Thomas Jackson, American Renaissance, July 1995
Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster, Peter Brimelow, Random House, 1995, 327 pp.
Near the end of this across-the-board critique of American immigration policy, Peter Brimelow makes one of the many statements that so amply justify the book’s subtitle. “It is simply common sense,” he writes, “that Americans have a legitimate interest in their country’s racial balance. It is common sense that they have a right to insist that their government stop shifting it. Indeed, it seems to me that they have a right to insist that it be shifted back.” [emphasis added]
Editors at Random House must have agonized over this clear expression of white racial consciousness but, to their credit, they let it stand. In fact, this is only the most explicit statement of the racial undercurrent that gives this book its energy and focus. Mr. Brimelow, a senior editor at both Forbes and National Review, points out that nationality cannot be acquired as casually as a driver’s license. Citizens must have something in common; race and culture are essential ingredients to nationhood.
With the appearance of this book, the public debate about immigration has finally approached the full dimensions that taboos have denied it. After years of letting themselves be silenced by anyone willing to equate immigration control with “racism,” a prominent advocate of border controls has at last called the other side’s bluff. Of course race is an issue, explains Mr. Brimelow, and whites have every right to oppose dispossession by nonwhites.
Just as publication of The Bell Curve has not immediately silenced the blather about racial equality, Alien Nation will not immediately still the chants of “We are a nation of immigrants.” Nevertheless, now that one mainstream commentator has appealed to race — not to attack Western civilization but to defend it — others will do the same. The terms of debate have shifted, let us hope decisively.
As he must, Mr. Brimelow starts his book with a recitation of the grim facts of the demographic transformation wrought by recent immigration, and a brief account of what caused it. He notes that many Americans seem to think that the crowds of Hispanics and Asians now to be found in nearly every part of the country are the result of some mute force of nature rather than the consequence of national law. It was, of course, the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 that, in an atmosphere of thoughtlessness and stupidity, greatly increased the number of immigrants and almost completely changed their countries of origin. A perfectly ordinary, revocable act of Congress launched the repopulation of the United States by nonwhites.
Whereas from 1820 to 1967, nearly 90 percent of all immigrants were from Europe or Canada, of the nearly 17 million legal immigrants that poured into the country between 1970 and 1993, only 17 percent were from majority-white countries. An unknown but large number of the latter were nonwhite, second-time immigrants.
The 1965 law has resulted in absurdities such as this: In 1992 there were more legal immigrants from Nigeria (2,794) than from Italy (2,336). It is instructive to then add to these figures the numbers of illegal immigrants from each country that were amnestied that same year. The Nigerian total leaps to 7,912 while the Italian figure moves up to only 2,619 — a clear indication of who was breaking the law and who was not. In 1991, there were nearly three times as many legal immigrants from Jamaica (18,025) as from Germany (6,272). Amnesties in the same year boosted the Jamaican figure to 23,828 while it increased the German figure to only 6,509.
No one knows how many illegal immigrants now live in the United States, but the best estimates put the figure at something like four or five million, almost all of them nonwhite. Every year, perhaps as many as two or three million enter the country illegally, but many also leave, resulting in a net annual increase of some 300,000 to 500,000. If current rates of immigration were to continue — legal and illegal — by the year 2050 more than a third of the country’s population would be post-1970 immigrants and their children.
Since white Americans are not even having enough babies to replace themselves, this huge nonwhite influx is rapidly changing the nation’s racial balance. Whites, who were nearly 90 percent of the population in 1960, are now only 75 percent. Current trends would reduce whites to a minority in less than 50 years — a blink of the eye in historical terms.
Surprisingly, American immigration policy actually does recognize that race is an essential part of cultural cohesion — but only for nonwhites. The United States has granted control over immigration to five of its overseas territories: American Samoa, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, the Marianas, and Palau. All explicitly protect their ethnic majorities from dispossession through immigration. In Samoa and the Marianas, for example, U.S. citizens cannot even own land unless they are of islander ancestry.
One of Alien Nation’s great strengths is that it repeatedly points out the fundamental facts about the racial transformation of the rest of the United States: Americans have never had a chance to vote on it, it has been consistently opposed by huge majorities of citizens, it could easily be slowed or reversed, and in the long run it will threaten the very existence of the nation. As Mr. Brimelow argues, it is clearly up to the proponents of this unprecedented upheaval to justify their position, yet the nation and the media have never forced them to do so. As in all things, the possibility of ending up on the unfashionable side of a racial argument has smothered discussion of what may well be the most spectacularly mistaken policy of our times.
Every Possible Argument
Because the immigration debate, such as it is, has been carried on in an artificial environment in which everyone pretended that race and culture did not matter, the proponents of open borders have managed to compile a few arguments that appear to support their view. Much of Mr. Brimelow’s book is devoted to smashing them.
For example, a common neo-conservative argument in favor of continued immigration is that firmer controls would mean that “my grandfather couldn’t have come.” Many in the chattering classes seem not to realize that there were plenty of people already here when their grandfathers arrived, and that Old Americans were under no obligation to admit new ones. However, as Mr. Brimelow notes, it is worth pointing out that the grandfathers came from Europe, and would therefore be denied entry under current law.
The most widely promoted pro-immigration view, of course, is that newcomers are a necessary tonic for the economy. No one seems to notice the implied insult: that native-born Americans are a stagnant lot who need regular doses of Mexicans and Cambodians to ginger them up. Mr. Brimelow shows convincingly that if there really are any economic benefits from immigration, they are tiny and probably outweighed by the obvious burdens that immigrants impose.
Many of today’s immigrants, for example, go on welfare. During the earlier “great wave” of immigration around the turn of the century, newcomers got no handouts. Left to sink or swim, as many as a third sank and went home. No longer. Third-world illiterates now waste no time learning how to let Uncle Sam pay rent and buy their groceries.
About eight percent of immigrants are on welfare, more than two and a half times the rate for native-born whites. This helps explain why about one third of the welfare payments made in the state of California go to families headed by immigrants. For some nationalities welfare is a way of life; nearly half of all Cambodians and Laotians suckle at the public teat, as do a quarter of all Vietnamese. Of white immigrants, those from the USSR have the highest welfare rates — 16.3 percent. The immigrant group with the lowest welfare rate (1.6 percent) — well below even the native-born white rate of three percent — is the small number of white South Africans who have come to the United States.
Theoretically, an immigrant can be deported if he becomes a public charge within five years of arrival. Between 1961 and 1982, exactly 41 people were deported for that reason, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service stopped counting. Theoretically, also, sponsors of immigrants can be made to pay the charges for indigent immigrants, but the INS makes no effort to force them to.
Mr. Brimelow points out other obvious ways in which immigrants harm the country but that are rarely reported. For example, the millions of immigrant children that the country now feels obliged to teach in their own languages cost schools districts as much as 60 percent more per pupil than children who speak English. Even less well known is the fact that a stubborn core of uninsured Hispanic immigrants, legal and illegal, is at the heart of America’s fabled “health care crisis.”
The press has reluctantly noticed that Hispanics and South East Asians have helped reestablish tuberculosis in this country, but Mr. Brimelow reminds us that 90 percent of the 6,000 lepers in the United States are immigrants, and that newcomers have also brought cholera, malaria, and dengue fever.
Foreigners also strain the legal system; 15 percent of state prison inmates in California are illegal aliens. A quarter of the prisoners in federal jails are foreigners. Mr. Brimelow tells us law enforcement personnel estimate that an astonishing 75 percent of the 100,000 Nigerians in the country are involved in crime and fraud of some kind.
Like so many government policies, immigration law is shot through with absurdities and special-pleading. The asylee/refugee program is political favoritism for groups that have powerful backers in the United States. Cubans and Soviet Jews are the obvious beneficiaries of sentiment that should presumably be bringing us boatloads of Rwandans, Liberians, and Bosnian Muslims. The program is particularly wasteful because its beneficiaries automatically receive government handouts. Many develop a taste for taxpayer money and never work.
The Irish are another group that benefits from “policy” that is a shameful joke. They get the lion’s share of the 40 to 50 thousand visas that are distributed by lottery. Nothing more surely represents the value Congress places on the prospects for citizenship than to distribute them like winnings in a craps game.
What to do?
Mr. Brimelow would not be opposed to halting immigration completely, but he has many sensible proposals that stop short of that. One obvious measure is actually to control our border with Mexico. Another would be systematically to deport all illegals.
If there is to be immigration we should admit people whom the country actually needs rather than the extended families of the people who came most recently. To those who tout “family reunification,” Mr. Brimelow points out that aliens can always go home; reunification works just as well in Mexico as in El Paso. And what sort of people assimilate best? Mirabile dictu, it is educated, English-speaking white people.
Mr. Brimelow would put an end to the entire “refugee” hoax and stop granting citizenship to the children of people born in America (which now includes children of illegal immigrants). One clever proposal would establish strictly reciprocal immigration rights; since practically no country permits much immigration from the United States, that would quickly solve the problem.
Mr. Brimleow frequently cites past immigration law. In 1800, for example, the residency requirement for naturalization was 14 years as opposed to the current five years. He also notes that the very first naturalization law, passed in 1790, permitted only “free white persons” to become U.S. citizens.
Ultimately, of course, American attitudes must change. Mr. Brimelow writes of being asked by a student at University of Cincinnati Law School: “Isn’t immigration a civil right?” Alien Nation will help change attitudes.
It would be a pleasure to say that this is the perfect volume for our times, but it is defective in surprising and unnecessary ways. The style is so breezy it will blow your hat off. The first chapters skip about in a disorganized way, and the whole book is laced with unilluminating anecdotes about the author and his associates. All this could have been easily fixed. Even so, because Mr. Brimelow marshals so many vital facts from such a clear-eyed perspective, his book could well help nudge the nation back toward sanity.
Unfortunately, it will not be an over-night recovery. He writes of the great upheavals that could wrack the country if it does not change course: “Deep into the 21st century . . . American patriots will be fighting to salvage as much as possible from the shipwreck of their great republic.” Some of those patriots will remember Peter Brimelow.
[Editor’s Note: You can purchase Alien Nation through VDARE by clicking here.]