to congressional floor proceedings for long enough will soon hear the phrase “comprehensive immigration reform” uttered by one politician or another. But what does that even mean to them and does their interpretation of that phrase offer an effective solution? For the most part, they mean they will pay lip service to the concept of illegal immigration, while leaving the broader labor and assimilation issues unaddressed. Naturally, this is anything but “comprehensive.”
Grapple with the realization that what’s good for the landscaping contractors of america may not be good for america.
Truthfully, this divide between these political elites and the voters that empower them exists for obvious reasons. The benefactors of unrestrained immigration are the elites themselves, the political parties both Democrat and Republican, and the corporate interests that benefit from the cheap labor derived from both legal and illegal immigration. Those that suffer are undeniably left to manage the challenges on their own. At best they are ignored and in the worst cases they are targeted and labeled as bigots.
To The Conservative Trump Critics: The Wall Matters
With this in mind, it’s hardly any wonder that President Trump was able to not only win the primary election but carry that “upset” nomination to the general election and defeat the establishment Democrat. This is where I momentarily diverge from my former professor’s opinions. While Skerry does an incredible job highlighting the difficulties of immigration, I must offer a dissenting opinion towards what he describes as “bombast about ‘building a wall'” because that’s an unfair judgement. Immigration cannot stop at building a wall, that’s true.
First, a wall is a clear and tangible message to migrants that intend to enter the country illegally whether they do so through the border or through visa-overstays. The Romans once constructed a wall in the British Isles that cut cleanly across Britain from Irish Sea to the North Sea. Today, historians debate the purpose of Hadrian’s Wall and no explicit reason is given by contemporaries though some suggest that it was done simply to send a message to the uncivilized barbarians. A wall is not a sight that signals to a prospective migrant worker that they can come here illegally, ignore our laws, and find that their transgressions are met with a slap on the wrist.
Second, to the American people it signals a resolute and inarguable effort to take concrete steps towards handling their immigration concerns. It also paves the way for addressing other facets of the immigration issue. With illegal border crossings minimized and properly monitored with a border wall, the American public will naturally pivot towards concerns of visa overstays. From here,
Third, there’s no reason that any particular portion of immigration restraint need be constrained to queue. Multiple issues can be addressed at once. If politicians are going to insist on using words like “comprehensive” then they might as well make good on it.
Fourth, whether you love him or hate him, you’re stuck with him. Unless you want a liberal in office after 2020, Trump is your man. That means conservatives need to help him make good on his most pivotal political promises and the most glaring and easy to criticize failures would be the absence of a wall on our border.
Critics Are Right: A Wall Alone Won’t Come Close To Solving This Problem
Border security is only the start of many measures that need to be handled. The vast majority of illegal immigrants today were not illegal when they arrived. For the most part, they’ve violated their visas. A national identification or electronic verification program must be widely proliferated and utilized by businesses to ensure that immigrants and alleged citizens are legal.
Skerry writes, and I concur, that we should stop enabling illegal overstays under what he calls an “illusory remedy.” These guest worker programs for agricultural laborers and hi-tech (H-1B) visa recipients alike. While such programs are advertised as a compromise between pro-immigration activists, business interest that want cheap labor, and the politicians that negotiate the deals, these so-called guest workers inevitably end up staying whether legally or not.
If the challenge of mass immigration involves the strains associated with increasing newcomers settling here, then guest-worker programs are not an answer–or at least an honest one. If the waters are to be calmed and any progress in addressing our immigration dilemmas is to be made, we will need to refrain from this kind of double-talk.
And to that point, I raise it. Immigration activists are quick to tell us that the divide between legal and illegal immigrants is often less than those that oppose immigration make it seem. They are not wrong in some respects–illegal immigrants and legal immigrants compete with Americans for the same jobs, live in the same communities, and even, sometimes in the same houses as Skerry notes. Likewise, Robert Putnam says that “in the short run…immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital.” Overwhelmingly, working-class Americans will feel these strains while only on the rarest occasions will the pains and sufferings touch the highest echelons of American society. To this point, immigration should be broadly discouraged to all but the most admirable candidates and even then we should show restraint.
Naturally, policing these changes and dealing with those that are currently here will be a costly affair. But, if businesses that employ immigrants in large numbers are going to reap the benefits of cheaper labor, it’s only fair that they should share in the cost. A selective tax aimed at such businesses that forgo hiring Americans is an appropriate means of recouping the costs of this policing. Skerry suggest that this tax should be used to increase government-funded English As A Second Language courses. Here, I again depart from my mentor. Naturally, these courses (which he notes are seeing a dropping enrollment anyways) were to be filled, the result would be a more assimilated immigration population. But Americans are not so simple-minded to be appeased by these immigrants ‘taking their jobs’ so long as they cease speaking broken-English.
There’s much more that needs to be done, but in the interest of cutting a longer-than-planned article shorter, I will save that for later this weekend.
Keep an eye out for the Nationalist Review’s next release on how FDR, the liberal’s favorite president, sent an entire immigrant group packing and back to their homeland.