Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution is the author of Mexifornia: A State of Becoming, and he writes (in the current issue of National Review) to make points not often heard in the immigration debate. There are class divisions here. Affluent Americans, who tend to be hospitable to the amnesty/open borders argument, are simply unseeing about other matters.
Hanson cites various places in California as examples of towns located in America, but whose ethos and day-to-day experiences are Mexican. Fresno, Bakersfield, and such-like towns are “de facto apartheid communities,” he writes, where illegal aliens commute to their jobs in construction, landscaping, and service industries in the affluent neighborhoods nearby. “Most who are served,” he writes, “have never set foot in the poor towns of their help a few miles away, and have little interest in whether English is spoken or municipal coffers are perennially empty.”
There are two directions to go in class-mobile America. Stasis–what greeted post-Civil War blacks for a hundred years. Otherwise there is the upward mobility that has lifted wave after wave of immigrants. Here today we have a Hispanic population that sends nearly one-half its earnings home to desperately poor relatives. These remittances have the effect of postponing year after year the capitalization that makes possible better housing, better education, and moves to places where work opportunities are greater.
Several questions of vital interest need to be pondered. When will the liberal interventionists looking about for a new class to sponsor ring in with affirmative action for Mexican illegals? Whip up the kind of concern shown for blacks in the past fifty years? Granted there is the emotional factor, here missing. The great effort made to help American blacks was reasonably fueled by the historical indebtedness felt for a people who had been uprooted from another continent and brought here to serve as slaves in the land of the free.
The Mexican illegal has no properly formulated brief against the America he entered athwart American laws. He might curse his relative burden: He came into a land where they speak another language. That disadvantage translates into lower-paying jobs requiring only manual skills, and his immobility stems from the need to send money home for relatives to eke out life in a country straitened by the impositions of left-welfarism.
The May Day exercise was greatly revealing. In the first round, most of the hand-held flags were Mexican. Quick sophistication turned many flags into Stars and Stripes for the second round. But the chants were mostly in Spanish, and what they demanded was of course amnesty and citizenship.
Coinciding with this ambivalence–the proud Mexican who was hungry and restive in his homeland–is a sudden release in economic pressure back home, brought on by the oil boom. This has repristinated the ancient glamour of state socialism, most conspicuously in Venezuela and Bolivia, both allies of Castro Cuba. There is a left tide in Latin American politics, and it is determinedly anti-American. The easy explanation for why young men have to leave Mexico in order to work isn’t that Mexico was stagnant, moribund in bureaucracy and state spending. An alternative explanation is more friendly to nationalist self-esteem. What was wrong was the corruption of the socialist spirit, now reborn and wafted aloft by $40 oil!
The eleven million illegals will continue to swell in number, and widespread assimilation won’t begin, until the border effectively closes. An argument can be made that this can’t happen, that the porosity of the two thousand mile stretch is now almost geologically ordained. Or is this now the accepted challenge? The moon-landing ambition for 2006: closing the border?
Even if that succeeds, we are left with the illegals we have. Uprooting them would prove as wrenching as the uprooting of the blacks from Africa three hundred years ago. Will the class of Americans who are directly affected by the alien company insist on deportation? Or will they settle for sealing the border?