The National Review on Immigration
By Scott Sumner
Dennis Prager of the National Review has a new piece entitled:
Three Reasons the Left Wants Ever More Immigrants
While the post is written as an explanation for why the left holds specific views on immigration, the post ends up in a place that (to me) makes it pretty clear that Prager doesn’t view those three reasons as being justified:
If any one of these reasons accurately describes the Left’s attitude toward America and immigration, America is headed for trouble. If all three are accurate, America is headed for an existential crisis.
To me, this suggests Prager is making arguments against immigration, not just describing left wing motives. If you don’t agree with my interpretation of his intent, then you might want to skip the rest of this post.
Here’s the first reason:
The first and most obvious reason is political. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, chain migration, sanctuary cities, and citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally will give the Left political power. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of Latin American immigrants will vote Democratic. So with enough new voters from Latin America alone, the Democrats would essentially be assured the presidency and Congress for decades.
This claim is quite unpersuasive. Since 1965, the US has seen a huge surge in immigration, and yet the GOP has actually been gaining strength relative to the Democrats over the past 53 years, even over the past 5 years. But let’s say I’m wrong. There’s a much more serious problem with this argument—it’s not a good argument against immigration. An argument is something you use to try to convince people who disagree with you. But why would Democrats find this argument to be persuasive? Why would libertarians like me find it persuasive?
Here’s the second argument:
The second reason for the Left’s support for virtually unlimited immigration is that one of the most enduring tenets of the Left — from Karl Marx to the present-day Democratic party and left-wing parties in Western Europe — is that the nation-state is an anachronism.
The American Left doesn’t believe in America, just as the English Left doesn’t believe in England.
I found this argument to be puzzling. Conservatives often seem to want to go back to the good old days, before modern liberalism ruined the country. But the “good old days” were a period of open borders. America is literally a nation of immigrants. Thus immigration is consistent with our traditions. It’s the conservatives that want to experiment with a big government, regulatory, social-engineering policy that is utterly inconsistent with our heritage. That doesn’t mean we should have open borders today, obviously things change. My point is that this is a weird argument for conservatives to make. By all means go ahead and oppose immigration, but don’t suggest its proponents are being un-American.
Furthermore, since America is already a dynamic, ever-changing nation of immigrants, one million immigrants per year is not really going to fundamentally change things here. Some people seem to think we have a sort of unified, timeless culture, like Japan, which needs to be “preserved”. Do Cubans in Miami, blacks in Chicago, Native Americans in South Dakota, Jews in New York, Scotch-Irish in West Virginia, Asians in Palo Alto, and Mormons in Provo, Utah actually have a single culture? How does adding 0.3% per year in immigrants fundamentally change America? Is my daughter less American than I am? (Her mother is an immigrant.) I don’t get it.
Some conservatives suggest that allowing in lots of people with dark faces will change the nature of this country. But there is nothing un-American about people with darker skin. After all, about 14% of Americans are African-Americans, and they’ve been here much longer than the Irish, Italians or Poles. And yet only 9.5% of recent immigrants come from Africa. So if we actually wanted immigrants to reflect our current ethnicity, we’d have to bring in many more people from the sort of countries that the President recent disparaged. Perhaps some Americans confuse “American” with “white American”.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that cultural change is not something that might be considered when discussing immigration, just wondering why some conservatives seem to view non-white immigrants as somehow reflecting a different culture. Yes, modern African culture is somewhat different from modern African-American culture, but the same is true of immigrants from Norway, compared to Scandinavian families that have been living in Minnesota for generations.
Here is the third argument:
Those who support bestowing American citizenship on the children of illegal immigrants — the so-called “Dreamers,” based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act — feel very good about themselves. They are the compassionate, the progressive, the enlightened.
This is a really weird argument on two different levels. I don’t think even Prager would claim that it’s a bad thing to feel compassionate and enlightened. Is Prager saying that conservatives don’t also try to feel compassionate and enlightened? In fact, conservatives do seem to share those attitudes. Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Republicans want Dreamers to be able to stay; perhaps because it seems really cruel to send someone back to a “home” they never knew. So does that mean that only a minority of conservatives are able to rise above trying to “feel” compassionate and enlightened?
To summarize, the Prager argument seems to be that:
1. Immigration is really good for the tens of millions of Americans who are Democrats.
2. Immigration feels like a compassionate and enlightened policy.
3. It’s un-American to have lots of immigration into a country that was originally founded with open borders, and has since grown to be a highly diverse, multi-ethnic nation of immigrants.
All I can do is scratch my head. What exactly is the point of Prager’s essay? It’s certainly not a coherent critique of immigration.
PS. Prager also complains that most Hispanics don’t vote for the GOP. Instead he should be thanking the Hispanic community for giving Donald Trump nearly 1/3 of their votes. That’s actually quite impressive given that as a candidate Trump suggested that he could not get a fair trial from a judge who was of Hispanic descent. (Not to mention a number of other inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants.) Indeed even Trump thought it was obvious that his campaign was perceived as anti-Hispanic, as he offered that explanation when asked by a reporter why he assumed that a Hispanic judge would be biased against him.
The article also includes (for reasons that I could not discern) a discussion of the various genocides committed by communist regimes, but no discussion of any of the genocides committed by right-wing nationalist regimes. This bizarre digression occurs in an article that basically advocates American nationalism. Obviously it would be silly to suggest that American nationalists favor genocide, so why even bring up the communist examples?