The last thing a liberal proponent of immigration reform wants is liberal immigration reform. Remember that paradox, and the insanity at the border makes some sense.
Each day a worried politician or pundit, with creased brow and pained expression, lectures us about the need for “comprehensive immigration reform” to avoid the sort of chaos we are witnessing on the border.
Then a funny thing happens. The speaker never defines the term. If on rare occasions advocates are asked, they fumble around, annoyed that anyone would press them to explain what they mean.
In truth, no one in the open-borders coalition wants anything approaching comprehensive immigration reform. Advocates are embarrassed about the present mess at the border not because thousands of foreign nationals, many of them unescorted children and teens, from Latin America, without skills or education, are flocking illegally across the border after largely taking the amnesty cue from Barack Obama, but because they are doing so in such dramatic fashion that the influx has aroused the ire and worry of the American people and exposed illegal immigration to be a callous and illiberal enterprise, promoted by a coalition of self-interested political operatives, commercial concerns, and ethnic chauvinists.
So why will we not see true comprehensive immigration reform?
Such legislation would first have to make border security the top priority. And that would entail three unpalatable requisites.
The first step would be the completion of the fence. Fences do work. That is why, for example, former mayor of Los Angeles and open-borders advocate Antonio Villaraigosa (“We don’t need to build walls, we need to build bridges”) became the first mayor in Los Angeles history to insist on a six-foot-high security fence around his official mayoral residence in Windsor Square, or why the White House, the homes of Silicon Valley billionaires, and the vacation homes of the elite on Martha’s Vineyard all have security fences. How odd that we are lectured about the Neanderthal nature of secure borders by elites who are about the only ones in America who demand them around their own estates.
Second, the Border Patrol would have to turn back all who crossed illegally and then let that be known. Border “Patrol” is now a misnomer. A more accurate term for the present agency would be “Border Access.”
Third, until deterrence is established, more guards would have to patrol the border and its environs. And the more the border was made sacrosanct, the more underworked operatives in the interior could be redeployed to the border.
The second element of concrete comprehensive immigration reform — meritocratic legal immigration — is equally an anathema to those who call for it in the abstract. If legal immigration were to be ethnically blind, and predicated on merit rather than proximity to the southern border, the ethnic industry would rise in revolt.
La Raza affiliates do not believe in true diversity, racial or otherwise. They do not want legal immigration to be predicated on skills or college degrees, which might result in a million Kenyan doctors, Czech engineers, Chilean nurses, Mexican architects, Punjabi programmers, or Korean dentists entering the United States.
Think of all the classical-liberal ramifications of ethnically blind criteria that would drive liberals crazy. The ethnic chauvinists might see the end of huge influxes of poor and uneducated Central Americans and Mexicans. Without such a large and perennially replenished pool, assimilation, integration, and intermarriage — the now-hated melting pot — would make “Latinos” in a generation or two the equivalent of Italian Americans. In other words, ethnic heritage would be incidental, not essential to one’s American identity, a fact that would mean to the Latino elite an eventual end to affirmative action, Chicano Studies, and the bilingual industry.
There are no Italian-language mega media conglomerates, no La Razza pressure groups, and no affirmative action for those surnamed Giuliani or Cuomo. Seeing people as individuals is exactly what the Chicano grievance industry does not wish. Yet the end of grievance politics is what would occur if we did not have a million Latinos crossing illegally each year into the U.S. but rather a manageable number, legally and in accordance with the ethnically blind criteria applied to any other immigrants.
Nor would the liberal elite in general like such merit-based immigration. They are happy to have cheap unskilled labor for janitorial work, landscaping, nannying, field labor, and construction, with such a pool driving down the wages of distant others. But skilled professionals in law, medicine, business, and other professions would compete with the native elite. Paying a high wage for an American citizen to do housework while competing for a job with a foreign-born stockbroker, professor, reporter, or lawyer may not be what proponents of comprehensive immigration reform had in mind.
Finally, comprehensive immigration reform would have to deal with the un-Dreamers (for every Dream Act, there by logic is an unspoken un-Dream Act for those who do not qualify). A minority of the estimated 11 to 15 million illegal aliens have no work history in the U.S., but more or less came north to receive public assistance and never got off it. Thousands more have committed crimes beyond illegally entering and residing in the United States. A third group opportunistically came very recently, sensing an impending Obama amnesty. In other words, the un-Dreamers are a small percentage of a vast pool — and thus quite a large number.
If just 10 percent of the existing resident-alien pool had criminal records, or no record of gainful employment, or less than three years of residence, that would mean perhaps 1 to 2 million would have to be deported. That fact is never mentioned by supporters of comprehensive immigration reform, who assume that amnesty comes first, the border is left insecure, few new arrivals are turned away, and the un-Dreamers simply stay and fade out of the collective consciousness.
Many Americans would support giving aliens who came here years ago, who have always been working and paying taxes, and who have been crime-free a chance at a green card. With mastery of English, the payment of a penalty for their illegal residence, and certification of self-support, many would be eligible for a pathway to citizenship. However, the open-borders alliance wishes no deportation of anyone. Business leaders who might support deportation do not wish to be called racists. Ethnic activists do not wish to lose any constituents, especially those currently deeply dependent on government social services. And liberal politicians want constituents regardless of their particular circumstances.
The next time a politician drones on about “comprehensive immigration reform,” a few questions have to be asked: How is the border made secure first? Is it desirable that legal immigration be meritocratic and ethnically diverse? And does anyone get deported, and if so who exactly?
Silence will follow — or, if not silence, a long string of invectives.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.