Immigration

The Selfish Actors of Illegal Immigration

Migrants from Central America run towards the Rio Bravo river to cross into the United States from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, June 12, 2019. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)
Many people benefit from the lawbreaking: The Mexican and Central American governments, the Democratic party, employers, ethnic activists, rich progressives, and the illegal border crossers themselves.

Almost every party invested in open borders proves utterly selfish, without regard for the legitimate interests of others or of the law itself.

The Illegal Immigrant
The immigrant is the pawn of Latin American governments who view him as inanimate capital, someone who represents thousands of dollars in future foreign-exchange remittances, as well as one less mouth to feed at home — if he crosses the border, legality be damned. If that sounds a cruel or cynical appraisal, then why would the Mexican government in 2005 print a comic booklet (“Guide for the Mexican Migrant”) with instructions to its citizens on how best to cross into the United States — urging them to break American law and assuming that they could not read?

Yet for all the savagery dealt out to the immigrant — the callousness of his government, the shakedowns of the coyotes and cartels, the exploitation of his labor by new American employers — the immigrant himself is not entirely innocent. He knows — or does not care to know — that by entering the U.S., he has taken a slot from a would-be legal immigrant, one, unlike himself, who played by the rules and waited years in line for his chance to become an American.

He knowingly violates U.S. immigration law. And when the first act of an immigrant is to enter the U.S. illegally, the second to reside there unlawfully, and the third so often to adopt false identities, he undermines American law on the expectation that he will receive exemptions not accorded to U.S. citizens, much less to other legal immigrants. In terms of violations of federal law, and crimes such as hit-and-run accidents and identity theft, the illegal immigrant is overrepresented in the criminal-justice system, and indeed in federal penitentiaries.

Certainly, no Latin American government would allow foreigners to enter, reside, and work in their own country in the manner that they expect their own citizens to do so in America. Historically, the Mexican constitution, to take one example, discriminates in racial terms against both the legal and illegal immigrants, in medieval terms of ethnic essence.

Mexican and Central American Governments
Some $30 billion in remittances are sent back by mostly illegal aliens to Central American governments and roughly another $30 billion to Mexico. But the full implications of that exploitation are rarely appreciated. Most impoverished illegal aliens who send such staggering sums back not only entered the United States illegally and live here illegally, but they often enjoy some sort of local, state, or federal subsidy. They work at entry-level jobs with the understanding that they are to scrimp and save, with the assistance of the American taxpayer, whose laws they have shredded, so that they can send cash to their relatives and friends back home.

In other words, the remitters are like modern indentured servants, helots in hock to their governments that either will not or cannot help their families and are excused from doing so thanks to such massive remittances.

Remittances also explain the hostility of our southern neighbors, who will do almost anything to prevent their cessation.

In sum, they promote illegal immigration to earn such foreign exchange, to create an expatriate community in the United States that will romanticize a Guatemala or Oaxaca — all the more so,  the longer and farther they are away from it. Few of the impoverished in Mexico paste a Mexican-flag sticker on their window shield; many do so upon arrival in the United States. Illegal immigration is a safety valve, by which dissidents are thanked for marching north rather than on their own nations’ capitals.

Latin American governments really do not care that much that their poor are raped while crossing the Mexican desert, or sold off by the drug cartels, or that they drown in the Rio Grande, but they suddenly weep when they reach American detention centers — a cynicism that literally cost hundreds their lives.

If thousands of the Mexican or Central American affluent were fleeing their homelands and taking their money and skills with them, their governments would probably be barring their passage.

The Ethnic Industry
America is increasingly becoming not so much a nonwhite nation as an assimilated, integrated, and intermarried country. Race, skin color, and appearance, if you will, are becoming irrelevant. The construct of “Latino” — Mexican-American? Portuguese? Spanish? Brazilian? — is becoming immaterial as diverse immigrants soon cannot speak Spanish, lose all knowledge of Latin America, and become indistinguishable in America from the descendants of southern Europeans, Armenians, or any other Mediterranean immigrant group.

In other words, a Lopez or Martinez was rapidly becoming as relevant or irrelevant in terms of grievance politics, or perceived class, as a Pelosi, Scalise, De Niro, or Pacino. If Pelosi was named “Ocasio-Cortez” and AOC “Pelosi,” then no one would know, or much care, from their respective superficial appearance, who was of Puerto Rican background and who of Italian ancestry.

Such a melting-pot future terrifies the ethnic activists in politics, academia, and the media who count on replenishing the numbers of unassimilated “Latinos,” in order to announce themselves the champions of collective grievance and disparity and thereby find careerist advantage. When 1 million of some of the most impoverished people on the planet arrive without legality, a high-school diploma, capital, or English, then they are likely to remain poor for a generation. And their poverty then offers supposed proof that America is a nativist or racist society for allowing such asymmetry to occur — a social-justice crime remedied best the by Latino caucus, the Chicano-studies department, the La Raza lawyers association, or the former National Council of La Raza. Yet, curb illegal immigration, and the entire Latino race industry goes the way of the Greek-, Armenian-, or Portuguese-American communities that have all found parity once massive immigration of their impoverished countrymen ceased and the formidable powers of the melting pot were uninterrupted.

If Latino immigrants were of the conservative upper-middle class, as refugees fleeing socialist tyranny, arriving with English fluency, legality, and capital, then the current Latino ethnic industry would oppose open borders and its activists perhaps would go to the border to turn them away.

The Democratic Party
Democrats once were exclusionists — largely because they feared that illegal immigration eroded unionization and overtaxed the social-service resources of their poor citizen constituents. Cesar Chavez, for example, sent his thugs to the border to club illegal aliens and drive them back into Mexico, as if they were future strike breakers. Until recently, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton called for strict border enforcement, worried that the wages of illegal workers were driving down those of inner-city or barrio American youth. What changed?

Numbers. Once the pool of illegal aliens reached a likely 20 million, and once their second-generation citizen offspring won anchor-baby legality and registered to vote, a huge new progressive constituency rose in the American Southwest — one that was targeted by Democrats, who alternately promised permanent government subsidies and sowed fears with constant charges that right-wing Republicans were abject racists, nativists, and xenophobes.

Due to massive influxes of immigrants, and the flight of middle-class citizens, the California of Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian, and Pete Wilson long ago ceased to exist. Indeed, there are currently no statewide Republican office-holders in California, which has liberal supermajorities in both state legislatures and a mere seven Republicans out of 53 congressional representatives.

Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado are becoming Californized. Soon open borders will do the same to Arizona and Texas. No wonder that the Democratic party has been willing to do almost anything to become the enabler of open borders, whether that is setting up over 500 sanctuary-city jurisdictions, suing to block border enforcement in the courts, or extending in-state tuition, free medical care, and driver’s licenses to those who entered and reside in America illegally.

If most immigrants were right-wing, middle-class, Latino anti-Communists fleeing Venezuela or Cuba, or Eastern European rightists sick of the EU, or angry French and Germans who were tired of their failed socialist governments, the Democratic party would be the party of closed borders and the enemy of legal, meritocratic, diverse, and measured immigration.

Employers
Employers over the past 50 years learned fundamental truths about illegal immigrants. The impoverished young male immigrant, arriving without English, money, education, and legality, will take almost any job to survive, and so he will work all the harder once he’s employed. For 20 years or so, young immigrant workers remain relatively healthy. But once physical labor takes its toll on the middle-aged immigrant worker, the state always was expected to step in to assume the health care, housing, and sustenance cost of the injured, ill, and aging worker — thereby empowering the employer’s revolving-door use of a new generation of young workers.

Illegality — at least until recently, with the advent of sanctuary jurisdictions — was seen as convenient, ensuring asymmetry between the employee and the employer, who could always exercise the threat of deportation for any perceived shortcoming in his alien work force.

Note that those who hire illegal aliens claim that no Americans will do such work, at least at the wages they are willing to, or can, pay. That is the mea culpa that employers voice when accused of lacking empathy for out-of-work Americans.

If employers were fined for hiring illegal aliens, or held financially responsible for their immigrant workers’ health care and retirements, or if they found that such workers were not very industrious and made poor entry-level laborers, then both the Wall Street Journal and the Chamber of Commerce would be apt to favor strict enforcement of immigration laws. 

The Elite Caring Progressive
Wealthy progressives favor open borders and illegal immigration for a variety of reasons. The more immigrants, the cheaper, more available, and more industrious are nannies, housekeepers, caregivers, and gardeners — the silent army that fuels the contemporary, two-high-income, powerhouse household.

Championing the immigrant poor, without living among them and without schooling one’s children with them or socializing among them, is the affluent progressive’s brand. And to the degree that the paradox causes any guilt, the progressive virtue-signals his loud outrage at border detentions, at separations between parents in court and children in custody, and at the contrast between the burly ICE officers and vulnerable border crossers. In medieval fashion, the farther the liberal advocate of open borders is from the objects of his moral concern, the louder and more empathetic he becomes. Most progressives also enjoy a twofer: inexpensive immigrant “help” and thereby enough brief exposure to the Other to authenticate their 8-to-5 caring.

If border crossers were temporarily housed in vacant summer dorms at Stanford, Harvard, or Yale, or were accorded affordable-housing tracts for immigrant communities in the vast open spaces of Portola Valley and the Boulder suburbs, or if immigrant children were sent en masse to language-immersion programs at St. Paul’s, Sidwell Friends, or the Menlo School, then the progressive social-justice warrior would probably go mute.

American Citizens
They have no agenda other than assuming that immigrants will obey the same laws that they do.

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NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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