Immigration reform and the benefits and dangers of immigration, especially from south of the border, has leaped into the spotlight. Bills in Congress designed to criminalize illegal immigrants vie with bills to create a guest worker program and allow illegal immigrants a way to gain a toe hold in the American system. With all that is being written about immigration, the key issues tend to be ignored or dismissed. Ultimately, immigration is About the Children.
After some quibbles about whether we should call undocumented aliens "illegal", Marc Cooper [HT: OSM] suggests that the weekend rallies were in favor of legal immigration rather than in support of illegal immigrant. He then argues, in Immigration Issue Explodes [Updated] that the arguments over immigration have everything to do with bringing our economic necessity into some rational relationship to the current immigration mess:
The only argument we -- as a nation of immigrants-- can make against the current migratory wave is that our grandparents and parents came here legally so why don't Jose and Maria do the same? Well, America of 2006 is not the America that my family came to in 1915 (and when they came they also pushed aside better-paid longer-term residents and citizens). Our work force is vastly older and immensely better educated and skilled than even fifty years ago. The industrial revolution which was roaring ahead a century ago has given way, unfortunately, to a service economy. Barring Mexicans from coming across the border is not going to magically re-open shuttered car and tractor factories. On the contrary, if you could even plausibly tamp down the inflow, you would only increase the out-migration of American business.
Our national economy easily absorbs and desperately needs about a million-and-a-half immigrant workers per year to grow and compete. We let a million of them come in legally. The other half million we make run and dart across the border at cost of great peril.
He has part of the problem described.
Bear with me as I shift attention to another issue that has been drawing great interest. As you probably know by now, the capital apostasy case brought against Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan has been dropped. Neo-neocon discussed some of the rarely acknowledged conflicts that were brought to the surface by this case, and have been finessed by the resolution:
In recent years, however, we've shied away from imposing our will out of respect for and tolerance of the belief system of other cultures. The Rahman trial not only starkly highlighted the inevitable conflict between moderate Islamic countries (or those striving for moderation) and the parallel track of sharia law in those states, but the conflict between our new efforts at nation-building and our desire to conform to PC delicacy while doing so. Both conflicts seem inevitable, and certainly are not going to disappear with the disappearance of the charges against Abdul Rahman.
She correctly points out that the key conflict was between our Western, our American, notion of freedom and the understanding of freedom enshrined in Sharia law. The two belief sets are incompatible. She also points to a key to our immigration problem:
Nations are not built--or rebuilt--in a day, and profound cultural change is ordinarily not a fast process. Fast-tracking such change has been a dilemma faced over and over in the last several hundred years, with differing consequences: from Russia and Peter the Great, to Western imperialist ventures around the globe, to our own "melting pot," to Turkey and Ataturk, to the aforementioned Allies and Japan, to the Shah and Iran, to France and the wearing of the veil among her Moslem immigrant population--and to the coalition and the Karzai government in Afghanistan. No doubt similar dilemmas will face us in Iraq.
Here we begin to see how the pernicious ideology of multi-culturism and political correctness has been slowly disarming our population of their intellectual weapons. Neo mentions the "melting pot"; yet our elites, even more so in Europe than here, have actively striven to destroy the concept of the "melting pot" in favor of such ideas as "a mosaic" or a "quilt." If America remains a "melting pot", the immigration question devolves to how best to ensure that the children of the current generation of immigrants can make the transition from being Mexicans to being Americans. If we are living in a mosaic, then the question is an entirely different and more dangerous one.
The extreme of mosaicism (which in biology is often incompatible with life) is occurring in Europe. Baron Bodissey describes what can only be referred to as a low level civil insurrection in Swedish cities. (Perhaps our MSM would be well advised to look there for civil war rather than focusing all their energies and attention in Iraq.) His post is long and detailed and chilling. The point is that third generation immigrants in parts of Europe are not only not assimilated, they have created separate cultures, separate political establishments, and essentially separate mini states which are hostile to the Europeans they believe should behave like dhimmis.
I believe that much of the discomfort about immigration relates to this sense that we are allowing non-Americans who do not share our values to gain a toe hold in our country and have no confidence that our leaders will do what they should or could to encourage these people to become Americans. My children went through an integrated school system which included a sizable population of native born Mexicans. Beyond the obligatory disclaimer that many of these kids were hard workers and good students, a typical story stood out and raised concern. It was not at all unusual for a youngster to arrive in the classroom in the middle of a school year, speaking no English and academically far behind. After a month or two, they would start to make friends, catch on to some of the language, start to become part of the class, and then one day, they would disappear. Apparently, they were needed or wanted back home in Mexico. They would often return to school weeks to months later, further behind academically and socially, and even more likely to seek refuge among their own, ie those who spoke only Spanish. The school system had no ability to intervene and this pattern was repeated throughout all grades. It is hard to escape the sense that the parents of these children have no interest in assimilation or becoming Americans, but are primarily interested in extracting American dollars.
Contrast that story with the story of Jesus Apodaca, an illegal immigrant who lived in Colorado in 2002. After graduating as an Aurora honor student and getting accepted to the University of Colorado at Boulder, he was denied in-state college tuition and financial aid because of his illegal status and threatened with deportation. (I believe he was ultimately allowed to stay in the country and go to college but could not find an update in my brief search.)
The Chronicle of Higher Education described how Texas led the way for states to take a more enlightened approach:
Fortunately for Mr. Salazar [an illegal immigrant], in June 2001, just as he was graduating from high school, the Texas Legislature passed a law extending in-state tuition benefits to illegal immigrants who had attended a high school in the state for at least three years, provided they signed an affidavit pledging to seek permanent residency. The reduced tuition and a pair of scholarships made it possible for Mr. Salazar to attend the University of Houston, where he is now a junior majoring in business.
Unfortunately, the rest of the article makes clear that only a very limited number of illegal immigrant children have been taking advantage of the program.
This is the best and the worst of our immigration problem. We want immigrants who are coming to American so that they and their children can become American citizens. We do not want immigrants who see America as merely a wealthy nation which they can inhabit parasitically, all the while extolling the virtues of the corrupt and unfree countries they left behind.
Dr. Sanity describes how her own personal history informs her thinking on immigration and captures the core of what this debate is about:
In short, while I was lucky enough to be born an American, I am proudly descended from some incredible people who chose to be American. And I salute them and thank them from the bottom of my heart. In fact, I believe the real strength of this country comes from people who consciously and deliberately choose the liberty that America offers--whether they are born between the shining seas of this wonderful land or they make their way here by other means.
In the 35 years since the children of the 60's began to insinuate their way into positions of influence and power, they have corrupted much of our public discourse beyond recognition. Those who believe there is something special and worth fighting for in this nation are regularly derided as cowboys, fascists, and racists.
Michelle Malkin has pictures and commentary about the weekend protests. The New York Times headline? Groundswell of Protests Back Illegal Immigrants. The pictures (from the Times and from Michelle Malkin) do not look like they are of a march by people who want to be Americans.
Any politicians and/or political party that can find a way to re-frame this debate as about assimilation and Americanization, rather than illegal immigration, without a knee jerk reaction from the MSM condemning them as racist, will have a powerful message indeed. Once again, our elites will attempt to polarize the discussion but there is hope; their power to determine the parameters of discourse are failing (too slowly for my taste, but failing surely). We need this debate to be about creating more Americans and not about empowering illegal immigrants.