Weak reasons for immigration control
FOR RELEASE Friday, January 14, 2004
“No issue, not one, threatens to do more damage to the Republican
coalition than immigration,” gasps neo-conservative David Frum in
National Review's Dec. 31 cover story. Mr. Frum, the original “patriotic conservative” who tried to smear the entire anti-war right as “unpatriotic” back in 2003, has now defected from the ranks of the Open Border lobby, at least in a way. Should those who were never part of that lobby welcome him? Not especially. He still doesn't quite get what the real problem with mass immigration is — in part because he's not that much of a patriot himself.
Mr. Frum's article pants that the Republican Party will actually be harmed by the mass immigration it has refused to control for the last two decades and that it's high time the GOP did something about it. Indeed, that seems to be the major thrust of his case against immigration — it's bad for the Republicans.
That there are other reasons for being for tighter immigration control
or even for a complete moratorium he only obliquely suggests. There are some national security problems with letting millions of aliens ramble across your borders, and there are some economic problems with
permitting “entry by an ever-expanding number of low-skilled workers,
threatening the livelihoods of low-skilled Americans.”
But nowhere does our Patriot mention the major problem immigration
causes — the creation of a massive subculture of unassimilated Third
World aliens inside the country. For Mr. Frum, the immigration problem
is mainly political, and partisan politics at that. “GOP You Are
Warned,” the article's title rumbles.
Of course Mr. Frum is right about that, but it's interesting that this is hardly the first time National Review has issued such a warning. Back in 1997, Peter Brimelow, the magazine's senior editor, and Ed Rubenstein wrote an article warning the Republicans of the same thing — but for rather different reasons.
The Brimelow-Rubenstein article argued that immigration would hurt
Republicans because immigrants would vote for the Democrats (and they
do). Mr. Frum is arguing that Republican failure to deal with the
immigration crisis could alienate the party's base (and it will).
“There's no issue where the beliefs and interests of the party
rank-and-file diverge more radically from the beliefs and interests of
the party's leaders,” he writes. “Immigration for Republicans in 2005 is what crime was for Democrats in 1965 or abortion in 1975: a vulnerable point at which a strong-minded opponent could drive a wedge that would shatter the GOP.” But what he misses is just why the “party rank-and-file” is so upset about immigration.
It's upset for precisely the cultural and national reasons I noted and which Mr. Frum rather manages to miss. National security and economics are significant parts of the case against immigration, but mainly Americans don't like their nation being colonized by an alien, Third World mass that speaks a different language, imports different values and is often loyal to a different country.
The problem, as Mr., Frum sees it, is that sooner or later the Democrats will seize the immigration issue if Republicans don't deal with it — as I argued also in a recent column, quoting none other than Hillary Clinton's dim views of illegal immigration. Mr. Frum quotes the same remarks, but if Hillary can't walk off with the GOP base, he suggests, there may well be other Democrats who could use the immigration issue to do just that.
He thinks the way the party should deal with the issue is to “develop
and practice a new way of speaking about immigration, one that makes
clear that enforcement of the immigration laws is not anti-immigrant or anti-Mexican: It is anti-bad employer,” because employers hire illegals at the expense of Americans and legal immigrants.
Of course, the Open Borders people have an easy and perfectly logical
answer to that: Legalize it all. If the only problem with illegal
immigration is that it's illegal, if you're not willing to say mass immigration by itself is a problem, then why should we have any laws against it at all? The famous Wall Street Journal position –“there shall be open borders” — is the logical conclusion.
Mr. Frum's only response to this, apparently, would be that there's the security problem, but that's flaccid enough. His real problem is that he — like most of the rest of the neo-conservatives — will not affirm the reality and significance of the nation, the national identity. Security, economy and party interests are all well and good, but the fundamental issue in the immigration debate is who we are and what sort of nation we want to be. Mr. Frum, like a lot of his neo-con buddies, for all their ballyhoo about “patriotism,” doesn't seem to offer a very clear answer.
Samuel Francis is a nationally syndicated columnist.