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Anyone who has followed or participated in America’s long-running immigration debate knows that opposing the open-immigration ideology is like wrestling with Proteus: as soon as you think you have your adversary pinned, he changes his shape, maybe into a bird or sea-monster, and escapes your grasp. As a result of this mercurial quality of the open-borders arguments, there never seems to be any closure in the immigration debate, even on the most obvious and irrefutable points.
For example, one of the perennial assertions of open-borders wisdom is that current immigration is not high by historical standards, a plausible-sounding statement that has the effect on many people of sweeping away, or at least of silencing, all doubts they may have on the subject. But as a matter of fact the statement is untrue, because the historical standards it refers to are based on just two decades of exceptionally high immigration at the turn of the twentieth century. It is also irrelevant, since large-scale immigration in the past tells us nothing about how much immigration we should have today. But no matter how many times the not high by historical standards slogan is discredited, the open-immigration advocates will just turn around and say that America is a nation of immigrants, or that immigration is a historical force that cannot be stopped, or that immigration restrictionists are intolerant and racist. And as soon as the next opportunity presents itself, the mass-immigration advocates will come back and repeat the argument that immigration is not high by historical standards, and with the same triumphant, conclusory air.
It is not only immigration reform activists who find themselves discouraged at times by the inexhaustible energy (backed by the seemingly inexhaustible funds) of the open-borders lobby. A large majority of Americans are deeply troubled by current immigration and would like to see it reduced, but they are perplexed and intimidated by the never-ending stream of clichés, myths, catch-phrases and fallacies, disseminated by the news media, the political parties, and other powerful institutions, that are used to promote it. In this article, which is adapted from a longer work, I will examine a few of these slogans. The discussion will not be systematic. Think of it rather as an attempt to pin the open-borders Proteus to the ground even as he keeps changing his shape before our eyes. Or think of it as a series of forays against the outposts of an occupying army, in which I will seek to expose the false premises, the deceptive assertions, the illogical leaps of thought, and the brain-numbing sentiments by which the open immigrationists have kept America in thrall.
In doing so, I will make no attempt at balance. Since immigration is a vast phenomenon involving millions of human beings, it would be astonishing if there were not many good and wonderful things to be said about it. And these things have, of course, been said for many years, but in such emotional and all-embracing terms that they paralyze critical thought. Since the American mind is already soaked with open-borders clichés, true balance only requires us to show how those clichés are wrong.
The idea of balance (so beloved—in theory!—by the news media) is supposed to mean that the pros and cons of any issue must be given a formulaic equal weight, regardless of their inherent merits. To get an idea of how misleading and dangerous this notion can be, consider the following statements:
- Third-World immigrants are not assimilating.
- Third-World immigrants are assimilating.
Let us imagine that we accept the first statement (that Third-World immigrants are not assimilating) and radically reduce immigration. If it turns out to be wrong, no permanent harm will have been done to the country. But if we accept the second proposition (that the immigrants are assimilating) and continue our current immigration policy, and if that statement turns out to be wrong, we will have irretrievably damaged the country. Thus the two statements are not of equal importance. To put it another way, if it is true that many immigrants are not assimilating, that fact would not be balanced by the fact that other immigrants are assimilating, since the net effect of immigration is to introduce a non-assimilating population into this country.
Another specious balancing device used by immigration proponents is the non sequitur, in which some negative fact about immigration is countered by some positive—but wholly unrelated—fact about immigration. For example, if you say that Immigration is balkanizing America, you’re likely to hear responses such as these:
- Hispanic immigrants are better workers than blacks.
- Diversity enriches us.
- Immigrants are needed to fill jobs.
- Immigrants strengthen the economy.
- Immigrants bring good family values.
Even if all of those assertions were true, they would be completely beside the point. If you learned that a glass of milk you were about to drink contained an ingredient that would make you seriously ill, the fact that the milk also contained lots of vitamins and minerals would not matter to you. Similarly, if current immigration is causing irreversible harm to our country, then the fact that immigration may also provide some benefits is irrelevant. It is the total impact of immigration that matters. Immigration proponents who stress the positive, transient effects of immigration while ignoring the negative, irreversible consequences are engaged in a dangerous con game.
In the same way, it is dishonest to stress the desirable immigrants while ignoring the undesirable ones. Joel Kotkin, an open-borders enthusiast, once wrote that already roughly one-quarter of all new immigrants possess professional or technical backgrounds, compared to only 15 percent of our overall population.(1) But what about the other 75 percent of immigrants who are not skilled? As Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform pointed out:
[N]early 50 percent of all immigrants are working in the low-skilled category, a much higher percentage than is found in the U.S. labor force as a whole … . Joel Kotkin has conveniently manipulated statistics to show a supposedly cost-free boon from immigration in the 25 percent, while virtually ignoring the impact and implications of the other 75 percent. That’s not fair.(2)
It may not be fair, but it is typical of the deceitful manner in which immigrationists have conducted the debate. Writing in the pro-open borders Wall Street Journal some years ago, author George Gilder denounced proposed cuts in legal immigration because a tiny number of recent immigrants (the ones he mentioned were all from Europe or East Asia) were scientific geniuses who had made valuable contributions to U.S. industry, particularly in the computer field. A decision to cut back legal immigration today, as Congress is contemplating, is a decision to wreck the key element of the American technological miracle, Gilder wrote.(3) But how did the acquisition of a few talented inventors justify the continued immigration of a million Third-World people per year, most of whom were low-skilled and poorly educated? Gilder didn’t expect his readers to ask that question. He just wanted them to get so excited about all those immigrant geniuses that they would reject any immigration restrictions. Which, by the way, is exactly what the Republican-controlled Congress did a few months after Gilder’s article was published.
Far from raising American intelligence, as Gilder claims it will do, continued Third-World immigration will result in a serious decline in American skill levels over the coming century. In the sort of frank analysis of American racial and cultural problems that seems to come only from foreigners, Japanese economist Yuji Aida has argued that it will be very difficult for America to remain a leading industrial power if Hispanics and blacks at their current skill levels become the majority in this country:
Do blacks and Hispanics, for instance, have the skills and knowledge to run an advanced industrial economy? If the answer is yes, America will maintain its vitality through the next century and beyond. But I’m skeptical.
To compete in a high-tech age dominated by microelectronics requires a disciplined, well-trained labor force. Brilliant inventors and innovative engineers are not enough. [Italics added]. Workers themselves must be highly motivated and equipped to meet the stringent norms of standardization imposed by precision-perfect high-tech manufacturing.
Blue-collar employees have to work steadily, day in and day out, at jobs requiring great concentration and manual dexterity. They must continually hone skills and improve personal performance and products through quality control.
Unfortunately, relatively few national groups meet these exacting requirements. I doubt that many African or Latin American countries, for instance, will become high-tech societies in the foreseeable future … . [T]he experience of the last 500 years leaves little room for hope. Blacks and Hispanics will not be able to run a complex industrial society like the United States unless they dramatically raise their sights and standards in the next 40 years.
Burdened with a handicap of this magnitude, how will the United States cope?(4)
How indeed? Aida suggests that as the United States becomes increasingly Third-World it will have no choice but to employ its vast low-skilled population in agriculture. America will thus become a premier agrarian power … the breadbasket of the world, while ceasing to be a great industrial power.
A brutal prognosis such as Aida’s—which does not evade reality by means of slogans and non sequiturs, but instead calculates the ultimate costs of mass Third-World immigration—appears in the U.S. media only at rare intervals, while every day America’s elites keep spreading their unceasing barrage of propaganda about the wondrous benefits of immigration, the absence of any harm from immigration, and the immorality of opposing it. In this article, let us begin to redress the imbalance somewhat.
The Economic Argument
The prevailing view of immigration among mainstream elites is that it represents a great boon to the economy. That immigration is only to be considered from the standpoint of its economic effects has become such an accepted notion over the past 25 years that it has not occurred to many people what a bizarre idea it really is. The implication is that our well-being as a society is solely a function of economic output. Matters of quality of life, social cohesion and continuity, aesthetic enjoyment, political liberty, national identity, and all the other intangibles that make up the life of a society—since these cannot be stated statistically, they don’t count. Or so the economists seem to believe. The late Julian Simon, with his crack-pated idea that every immigrant, regardless of his cultural origin, level of education, or legal status, represents a net economic gain for this country, was the most extreme of these economystics.
Notwithstanding the veneer of scientific expertise with which its claims are advanced, the economystic faith boils down to an almost vacuous proposition: immigration is good because it increases population, and thus (assuming more economic output from more people) proportionately increases gross product. A doubling or tripling of the U.S. population will lead to a doubling or tripling of economic output. Voilà—immigration makes us a wealthier nation! One of the problems with this logic is that individual wealth does not necessarily increase, only the aggregate wealth. Meanwhile, our congested coastal and metropolitan areas have become two or three times more crowded. Pressure on open spaces and parks, stress on resources (increasing the need for burdensome regulations), crippling traffic congestion, displacement of older residents, as well as ethnic conflict, all become worse. Even as economic output goes up, overall quality of life can decline. But the economystic cannot see these things because for him the only reality is that which can be stated in economic terms.
For the economystic, the swelling of Los Angeles due to immigration has been a wonderful thing. According to the Los Angeles Times, Development policies over the last decade have sought to make the Los Angeles area the magnet of the burgeoning Pacific Rim economy. The region’s growth has been phenomenal, as measured by trade revenues, number of building permits issued and aggregate income. Sounds great, right? But the article continued: The success of Los Angeles’ integration into the international economy, however, is not matched by success in integrating its immigrant and ethnic minority populations. The article then discussed the uncontrolled ethnic rivalry and violence in this new world-class city of Los Angeles.(5)
In other words, the great economic growth of Los Angeles has not necessarily been a boon for the people living there. By most standards, Los Angeles over the last 30 years has become an immeasurably worse place to live in as a direct result of the very things that have led to the growth of its aggregate wealth. The economystic cannot see this. He looks at a table of statistics, notices the upward trend in population and aggregate income, and rushes into print telling us how immigration is turning America into an earthly paradise.
The deeper problem with economism is that no true values, including the values of a distinct political system, culture and way of life, can be comprehended in economic or utilitarian terms. Solely on the basis of measurable, quantifiable, pragmatic facts it is impossible to preserve any society or institution, even so basic an institution as the nuclear family.
Suppose there were two families, the Smiths and the Joneses, living next door to each other. The two families get along, the children play together, the parents occasionally socialize with each other. Then one day the Joneses announce that they want to move in permanently with the Smiths. When the Smiths seem less than enthusiastic about this proposal, the Joneses say: What’s your problem? You have enough room, your house is bigger than ours, and we get along together. Besides, the nuclear family is only a modern invention. A dual family will enrich all of us. To back up these claims, the Joneses bring in an economist who says that two-family households have larger aggregate wealth than one-family households. They bring in a sociologist who cites studies showing that the children raised in two-family households have superior abilities in adjusting to different types of people in a diverse society. Faced with this aggressive challenge to their existence as a family, what can the Smiths say? Their family, as a unique, autonomous association, is an intrinsic, irreplaceable value to its members. It cannot be defended on the basis of quantifiable facts. In the same way, the nation is a family whose distinct character and values cannot be defended on a purely rationalistic basis. To insist that it do so is to deny its right to exist.
Now that we’ve considered some of the underlying problems with economism, let us look at some claims that have been made about the economic benefits of immigration and its vitalizing impact on society.
This was the way the New York Times, in a front page headline, characterized a 1997 report on immigration by the National Academy of Sciences. But as Dan Stein pointed out in a letter to the Times, all that this benefit amounted to was a $10 billion annual increase in gross national product in a $7 trillion economy—an increase of one-seventh of one percent. When balanced against the substantial costs of immigration, such as downward pressure on wages, disastrous population growth in southern California and elsewhere, and increasing welfare and tax burdens on state and local governments, this benefit disappeared.
We need smart Asians to fill high-skill jobs in engineering and the sciences because Americans are not going into those fields.
Although the argument sounds hard-nosed and realistic, relying on a constant supply of high-skilled immigrants has the somewhat the same effect on a society that welfare dependency has on an individual: it destroys the need and incentive to become independent. It is an escape from reality, shielding us from the painful fact that we are failing to prepare our own citizens to carry on our civilization. If we stopped concealing that failure from ourselves, we would be forced to respond to it in a serious way, doing whatever was necessary to remain a self-sustaining society.
We must also point out that the supposed shortage of American scientists and engineers has been overblown. Because of immigrant competition, many American science graduates have been unable to find work in their fields and have been forced to defer their careers or go into other fields, as reported in the New York Times.(6) Far from saving us, low-wage immigrant engineers and scientists are depriving many Americans of rewarding careers.
If we didn’t have immigrants doing all kinds of jobs in America today, there would be nobody to do them.
As Roy Beck demonstrated in his powerful account of American workers displaced by immigration, this widely believed idea is empirically false. It is also based on a false assumption.(7) The assumption is that the American economy could only have developed in one way, with lots of immigrants coming here and taking lots of jobs. Therefore, the thinking goes, without the immigrants there would have been no one else to do those jobs and the economy would have been crippled. In fact, most of those jobs only exist because of immigrants. We can illustrate this by means of a thought experiment. Imagine that back in the late nineteenth century there had been no Chinese Exclusion Act, and that large numbers of Chinese had continued to settle in California after 1882. Over the following decades, the Chinese would have filled all kinds of existing jobs in the California economy, and would also have created new types of businesses and employment niches that hadn’t existed before. Let us imagine further that in 1920 Californians began to call for immigration restrictions against the Chinese. The pro-immigration lobby in our fictional 1920 (using the same arguments that the pro-immigration lobby uses today) would have replied: Without Chinese immigrants here, who would have done all these jobs? The truth, of course, is that the Chinese in our imaginary 1920 are doing all those jobs only because they had come to America in the first place. Had there been no Chinese immigrants between 1882 and 1920, which was the actual case in the actual 1882-1920 period, California would have done just fine, as it in fact did.
From this we derive a maxim: Large-scale immigration creates the illusion of its own indispensability.
Even if immigrants are not needed in all fields, we need immigrants for low-status, low-paying jobs that Americans are no longer willing to do, such as work in fast-food restaurants and hotels.
Once again, immigration creates the illusion of its own indispensability. The predominance of immigrant employees in the hotel industry in some major cities creates the impression that without immigrants there would be no one to do those jobs. But if true, how is it that in low-immigrant regions of the country, such as the Midwest, hotels are staffed quite adequately by Americans?
Immigration restrictionist and California radio host Terry Anderson, a black who once worked as a self-employed mechanic, has made a similar observation:
Pro-immigrant groups say the jobs immigrants are taking are jobs that black Americans don’t want. Why is it then, that when you go outside Southern California or Texas—to Phoenix, say, or Washington—you see black people holding the same jobs they used to hold here in Los Angeles? Black people want to work. But the jobs they used to have, paying $5 to $7 an hour for unskilled labor, now go to immigrants for $3 an hour.(8)
As for fast-food restaurants, a major factor in the growth of that industry has been the increasing number of low-skilled people, many of them immigrants, who have made industries based on a low-skilled work force a more viable investment. Entrepreneurs choose businesses based partly on the skills of the available labor market. If we had had a more highly educated labor force, entrepreneurs would have developed more of the kinds of businesses that use highly-skilled workers instead of low-skilled workers. Instead of the multiplication of fast-food restaurants across the land, which has not exactly raised the quality of American life, we might have had a greater number of real restaurants with real cooks and waiters serving real food.
Tighter restrictions on immigration will not be the answer. On the contrary, high levels of immigration to the United States will be necessary into the next century, if for no other reason than to provide enough working men and women to support our aging population.
The flaw in this argument—which was made by Michael Lind and Mark Lagon in the neoconservative journal Policy Review—is that the same immigrants whose taxes are expected to support aging whites will also grow old (obviously) and require old-age assistance themselves. Indeed, the average age of immigrants is only a little lower than that of the native population. By bringing in so many immigrants, we are simply augmenting the dependent elderly population of the future, which will make it necessary to bring in even more immigrants to support them.
Michael Lind himself eventually conceded that his position was wrong. Financing retirees through immigration, he declared in a letter to National Review, is an unworkable Ponzi scheme, since the immigrants brought in to pay for Social Security would require even more immigrants when they retire, and so on ad infinitum. Adding that mass immigration intensifies competition for jobs and lowers wages, Lind concluded: Mark Lagon and I were wrong. . . . Tighter restrictions on immigration are the answer.(9)
There are other problems with the notion that young immigrants will supply the government revenues to support older Americans. First, under our family-oriented immigration laws, many immigrants are already old, and begin collecting public assistance as soon as they enter the country. Second, the average educational level of younger immigrants has been steadily dropping; it is unlikely that immigrants with a fifth grade education will contribute much to government revenues. Third, an aging population is not a crisis but is simply the natural result of population stabilization. As a Canadian writer pointed out, European countries already have the high percentage of older people that Canada (and the U.S.) will have in the next century and they are doing fine. Even with ordinary increases in productivity the whole question of supporting an aging population just disappears.(10)
Immigrants are revitalizing our cities.
In fact, upwardly mobile immigrants are bypassing the cities and heading straight to the suburbs. According to U.S. News & World Report, immigrants
have turned once-depressed urban neighborhoods into thriving ethnic enclaves. But healthy cities need a middle class, and … today’s immigrants, upon reaching middle-class status, tend to move to the suburbs. Many of those who remain are political refugees with fairly high rates of welfare dependency. The revitalization claim also ignores another problem: gang crime. Today police in Chicago are fighting not just black and Hispanic gangs but Greek, Filipino, Assyrian, Chinese, Cambodian and Vietnamese gangs.(11)
So it is not necessarily true that immigrants are re-energizing the cities, whatever that means. Indeed, such revitalization was only needed because middle-class whites had left the cities to get away from an increasingly alien populace made up of immigrants and the urban underclass. Immigration is not so much replenishing depopulated cities as it is forcing many Americans to leave cities where they would have otherwise preferred to stay. When immigrants move on to the suburbs, whites move to more distant parts of the country. Many blacks have also been leaving immigration-affected areas and moving back to the South. As far as white (and black) America is concerned, there is no revitalization in this process, there is only displacement.
Besides, what do people really mean when they say that a city is being energized? Energy—which is always presented as an unquestioned good—is one of those reductive concepts, like economic growth, that ignore intangible values such as the quality of life, the level of a culture, the cohesiveness of a society. Surely the cities of China—with their fearsome pollution and their streets jammed with humanity day and night—have fantastic amounts of energy. Does that mean that Americans would be better off if their cities become energetic like China’s? Stretching for three miles through Manhattan’s Harlem Heights and Washington Heights, upper Broadway with its largely Dominican population has abundant energy—block after block of tacky stores, cheap wares being sold from bins on the sidewalk, people sitting in chairs on the sidewalk and otherwise milling about, and the incessant sound of boom boxes from passing cars. Such energy may be normal and healthy in the context of Caribbean cultures, but is it desirable from the point of view of Western civilization? Accompanying the famous Latino exuberance are low levels of standards, infrastructure and social order that are incompatible with North American society.
There is yet another kind of energy that is applauded by the immigrationists—the energy produced by ethnic diversity. True, the psychic stress and the unresolvable cultural conflicts generated by the squeezing together of totally unrelated peoples in a city such as New York or Los Angeles do provide a sort of energy—but it is an energy that most people flee if they can, which explains the middle-class exodus from areas with high concentrations of immigrants.
Thus, when people speak of America’s being energized, what they mean in many cases is that America is being Third-Worldized. If we had never acquired all that Third-World energy, American cities would have remained more attractive to Americans, and would not have required the continual influx of foreigners to maintain their population base.
Without immigration, the U.S. population will decline because of low native birthrates.
Immigration does not replenish a country’s population, it replaces it. American history is instructive on this point. Between 1790 and 1830, a period in which the total number of immigrants was about 385,000, or under 10,000 per year, the U.S. population increased by an astonishing nine million (from 3.9 million in 1790 to 12.9 million in 1830). This tripling was due mainly to the natural increase of the 1790 population, not to immigration. As population expert Francis A. Walker noted in a famous essay published in 1891, this very high native birthrate dropped subsequent to the upward turn of immigration after 1830 and the even sharper increase of immigration after 1840. The reason for this, Walker argued, was that immigrants lowered living standards, wage levels, and working conditions, which resulted in reduced prospects for the native population, which made having large families less attractive. Immigration thus caused a drop in the native birthrate, replacing those lost native births with immigrants.(12) The same effect of mass immigration on wages and working conditions is clearly in operation today, along with the same effect on the native birthrate.
Another factor related to America’s changing ethnic composition which is pushing down the native birth rate has been the deterioration of the public schools. In earlier decades, when New York was still a white majority city, middle-class parents sent their children to New York’s excellent public schools. But today’s public schools, dominated by blacks and Hispanics along with a continuing influx of Third-World immigrants, have sunk to an academic and behavioral level that is unacceptable to most whites. Some years ago a professional Manhattan couple of my acquaintance sent their two sons to private school, at an annual cost of $12,000 each. They had wanted to have more children, but the cost of schooling made a larger family economically prohibitive for them. The swelling nonwhite population has a direct negative impact on the ability of middle-class whites to raise families. Immigration is not strengthening the American people—it is weakening and replacing them.
Immigration also has psychological effects that tend to lower the native birthrate. As Virginia Abernethy has argued in Population Politics, fertility rises when people feel hopeful about the future, and declines when they are pessimistic about the future. It is a remarkable fact that women emigrating from Third-World countries to the United States, where they perceive that their prospects are much improved, have more children than their countrywomen who stay at home. Conversely, whites in an increasingly Third-World America, where they foresee a less promising future for themselves and their children, are having fewer children than they would otherwise have done.
The surest way to raise the native birth rate back up to replacement level is to reduce immigration drastically. We do not need an ever-expanding population in this country, as the growth ideologues believe. Our long-term prospects for environmental sustainability, cultural cohesion, political freedom, and a high quality of life will be much improved if our population were stabilized at the current 280 million (or at a lower number), instead of doubling to half a billion over the coming century and doubling again in the century after that, which is what will happen if immigration continues at current rates.
Immigration makes society dynamic.
Mass immigration, especially culturally diverse mass immigration, creates turmoil and disruption, but that’s not necessarily the same thing as dynamism. Was America not dynamic from the early 1920s to the mid 1960s, when immigration was low and largely restricted to Northern Europeans? Is not Japan—with no immigration at all—one of the most dynamic and confident societies on earth? Some economists predict that Japan with its cohesive and high-morale society is poised to surpass an increasingly troubled and divided United States in coming years.
Sustained vitality—as distinct from the overheated frenzy of a society that expands like a balloon until it explodes—requires demographic and cultural stability, strong and self-supporting families, abiding moral traditions, and the values that lead to productive enterprise. A culturally fragmented, ethnically conflicted, demoralized, low-skilled, Third-World America won’t be dynamic. As political scientist James Kurth has pointed out, the most dynamic nations in this new century will be those that maintain their internal cultural cohesion, and thus their ability to be effective actors on the world stage. The societies that become multicultural, ceasing to be nations, will find themselves unable to act in a coherent fashion, and will join the ranks of the acted-upon.(13)
This, by the way, is why a furor was sparked in Europe this past summer when Islam scholar Bernard Lewis told a German newspaper that Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century. Asked whether the European Union could serve as a global counterweight to the United States, Lewis replied, No, adding that he saw only three countries as potential global players: China, India, and Russia. Europe, he noted matter-of-factly, will be part of the Arabic west, of the Maghreb. Significantly, Lewis was not warning about any loss of European culture stemming from the increasing numbers and influence of Muslim immigrants. If he had been talking about such things, the EU elites would probably have ignored him, for the simple reason that they do not care about their historic civilization and the manifest threat Islam poses to it. The EU types are not concerned about the Islamic threat to European culture, because to destroy that culture is the agenda of the EU itself. What they do care about is the expansion of the EU’s bureaucratic and transnational power and its ability to play a leading role on the world stage, and that was what Lewis said is doomed by Islamization.
However, given the fact that Third-World immigration is also weakening and dividing America, though less slowly than Western Europe, the EU doesn’t need to worry too much about serving as a counterweight to the American hyperpower; all it needs to do is wait for America to follow Europe into the acted-upon status.
In light of this analysis, it is an amazing irony that the people who are most desirous of maintaining and expanding America’s role as a global hegemon—namely the neoconservatives—support immigration policies that are turning America into a self-conflicted, multicultural hodgepodge.
Immigrants strengthen America.
Military conquest is not the only way that countries lose their freedom. Throughout history, nations have inadvertently lost their independence by asking other nations to help them meet some challenge that they couldn’t handle themselves. Depending on the kindness of strangers may yield short-term benefits, but it further weakens the host nation. Sensing that weakness, the guests soon drop all pretense of being guests and take over.
Sometimes the help sought from foreigners has been military. The ancient Greeks asked the Romans, the Romans asked the Visigoths, the Celtic Britons asked the Anglo-Saxons, to help them ward off their respective enemies, and in each case the helpful ally soon became the ruler. Sometimes the help is economic. The Romans after they gained their empire imported a vast population of foreigners into Italy as artisans, merchants, servants, slaves, and soldiers, and as a result the old Romans and their culture were gradually marginalized. In the twentieth century Indians were brought to the island nation of Fiji to work as merchants and civil servants, and within a few decades the Indians had taken majority control of the island away from the Fijians. The American South imported African slaves, and today the descendants of those slaves are busy dismantling whatever remains of the symbols and traditions of their former masters. In each case the host people initially congratulates itself for its cleverness in getting foreigners to fight its enemies, perform its hard labor, care for its children, or provide it with exotic cuisine or inexpensive produce. And in each case the host people ends up losing control over its own country, and disappearing from the pages of history.
This is not to deny that immigrants who bring particular skills, or cultural capital, may be of great help in building up a society, as Thomas Sowell has demonstrated in his several books on the subject of ethnicity and economics. But as Sowell himself acknowledges, the large-scale immigration of people who are culturally distinct from the host population is a very different matter. Such immigration, he writes, can profoundly affect the fabric of a society and even dissolve the ties that hold a nation together.(14)
To recognize the dangers of immigration is not to propose sealing America off from the world. Nevertheless, if America, or any nation, is to survive in the long run, it must maintain a basic degree of self-sufficiency, foregoing the short-lived luxuries both of global hegemony and of mass immigration.
This article is adapted from the first part of Lawrence Auster’s pamphlet, Huddled Clichés: Exposing the Fraudulent Arguments that Have Opened America’s Borders to the World, available from the AIC Foundation. Mr. Auster offers his traditionalist conservative perspective at View from the Right.
1. Joel Kotkin, Europe Won’t Work, The Washington Post, 9/15/91.
2. Dan Stein, letter, Washington Post, 9/30/91.
3. George Gilder, Genuiuses from Abroad, The Wall Street Journal, 12/18/95.
4. Yuki Aida, America’s Ethnic Achilles’ Heel, San Francisco Examiner, 4/9/91.
5. Halford H. Fairchild and Denise G. Fairchild, World-Class Tensions: Ethnic Rivalry Heats up Southern California, Los Angeles Times, 5/5/91.
6. Top Graduates in Science also Put Dreams on Hold, New York Times, 6/6/93.
7. See Roy Beck, The Case against Immigration (New York: W.W. Norton), 1996.
8. Terry Anderson, The Culture Clash in South Central L.A., Social Contract, Fall 1996, p. 50.
9. Michael Lind, Immigration Epiphany, letter, National Review, 3/7/94.
10. Daniel Stoffman, Pounding at the Gates: Why Canada Must Reassess its Wide-Open Immigration Policy, Toronto Star, 9/20/92.
11. Paul Glastrus, Thinking Straight about Immigration, U.S. News & World Report, 5/20/91.
12. Francis A. Walker, Immigration and Degradation, in Oscar Handlin, Immigration as a Factor in American History (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1959), p. 71.
13. James Kurth, The Post-Modern State, National Interest, Summer 1992.
14. Thomas Sowell, Migrations and Cultures: A World View (New York: Basic Books, 1996), p. 387.
(Posted on October 15, 2004)