Despite its tradition of editorializing in favor of openness and public participation, the prestige press offered virtually no complaints when the Senate recently voted to skip holding hearings on the convoluted “comprehensive immigration reform” package worked out behind closed doors by Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kyl with Bush administration support. Nor did the mainstream media object when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced his intention to ram this vast concoction of highly debatable effect through the Senate in one week, a ploy that even Reid soon admitted was wrong.
Yet the national newspapers cover immigration with no more enthusiasm than they muster for local zoning board meetings. When they deign to discuss immigration at all, their approach is superficial and sentimental. Debate is routinely denounced as “divisive,” as if democracy is the opposite of division. The palpable contempt the mainstream media radiates toward anyone well-informed about immigration contributes to the vapidity of its coverage.
For example, recall the Amnesty Baby Boom. What, you haven’t heard of it? According to a 2002 study by demographers Laura E. Hill and Hans P. Johnson of the Public Policy Institute of California, due to the 1986 amnesty (another “comprehensive” compromise, combining legalization with enforcement provisions that were never enforced), “Between 1987 and 1991, total fertility rates for foreign-born Hispanics [in California] increased from 3.2 to 4.4” expected babies per woman over her lifetime. Why? “Many of those granted amnesty were joined later by spouses and relatives in the United States.” This fertility explosion among former illegal aliens choked California’s public schools, leading to the expenditure of over $20 billion for construction of new school buildings by the Los Angeles school district alone.
Why is respectable immigration reporting so one-sided, inane, and downright dull? Just as immigration is tied into every domestic issue, the failure to examine immigration intelligently illuminates much that is wrong with American intellectual discourse in general. Here are some reasons for this sorry state of affairs:
1. An aversion to working with numbers is common among intellectuals and media types. For instance, it’s of some relevance to crafting immigration policy to know that 5 billion people live in countries with lower average per capita GDPs than Mexico. About a fifth of the 135 million people in the world of Mexican descent now reside in America, and another 40 million Mexicans tell pollsters they’d like to immigrate here. That suggests that if the Wall Street Journal editorial board had its way, and there were a constitutional amendment declaring, “There shall be open borders,” at least a billion foreigners would try to move here. At a minimum, this quick estimate suggests that the WSJ’s immigration views are mad. Yet these numbers are not at all well-known because few in public life have bothered to do the simple calculations required.
4. It is unfashionable to admit the existence of group statistical differences. The endless campaign in American society against stereotypes has reached the point that simple acts of pattern recognition demand reflexive debunking by citation of whatever contrary example is available. “Any exception disproves the tendency” appears to be the rule.
5. The media’s dislike of reporting on averages is exacerbated by its love for man-bites-dog stories. The illegal immigrant who graduates from Cal Tech is news because it doesn’t happen very often. In contrast, the consistently dismal performance of Latino students on average—by 12th grade, immigrants are five to six grade levels behind Anglo whites, while even American-born Hispanics trail by three to four grade levels—isn’t news because it’s boring and depressing.
6. Among the privileged, if a tree falls in the forest but it’s not reported in the New York Times, it never happened. For example, the best estimate is that the Latino crime rate is roughly triple the Anglo white rate, which would not come as much of a surprise to anybody who doesn’t live in a cave. Yet because the major media won’t note differences in mean crime rates by ethnicity, this fact is considered outside the limits of acceptable discussion of immigration.
7. Another class marker of elite discourse is not letting the dreary realities of daily life sully discussions of affairs of state. Both average and elite Americans observe that the children and grandchildren of illegal immigrants are more likely to become disruptive students and to join street gangs, so they both try to find schools for their children far from them. While the typical citizen draws the additional lesson from this that our government should therefore work harder to enforce the laws against illegal immigration, inside the Beltway anyone noticing a connection between the personal and the political is looked down upon as a pathetic loser who needs help from his government.
9. That the chief supporters of “comprehensive immigration reform”—the president, corporate America, Democratic Party chieftains, the Catholic Church, race racketeers, the educartel, and big media—represent more or less what a ’60s radical would have decried as The Establishment does not raise doubts in the minds of contemporary wordsmiths. God may not always be on the side of the big battalions, but public intellectuals are these days.
12. Open borders enthusiasm often reflects covert hostility toward African-Americans. Hispanic illegal immigrants are slowly pushing African-Americans out of the most expensive cities, such as New York, which has been losing American-born blacks since 1979. And, let’s be frank, many affluent whites are happy to see African-Americans go. The Latino influx can create a temporary dip in the crime rate. Illegal immigrants generally arrive at too mature an age to get involved in youth street gangs—but their sons, who grow up feeling territorial about their mean streets, flock to gangs.
In summary, the influential treat immigration as another topic on which they can exhibit their superiority by being oblivious to the obvious.