The myth of the redemptive Hispanic is finally cracking. For years, conservative open-borders advocates have touted Hispanic “family values” as a prime reason to increase immigration. Hispanic immigrants, these conservatives say, will save America from itself. At a time when Anglo and black families are disintegrating, when society is becoming increasingly atomized and alienated, Hispanics will bring the traditional values that the country so desperately needs. In a classic iteration of the theme, Larry Kudlow wrote on NRO last May that Hispanic immigrants would “become a much-needed churchgoing blue-collar middle class . . . that is crucial to a healthy America.”
The truth is now supplanting the fiction. Last Friday, the New York Times ran an editorial, “Young Latinas and a Cry for Help,” that laid out the real state of the Hispanic family. A quarter of all Latinas are mothers by the age of 20, few of them married, reported the Times. This out-of-wedlock teen-birth rate is three times that of white teens, and significantly more than that of blacks as well. The Hispanic dropout rate is also the highest in the country — the Manhattan Institute’s Jay Greene puts it at 47 percent.
There is simply no way to square the facts about Hispanic family breakdown with the myth of the redemptive Hispanic. Talk to any social worker and she will tell you that illegitimacy has become completely normalized among her Hispanic clients. And the usual explanation for this epidemic of illegitimacy — an unresolved culture clash between young people and their traditional parents — is equally bogus. The mothers of teen mothers are themselves completely on board with single parenting, say the social workers, having often been single parents themselves. And they have no qualms about hooking their daughter and grandchildren into the public-benefits apparatus: “It’s now culturally OK for that population to be served by the welfare system,” says a case manager in a Santa Ana, Calif., home for teen mothers.
Far from exercising a brake on the erosion of traditional values, as conservative immigration advocates claim, the growing Hispanic population will provide the impetus for more government alternatives to personal responsibility. Advocates for young unwed mommies in the South Bronx are agitating for more day-care centers in high schools to accommodate the students’ children, reports El Diario/LA PRENSA. Demand for the 18 day-care slots at Bronx Regional High School, for example, far outstrips the supply, an 18-year-old Hispanic mother who attends the school told the paper. A bill has been introduced in Congress, the Latina Adolescent Suicide Prevention Act, to channel $10 million in federal funds to “culturally competent” social agencies to improve the self-esteem of Latina girls and to provide “support services” to their families and friends if they contemplate suicide.
For the New York Times, of course, the inevitable expansion of the welfare state is the glowing silver lining to this cultural catastrophe. With the usual melodrama that accompanies the pitch for more government services, the Times designates young Latinas as “endangered” in the same breath that it discloses that they are one of the fastest-growing segments of the population. “The time to help is now,” says the Times — by which it means ratcheting up the taxpayer-subsidized social-work industry.
It strains credulity to think that conservatives will fend off this push to meet social dysfunction with bigger government. Since the open-borders advocates have yet to acknowledge the facts of Hispanic family breakdown, there is no way of knowing what their solution to it is. One in four women in the U.S. will be Hispanic by the middle of the century, reports the Times — in states like California, they will be the majority. Unless Hispanic illegitimacy is stemmed, it is hard to see how the American family will be in a stronger state in future decades than it is today.
Conservatives, including open-borders conservatives, market themselves as the party of realism and common sense. A recent manifesto for immigration amnesty and liberalized entry rules in the Wall Street Journal bragged: “Conservatives have always prided themselves on acknowledging, in the words of John Adams, that ‘Facts are stubborn things.’” More stubborn still, however, is the unwillingness of open borders proponents to acknowledge social facts that undercut their cause.
– Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor to City Journal, where her most recent article makes the conservative case for immigration enforcement.