Thomas Jackson, American Renaissance, August 2008
Heather Mac Donald, et. al., The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s, Ivan R. Dee, 2007, 197 pp.
Heather Mac Donald is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute whose articles in the institute’s City Journal are always worth reading. Her main subjects — black crime, false accusations of “racism,” immigration policy, and the growing Hispanic underclass — could have been taken straight out of AR. Her writing is always supple, undeceived, and well researched. She stops short of drawing racial conclusions, but she almost doesn’t have to; her portraits of black and especially Hispanic behavior are so vivid they speak for themselves.
The Immigration Solution is a collection of five of Miss Mac Donald’s City Journal articles together with a few pieces by Steven Malanga and Victor Davis Hanson that also appeared in City Journal. The entire collection, which is introduced by Myron Magnet, is readable and, except for some fluff by Mr. Hanson, free of the evasions and moonshine that usually come out of Manhattan.
From the start, Miss Mac Donald rejects the bogus distinction between legal and illegal immigrants: “[T]he public dislikes the effect on local communities of large numbers of poor Mexicans and their progeny, legal or not,” she writes, adding that “many of the costs imposed by Mexican immigrants are a function of their lack of education, their low incomes, and their own and their children’s behavior, not their legal status.” There is hardly any legal immigration from Mexico anyway; 80 percent of the Mexicans who came in the last decade were illegals, and as Miss Mac Donald points out, if there is another amnesty our immigration laws will be laughed at for generations.
In some respects they are already a joke. Miss Mac Donald notes that in 2001 there were only 124 agents in the entire country trying to catch the tens of thousands of people who were hiring illegal immigrants. She suggests, however, that even this small number could have an impact if they made more high-profile sweeps. After the September 11 attacks the Department of Homeland Security deported 1,500 illegal Pakistanis — whereupon 15,000 more left voluntarily.
Fear of deportation is exactly what Miss Mac Donald wants an illegal to live with, yet, as she observes, the common liberal view is that “simply creating in his mind the teeniest thought that he may be penalized for his violation of American sovereignty is itself a callous abuse.” The Mexican government certainly encourages us to think that once someone sneaks past the border patrol, enforcement of immigration laws is a human-rights violation.
Miss Mac Donald notes that in the face of the spectacular failure by the federal government to enforce its laws, states and cities are passing their own. This is exactly the purpose of federalism — people who are close to a problem are supposed to have a free hand in solving it — but as she notes, local attempts to make up for federal failure are invariably dismissed as xenophobia.
Miss Mac Donald has made a well-deserved name for herself as an authority on immigrant crime and the police response to it. It was she who first publicized the fact that in 2004 illegals accounted for 95 percent of the outstanding warrants for murder in Los Angeles. She has also pointed out that in many cities it would be easy to clean out the worst Hispanic gang members if the hands of the police were not tied. Anyone in the country illegally can be deported, and illegal status is easier to prove than drug running or assault. Known malefactors could be kicked out of the country on immigration charges, but in “sanctuary” cities such as New York, San Diego, Chicago, Austin, and Houston, police are under orders to ignore status. Anyone who has been deported and then comes back is guilty of felonious reentry, and can be jailed. That would be an easy way to get thugs off the streets, but it is forbidden in sanctuary cities.
As Miss Mac Donald explains, the theory behind not asking illegals to show their papers is that they will be afraid to cooperate with the police or report crime. She points out that we don’t fail to enforce drug laws for fear druggies won’t cooperate with the police, so what’s the real reason cities have “sanctuary” laws? As she explains, “The immigrant population has grown so large that public officials are terrified of alienating it, even at the expense of ignoring the law and tolerating violence.” This reinforces the idea that America doesn’t take its laws seriously, and if Mexicans can ignore immigration laws, why not property, littering, or any other law? When we actually do enforce laws, the presence of Mexicans makes it more expensive: California alone spends $87 million a year on criminal-court interpreters.
Unfortunately, any deportable criminal who can afford a lawyer can count on our byzantine appeals system to keep the feds off his back for years. Miss Mac Donald quotes a probation officer: “A regular immigration attorney can keep you in the country for three years, a high-priced one for ten.”
Crime and gangs followed Mexicans as they spread throughout the country. Ernesto Vega, a 19-year-old illegal who grew up in New York City, told Miss Mac Donald that most 12- to 14-year-old Mexicans in the city have to be in gangs for their own protection — from each other. “If you’re Mexican you can’t go to parties by yourself . . . But if it’s 20 of you and 20 of them then it’s OK.”
Miss Mac Donald scoffs at the vaunted “family values” of Hispanics. In 2005, 48 percent of Hispanic babies were illegitimate, and Hispanic teenagers had babies at three times the white rate. Nor can Hispanics blame illegitimacy rates on loose American morals. Forty percent of foreign-born Hispanics are illegitimate, and bastardy rates are 38 percent in Mexico and 72 percent in El Salvador.
Hispanic immigrants bring their quaint customs with them: “Social workers report that the impregnators of the younger Hispanic women are with some regularity their uncles, not necessarily seen as a bad thing by the mother’s family. Alternatively, the father may be the boyfriend of the girl’s mother, who then continues to stay with the grandmother. Older men seek out young girls in the belief that a virgin cannot get pregnant during first intercourse, and to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.”
American-born Hispanics get welfare at twice the rate of American-born whites, and foreign-born Hispanics at three times that rate. Once Mexicans are here, welfare use rises from the second to the third generation — to 31 percent. We now have a Hispanic hereditary welfare class just like the black one.
Miss Mac Donald writes that according to some reports, Hispanics are even more hostile than blacks to education. In the Los Angeles school district, which is 73 percent Hispanic, only 40 percent of the students who enter the ninth grade graduate. Only 15 percent graduate with the credits needed for college work.
Miss Mac Donald also covers the shameless way Mexico interferes in our affairs. In 2004, the Ministry of Foreign Relations made a massive, free distribution of a comic book called “Guide to the Mexican Migrant,” which was full of tips on how to sneak into the United States and live here undetected. Mexican consulates in America kept a stock on hand. As Miss Mac Donald notes drily, “Disseminating information about how to evade a host country’s laws is not typical consular activity.” As she also points out, the Mexicans published the guide as a comic book because they know that many people heading north can barely read.
Another blatant act of disregard for our laws is the matricula consular, or identity card that consulates hand out to Mexicans living here. As Miss Mac Donald explains, the only people who could possibly need this kind of ID are illegals. Although many banks and some local governments have been browbeaten into accepting the matricula, the FBI warns that consulates do not check applicants carefully, so many matriculas cannot be trusted.
Probably no other country is as active in our affairs as Mexico. In April 2005, the police in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, arrested a Mexican on novel grounds: that he was in the country illegally so was, by definition, guilty of trespass. The Mexican government went into a fury and — contrary to usual diplomatic rules — even paid for his appeal (a state court found that the arrest was not valid). In August 2005, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson declared a state of emergency in four border counties that were “devastated” by drug and people smuggling. The city council in Ciudad Juarez, across the border, declared that this was interference in Mexico’s domestic affairs.
Mexico’s main diplomatic objective is to eliminate the border and win amnesty for illegals. In July 2005, former foreign minister Jorge Castaneda told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Mexico would cooperate in fighting terrorism only if the US amnestied all Mexican illegals.
A second and easier goal — at least so far — is to keep Mexican nationalism alive among Mexican-Americans. Torres Sarmiento is a community affairs coordinator in the Santa Ana, California consulate. She visits Orange County schools to promote a Mexican government-sponsored drawing contest called Este Es Mi Mexico (This is My Mexico). Children draw a picture that illustrates the “history, culture, natural resources, people, or traditional holidays [of] our beloved and beautiful country.” Winners get a trip to Mexico City paid for by the Mexican government.
Mexican consulates also have a budget for textbooks that they donate to American schools with large numbers of Mexican students. The idea is to teach as many subjects as possible — especially history — from a Mexican perspective.
This kind of overt boosting is probably not necessary. As Efrian Jimenez, an official with the Federation of Zacatecan Clubs of Southern California, explained to Miss Mac Donald, “The dream that most of us hold on to is the Mexican dream. . . . Four-fifths of Mexicans here would say that if they had a job in Mexico, they’d go back right away.” And as Kevin Ruiz, a Santa Ana, California, cop who harks back to an older, pro-American tradition, reported, “I don’t see assimilation. They want to hold on [to a Mexican identity].” He says today’s Mexican immigrant is a “totally different kind of person” from the past.
Myron Magnet, also of the Manhattan Institute, adds a few interesting observations, mainly about the economics of immigration. He points out that because of all the services they consume, each immigrant household in California costs California natives $1,200 per year, and that the average high-school-dropout immigrant — this includes two-thirds of our Mexicans — will cost taxpayers $85,000 over his lifetime.
Mr. Magnet makes the point that the immigrants of the turn of the 20th century whom we romanticize came at a time when there were no government handouts, and that many who could not make it went home. Now they can go on welfare. He, too, emphasizes that unskilled Hispanics are “becoming a new underclass, living in ethnic enclaves that are ridden with crime, violent gangs, drug dealing, illegitimacy, school failure, welfare dependency, and poverty.” He even asks what amounts to a revolutionary question: “Surely it is right to ask what immigrants can do for our country, not what our country can do for them?”
Steven Malanga, also affiliated with the Manhattan Institute, makes other economic arguments. He points out that the availability of cheap, Third-World labor means that we do not invest in mechanization. If we really worry that without Mexican stoop labor tomatoes and lettuce would be priced out of reach, we should mechanize the harvest. He points out that not to do so is to repeat the errors of others: “Like Germany, France thought it was importing a labor force, but it wound up introducing a new underclass.” He also warns that “guest workers inevitably become permanent residents.” As it is, these new, permanent residents are willing to work for wages so low that they have cut the annual earnings of native-born high-school dropouts by 8 percent, or about $1,200.
Mr. Malanga reinforces some of Mr. Magnet’s points, noting that during the Depression about 60 percent of recent arrivals went home. In the 1930s, immigrants were expected to support themselves, but things are different now: “The modern welfare state has turned the self-selection process upside down, offering immigrants from very poor countries incentives to come to America and sponge off the taxpayer.” He notes that most developed countries do not let immigrants — not even legal ones — go on welfare, and that to do so is to invite endless exploitation. He argues that Australia and Canada have far more intelligent policies. In theory, they admit only skilled immigrants and their immediate families. He says we could cut the number of family visas in half if we kept out immigrants’ parents, siblings, et cetera.
Victor Davis Hanson, who has popularized the term “Mexifornia,” makes a few good points about Mexican immigrants: “The second generation has learned how to live, spend, and consume as Americans, but not, like their fathers, to work and save as Mexicans.” Further he writes, “Mexico’s policy for a half-century has been the deliberate and illegal export of millions of its poorest citizens to the United States, which is expected to educate, employ, and protect them in ways not possible at home.” The result, he says, is to create California shantytowns with plumbing, sewerage, and living conditions as bad as anything from the 1950s.
Mr. Hanson, however, is a hopeless liberal on race. What are we to make of this passage on the importance of keeping Americans focused on common culture so they will not split by race?
[The] subjugation of race to culture is forever a fragile creation, not a natural entity. Each day it can erode. A single fool can undo the work of decades and so allow small people to feel one with those of like tongue or skin color; not united by shared ideals and values. Thus, each time a university president, a politician on the make, or a would-be muckraking journalist chooses the easy path of separatism, he, like the white chauvinists of the past, does his own little part in turning us into Rwanda or Kosovo.
Virtually every word in this paragraph is stupid or wrong or both. One obvious point to make in reply is that if “the work of decades” can be destroyed by “a single fool,” that work is futile and should never have been attempted. Mr. Hanson as much as admits that the United States is trying to repeal the laws of human nature. Every generation of Americans up until a half century or so ago would have recognized this for the grotesque folly it is, but racial orthodoxy blinds even “conservatives” to the obvious.
This is very little of this kind of guff, however. For the most part, this is a concise, hard-hitting, easily digested account of what is wrong with our immigration policies. The points it makes and the facts it offers are so striking that it is just the thing to drive ordinary Americans into action. The gift of a fat book is an imposition on someone’s time. The Immigration Solution is the perfect summer-reading present for waverers.