[Note from the editor: Last week, we submitted the following OpEd to more than 1,000 newspapers. To the best of our knowledge, it appeared in only one—The Circleville Herald of Circleville, Ohio. If House and Senate negotiators craft a compromise retaining the provisions of the Senate’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act that enable illegals to embark on a “path toward citizenship” and greatly increase legal immigration, the nation will be flooded with millions of immigrants—and their extended families—over the next two decades. The overwhelming majority of these “new Americans” will be Hispanic, primarily from Mexico. It is unfortunate that the mainstream media is not interested in discussing the impact millions more Hispanic immigrants will have on our society.]
Congress is finally debating what to do about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. The House has concentrated on border control, but the Senate would put most illegals on a “path to citizenship.”
Many Americans oppose what amounts to amnesty for several reasons—it rewards law-breakers at the expense of legal immigrants, it will encourage yet more illegal immigration—but no one is asking a fundamental question: Will today’s illegals be good citizens?
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 78 percent of the people living here illegally are Hispanic, so the new citizens would be mostly Hispanic. There are already 43 million Hispanics in the United States, so we know a lot about this group as a whole. Unfortunately, social indicators suggest this is a population that faces serious challenges.
Hispanics are said to be hard-working and many are, but they are still 50 percent more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be unemployed and three times more likely to live in a household that takes some form of welfare. Twenty-three percent of Hispanics live in poverty (as opposed to nine percent of non-Hispanic whites), and since 1972, the gap in white/Hispanic earnings actually increased, while the white/black gap narrowed. During that same period, Hispanics accounted for no less than three quarters of the increase in poverty in America.
Hispanics have a reputation for good family values, but 45 percent of Hispanic children are born out of wedlock vs. 24 percent of non-Hispanic white children. Hispanic women are 2.54 times more likely than white women to have abortions, and Hispanic men are a shocking nine times more likely than white men to beat their domestic partners.
Hispanics are three times more likely than whites to die of AIDS, four times more likely to die of tuberculosis, and twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, yet they are the group least likely to have medical insurance: 37 percent of Hispanics are uninsured vs. 11 percent for non-Hispanic whites and 20 percent for blacks.
Hispanics are twice as likely as whites to be incarcerated, and 3.5 times more likely to be in prison for murder and 3.8 times more likely for robbery. Ominously, Hispanic young people are 19 times more likely than whites to be members of youth gangs, exceeding the rate for blacks.
Just as disturbingly, Hispanics are three times as likely as whites and twice as likely as blacks to drop out of high school. This is partly due to the language and cultural problems new immigrants face, but even third-generation Hispanics are twice as likely as whites to drop out. Other social indices show the same pattern: later generations of Hispanics do better than the first generation, but improvement flattens out well below the white rate after three generations.
It is certainly distasteful to look at groups in this critical way, but Congress is making important decisions about our future. The “path to citizenship” will bring burdens that are likely to persist for generations, and make a mockery of our social goals of the last 50 years. We claim to be fighting poverty, yet we will have brought more poor people to our country. We claim to be fighting crime, yet are considering making citizens of a group that commits a disproportionate number of crimes. We claim to be fighting school failure, yet we would be adding to the population most likely to drop out of school.
There is another question about amnesty for Mexicans, who account for an estimated 6.2 million of the illegal immigrants and 66 percent of our total Hispanic population. Mexico is the only country in the world with territorial resentments against the United States. A 2002 Zogby poll found that 58 percent of Mexicans believe that “the territory of the United States’ Southwest rightfully belongs to Mexico,” and 57 percent believe “Mexicans should have the right to enter the US without US permission.”
Mexicans do not abandon their loyalties when they become Americans. A Pew Hispanic Center study published in December 2002—and conducted not long after the Sept. 11 attacks, when patriotism was running high—found that 55 percent of Mexican-American citizens considered themselves Mexican first, 25 percent said they were Latino or Hispanic first, and only 18 percent thought of themselves as Americans first. These were not illegal aliens; they were US citizens. It is unwise to add to a population that not only maintains foreign loyalties but considers our borders illegitimate.
Immigration is an emotional issue, but we must consider it unemotionally. We must not be afraid to ask whom we are inviting into our country.
Jared Taylor is editor of American Renaissance and author of Paved With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America.