In January 2004, President Bush proposed a “guest worker” program that would, in effect, grant amnesty to the eight to 14 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. Of this number, an estimated 90 percent are Hispanic, and nearly 80 percent of these are Mexican. They are said to be a wonderful addition to America because they not only offer cheap labor, they have “strong family values.”
Hispanics themselves promote this idea, and President Bush endorses it. As Pedro Celis, Washington state chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly says, “President Bush shares with the Hispanic community a strong sense of family values.” During the 2000 campaign, Mr. Bush announced that “family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande River.” Two years later, promoting amnesty for Mexican illegals whose relatives are here legally, Mr. Bush said, “I want to show our friends, the Mexicans, that we are compassionate … We believe in family values.”
To praise Hispanic “family values” is to imply that the social and moral character of Hispanics is superior to that of other Americans. Presumably this means Hispanics are particularly likely to marry, have children within wedlock, support their families, care for their children, and set a good example for them. In fact, none of this is true. By virtually every significant social measure, Hispanics rank below whites and even, on occasion, below blacks. Strong Hispanic “family values” are a myth.
Probably the single best indicator of the strength of “family values” in any community is the illegitimacy rate. As the graph to the left shows, fully 42 percent of Hispanic women who gave birth in 1999 were unmarried. The black rate of 69 percent was even worse, and the white rate of 22 percent is hardly admirable, but Hispanics were still nearly twice as likely as whites to have illegitimate children.
Many of these children are the result of pregnancy at a very early age. As the graph to the right shows, Hispanic girls under age 14 give birth at a rate more than four times the white rate. Child-bearing as young as this is nearly always a prelude to disaster. When it comes to births to girl ages 15 to 17, Hispanics, at three times the white rate, are even more fertile than blacks (left). This country has put a huge effort into persuading teenagers not to have children; Hispanics are not listening. Moreover, Hispanic teenagers are not giving birth because they are Catholic and avoid abortion for religious reasons. As the graph to the right shows, Hispanics are 57 percent more likely than whites to abort. Yet Republicans somehow persist in believing Hispanics are a naturally “pro-life” constituency that will respond to conservative appeals.
Hispanics do marry, and are considerably more likely to do so than blacks, but are less likely than whites. As the graph to the left shows, they are also more likely than whites to be divorced, and never to have married.
Are Hispanics good parents? One minimal measure of success is keeping one’s children from being killed. As the graph to the right indicates, Hispanic children, ages 10 to 19, are four times more likely than whites to be shot to death. The figures in this graph are for California rather than for the country as a whole, but California is the state with the largest number of Hispanics — 11 million, or 32.4 percent of the national total — and there is no reason to think it unrepresentative. As the graph below shows, Hispanics are more likely than whites to abuse their children, though they do so less often than blacks or American Indians.
Hispanics are also bad parents when it comes to automobile safety. A study of Colorado traffic accidents published in the December 2000 issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine concludes that, compared to whites, “Hispanic drivers have higher rates of safety belt nonuse, speeding, invalid licensure and alcohol involvement, with correspondingly higher rates of death in traffic crashes.” How much higher? A University of Colorado study found that the death rate in accidents was 75 percent higher for Hispanics than whites. For children the figures are almost as bad. A study in 1998 by Johns Hopkins University found that Hispanic children are 72 percent more likely to die in traffic accidents than white children. Hispanics are equally irresponsible after an accident. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has noted, they are “more likely to run after a crash,” partly because many are here illegally and do not have insurance. Uninsured drivers raise the cost of insurance for everyone else.
Hispanics are also more likely than whites to drive drunk. A University of Texas study published in 2002 found that 19 percent of Hispanic men reported having been arrested for drunk driving, compared to 13 percent for white men. Is this because Hispanics simply drink more? This is suggested by death rates from cirrhosis of the liver (right), a condition usually brought on by chronic drunkenness. Nor is Hispanic alcoholism restricted to men. The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Surveillance Network reports that in Arizona and Colorado — two heavily Hispanic states probably typical of the nation as a whole — Hispanic babies are twice as likely as white babies to be born with fetal alcohol syndrome, which leaves them disfigured and mentally retarded. There is only one way for a mother to give her child FAS: stay drunk for most of her pregnancy. Many people think irresponsibility at this level should be a crime, and some legislators have tried to pass laws to jail and forcibly dry out alcoholic mothers.
An important duty of parents is to see that their children are educated. Hispanics are even less likely than blacks to finish high school, which reflects as much on parents as on students (left). Those who do graduate have test scores far below those of whites, and only a few points higher than blacks (see AR, Feb. 2003). The billions America has poured into bilingual education and other programs to boost Hispanic performance and keep them in school are not working.
Hispanics do a poor job of providing medical care for their children. As the graph to the right shows, more than a third — a proportion even greater than for blacks — do not have medical insurance.
Hispanic couples do not treat each other any better than they treat their children. They attack their spouses — legal or common law — twice as often as whites do, and at about the same rate as blacks (left). As has now been well established, women generally attack men slightly more often than the reverse — but not Hispanics. Here, perhaps the myth of machismo lives on, with Hispanic men slightly more likely to beat their women than the other way around.
Rates of sexually transmitted diseases are a good indicator both of promiscuity and indifference to hygiene. Rates for Hispanics for syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV infection are considerably lower than for blacks, but are about three times the white rate (below).
Most people expect parents to work hard to support their children, and we hear over and over that Hispanics are ready to take any job, even jobs native whites refuse. Why, then, are they more likely than whites to be unemployed? Eager-to-work Hispanics pouring across the border should have virtually no unemployment, yet their jobless rate is nearly double that of whites (right). And why are Hispanics more likely than whites to be on welfare (left) if they are willing to take virtually any job?
Although refraining from criminal violence is not usually considered a family value, it should be. It is hard to be a good parent from inside a jail, and a criminal record is not a good example for children. There are no national crime figures that separate Hispanics from whites, but once again California gives an indication of what is likely to be true for Hispanics generally. In California, Hispanics are nearly three times as likely as whites to be murdered, and about four times as likely to be shot to death (left). They are also about 3.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for murder (right). Those who assume arrest rates reflect nothing but police “racism” should note that in California, Hispanics are actually slightly more likely than whites to be convicted of murder (77.7 percent v. 75.6 percent) once they are arrested. If there is a “racist” plot to jail Hispanics, it must pervade the justice system top to bottom, including the increasingly Hispanic jury pool. California statistics show that Hispanics are well over twice as likely as whites to be arrested for rape and other sexual offenses.
By virtually no conceivable measure do Hispanics demonstrate strong “family values.” In a few respects even blacks are more family-oriented than Hispanics. Do Hispanics in any way deserve the reputation everyone from George Bush on down seems willing to give them? Perhaps in one. Hispanics have the highest lifetime fertility rates of any ethnic group in America, with 3.2 children per woman as opposed to 2.2 for blacks and 1.9 for whites. This means Hispanics who are married, keep their children from being shot, do not abuse them, stay out of jail, have medical insurance, wear seat belts, have a job, drive sober, and do not beat each other probably have more children than white parents who do all the things we consider normal. But do big families necessarily reflect “strong family values?” Not if, as often happens, Hispanics are bringing children into poverty.
By every standard measure, therefore, a burgeoning Hispanic population only exacerbates problems that have festered for decades: crime, illegitimacy, teen pregnancy, unemployment, poor school performance, poverty. Even if Hispanics really do take jobs no other Americans will — and their unemployment and welfare rates prove that certainly not all of them do — the habits they bring with them make them a very bad demographic bargain.
Opposition to Mr. Bush’s amnesty plan has mainly been against the idea of rewarding people who have broken the law. This is certainly a good reason to oppose the plan. However, this suggests that if these seven to 12 million Hispanics were here legally rather than illegally we should be pleased to have them.
In matters of immigration, it is essential to ask ourselves which newcomers are good for America and which are not. Decisions about immigration affect the nature of our country for generations to come, a matter far too important to be side-stepped. We must be blunt: Hispanics, on the whole, are not good for America. It is folly to open our country to a population that suffers disproportionately from the very problems we are most desperate to solve.
Hispanic immigration also brings challenges impossible to quantify in standard sociological terms. Hispanics are already creating language enclaves that in the long-term could threaten the country with the kinds of divisions that wrack Belgium and Quebec. At the same time, more than half of all Hispanics are Mexicans, who bring with them a deep loyalty to a foreign country that lies just across our southern border. There is already a vigorous irredentist movement that goes by the name of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) and has chapters at hundreds of American colleges and high schools. Wherever Hispanics arrive in large numbers they so thoroughly change the feel of a neighborhood that many non-Hispanics, white and black, feel uncomfortable and move away.
If President Bush continues with his plans for amnesty, there will be a national debate about immigration, but it is a debate that will miss the point. The question of legality or illegality is a side issue. The question is whether America should become more Hispanic, and the answer is clearly no.