Fence Me In
Tackling immigration.


Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, is a longtime National Review and National Review Online contributor. He is this weekend the proud author of a new, important book The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal. He talks with NRO editor Kathryn Lopez first about the book, the election-year ahead, and more.

Kathryn Jean Lopez:
The world — or at least all of the NBC-watching public – will have their eyes set on the Statue of Liberty this weekend. And you do this?


Mark Krikorian:
It’s an arresting image designed to get people to click through the web ad or pick up the book at Borders. But it does also visually convey the point of the book — that the mass-immigration phase of our national life is over. FDR made just that point in 1936 in his speech on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Statute of Liberty: “Within this generation that stream from abroad has largely stopped. We have within our shores today the materials out of which we shall continue to build an even better home for liberty.”

Lopez: How can you possibly be against LEGAL immigration?

It’s a mistake to think of legal and illegal immigration as distinct phenomena. They come from the same places through the same means, often in the same families and even the same people (shifting back and forth between being legal and illegal), and have the same impact on society. Obviously, any effort to reform immigration policy has to start with enforcing the rules, because without that, it doesn’t really matter what the rules are. But in addition, you have to consider whether the rules themselves should be changed. And apart from the, admittedly grave, question of legal status, all the other problems caused by illegal immigration are also caused by legal immigration.

Lopez: Not to be stuck on the cover here, but your flap reads “the America that our grandparents came to no longer exists.” Doesn’t your dire outlook have the danger of drifting into Michelle Obama grievance-speak?

Krikorian: No. If it could drift into anything, it would be a sterile nostalgia for a lost world, something we conservatives sometimes fall for. But I’m not a nostalgic, nor a declinist, hopeless about the loss of a better America. Rather, my point is that over the century since the great wave of immigration, our country has changed fundamentally, in good ways and bad ways, but in any case in ways that mark an advanced, mature society. We now have a knowledge-based post-industrial economy, a large tax-supported government sector (welfare, of course, but also schools, roads, health care, etc.), an elite loss of the cultural self-confidence needed to enforce assimilation and sovereignty, and modern technology that completely changes the conditions for assimilation and security. And in all these cases, all these conflicts between mass immigration and modern society, it is we who have changed, not the immigrants. That doesn’t mean we’re broken or dysfunctional, just grown up.

Lopez: “Given that current immigration policy ensures that immigrants will be a fiscal burden, is there a way out?”