The Corner

WHERE IS THE MORAL DIMENSION?

K-Lo: You say “The bulk of the mainstream conservatives who are demoralized and disappointed in the president and other Republicans on immigration are not racists, are not xenophobes, are not against immigration.”

Well each of us must speak for himself. So far as xenophobia is concerned: One way and another, I’ve lived most of my life among foreigners, very happily for the most part, and actually married one, so I don’t think I can fairly be called a xenophobe.

I don’t know what it means to be “against immigration.” Again, since I actually did immigrate, I suppose I can’t be “against immigration,” can I? I do think that an immigration pause of the 1924-1965 type would be a really good idea for the U.S.A. about now, though.

Goodness only knows what “racist” means this week, so that’s a tough one to address. I must say, though, I can’t for the life of me see anything wrong, or even unpleasant, in wishing the country to have a certain ethnic mix, and not some other ethnic mix. Senator Edward Kennedy agrees with me, or at any rate he did at the time he was managing the 1965 Act through Congress, when he assured us that: “The ethnic mix of this country will not be upset.” Similarly, the framers of the 1924 Act said quite explicitly that one of the intentions of the act was to preserve the ethnic balance of the nation as recorded in the 1920 census. I wish someone could explain to me what is wrong with any of that.

No foreigner has any right to come and live in the U.S.A. I certainly never thought I did. The question of who should come in, and who should be permitted to settle, is a matter for the American people to decide, and to communicate to their elected representatives.

There seems to be a widespread feeling that there is some issue of morality to be addressed when debating the immigration issue. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see any moral dimension here at all. There is nothing moral or immoral about letting foreigners in, or keeping them out. (No, not even for purposes of “family reunification.” There are, as Peter Brimelow likes to point out, two ways to unify a family one of whose members lives in the U.S.A….) It’s a matter of cold national self-interest — the interest of America’s citizenry, and really of no-one else at all. I wish we could debate it in that spirit. But apparently we can’t.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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