The Corner

Illegal Immigration and Eric Cantor

Eric Cantor’s luck ran out, when his long insistence of pushing immigration-reform legislation finally coincided with a massive and sudden rush of thousands to the U.S. border from Central America. That lining up of the planets explains why a good but obscure candidate beat a supposedly invincible insider. 

There are a number of elements to the illegal-immigration debate that really tick off people of all races and classes and drive them to the polls in a way the alliance of the Chamber of Commerce and La Raza activists can never comprehend. 

One, the issue really has become an elite/mass split. The left-wing identity-politics crowd knows that such huge numbers of illegal immigrants preclude easy assimilation and integration. They like that, given that they are self-appointed representatives of millions of new in-need constituents. And they don’t care whether illegal immigration is disastrous to the working American poor, among them millions of Hispanics — a fact that once caused an exasperated Cesar Chavez and the UFW to go down to the border to demand  an end to unchecked and unlawful immigration  (was he a “nativist“?). Likewise, the Republican elite establishment is shielded from the direct effects of illegal immigration, in the sense that their neighborhoods, their schools, and their emergency rooms are quite distant from the ground-zero landscapes where millions have entered the U.S. illegally. So fronting for big corporations to have access to cheap labor is a rather easy thing to do, unethical as it is at a time of serial high unemployment.

 Cantor, fairly or not, was emblematic of the abject amorality of illegal immigration.

Second, voters see the effort to push illegal immigration as Machiavellian. Supporters of “comprehensive immigration reform” never really divulge the details of their various amnesty plans: How many DUIs or felonies get one deported? Exactly how long do you have to reside in the U.S. to be eligible for a pathway to citizenship? Can you receive amnesty if your history of residency in the U.S. is largely one of dependency on public assistance? How exactly is the border to be declared secured before amnesties are offered, to prevent the sort of rush to the border we see now? Is Mexico really a “partner” or a cynical manipulator that wants a safety-valve for its own failures, many of them driven by racist policies toward indigenous peoples, a continuance of billions of dollars in remittances, and a soapbox for lambasting the U.S. that deflects attention from its own nativist and restrictionist immigration policies. 

As for new legal immigration reform, was it really going to be largely ethnically blind and based on meritocratic criteria, in which, say, a Nigerian with an electrical-engineering degree who has been waiting five years to enter the U.S. legally would be given preference over someone from Latin America without a high-school diploma but with a long history of crossing the border illegally? Voters doubt that.

Cantor and others have never answered candidly any of these questions, instead falling into the cheap rhetoric of demonizing those with legitimate inquiries. That he would trust Barack Obama to enforce any of the elements of comprehensive immigration reform that did not enhance Obama’s visions of increasing the number of liberal constituents who would vote for big-government programs is incomprehensible — after what we have seen with the present administration’s sabotage of immigration law and the pick-and-choose enforcement of Obamacare

Voters in Virginia finally had enough with the big lie of illegal immigration: Those who want open borders are largely either ethnic activists and chauvinists who wish open borders on the south, but would never extend such laxity to other ethnic groups (e.g., La Raza activists would oppose 1 million Chinese, Nigerians, or Ukrainian nationals trying to cross illegally into the American Southwest), or want access to cheap labor, with employers pocketing the profits while the state and thus the taxpayer pick up the inevitable social costs of their exploitation of labor.

Yesterday, we saw that voters don’t like being called names by those who are both hypocrites and nakedly self-interested in putting their own selfish agendas over the concerns of the less well-off.

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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