Here on the Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru and John Fonte have already deconstructed very effectively the depiction of critics of “comprehensive immigration reform” as eugenicist population controllers. As the New York Times report gleefully pointed out, this campaign has all the marks of a coordinated attack by the Republican establishment and its donors on, well, on the Republican base, among others. More specifically, the targets are the Center for Immigration Reform, the lobbying group NumbersUSA, and the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Ramesh observed that the accusations against CIS (leveled first in an article by “Republican strategist” Mario Lopez in, alas, the Human Life Review) rest on quotations from CIS and other position papers that are selective, largely outdated, thin throughout, and not demonstrating what they set out to prove, namely that immigration restrictionists are mostly coercive population controllers. John Fonte underlined how unlikely it is that the CIS would favor forced abortions, since it is led by a serious Orthodox Christian and a practicing Catholic (its president, Mark Krikorian, and its research director, Steve Camarota, respectively).
Much the same can be said of NumbersUSA. Its president, Roy Beck, is a serious Methodist who used to be the award-winning religion correspondent for the United Methodist Reporter and the National Christian Reporter. In addition, Roy seems to have worked for almost every secular media organization in existence in a long career. The congressional representative of NumbersUSA is Rosemary Jenks, who is not only a practicing Catholic but one whose fidelity to the faith survived even the Harvard Law School. Given these backgrounds, neither of them comes into my Catholic grandmother’s dismissive category of “hothouse Christians.”
Nor need you hire a researcher to uncover what they think. Mark writes regularly for the Corner. When were you last horrified or outraged by him? My guess is never. Stimulated? Often. Both Mark and Roy have written substantial books on immigration policy that were respectfully reviewed in mainstream publications across the spectrum. (I reviewed it for NR.) I don’t recall that either of them expressed support for China’s “one-child policy” or contained anything else that struck me as barbaric. Readers who doubt me can always buy their books and expose any such propaganda. But they will be wasting their own time (and adding to the royalties of their suspects).
Perhaps they are hiding their deepest opinions? But why would Mark and Roy take the immense trouble of writing books in order not to influence people on the topic nearest to their hearts? It would make no sense.
The truth is that both CIS and NumbersUSA are single-issue organizations devoted solely to an immigration policy that reflects America’s economic needs and wider national interests. Their activists have several, perhaps many, possible reasons for supporting their general policy, from concern over the impact of immigration on low-wage American workers to anxiety over its fiscal consequences. Both organizations very deliberately take no position on abortion and population control, even if some of their members do. Indeed, both have pro-life supporters and pro-choice supporters in senior positions through their ranks. Neither body can therefore have a “secret” policy of supporting population control, because such a policy would cause such uproar and provoke so many resignations that we would all get to hear about it.
Do some restrictionists want lower levels of immigration because they think it will lead to a lower and/or stable American population? Certainly some do. Of the organizations cited by Mr. Lopez, FAIR, along with its president Dan Stein, has argued candidly for lower immigration levels for reasons of environmental impact and population control, among others. I am a skeptic about population control — among other things I doubt its practicality — of the gloomier environmentalist predictions. Dan Stein and I agree on a policy of lower immigration levels and disagree on some of the reasons for that view. But no reasonable person can deny that adding another Cincinnati to the U.S. annually will not cause serious problems that invite serious discussion. And those conservatives who deny any such problems simply make themselves look ridiculous. Consider both points:
On the first, the environment, it is hard to refute the argument that a larger American population would increase the stress on the environment in the form of more roads, more houses, more schools, and more infrastructure even if it brought about greater aggregate economic growth. (Not quite incidentally, immigration does not increase per capita economic growth, which is the kind of growth that benefits the native-born.) Mr. Lopez disagrees and selects for alarm the following statement by John Tanton, a founder of FAIR: “If we cut pollution per capita in half, but double the number of people, we’re back where we started.” Yet all this statement needs to be irrefutable is the qualification: ceteris paribus.
On the second, population, a stable population policy in no way requires support for abortion or any coercive population measure. As far as I can see (and as far as the search engine reveals) the word “abortion” is not even mentioned on the FAIR website. But here is another of Mr. Lopez’s scare quotes from a FAIR supporter: “Would anyone seriously argue that Americans should consider a ‘one-child’ policy rather than bringing immigration to a sustainable level?” This is what the Romans called “a question inviting the answer No.” Yet Mr. Lopez treats it as a serious choice (if a morally wrong one to consider). Even so, the scary FAIR activist he quotes is not calling for a one-child policy. He is actually arguing that lower levels of immigration are a way of reducing environmental and population stress in the U.S. without needing even to consider coercive population controls. And this is the whole tenor of Mr. Lopez’s long list of wicked quotations: They often prove the point opposite to the one he intends.
And that includes his main point. Mr. Lopez, and my good friend Linda Chavez who sent out Mr. Lopez’s article with a warm commendation, plainly think that it is wrong to cooperate with people who favor, say, the official encouragement of contraception or subsidized abortions even if the cooperation is on an entirely unrelated matter. Their entire argument rests on that assumption. And since that is so, they will have to condemn themselves. In his long catalogue of indviduals’ suspect financial investments in population control, Mr. Lopez cites a 1998 report of a financial subsidy for a long-term contraceptive implant (that he compares to sterilization) as follows: “Financial support for Mumford and Kessel’s work has come largely from anti-immigration groups such as FAIR as well as the conservative Scaife Family Foundation.” FAIR and CIS also receive grants from Scaife — and many others. Indeed, among the foundation’s other grantees is the Center for Equal Opportunity headed by Linda Chavez. I very much hope that Linda and Mr. Lopez will not come to blows over this.
But this example is merely the icing on the igloo. The coalition for comprehensive immigration reform, of which Linda is a charter member and Mr. Lopez its latest propagandist, is financed by George Soros among others, led by the nation’s most prominent supporter of partial-birth abortion, President Obama, and includes almost all the leading pro-choice politicians, Republican and Democrat, in America. She would have to climb over a dozen bodies to get out of bed with radical pro-choicers and population controllers.
Of course, neither Linda Chavez nor Mark Krikorian is defined by their allies or by the funders of their allies. I have no doubt that both are actuated by their vision of the public good, that they accept no strings on the grants they receive, and that their visions are respectively higher and lower immigration levels. Mark Krikorian argues a rational and decent case, including logical criticism of opposing policies, from this standpoint. Linda Chavez, Mario H. Lopez, and Senator Marco Rubio (who introduced Mr. Lopez and his report to Grover Norquist’s conservative agora) should do the same.
Two final points: The overall Lopez argument is that immigration restrictionists are not really conservatives and should therefore be shunned as such. That is partly true, but not in the way that Mr. Lopez intends. The case for lower immigration is a political issue like environmentalism or the fight against sex trafficking. It doesn’t have a strong ideological coloration and is supported by people and organizations across the spectrum. Labor unions traditionally supported it on behalf of their low-paid members harmed by low-cost immigrant competition. (Their members still support such policies overwhelmingly, but their left-wing leaders now want more immigrants to fatten their shrinking memberships.) Environmentalists traditionally supported lower immigration because they agreed that more immigrants would mean more pressure on America’s natural resources. The members of that movement still do so overwhelmingly, but the formal environmental organizations, now fully paid-up allies inside the liberal-Democratic coalition, seek more open borders and the more regulated economies that result. Small businesses traditionally supported limits on immigration because they saw the negative impact it had on other people in their local communities. They still do overwhelmingly — and so, interestingly, do their organizations — but organizations representing Big Business and corporate America oppose restrictions on immigration, seeing only the benefits of cheap labor to their accounting ledgers. (Consult CIS’s polling evidence supporting these claims.)
Conservatives therefore have a choice. They can either join the American people in a prudent policy of lower immigration — say, 500,000 legal immigrants annually — or join the elites in a policy of boldly expanding the present total of 1 million new legal arrivals annually to something like 1.5 million or more. It’s a big decision. So don’t be rushed into adopting either policy because it is supposedly inevitable. Think about it.