The Corner

I’ll Buy That for a Dollar

It’s great to see Mickey Kaus blogging again, even if it is at Newsweek. He touches on immigration (naturally) in his first post, making the point that amnesty advocates’ distaste for enforcement is what fuels public distrust of their promises and that’s “why we’re unlikely to have a sweeping immigration reform anytime soon.” He notes that “the movement is propelled in large part, by Latino ethnic solidarity,” and that agreeing to a genuine agenda of enforcement-first, because it would keep out future Hispanic illegal aliens, is “simply more ethnic self-abnegation than this movement can stomach.”

This is correct, but incomplete. The Hispanic will-to-power is only part of what’s propelling the pro-amnesty movement. On the right, it’s the unquenchable thirst for cheaper and more servile labor, and the same dynamic applies — enforcement-first is unacceptable because it would interfere with the importation of thralls.

But this isn’t just the problem with the enforcement-first approach; both Hispanic chauvinists and corporate rope-sellers would object even to the enforcement-for-amnesty swap at the center of “comprehensive immigration reform” if that package didn’t also include the third, less-discussed element: colossal increases in legal immigration. In other words, both the right and left wings of the pro-amnesty crowd don’t want any enforcement to limit the inflow of foreigners, whether before, during, or after an amnesty.

I actually think that La Raza, the Chamber of Commerce, the ACLU, Microsoft, et al. would sincerely back electrified fencing, land mines, and anything else they were asked to support, so long as there were no limits on the number of foreigners able to legally come here, as President Bush called for in his January 2004 immigration speech. This is why referring to these groups as supporters of open borders is not an epithet but simply a description.

This is also why the “illegal-bad/legal-good” position of so many Republicans (as well as Democrats like Mickey) is politically unsustainable; yes, much of the public concern over immigration is driven by illegality, but the sheer magnitude of current flows is the underlying factor. We could easily ensure that all immigration is legal by simply lifting all numerical limits, but when Robert Rector showed that one version of the 2006 Senate amnesty bill would result in the legal immigration of 103 million people in the next 20 years, lawmakers and the public were taken aback.

Why? Because when we debate “illegal immigration,” the adjective is important, but the noun is the core of the issue. Total numbers are what matter most in immigration, and bringing them down is the key, both through better enforcement and through phasing out obsolete legal immigration categories.

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