There are some good things about the current immigration debate. 1) It seems that a debate is actually occurring (despite the administration and the Senate’s attempt to prevent it). 2) The public is making themselves heard on the matter, at least to some extent.
Culture researcher Stanley Kurtz uses his review of Walter Laqueur’s book The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent to make an argument for getting the public’s view on the issue before the U.S. goes any further down the immigration trail. Kurtz cites Laqueur as asserting that it should not be surprising that native Europeans, who are increasingly finding themselves strangers in their own countries, are lashing out against the liberal immigration policies that the elites have maintained for four decades.
“Instead of putting the matter up for debate,” writes Kurtz, “government and corporations quietly and unilaterally set policy.” They relaxed immigration limits and ignored enforcement of immigration laws. After all, it was claimed that there were jobs that needed to be done that Europeans refused to do themselves. Does any of this sound familiar?
Those that sponsored this stealth immigration policy had their motivations for doing so. Business had the obvious motivator of cheap labor. Guilt ridden multicultural elites sought to do penance for sins such as refusing refugees from Nazi Germany and having a much higher standard of living than most of the of the rest of the world. Both camps were deluded, claims Kurtz, by the idea that immigrants would naturally accept and adopt “liberal modernism’s superiority,” which is based on “exemplary justice alone,” without force.
Kurtz draws a parallel sure to stun many on both the right and the left in America. This “soft superpower” concept, which Kurtz labels as a “leftist fantasy of a pacifist, rule-bound world” is not much different from “the Bush administration’s own overconfidence in the power of exemplary democracy.” While the latter employs force that is much loathed by the former, both are based in the delusion of the universal appeal and impending contagious spread of democracy throughout the benighted portions of the globe.
I admire the motto of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial staff: “Free people and free markets.” Along with WSJ editors, many promote a purely economic view of the immigration issue, as does GMU economist Don Boudreaux. In this post concerning illegal immigrants, he challenges, “Imagine how much higher still their earnings and their rates of employment, homeownership, and education would be if no employer had to fear prosecution for the "crime" of hiring any willing worker.”
Taking exception with this view, Kurtz writes, “Laqueur rejects the cultural blindness of economic elites who see immigration in strictly market terms. He rejects racism and xenophobia as explanations of failed Muslim integration, in favor of a cultural account. He rejects economic explanations for the decline of Europe itself, insisting instead that the erosion of strong families, relativism, and a loss of faith in the future are at the root of Europe’s problems.”
To put it bluntly, Kurtz says, “Culture counts.” He cites Heather MacDonald’s recent article entitled Hispanic Family Values? as evidence that today’s class of illegal immigrants bring problems far different and far more severe than did the Irish and Italian immigrants of a century ago. Kurtz is suggesting that just as European democracy will probably not ultimately survive the immigration that has occurred over the past four decades, American democracy is threatened by our current influx of Hispanic immigrants.
Of course, the easy thing to do is to label this kind of rhetoric racist, nativist, ethnophobic, or whatever other debate-stopping label you want to apply. But the fact is that many Americans have legitimate and serious concerns about unrestricted immigration. And for many of these people it goes far beyond xenophobia. They believe democracy is in peril and that national security is at risk. And there are more than just a handful of people on the fringe that think this way. Many Americans want serious enforcement of our nation’s borders. And they want it now.
We need a healthy public debate on the immigration issue in America. It is unwise to continue a de facto open border policy without first having an honest debate about it. We need to engage in this debate without the unhelpful practice of hurling epithets at people that think differently about the issue. More than anything, we need to arrive at sound public policy that has the goal of doing what is ultimately best for our nation.