Friday, February 09, 2007

The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration

Five years ago Victor Davis Hanson penned an anti illegal immigration article that included “Mexifornia” in the title. He later expanded it into a book. Hanson has now written an article where he considers his predictions from his earlier article and pronounces that matters today are much worse than he had imagined they could become by now.

Hanson says that the divide on illegal immigration used to exist between conservatives and liberals and between those parts of the nation impacted and those parts not impacted. Today, however, everywhere is impacted. The divide, he claims, largely breaks along class lines, with the “majority of middle-class and poor whites, Asians, African-Americans, and Hispanics” (legal residents) wanting tight borders and elites and higher income folks much more interested in open borders.

Hanson says that this makes sense. “Because the less well-off eat out less often, use hotels infrequently, and don’t periodically remodel their homes, the advantages to the economy of inexpensive, off-the-books illegal-alien labor again are not so apparent.” He says that this is why high end liberals and conservatives line up to support illegal immigration. They see rewards from it, while the lower end does not. In fact, the lower end folks are likely to see their jobs as threatened by illegal immigration.

Hanson has had a career as a college professor, but he has also run his family vineyard in a rural area of California throughout his career. He complains, “Our farmhouse in the Central Valley has been broken into three times. We used to have an open yard; now it is walled, with steel gates on the driveway. Such anecdotes have become common currency in the American Southwest. Ridiculed by elites as evidence of prejudice, these stories, statistical studies now show, reflect hard fact.”

Here are some of the most poignant quotes from Hanson’s article.

“Every time an alien crosses the border legally, fluent in English and with a high school diploma, the La Raza industry and the corporate farm or construction company alike most likely lose a constituent.”

“This [past] spring Americans witnessed millions of illegal aliens who not only were unapologetic about their illegal status but were demanding that their hosts accommodate their own political grievances, from providing driver’s licenses to full amnesty.”

“While politicians and academics assured the public that illegal aliens came here only to work and would quickly assume an American identity, the public’s own ad hoc and empirical observations of vast problems with crime, illiteracy, and illegitimacy have now been confirmed by hard data.”

Hanson discusses our efforts internationally to combat tribalism. He then asks, “Why—when we are spending blood and treasure abroad to encourage the melting pot and national unity—would anyone wish to contribute to tribalism or foster the roots of such ethnic separatism here in the United States?”

“Billions of dollars spent on our own poor will not improve our poverty statistics when 1 million of the world’s poorest cross our border each year.”

Discussing the harm caused by money that illegal workers send back home, Hanson says that “the greatest social tensions [result] in part because of the familial disruption and social chaos that results when adult males flee and depopulated communities consequently become captive to foreign remittances. ... Mexico cannot afford to lose its second-largest source of hard currency and will do almost anything to ensure its continuance.” He adds that “it is not just that Mexico exports its own citizens, but it does so on the expectation that they are serfs of a sort, who, like the helots of old, surrender much of the earnings of their toil to their distant masters.”

“Of course, the ultimate solution to the illegal immigration debacle is for Mexican society to bring itself up to the levels of affluence found in the United States by embracing market reforms of the sort we have seen in South Korea, Taiwan, and China. But rarely do Mexican supporters of such globalization, or their sympathetic counterparts in the United States, see the proliferation of a Wal-Mart or Starbucks down south in such terms. Rather, to them American consumerism and investment in Mexico suggest only an owed reciprocity of sentiment: Why should Americans get mad about Mexican illegals coming north when our own crass culture, with its blaring neon signs in English, spreads southward? In such morally equivalent arguments, it is never mentioned that Americanization occurs legally and brings capital, while Mexicanization comes about by illegal means and is driven by poverty.”

Hanson grapples with these issues first hand every day. He has studied past immigration waves, and says that the current situation is something far different than the tide of Italian immigrants that came a century ago. He sees our current situation as extremely bad and getting worse.

Anytime someone takes a stand like Hanson’s, some on the other side of the debate will hurl accusations of racism. Some will question why anyone would want to keep other people from getting ahead or from getting out of a bad situation in their native country. But if you read Hanson’s entire article (which is long), that’s not at all what he is talking about. He thinks that our current process of dealing with these people is bad both for us as the host country and for the source countries. He wants solutions that improve the situation for all involved.

For all of Hanson’s bluster about the popularity of his cause, it is interesting to note that almost every single politician that ran in November on a strong anti illegal immigration platform lost the election. Could this be due to the fact that elites control the advertising, campaign, and media channels? Where were all of the people Hanson says want tighter borders? Did they not vote, were they duped by the elite, or do they not exist in the numbers Hanson claims they do?

Illegal immigration is a serious issue. We can’t just wear rose colored glasses and pretend that everything is OK or that matters will improve on their own. We must be compassionate. But the issue must be dealt with.


Democracy Lover said...

It could be that most Americans are themselves descendants of immigrants and see through the arguments put forward by the anti-immigrant politicians.

Illegal immigration exists for 2 simple reasons: 1) The economies of Mexico and most of Central America are in very bad shape, and people cannot earn enough money to feed their families; 2) If they get to America, there will be jobs for them that will pay enough to sustain them and send money back to their families.

The second reason is certainly within our power to correct, but it means that those employers who use migrant labor illegally would have to be arrested and dealt with severely enough to actually deter them from continuing the practice. Certainly no conservative is going to suggest that.

As long as the demand for survival continues and the supply of jobs is here, the immigration will continue. By making it more difficult, all the government does is put more money in the hands of the coyotes and make sure that any workers who make it across will never go back.

The Mexican government is corrupt to the core (as witness the recent stolen election), the overall effect of US policy in the region has been to disrupt agriculture and rural life, increase the gap between rich and poor, and pressure governments to reduce already paltry government services. All those policies serve to increase immigration. All those policies are conservative policies.

There are lots of politicians who think they can exploit the fear of immigrants to get elected, and all sorts of ridiculous ideas are floating around about dealing with the problem, but virtually none of them address the simple supply and demand that drives desperate people across the border to find work.

Reach Upward said...

I agree that few of the proposed solutions floating around address the basic economics of supply and demand. Until we directly deal with that, nothing will be effective.

I disagree with your insinuation that Mexico's corrupt methodologies are tantamount to implementation of conservative principles. There is little semblance of a (legitimate) free market in Mexico.

y-intercept said...

I find it interesting that reachupward writes an article about illegal immigration, then DL spats out with propaganda that people who are against illegal immigation are anti-immigrant.

Both conservative and liberal groups are split on immigration. It should not be presented as a one sided issue.

My experience having lived in different areas of the country and having worked with and having known a large number of immigrants is as follows:

The primary reason that we have a massive "illegal" immigration problem is that populist leaders passed absurdly strict immigration quotas to buy union votes. Progressive leaders have encouraged illegal migration with the idea that the illegals would become the brownshirts in the social revolution.

Conservative leaders, such as the hated George Bush, have been very consistent in efforts to increase immigration quotas while trying to find ways to discourage illegal immigration.

Being against illegal immigration does not make a person anti-immigrant.

The real dark side of this issue is that there are elements on the far left who want a large disenfranchised class in America that is prone to violence.

Unfortunately, since this debate is overpowered by extremely loud and unreasonable voices like democracy_lover who is more interested in attacking his opponents than solving problems that we will ever be able to solve problems like the immigration challenge.

To solve the problem we have to realize that there is a difference between legal and illegal immigrants, and that opponents of illegal immigration aren't xenophobes, but people who want immigration done in a way that does not create an exploitable underclass.

Democracy Lover said...

Y, I am not accusing everyone who opposes illegal immigration with being anti-immigrant. I am saying that politicians (in both parties) are exploiting the issue for their own political gain.

As for your ridiculous claim that people on the left want a large disenfranchised class in America, nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than attacking me and claiming I am the one attacking other people, you might try proving one of my ideas wrong.

Instead of simply labeling other people's ideas as wrong and attributing all sorts of ills to the left (without proof of course, since there is none), you would do well to offer a solution that makes sense.

Reach, I did not mean to imply the Mexico was conservative, I was clearly talking about the effect of US foreign policy on Mexico and the region - that policy is largely a result of conservative ideas in the US.

y-intercept said...

DL, You are right. Just because someone repeats the talking points and uses the method, does not mean that they understand the theory. Marxism is built on the notion that only the inner core would know the theory. The avantgarde would repeat the talking points and the brownshirts would enforce.

My assuming that you understood the dialectics was off base. I was really just playing a game with you.

I've noticed that you make a large number of posts where you feed words into your opponents to create a straw man, then ridicule the straw man you created. Since you like to use the technique. I thought you might enjoy someone doing the technique to you. Apparently, you can only dish it out but cannot take it.

Anyway, I studied revolutionary theory. I studied it in a California school, none the less. Revolutionary theory is a technique where your group pulls dirty little tricks on the people, then take control.

You do know that there are people who like to overthrow governments? You do know that overthrowing the US has been a major dream on the far left for years?

Proof of the fact that people love to overthrow governments is the large number of governments that have been overthrown throughout the years.

In order to have a revolution, you have to have a large disenfranchised class to serve as its base. During my revolutionary theories class, we learned that workers and blacks were being coddled. The best hope for the needed social revolution would be to import a revolutionary class. There is great historical evidence that countries that cannot control their own borders fail. The US has these big open borders. So the theory says that to foment revolution, we need to get as many illegal immigrants into this nation as quickly as possible.

The big challenge here is that the United States rapidly assimilates immigrants. To get a disenfranchised base, you have to find ways to prevent assimilation.

To do this, revolutionaries used their influence in unions to support strict immigration quotas.

BTW, did you notice that prior to the Minutemen putting immigration on the national agenda that Republicans were routinely trying to increase the quotas for legal immigation while the Democrats were the obstructionists?

After the minutemen succeeded in elevating the issue, Democrats, en masse, abandonned their traditional base of unionists, blacks, etc.. The duplicity turns my stomache.

Anyway, you live up in New York and probably have little experience with what is happening on a border that is thousands of miles away. Because I've studied the method, I've known that the United States is in a race between our ability to assimilate the massive influx of immigrants and the far left's ability to radicalize them.

DL, you do a very good job of repeating the talking points. I hope you lose and the United States survives.

There is a great joke about this. A reporter is at an international convention. The host tells the reporter that there are two groups of people in the room: Communists and anti-communists. The reporter asks: "So who are the Communists?" The host replies: "They are people who read and repeat Marx." The reporter was aghast: "So just reading and repeating Marx makes you a Communist?" He then asked: "Well, then, who are the anti-Communists?" The host shrugged: "Oh, they are the ones who understand Marx."

DL, you do a very good job using the technique. I apologize for using the technique back at you. I just can't help it at times. I've learned all of these nasty tricks in school, and want to use them.

Reach Upward said...

I have been instructed.

Frank Staheli said...


These policies you refer to are NOT conservative policies. They are BIG GOVERNMENT policies. NAFTA, the cause of much distress in Mexico, was the product of both republicans and democrats.

The Democrats were actually in power when a $40 billion bailout of the peso occurred, teaching the corrupt Mexican government that it's okay to be corrupt because the big government world-firsters will bail them out.

The current Republican administration is turning a blind eye to the current problems of illegal immigration, while doing nothing to improve the inept process of legal immigration.

So from my perspective it's a difference between people who want law and order, and people who want to BE THE LAW with only such disorder as they foster.

Big government makes people not only less free, but less able to take care of themselves.

Democracy Lover said...

y-intercept, I'm afraid your comments are so ridiculous that replying to them is impossible. I do not share your fantasy world of commies and anti-commies and never have. Whatever you're talking about, it has nothing to do with me or my comments here or elsewhere.

Frank, I did not say Republican policies, because I am aware that Clinton did a lot of damage too. At least he did not lend support to Latin American terrorists like some of his predecessors, but he didn't help the situation any.

The NAFTA policies are not really "big government" policies, because they actually curtail the power of governments in many cases. They are big corporate policies. The big corporations through their lobbyists and soft money control both political parties to the extent that no matter who is elected, they win.

When you hear a politician talk about our national interests in this or that part of the world, you can be sure that he is not saying that ordinary, individual American citizens have "interests" there, he means that big corporations have interests there.

It would be interesting to discuss what role corporations should play in our government based on the Constitution and the ideals of the Founders, etc., but that's another post.

y-intercept said...

DL, I take it you don't read much of the social literature from South America. How ugly American of you. You really ought to start reading the Spanish language newspapers and journals in your city. They've gotten better in recent years. In the stuff I came across while in California, Liberation theology pretty much defined the right side of the culture and Castro the left.

I suspect that you really don't know what material dialectics is. You learned a pithy way of thinking about things in your social circles and are content with that.

PS: When you hear foreign policy experts talk about "national interests" it is because current conventions in international circles tells people to frame their arguments in the context of national interests. The NGOs use the same speak, even though many of the NGOs are hostile to corporations. Diplomats interested in preventing global warming phrase their concerns as national interests.

Anonymous said...

The first question to ask regarding the massive migration of Mexican workers to the USA is why did they come. People of good will who support this actually ferment the race to the bottom on both sides of the border.
The U.S. Federal Government itself sponsored the moving of factories to Mexico starting in 1956. It was supposed to be a temporary project to help the Mexican economy and deliver cheap imports for the American consumers.
The program never ended and it evolved into the Maqiladora factories employing impoverished workers in Mexico.
This evolved into what is called Free Trade with more the 4,000 former U.S. factories in Mexico now.
Mexico reports a low unemployment rate just like the USA does and as we know from the streets, something really stinks about the unemployment rate as reported in both countries.
It is apparent, that Mexicans will not take the impoverished wage jobs related to the factories that were moved. Now many of these factories are moving out of Mexico to places like China for the sake of even cheaper labor
It is nonsensical to put a band aid on the illegal immigration problem without finding out the cause. People of good will are just fermenting the race to the bottom on both sides of the border.
For more information, see