Tag Archives: Hispanics

Worried about Hispanic immigration to the US? Your worst fears have already come true

More than any other country in the world, the US epitomises a country welcoming to immigrants. Its legacy of reaping the boons of immigration, and outsized influence on the world stage are why we so often discuss it on Open Borders, even if we firmly stand behind open borders across the world. In recent years, the US has been setting a bad example for the world on immigration, and we need to set the record straight. Americans today are happy to embrace their immigrant past, but reluctant to face their immigrant future. But these are two sides of the same coin — and the past tells us that American restrictionists’ worst fears have already come to pass — and gone.

Immigrants from Asia, Africa, and above all, Central and Latin America are taking centre stage in the US today. Hispanics especially represent the future of American immigration. As a result, any American can present you with a laundry list of concerns about Hispanic immigration:

  • They are low-skilled and poorly educated
  • They don’t learn our language
  • Their culture is rude, uncouth, and macho
  • They are migrating at an immense rate, far too quick for societal or political institutions to adapt
  • They bring their own language with them, and unabashedly force American institutions to accommodate their language
  • They are either apathetic or outright disloyal to the US, and pose a risk to national security

It is tempting for those on the left to dismiss concerns about immigration as rooted merely in the basest racism, bigotry, and prejudice. I would agree that anyone who has seriously examined the empirical data here will find these concerns to be overblown — even on the rare occasion that there’s a grain of truth to them, the situation is nowhere near as bad as restrictionists typically make it out to be. And it is true that immigration restrictions, especially in the US, have traditionally been founded primarily, if not entirely, on racial prejudice. But these are not reasons to casually dismiss reasonable people’s concerns about immigration today.

Now, for those who really think that, based on that laundry list I laid out above, Hispanic immigration is a major problem in the US and one that needs to be stopped at all costs, I simply say: your concerns, valid as they may be, were anticipated a long time ago. No less an American than founding father Benjamin Franklin expressed precisely the same sentiments about a new cohort of swarthy immigrants threatening to overwhelm the United States:

Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation… Not being used to Liberty, they know not how to make a modest use of it; and as Kolben says of the young Hottentots, that they are not esteemed men till they have shewn their manhood by beating their mothers, so these seem to think themselves not free, till they can feel their liberty in abusing and insulting their Teachers.

…now they come in droves, and carry all before them, except in one or two Counties; Few of their children in the Country learn English…They begin of late to make all their Bonds and other legal Writings in their own Language, which (though I think it ought not to be) are allowed good in our Courts…there is continual need of Interpreters; and I suppose in a few years they will be also necessary in the Assembly, to tell one half of our Legislators what the other half say; In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our language, and even our Government will become precarious.

Franklin went as far as to accuse these teeming masses of ignorant, uncouth immigrants of treason. When the colonies that would become the US fought the French, these immigrants refused to fight, and publicly argued that it would be better to surrender to the French instead:

…for when the English who were not Quakers, alarmed by the danger arising from the defenceless state of our Country entered unanimously into an Association within this Government and the lower Countries raised armed and Disciplined near 10,000 men, the Germans except a very few in proportion to their numbers refused to engage in it, giving out one among another, and even in print, that if they were quiet the French should they take the Country would not molest them; at the same time abusing the Philadelphians for fitting out Privateers against the Enemy; and representing the trouble hazard and Expence of defending the Province, as a greater inconvenience than any that might be expected from a change of Government.

Yes, the swarthy immigrants Franklin was talking about here were none other than the Germans. (While none of us would describe them as such today, he was quite explicit in his correspondence, describing peoples like the French, Russians, Swedes, and Germans as “swarthy” in complexion.) The early US faced a dramatic influx of a horde of immigrants, all from one particular country and cultural background. Even the most sympathetic immigration advocate would surely agree that at some point, “swamping” creates meaningful and dangerous risks to the established order and institutions of society.

But despite all the dangers he called out, Franklin saw no reason to demand mass deportations or even a closing of the borders. He simply wanted to encourage broader settlement of the new immigrants, greater funding for English-language schooling, and precautions against importation of criminals:

I am not for refusing entirely to admit them into our Colonies: all that seems to be necessary is, to distribute them more equally, mix them with the English, establish English Schools where they are now too thick settled, and take some care to prevent the practice lately fallen into by some of the Ship Owners, of sweeping the German Gaols to make up the number of their Passengers.

Maybe Franklin didn’t want to consider deportations or strict border controls because he didn’t believe in the feasibility of a massive militarised law enforcement apparatus that would be necessary to enforce these. We surely can feasibly have those things today (albeit at the cost of turning a leading democracy into a leading police state). But if we have learned anything from the German-American experience, why on earth would we want to?

In Ben Franklin’s day, Germans were swarthy, ignorant, unskilled, uncouth foreigners. They were alien to the people of the United States, and migrating in such vast numbers that they could have swamped and sunk the ship of state. But this clearly did not happen. Quite the contrary. Germans became truly American to a vast degree, despite continued immigration from Germany through the 19th century. If you keep ethnic descent in mind, then the Germans truly won World War II, as esteemed co-blogger Hansjoerg Walther has pointed out before:

Forget about General Eisenhower, and get used to Generalfeldmarschall Eisenhauer. Same for Chester Nimitz for the Navy (now: Generaladmiral Nimitz) and Carl Andrew Spaatz for the Air Force (now: Generalfeldmarschall Karl Andreas Spatz).

The Germans were as alien to the US Ben Franklin knew as Hispanics are alien to the US we know today. Actually, that’s wrong: the Germans were more alien. Hispanics have grown up in close proximity to the US, under the influence of its cultural and political leadership. They hail from democracies of some kind, and have a much better understanding of democracy than most any German growing up in the monarchic, aristocratic Germany of Ben Franklin’s day would have had. They have strong economic and cultural ties to the US. Many Hispanics are literally native Americans. Hispanics are far less likely to undermine the America we know today than the Germans were likely to undermine the America Ben Franklin knew in his day.

The Germans were truly alien to the US. But we no longer think of them that way. If I had told Ben Franklin that two centuries down the road, the largest single ethnic group in the country he helped found would be the Germans, he would have recoiled quite violently. But that is in fact the case: Germans are the largest single ethnic group in the modern United States, numbering almost 50 million. The Germans won World War II for the US. The Germans gave the US some of its greatest cultural contributions, including hot dogs and hamburgers. German-Americans include such American figures as Tom Cruise and Walt Disney.

Perhaps Ben Franklin would consider the modern US unimaginably impoverished by the supposed dilution of Anglo-Saxon culture and institutions. But the institutions that he established were preserved by generations of German immigrants. German-Americans gave their lives for these institutions in World War II. We don’t think of the hamburger as alien; it’s the quintessential piece of American cuisine.

If German immigration has taught us anything about swarthy, unskilled, uneducated, impolite, and politically apathetic immigrants, it’s that the United States will be just fine taking them in. The US admitted millions of Germans in an era of open borders when its institutions were unbelievably weak and newborn, and when those millions of Germans were coming in far greater numbers relative to the US population than anything we see today. The notion that US society and institutions are less equipped to cope with a similar influx under open borders conditions today than the US society and institutions of the Revolutionary Era is absolutely laughable.

We may be shocked to see what the America of 2063 or 2113 looks like. It may be even less familiar to us than the America of 2013 would be to Ben Franklin. But from all we’ve seen with German immigration, it seems quite clear that the waves of immigrants making the US their home today, Hispanic or otherwise, will turn out just fine.

And we can repeat this exercise ad infinitum. Other cohorts of immigrants have lessons to teach us too, after all. The Irish are the third-largest single ethnic group in the US today, numbering over 35 million, or over 10% of the population. And judging from the concerns of 19th century Americans facing a horde of Irish migrants, again, I think the US and its people will be just fine:

Charles Krauthammer supports amnesty

My, my, this is getting better and better. Charles Krauthammer is one of the brightest stars in the firmament of conservative punditry. His only advice to the Republicans about how to change in response to the 2012 election is on immigration. And he goes further than I recall a mainstream conservative pundit going before. From “The way forward”:

They lose and immediately the chorus begins. Republicans must change or die. A rump party of white America, it must adapt to evolving demographics or forever be the minority.

The only part of this that is even partially true regards Hispanics. They should be a natural Republican constituency: striving immigrant community, religious, Catholic, family-oriented and socially conservative (on abortion, for example).

The principal reason they go Democratic is the issue of illegal immigrants. In securing the Republican nomination, Mitt Romneymade the strategic error of (unnecessarily) going to the right of Rick Perry. Romney could never successfully tack back.

For the party in general, however, the problem is hardly structural. It requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe — full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement.

I’ve always been of the “enforcement first” school, with the subsequent promise of legalization. I still think it’s the better policy. But many Hispanics fear that there will be nothing beyond enforcement. So, promise amnesty right up front. Secure the border with guaranteed legalization to follow on the day the four border-state governors affirm that illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle.

Imagine Marco Rubio advancing such a policy on the road to 2016. It would transform the landscape. He’d win the Hispanic vote. Yes, win it. A problem fixable with a single policy initiative is not structural. It is solvable.

Hallelujah! Or to use a word with similar connotations of glorious praise and relief: Amnesty! Krauthammer goes on to argue that Republicans should not moderate their views on other issues or become more liberal generally. Music to my ears. I hadn’t expected to agree with a Charles Krauthammer column so much. I hadn’t expected to vote Republican again for decades. “Shock and awe,” indeed.

For the record, I don’t support a border fence, and I don’t think it will “work,” in the sense of stopping illegal immigration. But as I wrote a few years ago:

Last May, Peggy Noonan wrote, in a call for tighter borders, that “no one believes in the wisdom of government, but they do believe it has a certain brute power.” Of all the unwise, brutal measures advocated by immigration restrictionists, a border fence is the only one that is not an existential threat to our heritage of freedom. Tamper-proof biometric ID cards are right out of a futuristic dystopian novel. And while most Americans prefer to go after illegal immigrants’ employers, thanks to the laws of supply and demand, the effect of this policy would be to drive immigrant workers a bit further into the legal underground, thus lowering their wages, boosting the pay-offs for employers willing to accept the increased risk of hiring them, and inducing a creeping criminalization of entrepreneurship in America. And I am at a loss to identify the morally relevant differences between mass deportation (which is sometimes whispered about) and things that usually happen in places like Yugoslavia and Sudan. A border fence is the Berlin Wall, but it’s not a police state, or the gulag, or ethnic cleansing.

Though illegal immigrants, including visa over-stayers, come from all over the world, most of them are from Mexico, having crossed the US-Mexico frontier, which is arguably the only place on earth where the First World shares a long land border with the Third World. The “problem” — which is really an advantage — of mass immigration from Mexico, could not happen in an island country like Britain. Britain can therefore be a free country, while at the same time having much less illegal immigration than the US does. Building a border fence is an attempt to make US geography more like Britain’s.

This move is unfortunate because to date, the accidents of geography have been a far wiser and more human legislator than Congress has. Mexican migration has helped to keep down US inflation, and contributed to the strong housing market of the past few years, while creating a stream of remittances, boosting the Mexican economy. It has also led to improved relations between the US and Mexico.

Hmm, I might have overreached a bit. But my main point was the sentence in boldface: a border fence is by far the least worst of all the enforcement measures that have been proposed. Border fence for amnesty would be a great deal. It’s interesting, too, that Krauthammer thinks Republicans could win the Hispanic vote– “Yes, win it”– by backing amnesty, though he hedges his bets by adding “just short of citizenship” to his amnesty proposal. I guess I have to approve of that. My personal sympathies might lie with amnesty plus a path to full citizenship, but Krauthammer’s proposal could ease the way for future keyhole solutions. It would be a big improvement over the status quo, and make me proud to be American.

UPDATE: Eugene Robinson writes:

Look at Colorado. In 2008, Latinos were 13 percent of the electorate; just over 60 percent voted for Obama. On Tuesday, Latinos made up 14 percent of Colorado voters — and, according to exit polls, three-fourths of them supported the president. Think this might have something to do with Romney’s “self-deportation” immigration policy? I do.

Nationwide, roughly three of every 10 voters Tuesday were minorities. African-Americans chose Obama by 93 percent, Latinos by 71 percent, and Asian-Americans, the nation’s fastest-growing minority, by 73 percent.

It seems to be nearly unanimous.

UPDATE II: “Hannity’s immigration evolution draws praise from conservative Latino groups”:

Sean Hannity’s announcement that he has “evolved” on immigration is drawing praise from a conservative Latino organization.

Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, on Friday applauded Hannity for telling his radio listeners he now supports a pathway to citizenship for those in the United States without criminal records.

“Sean Hannity has taken a bold step and conservatives are behind him. It is time to allow the market — rather than a bureaucratic federal government — to determine our immigration policy,” Aguilar said, according to a press release.

“The tidal wave of support for real reform is growing,” Aguilar said.

“There is a growing momentum within the conservative movement to embrace a market-based immigration plan that is in line with Ronald Reagan, who said it best:  ‘No regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters,’” Aguilar noted.

In the wake of the GOP’s failure to attract the Latino vote in the 2012 election, Hannity on Thursday said the United States needs to “get rid of the immigration issue altogether.”

“I think you control the border first,” he said. “You create a pathway for those people that are here — you don’t say you’ve got to go home. And that is a position that I’ve evolved on. Because, you know what, it’s got to be resolved.”

He didn’t say a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers only. Excellent.