Yale Law School Professor Peter H. Schuck observes:
"In a polity in which only 17 percent of the public thinks that immigration levels should be higher and 39 percent thinks they should be lower, one would expect that at least some legal scholars who write about immigration issues would favor restriction. If so, one would be wrong. In over two decades of immersion in immigration scholarship, I have not encountered a single academic specialist on immigration law who favors reducing the number of legal immigrants admitted each year." The Disconnect Between Public Attitudes and Policy Outcomes in Immigration [In Debating Immigration, Chapter 2, p.17, the link is to an unedited version.]
So, Carol M. Swain, a law and political science professor at Vanderbilt, has done the academic world a service (although one it probably won't appreciate) with her new book Debating Immigration. She brings together 16 chapters from academic and think tank luminaries such as Nathan Glazer, Amitai Etzioni, Douglas S. Massey, and Steven A. Camarota, along with lively essays from journalists Peter Brimelow and Jonathan Tilove.
Swain is one of the more unusual and admirable scholars in public policy. Growing up black and poor in rural Virginia, one of twelve children, she dropped out of 9th grade and married at 16. In her mid-20s she started back to school. Eventually, she earned tenure at Princeton as an expert on how Congress operates.
Her views are difficult to categorize politically. I would say she's an advocate of black enlightened self-interest, left of center on economics, right of center on culture. For example, her 2002 book The New White Nationalism sensibly advocated depriving white nationalists such as Jared Taylor of their best issues by restricting immigration and cutting back on affirmative action, especially for immigrants and affluent blacks. Needless to say, that hasn't happened.
That whites and blacks have a common interest on immigration is obvious from a logical standpoint. But there's not much of a market for logic. Many black leaders, such as the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton and Minister Farrakhan, have no interest in striking a deal with whites on immigration because they are not in the business of enlightened self-interest for blacks. They are, instead, entertainers, riffing endlessly and lucratively on that old crowd-pleasing tune Sticking It to the White Man. If the average white person doesn't want more immigrants, well, then, these black leaders will help bring in more just to spite whitey.
It would be nice if all the blame for this kind of dead-end political thinking rested on the shoulders of Jackson, Sharpton, and Farrakhan. Unfortunately, however, they are merely meeting their audience's demand for demagoguery.
Swain's own chapter in Debating Immigration points out the uselessness of the Congressional Black Caucus on immigration bills.
She notes that one reason for this is that quite a few black Representatives come from districts that are increasingly Hispanic.
It works like this: Noncitizens aren't allowed to vote, but in most states they are counted in the redistricting following each Census. As Latino illegal immigrants move into black neighborhoods, the number of black-dominated districts can actually increase in the next redistricting because there will be fewer voters per district in poor areas. For instance, about twice as many votes are cast in each election in the posh Beverly Hills district of Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman as in the heavily illegal alien-populated South Central LA district still represented by black radical warhorse Maxine Waters.
Eventually, though, the illegals' children will start voting (unless the current misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment granting birthright citizenship is changed). Then the black politicians will be swept from power—après Maxine, le deluge. But in the meantime, life is good for the Congressional Black Caucus.
Debating Immigration lives up to its title, with representatives from all sides, including some perspectives I haven't seen before. For example, Swain, who became an evangelical Christian at the beginning of this decade, has included an incisive analysis from a scriptural standpoint.
Under the leadership on immigration issues of the now disgraced Roger Cardinal Mahony, the Roman Catholic Church in America has been a strong voice for more Hispanic immigration. But what about conservative Protestants? Contributor James R. Edwards offers "A Biblical Perspective on Immigration Policy" that uses quotes from both Testaments to argue that liberal Christians who push for open borders from a "brotherhood of man" stance:
"(1) Fail to acknowledge the special obligation we all have toward those closest to us and to the specific communities wherein we reside; (2) Pay insufficient attention to the biblical obligation that civil authorities have to protect the people and the communities entrusted to their care."
I would add that many of the references in the Bible cited by pro-immigration Christians, such as Hebrews 13:2 "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers" are not referring to immigrants but to the ancient West Asian tradition of hospitality toward guests. The difference between guests and immigrants is that guests have their own obligations—most importantly to (sooner or later) go home.
Jonathan Tilove of Newhouse News, the finest mainstream media reporter on race and immigration, writes:
"In the course of my years [since 1991] reporting about race and immigration, I have come to believe that indifference to the fate of black America, or in some quarters a passive-aggressive hostility toward African Americans, has become an animating feature of support for a liberal immigration policy and helps to explain the strange bedfellows who have made that policy unstoppable even in the face of lukewarm public support at best."
"Passive-aggressive" is right. As I've argued, immigrants are "economically cleansing" native-born blacks from the home bases of the media elite—New York City and Washington D.C. This reduces crime locally, especially in this generation before the newcomers have sons who grow up to join street gangs. Many in the national press seem to assume that the African Americans who are driven out of their cities by immigrants pushing rents up and wages down are being deported. Of course, they are just being pushed out to less fashionable cities such as Newark, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. And there the murder rates have gone up considerably since 2002 and are now four to six times as bad as New York City's.
Peter Brimelow points out in his chapter that immigration's benefit to "the economy" is surprisingly small. A larger population means the overall Gross Domestic Product is larger, but virtually all of that goes to the immigrants themselves. The net benefit to native-born Americans is nugatory—and is in fact wiped out by government-mandated transfer payments, such as education and welfare, from American taxpayers to immigrants.
As Peter notes, the main effect of immigration is to shift wealth from labor to capital. Despite all the chatter in the press about immigrant entrepreneurialism, unskilled illegal immigration is unthreatening to employers precisely because poorly educated Latinos are unlikely to ever provide effective competition against their bosses. Corporations thus get both cheap workers and additional consumers, but not future rivals. From a profit maximization angle, what's not to like?
On the other hand, the book also includes an essay with the curious title "Hispanics and Asians: America's Last Hope" by the famous Israeli-American sociologist Amitai Etzioni of George Washington University in D.C., where he is the Director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies. Etzioni was a Senior Adviser to President Carter and his website lists his awards and honors at vast length.
Etzioni is best known for publicizing the word "communitarian". Wikipedia says: "The main idea of Etzioni is that individual rights and aspirations should be protected but that they should be inserted into a sense of the community …"
Still, as any native Southern Californian (like me) can tell you, importing millions of poorly educated Mexicans in recent decades has not improved the local sense of community.
There have been sizable numbers of people of Mexican descent living in the southwestern United States since at least the 1840s, but many East Coast intellectuals like Etzioni never paid much attention to them until recently. So, they feel free to make up fantasies about how future immigrants from Mexico will turn out with little reference to how the last half dozen generations have fared.
Like so many academics and pundits, Etzioni's sees Mexican immigrants through the lens of Ellis Island nostalgia, sentimentally slathered with ethnocentric self-absorption.
Etzioni's lack of interest in actual Mexicans leads to some howlers. The professor's thesis statement is:
"A large number of immigrants, many from Mexico and other South American countries (and to a lesser extent from Asia), are making the United States more communitarian than it has been in recent decades by fostering a stronger commitment to family, community, and nation …"
First, Mexico is not a South American country. There are no fewer than seven other countries between Mexico and South America. Mexicans don't even like to be called a Central American country. (You can't blame them. Would you?)
Second, people of Mexican descent in this country are remarkably lacking in the community orientation that Etzioni has made such a glittering career out of endorsing.
Etzioni cluelessly assumes that Mexican clannishness corresponds to a willingness to help the community at large, or even just the Mexican slice. In reality, as New York Times correspondent Alan Riding observed in his 1984 bestseller Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans: "Mexicans need few friends, because they have many relatives." That's why, as columnist Gregory Rodriguez once wrote in the L.A. Times: "In Los Angeles, home to more Mexicans than any other city in the U.S., there is not one ethnic Mexican hospital, college, cemetery, or broad-based charity."[Mexican Americans Are Building No Walls, February 29, 2004]
Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam conducted a survey of trust within 40 American communities in 2000 (which VDARE.com reported on in 2001). Then he decided to hunker down with his findings for five years because they were so politically incorrect: contra Etzioni, the more diversity the less "social trust, community attachment and sociability," with immigrants being worse for the communitarian virtues than African-Americans.
Swain has delivered a fine and fair anthology on a topic almost criminally neglected by academia. This is no doubt why it gas received no reviews that I can see and on Sunday evening the hardcover languished at 1,694,347 on Amazon.com. (The paperback was at 71,126). I urge VDARE.COM readers to rectify that.