Politics & Policy

Liberals Pounce on Bobby Jindal’s Immigration Line in Debate, but He’s Right

Jindal meets the press after the early-bird debate. (Getty Images)

‘Immigration without assimilation is an invasion.” It’s a snappy line Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal lobbed onto the early-bird debate stage last night. It has the cadences of the colonists’ “No taxation without representation,” and, unlike its historical antecedent, it has the advantage of being not merely a cri de coeur, but an incisive truth.

Naturally, therefore, the Left is having none of it.

Bree Newsome, the “activist” who Mulan’ed her way up a South Carolina flagpole in July to remove a Confederate flag — in opposition to racism, remember — tweeted angrily about the governor’s line, sending out pictures of a citizen-painted portrait of the governor that briefly made headlines in February for its peculiarly pale-faced Governor Jindal. Anthea Butler, a professor of religious studies and Africana studies at the University of Pennslyvania, tweeted that the moderators should “ask Bobby Jindal if he is white or not.” And today at the Huffington Post, Marina Fang suggests that Jindal’s belief that immigrants should assimilate is “antiquated”: “Many experts and scholars of immigration say his views are from a bygone era, and both the idea and the process of assimilation is complicated.”

In typical progressive fashion, Ms. Fang’s “experts” equate “new” with “correct.” But here the evidence is surely for the tried-and-true.

The applause line to which liberals repair in the immigration debate — “Immigrants are what have made America great”– is at best a half-truth. Immigrants have been so spectacularly successful in America not despite, but because they desired to be knit into the fabric of a larger, distinctly “American” society. The principles adumbrated in the Founding documents, the centuries-long tradition of Anglo-American law and parliamentary government, and the mores of Protestant Christianity gave the country a unique form that, at least until recently, enabled individuals to pursue their self-interest in a manner consonant with the interests of the larger community. The golden formula is not immigration simply; it is immigration plus assimilation. What is the alternative? Perhaps liberals can appreciate an analogy to the Science to which they demand such deference: Every cell performs an individual function, but they all work to the benefit of the larger body. What are cells that multiply to the harm of the body? Cancer.

Speaking in January to the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank, Jindal elaborated on last night’s offending line:

Are they coming to be set apart, are they unwilling to assimilate, do they have their own laws they want to establish, do they fundamentally disagree with your political culture? Therein lies the difference between immigration and invasion. . . .

To be clear — I am not suggesting for one second that people should be shy or embarrassed about their ethnic heritage. But I am explicitly saying that it is completely reasonable for nations to discriminate between allowing people into their country who want to embrace their culture, or allowing people into their country who want to destroy their culture, or establish a separate culture within.

That is not just a reasonable practice; it’s an imperative one. Culture, far more than economics, is the animating force of nations, and cultural fragmentation is far more difficult to correct than a trade deficit. Just look at Europe, where thousands of politicians persist in the delusion that a common government and economy can smooth over a fractious conglomeration of cultural communities. The floundering of the European Union is in part grounded in the failure to first reconcile cultural antagonisms, The same thing, of course, is happening on a smaller scale in individual countries, from Sweden to Belgium to France.

#related#America has never been a seamless garment, but it has been more successful than any nation in gathering disparate peoples into a reasonably harmonious whole. It has done so by recognizing the importance of culture — and, without obliterating the heritage of immigrants, requiring that they accommodate that heritage to a larger, common American project.

That American project is something to which any person can sign on. But why should we invite those inimical to it? Cultural discrimination is the prerogative of any nation. And any nation that refuses to do it probably won’t remain a nation for long.

— Ian Tuttle is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.

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