Hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens and their supporters have marched over the past couple of weeks demanding amnesty and opposing stricter immigration enforcement.
This isn’t really about immigration, though–it’s about power.
What we’re seeing in the streets is a naked assertion of power by outsiders against the American nation. They demand that we comply with their wishes and submit our immigration policies for their approval, and implicitly threaten violence if their demands are not met. Far from being a discussion among Americans about the best way to regulate immigration, the illegal-alien marches have been marked by the will to power: ubiquitous Mexican flags, burning and other forms of contempt for the American flag, and widespread displays of blatant racial chauvinism and irredentism.
This is precisely the same kind of challenge that aggressive outsiders are making against other parts of the West, including Muslim immigrants in Europe and, in the most extreme form, Palestinians in Israel. Supremacist Muslims have demanded that Europe repudiate Israel, legally prohibit public criticism of Islam, downplay acts of violent Jew-hatred by immigrants, and not deport Muslim illegal aliens. And some Palestinians, of course, demand that Jewish state abolish itself altogether, actually cutting it out of maps of the Middle East (just as illegal-alien marchers in L.A. held signs of North America with the United States crossed out).
Of course, we face a lower-calorie version of the challenge faced by Europe and Israel. The outsiders rejecting the legitimacy of our constitutional order are from Christian, quasi-Western backgrounds, and come from countries whence we have successfully taken, and Americanized, immigrants in the past. Consequently, the challenge has so far been marked by relatively little violence, nothing like the murders and bombings and riots in Europe and Israel.
But these differences merely mean that we have a better chance of overcoming the challenge–unlike Europe, which may well never persuade its Muslim population to assimilate.
In a recent column, Mark Steyn identified the issue at hand as “civilizational confidence.” Though he was writing about the threat of radical Islam, the same holds true, in decaf form, for us with regard to immigration: “our side has tanks and planes, but they have will and faith, and they reckon in a long struggle that’s the better bet.” And in referring to bin Laden’s observation that “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse,” Steyn even seems to describe the 12 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted to send the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill to the floor: “Most prominent Western leaders sound way too eager to climb into the weak-horse suit and audition to play the rear end.”
This is not to say that disapproving of any particular provision of the Sensenbrenner bill is seditious. Rather, the issue is whether we have the civilizational confidence to push back and tell the illegal aliens and their fellow-travelers that making immigration policy is the exclusive province of the American people, and that foreigners, legal or illegal, are not part of the American people until we say they are.
Unlike Europe’s supine acquiescence to the demands of its antagonists, there remains a strong nationalist streak in the American public, and so there are stirrings of push-back, among politicians like Rep. Tom Tancredo, pundits such as Cal Thomas, and even private citizens.
If, however, we surrender to the illegal-alien will to power–by caving in to their demands for passage of the McCain-Kennedy amnesty–we would be following Europe into our own version of dhimmitude, wherein a decadent host civilization capitulates to the chauvinist assertions of outsiders.
–Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and an NRO contributor.