Illegal Immigration: Elite Illiberality
The elite charm of comprehensive immigration reform


Victor Davis Hanson

Apple, Google, and Facebook 1-percenters are much too sophisticated to call these booming apartheid prep schools “academies,” but they are burgeoning in reaction to worries that the flood of illegal service workers from Latin America has finally lapped up to the outskirts of Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Once-topnotch public schools like Menlo-Atherton are now whispered about as “problematic,” given the growing enrollment of the children of illegal aliens.

In truth, do not expect Washington politicians, La Raza leaders, or agribusiness owners to send their children to the Sanger school system in the outskirts of Fresno, or to enroll them in Cal State Bakersfield. Their elite status mostly exempts them from the ramifications of their own ideology in a myriad of ways. If taxes must rise in California to pay for one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients, or to prop up public schools that have descended to 48th in the nation in math and English test scores, or to bring some parity to the nation’s highest percentage of people below the poverty line, most of the elite can afford the increases. For some, the higher taxes even become a sort of penance — a kind of abstract generosity necessary to expiate their unwillingness to assimilate, integrate, and intermarry in the concrete.

Meanwhile, forget the tire-store owner and the electrical contractor who have no such margin of error, and are written off as mean-spirited for resenting rising taxes to pay for soaring subsidies to the growing immigrant underclass. That the caricatured Neanderthal followers of Sarah Palin resent the social costs of illegal immigration and the fact that their children’s education is directly affected by the entry of millions of new non-English-speakers is, well, their own fault.

Almost every aspect of illegal immigration is illiberal to the core. Respect for the law? The elite decides that for a particular political constituency, the law is now fluid. If you are a Bulgarian M.D. and overstay your visa, beware. A Korean engineer wouldn’t dare to fly to Mexico City and cross illegally into Arizona. Without ethnic bosses and millions of compatriots within our borders, all others are lawbreakers subject to deportation.

That well over $30 billion in remittances leaves the U.S. economy each year to prop up the Mexican and other Latin American economies is an afterthought. Indeed, Mexico is romanticized as an aggrieved partner, not excoriated as cynically opportunist for printing comic books to instruct its own citizens how to break U.S. law. How liberal is it to assist citizens to leave their own homeland, while assuming that they are almost certainly illiterate and thus need pictorial instruction?

To suggest that Mexico exports human capital in lieu of engaging in social reform, to suggest that indigenous peoples are the most likely to want to leave Mexico’s often racist social stratification, to suggest that Mexico does not care that its own expatriates suffer and scrimp to send back billions of dollars in cash to those ignored by the Mexican government, to suggest that Mexico appreciates that its citizens are more likely to cheer their homeland the longer they are away from it — all of this is considered reactionary and perhaps racist or at least culturally biased. But it is also absolutely true: Mexico, not the U.S., is the illiberal player in this entire sordid trafficking in human capital.

Mexico and American employers are not the only cynics in this drama. The La Raza elite understands well that only yearly massive infusions of the impoverished across the perpetually open border ensure a changed demography, anchored by a permanent Spanish-speaking underclass and periodically recharged by new illegal immigrants. Without massive immigration, the Latino population goes the way of the Italian or Greek community. Intermarriage, assimilation, and integration would gradually make the Chicano Studies department about as relevant as the Italian Studies department, La Raza about as catchy as La Razza, and the third-generation Hispanic with the accented last name about as much a minority in need of diversity favoritism as Rudy Giuliani’s son. How odd that illegal immigration is fueled by ethnic chauvinism, while those who criticize it are called ethnically biased. How could a Chicano Studies professor cite endemic poverty as a reason for federal attention if Mexican-Americans followed the Armenian- or Polish-American paradigm — and, of course, they soon would without the regular infusions of additional illegal immigrants.

Somehow, we have created an absurd situation in which a resident of Oaxaca, often fleeing racial and class oppression in Mexico, becomes defined as a victim of American pathologies the nanosecond he crosses the border. In turn, America, the generous host, is reinvented as a culpable oppressor that has treated the illegal alien so badly that his children deserve job and college-admission preference. Mexico likewise must be reinvented, from the exporter of superfluous human beings to the liberal champion of its stolen human assets.

Finally, there is the elite of the American Southwest, who believe that they are new 17th-century French aristocracy, entitled to $8-to-$10-an-hour nannies, gardeners, housekeepers, maids, and occasional day laborers. There are millions of white, Asian, Latino-American, and African-American youths out of work. We are simply told publicly that most of them would not do such work, and apparently if they did, they would not be trustworthy.

Indeed, the tragedy of illegal immigration is that it becomes the cornerstone for hundreds of agendas: those of the self-interested Mexican government, exploitative American employers, the new ethnic chauvinists, the upper middle classes who deem themselves lords of the manor, and, yes, the elite whose professions are as noble as their deeds are not.

Most Americans do not object to providing a green card to those who came to work, stayed off public assistance, did not commit crimes, and did not recently arrive in search of amnesty. They do not even object to offering a pathway to eventual citizenship to immigrants who pay a fine for their illegal entry, learned English, and go to the back of the legal-immigration line. But all this is a hypothetical if the border is not first secured — if we cannot guarantee that 2013 does not become another 1986, meaning that some future date will be a replay of 2013.

If we are to offer a second chance to the majority of illegal immigrants who, apart from their illegal entry, otherwise played by the rules, there must not be a second chance for the minority who broke all of them.

In the meantime, for those who profit both materially and psychologically from something that largely benefits the elite and hurts the mass, at least spare us the hypocritical aspersions and bottled pieties.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His The Savior Generals is just out from Bloomsbury Books.


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