Illegal Immigration: Elite Illiberality

Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, June 17, 2013

The divide over immigration reform is not primarily a Left/Right or Democratic/Republican divide; instead, it cuts, and sharply so, across class lines. Elites blur the distinction between legal and illegal immigration to ensure that the opponents of the latter appear to be against the former. They talk grandly of making legal immigration meritocratic, but fall silent when asked to what degree. They talk darkly of racist subtexts in the arguments of their opponents, but skip over the overt ethnic chauvinism of proponents of amnesty; they decry conservative paranoia over a new demography, but never liberal euphoria over just such a planned reset. They talk deprecatingly of rubes who do not understand the new global realities, but never of their own parochialism ensconced in New York or Washington or San Francisco. They talk of reactionaries who do not fathom the ins and outs of the debate; never of their own willful ignorance of the realities on the ground in East L.A. or southwest Fresno.

The elites favor de facto amnesty for a variety of self-interested reasons. For the corporate echelon, creating a guest-worker program and granting amnesty—without worrying about securing the border first—ensures continued access to millions of cheap laborers from Latin America. The United States may be suffering the most persistent unemployment since the Great Depression. There may be an unemployment rate of over 15 percent in many small towns in the American Southwest. American businesses may be flush with record amounts of cash, and farm prices may be at record levels. But we are still lectured that without cheap labor from south of the border, businesses simply cannot profit.


Many employers appreciate the myriad advantages of hiring illegal immigrants. Although supporters of amnesty are bold in leveling charges of illiberality against their critics, the unspoken truth is that insistence on access to cheap labor is about as reactionary and unethical as one can imagine. Off the record, employers will admit they are reluctant to hire jobless African-American youths, although the black community is suffering historic levels of unemployment. They are not even eager to hire second-generation Hispanics, who, according to the employers’ creed, have lost the firsthand memory of crushing Mexican poverty and thus their parents’ desperate work ethic.

Instead, employers want a continuing influx of young workers who will undercut the wages of American citizens. {snip}

Employers do not care that the presence of 11 million illegal aliens has driven down entry-level wages. They are not concerned about the depressing cycle of illegal-immigrant labor: The young male from Latin America works extraordinarily hard for 20 years. But by the time he’s 40, he is married with children, and discovering that without education, English, or skill sets, he has no way forward.

Arms and backs that were near superhuman at 25 are often shot at 50. When the 45-year-old illegal alien can no longer pick, or cook, or rake as he once did, the employer loses interest, and the state steps in to provide him with rough parity through subsidies for housing, health care, food, and legal assistance, and meanwhile it has been educating his children. Because second-generation immigrants are deemed less industrious than their worn-out fathers and mothers—and Hispanic males in California graduate from high school at little more than a 60 percent rate—the need arises for another round of young hardy workers from Latin America.

In past times, this depressing cycle of exploitation was justified by low unemployment or ongoing wars that siphoned off American manpower. But why the need for imported labor in times of near-record joblessness, relative peace, and often-record profits? The elites simply turn a blind eye to out-of-work Americans, the low wages of illegal laborers, and the cynicism of using up human capital and letting the state pick up the subsequent social costs. How odd that profit-making from cheap labor is considered liberal, while concern for low-paid American workers is written off as xenophobia.

Most elites talk of nativism and racism as being what fuels opposition to their brand of comprehensive immigration reform. Yet I doubt that the wealthy Silicon Valley residents who clamor for “reform” send their children to public schools. Indeed, in the fashion of the Southern academies that popped up in the 1960s during court-ordered busing, Silicon Valley is currently experiencing an explosion in private schools.

Apple, Google, and Facebook 1-percenters are much too sophisticated to call these booming apartheid prep schools “academies,” but they are burgeoning in reaction to worries that the flood of illegal service workers from Latin America has finally lapped up to the outskirts of Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Once-topnotch public schools like Menlo-Atherton are now whispered about as “problematic,” given the growing enrollment of the children of illegal aliens.

In truth, do not expect Washington politicians, La Raza leaders, or agribusiness owners to send their children to the Sanger school system in the outskirts of Fresno, or to enroll them in Cal State Bakersfield. Their elite status mostly exempts them from the ramifications of their own ideology in a myriad of ways. If taxes must rise in California to pay for one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients, or to prop up public schools that have descended to 48th in the nation in math and English test scores, or to bring some parity to the nation’s highest percentage of people below the poverty line, most of the elite can afford the increases. For some, the higher taxes even become a sort of penance—a kind of abstract generosity necessary to expiate their unwillingness to assimilate, integrate, and intermarry in the concrete.

Meanwhile, forget the tire-store owner and the electrical contractor who have no such margin of error, and are written off as mean-spirited for resenting rising taxes to pay for soaring subsidies to the growing immigrant underclass. That the caricatured Neanderthal followers of Sarah Palin resent the social costs of illegal immigration and the fact that their children’s education is directly affected by the entry of millions of new non-English-speakers is, well, their own fault.


Indeed, the tragedy of illegal immigration is that it becomes the cornerstone for hundreds of agendas: those of the self-interested Mexican government, exploitative American employers, the new ethnic chauvinists, the upper middle classes who deem themselves lords of the manor, and, yes, the elite whose professions are as noble as their deeds are not.


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