The National Council of La Raza loved them; so did Ted Kennedy, his political clan and their megaphones in the media. This is really all you need to know about Bush’s latest pieties on immigration: identity-group activists and left-liberals, some of whom engineered the Bush blueprint’s forerunner, the Immigration Act of 1965, are wild about the proposals.
And why not? The president’s plan, which cleaves to the Senate’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, will accelerate what was started in 1965. Back then at least Congress was slightly more candid (which is saying very little) about the pitfalls of radically transforming America via central planning.
What am I saying? Back then, members of Congress openly conceded in their debates that America had a distinct and undeniable identity, which immigration hitherto—being mostly from the traditional northern and western European sources—had not altered. The representatives promised (falsely) that the radical new amendments would generally preserve this character.
So eager was one Senator to pass the Act that heralded the age of mass, indiscriminate immigration that he vowed: “our cities will not be flooded with millions of immigrants annually…under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration [will remain] substantially the same,” and “the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset.”
These politically incorrect assurances came not from a “nativist” or a member of the Know-Nothing Party, but from no other than then-Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Edward Kennedy.
This was all before it became taboo to openly discuss, as Kennedy once did, the reshaping of America through state-engineered immigration policies—a taboo that is now regularly squelched with the totemic—and imbecilic—incantation, “We are a multicultural nation of immigrants.” Or, conversely, with accusations of racism.
Indeed, back when Kennedy was promoting his “vision” for America, he candidly acknowledged that, for better of for worse, the country had not always been a multicultural pottage, and that an adventurous immigration policy had the potential to render the place unrecognizable.
Of course, all immigration policy by definition amounts to top-down, statist, central planning. But the least invasive policy is one that respects a nation’s historical and cultural complexion and the property rights of its taxpayers. Bush’s batch of soon-to-be amnestied illegal aliens are voracious tax consumers, who will cost more in social services than they pay in taxes over a lifetime. By contrast, immigrants who arrived between 1870 and 1920, during the Great Migration, although poor, did not constitute a burden, because the Welfare State as we know it did not exist.
Moreover, what Bush in his dotage termed “the great American tradition of the melting pot” is no more. In previous decades immigrants assimilated. In the spirit of the times, they are now encouraged to acculturate to the politics of petulance. As a result, too many seem to harbor a vestigial resentment toward the host society and to cling to an almost-militant distinctiveness.
Clearly, unfettered immigration and the interventionist state, as Ludwig von Mises noted, cannot coexist.
The 1965 Act resulted in the current unprecedented immigration levels of around a million legal immigrants a year, mostly from Latin America and Asia. How, then, does Bush’s “comprehensive” plan—instantiated in the Senate Bill CIRA, S.2611—promise to eclipse such a feat?
Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation has crunched the numbers. “Annual legal and illegal immigration together now equals about 1.7 million,” he writes. “Future legal immigration alone under [the Bush-backed] CIRA would be three times this amount.” At the very least, “total legal immigration under CIRA would be 72 million over twenty years, or more than three times the level that would occur under current law.” At most, “the total number of new immigrants coming to the U.S. over the next twenty years would be 193 million,” says Rector.
If we’re currently adding to the United States the equivalent of a Nebraska annually, under CIRA, we’d be adding three or more.
(Open-border religionists will tell you, usually from the comfort of their stately homes, that high population density is dandy as it increases the division of labor—and with it, specialization. I’m not sure the densely populated Cairo is all that innovative or productive. I tend to think quality trumps quantity: it is not the number of people that makes for economic prosperity, but their skills. In any event, after spending ten days in a congested, and not particularly productive, Europe, I know what I prefer.)
Rector also observes that Bush’s scheme dwarfs the Great Migration. But then so did the Kennedy coup of 1965. Bush is simply completing the “work” Comrade Kennedy commenced. What’s more, he believes he is doing the Lord’s work. Kennedy would concur.
©2006 By Ilana Mercer