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June 16, 2007

Comments

If you look at the rhetoric of Tom Tancredo, it supports this argument. He talks about Miami as a third-world country, and warns that it is a wave that will engulf us all.
Of course, many Spanish speakers in Miami are from the Cuban-American community, which has generally supported right-wingers like Tancredo, but the man has never been one for nuance. He comes from Colorado, and the Spanish-speaking are interpreted as illegal Mexicans.
Another nuance he misses is that southern Colorado was originally settled from Mexico. The old families there have been in what is now the U.S. since long before Tancredo's ancestors.

I wonder which of these the wingnuts consider the most reprehensible and the most deserving of Presidential pardon: A Mexican citizen seeking employment in the US who is an "illegal" immigrant, or a United States citizen who lies and commits perjury before a Grand Jury.

"But you don’t see the chattering classes rising up with the same passion"

I think using "chattering classes" to refer to the kind of grass roots foot soldiers of conservatism and Republicanism is a category error.

"Chattering classes" commonly refers to the media elite: those with newspaper columns, regular tv commentary gigs, publishers, editors, and the like, who form opinion via their elite platforms.

The chattering classes of Republicanism vary in opinion on this issue, pretty much across the board, though there's a hardcore section that mirrors the grass roots fervor. But they're just mirroring those opinions, not creating them.

The people who are so vociferious about "securing the border" and "the illegal immigrant problem," etc., aren't the chattering classes: they're the normal lower class and middle class base of the Republican Party and conservative voters: the opposite of the chattering classes.

Referring to the grass roots ordinary joes of conservatism, the people who fill the comment threads of conservative blogs, as "the chattering classes," is wildly confusing.

That’s why the push for things like fences and English requirements are actually more than nativist racism. In their heads, these people are defending an America -- their America -- that they perceive as being under siege. It’s an interesting perception – and one that pops up in a number of different contexts, but it’s ultimately wrong. Basically, the logical error is that people are equating their own preferences and social norms with “America.”
I'm afraid I'm rather vague on how that's not nativist racism.

"Although liberals tend to see social conservatives as an offensive force seeking to impose their will on the nation, social conservatives see their actions as a rear-guard defense against the never-ever-ending assault upon their way of life by secular liberals."

That's obvious: they only mention it in more or less every sentence. But since their perception is based largely on fictional history and claims, their sense of preserving and defending something that once existed is largely wrong. So their attempts to impose a return to this non-existent past culture remains on the objective offensive insofar as they try to use government to impose their views on others, despite the fact of their defensive perception. It's not an either/or thing -- or an "although" thing -- at all; it's an "and."

"In short, opposition to immigration reform is more complex than you might think."

Also, may I suggest that this kind of formulation is guaranteed to come off to at least some readers as condescending? You are claiming to know what other people think, and that your own thinking is more complex and deeper: this may be true, but it's not really the sort of claim that's commonly considered terribly polite.

(At the very least, it's better put into any other tense than second tense; phrasing it as "than one might think" at least gives the reader the out that maybe some third party is being referred to; addressing the reader as "you" and specifically announcing that you, reader, are too dumb to realize how much more complex the situation is until it's explained to you is, ah, unnecessarily direct, at best.)

For instance, I don’t think that racism is animating most of the conservative pundits and bloggers opposing reform.

To me, the real explanation is that the base sees immigration as a fundamental threat to their idea of “America.”

1. Spare me.

2. They do have a different conception of America. That's been clear for, what, nearly 150 years? With a war to start things off, and then benign neglect to allow the culture to stay distinct and angry. Why we insist on listening hardest to them on this matter, rather than seeking to build coalitions to explicitly protect ourselves and our own culture, is entirely beyond me.

Fun and quick question: name five groups that would profit if posts like this were CW.

Having calmed down and reread this, I agree with all of it, including--depending on the instances (un)referenced-- the use of "intellectually lazy." But...so what? This has been true forever. I'm not sure when it was supposed to not have been true. Isn't this the standard understanding of populist revolts against (we'll tendentiously call it) progress?

In short, opposition to immigration reform is more complex than you might think. If you look at the rhetoric closely, it’s less about racism than about the perceived threat to America.

I personally think racism is a lot more complicated than people feeling threatened because they are at the top of the heap and now worry that they are going to be at the bottom of the heap. I worry you are just dignifying their lack of reflection while bending over backwards to avoid calling them racist. The all white community in Alabama, if it refuses to allow a black family to move in, is racist. I'm not sure how that same community, if it refuses to allow Latino family to move in, while simultaneously profiting from their presence, is not being racist. Invoking a bunch of laws puts them (and us) at precisely the same place as those who felt Dred Scot was correctly decided.

I personally think racism is a lot more complicated than people feeling threatened because they are at the top of the heap and now worry that they are going to be at the bottom of the heap.

One role of racism is to conceal from people that they are in fact at the bottom of the heap by creating a class that is, artificially, lower. This was a part of what drove southern racism. A good way to stave off unions, for example, was to substitute racial interests for economic interests. Make the white factory hand think he shares more interests with the white factory owner than with the black janitor. This was actually a conscious strategy in some situations.

It's not exactly the same with respect to immigration, but if people become convinced that the main threat to their wellbeing is poor Mexicans (or Chinese and Indians for that matter) rather than an economic system that is increasingly unequal, those at the top of the heap do get a measure of protection.

Gary Farber: Referring to the grass roots ordinary joes of conservatism, the people who fill the comment threads of conservative blogs, as "the chattering classes," is wildly confusing.

I don't think Publius is talking about the people filling the comments threads so much as the conservative bloggers themselves, who are hardly "ordinary joes of conservatism". Ordinary Joes call into Rush Limbaugh. They don't get invited to comment by satellite feed on Fox News. If these people aren't the "chattering classes" they at least aspire to be Chattering Class 2.0, or some such thing.

LJ: I worry you are just dignifying their lack of reflection while bending over backwards to avoid calling them racist.

I don't think calling them reactionary (which I take Publius to be doing) is dignifiying their lack of reflection. My problem with going straight to "racism" is that it is easily disprovable in a media setting, even if the disproof is disingenuous. Lou Dobbs might, in fact, be racist, but he can keep pointing to his Hispanic wife and live-in in-laws, and win the sound bite battle. It's too easy for these folks to point out all the ways other than race that Mexicans are, in their view, just not like us (language being the favorite, of course).

And I think each time we call them racist without being able to conclusively demonstrate that racism, we dull the edge of the charge itself.

What puzzles me is: what accounts for the sense of paranoia that really does animate parts of the right? Why are they so quick to see thing as some sort of attack on America? I mean: if a government website giving out information that people really do need to know, like where the registry of motor vehicles is and what forms of documentation you should bring in order to register your car, presents that information in those languages spoken by significant chunks of the population, how is that fact a threat to anyone?

And this is not about citizens v. non-citizens. If you read, say, The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down, the story of what happened to a little Hmong girl with epilepsy as a result of the lack of communication, trust, knowledge, etc., between her family and the medical professionals they encountered, it's the same set of issues, even though the Hmong were citizens who had fought for us in Indochina, and whom we had therefore admitted into the US. The first generation (in the book) didn't assimilate all that well, having come from a culture that was just wildly different, but the second seemed to be doing quite well, except for the little girl at the center of the book, who was, at the time the book was written, a vegetable, avoidably.

Little things like translations harm almost nobody, and can have enormous benefits. It's very hard to regard them as awful, unless you have a story already in your head about your country being under siege. And I truly have no idea what's behind that story. (I mean, it's not that I can't name people who purvey it; it's that I am baffled as to why it's convincing.)

Lou Dobbs might, in fact, be racist, but he can keep pointing to his Hispanic wife and live-in in-laws, and win the sound bite battle.

Wer ein Jude ist, das bestimm ich.

I'd be pretty comfortable with calling it "layered racism." Opposition to immigration (full stop) is may be more sophisticated than "I won't live next door to People Like That." But what's going on underneath, IME, is plenty racist.

It usually takes only three or four questions before people's concerns about English fluency, educational level, fertility rate, and disease risk (!) get revealed as racism. E.g.: Immigrations should be abel to speak English? So you're ok with Indians or Africans whose first language is English, then? Big families are a problem? So are you worried about the Irish folks down the street? Etc.

If there weren't a large population of American conservatives who were either racist themselves or tolerant of racism, the 'problem' of immigration would be insignificant. The '86 law would have been written better with less willingness to make it easy to create a class of employees who are technically working illegally, but not taken seriously.

Big Business Republicans made their pact with the racists and reactionaries and religious zealots when the Democrats decided that they were no longer going to be on the wrong side of history. I don't know what would have happened if the Republicans hadn't pursued the Southern Strategy, maybe a Wallacite party would be a third party still, but they wouldn't have much to say when the mainstream of both the Democrats and Republicans comes to the conclusion that we need to fix our immigration system.

Let the nativists rant with their vile words, but they need to remember that they, too, made a pact, one with Big Business, one that included looking the other way when Big Business and others hired these people who had no technical right to work in the country. People like Tancredo are just hypocrites.

"I mean: if a government website giving out information that people really do need to know, like where the registry of motor vehicles is and what forms of documentation you should bring in order to register your car, presents that information in those languages spoken by significant chunks of the population, how is that fact a threat to anyone?"

If you're not doing well, and you're therefore full of resentments about it, you want to find someone to blame.

Someone from a different culture than yours is by definition somewhat alien to you. If they're speaking a bunch of gibberish, well, they have a lot of nerve to be doing that in my neighborhood! Who are these people moving into my neighborhood and speaking gibberish all the time?! Why, they're Spanish-speaking, and obviously illegal aliens -- the people who are here to steal our jobs and get all the government welfare money that goes to criminals like them, instead of helping solid Americans in need like me! Just like the government wastes all that money on foreign aid!

Etc.

The "damage" is "perfectly obvious" when that's your view of things. Could be Chinese, African-Americans, Jews, Irish, Catholics, Muslims, gays: people all too easily equate The Other with The Enemy.

And not being able to understand what people are saying really lends itself to paranoia, fear, and anger. Clearly, many people have an immediate, visceral, reaction to it, which appears to be little dulled by repetition.

From that "the people talking gibberish may be conspiring against me/us!" irrationality, it's not much of a leap to "if we stop catering to the gibberish-speakers (Enemy), we can get them to leave!"

And thus therefore translations are a traitorous act that aids and abets the invading Enemy.

Q.E.D.

*Anecdotal evidence follows--extrapolate at your own risk*
I run a bowling center in SW Ohio, home of tough on immigration Fox News personality, Sheriff Richard Jones. Our video game repairman who I call Joe Dirt, because he looks like Joe Dirt, told me about a new game of chance which they distribute that has been approved for use in Butler County, which surprised me because one isn't even allowed pinball in this area--it's considered gambling 'cause you win a free game. I joked that it must involve bagging Mexicans, because that's the only kind of game of which our sheriff would approve. "That would be all right with me," Joe answered. I get a lot of 'they took our jobs' customers, but Joe surprised me a bit with "I don't care if they all come legally. We should make it easy and legal. If I break the law, I go to jail. I don't get free treatment at the hospital." I found it interesting that he chose medical care as his example.

"It's very hard to regard them as awful, unless you have a story already in your head about your country being under siege. And I truly have no idea what's behind that story. (I mean, it's not that I can't name people who purvey it; it's that I am baffled as to why it's convincing.)"

Because the alternative explanations have been demonized as crazy leftist talk.

OOC: ironically enough, if you are sent to jail, you do get free medical care, at a hospital if need be.

"Makes them so mad", eh? Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, Song of Patriotic Prejudice: "It's not that they're wicked, or naturally bad; / It's knowing they're foreign that makes them so mad." Coincidence or deliberate allusion? (My money's on the latter.) Unfortunately for the parallel, "they" in the song are the foreigners, not others who disapprove of them.

I'm feeling as alien as ever: what's "bagging Mexicans"?

My tentative interpretation is that it's a joke based around some sort of joking threat to harm Mexicans, but I don't quite grasp more than that. Literally putting bags on people's heads? Kidnapping them? Throwing them around? Imprisoning them? I get that it's a threat, but I don't know what the threat is.

Does everyone but me know what this means?

Then I can't quite figure out what this means: "I don't care if they all come legally. We should make it easy and legal. If I break the law, I go to jail. I don't get free treatment at the hospital."

So the guy favors large-scale legal immigration? Do I have that right? Okay, but what's the bit about the law and the hospital got to do with it?

I get the I-am-an-alien feeling because it's all in English, and yet I don't understand what the thought that's intended to be communicated quite is. What is medical care an "example" of? What's the whole story anecdotal evidence of? That there's grass-roots support for Mexican immigration because it's okay to "bag" them?

God, I feel stupid. I've read "I found it interesting that he chose medical care as his example" over a dozen times, and I still can't figure out what it's an example of.

Interesting point Gromit, but it seems like relies on a rather simple definition of racism or rather, very simple antidotes to prove you aren't racist. I bumped into a few people who are married to Japanese, yet think very little of Japanese culture, etc. Lou Dobbs can invoke his wife, but the more he uses her as a prop, the less convincing it is. Invoking the way one does things in one's private life to defend vile views has a pretty long pedigree. It's really hard to view that whole leprosy kerfluffle as being an honest mistake. And just because Dobbs doesn't see it is wrong doesn't make it less problematic. So I agree that in the public arena, this is a problem, but it is only a problem because our public debate conflates people invoking their good intentions with what would happen or actually does happen when what they argue for comes to pass.

Also, Bernard's point, that someone like Lou Dobbs wants to have the power to determine who is a good guy and a bad guy, is pertinent. Give Dobbs' path from big business outsourcing shill to Populism Man, it seems clear that he simply wants to keep a seat on the gravy train.

Gary, I think it refers to something like this

Whoops, my link didn't stick. the google search is
here

"whole leprosy kerfluffle"

On the assumption that it's a misspelling, not a typo, and that you might want to know that -- and if either of those two assumptions is incorrect, which they may well be, I offer in advance my repeated and profuse apologies for any irritation generated -- the word is "kerfuffle," not "kerfluffle."

"And just because Dobbs doesn't see it is wrong doesn't make it less problematic."

A point a lot of people never understand: intent doesn't control, and may not even be relevant, in judging what's problematic or offensive. It's not a get-out-of-having-been-offensive-free card.

"Gary, I think it refers to something like this"

"Bagging" meaning "hunting." Thanks.

So:

I joked that it must involve [hunting] Mexicans, because that's the only kind of game of which our sheriff would approve.

"That would be all right with me," Joe answered. [...] but Joe surprised me a bit with "I don't care if they all come legally. We should make it easy and legal [for them to immigrate to America because it would be all right with me if we hunted them]."

I'm still having problems following, as you can probably see.

"I don't care if they all come legally. We should make it easy and legal. If I break the law, I go to jail. I don't get free treatment at the hospital."

Gary, if I may offer my interpretation of Joe, as quoted above:

"I wouldn't mind if we changed the system so that Mexicans who wanted to come here could do so easily legally. What makes me angry is that so many of them come here illegally, and our country doesn't punish them for it. In fact, they can even get free medical care if they go to the emergency rooms. The rules for immigrants are different than the ones I have to abide by -- for example, if I break the law, I go to jail."

That's how I'd read it. Now, of course, there are a number of errors of fact and/or arguable points of interpretation in what he said. But that's another point.

Witt: "That's how I'd read it."

Thanks. As phrased by you, it's perfectly clear.

I still don't understand how it's compatible with "[hunting Mexicans] would be all right with me," but since I still don't follow how the rest of the translation got from the text to this interpretation, I'll leave it there as a typical mystery generated by my general frequent inability to understand what other people mean.

Gary, try 'bagging [illegal] Mexicans'.

re kerfuffle v. kerfluffle, thanks, though I do think kerfluffle, with the repeated consonant cluster sounds more appropriate as a term of art. Hopefully, the rest of the English speaking world will someday see the wisdom in that.

Witt wins a valuable no prize for grasping the sense of my conversation with Joe. I tried to be concise and ended up being oblique.
I will not argue that there may be inconsistencies in Joe's attitude, but I don't know that he's spent much time working out his ideas on paper or in wonky debate. I was just surprised that his sense of outrage focused on rules rather than cultural or economic threat.

what accounts for the sense of paranoia that really does animate parts of the right?... ...it's very hard to regard them as awful, unless you have a story already in your head about your country being under siege.

that "story" is the very heart of conservatism. when you get right down to it, conservatism is a desire to keep things the way they are in the face of a perpetual onslaught of unwelcome changes. it's “the survival and enhancement of a particular people and its institutionalized cultural expressions.” (Samuel Francis)

immigration, terrorism, gay rights, feminism, the idea that Christianity is not common and central, people in their towns speaking languages other than what they were raised around, cultural mixing, etc.. they fear it all. they simply want to preserve their imaginary version of America. the ideal is a fairy tale set in the past, and any change that pushes society farther from that ideal is unwelcome.

As a pro-immigration guy, I can't help but think that two major points for normal, non-racist people of both parties who don't like illegal immigration are:

1. The "rules" and "law" thing: it's obnoxious to deal with Government rules and paying taxes. Most people do anyway, and are upset that illegal immigrants get a pass in this regard.

2. Everyone is dismissing the language concerns, despite the fact that people do appreciate being able to communicate with their neighbors. No racism or irrational fear of foreigners necessary.

The people who tend to dedicate their lives to stopping immigration are, with little exception, yahoos. But there are a lot of normal, level-headed people who simply don't like the way things are working right now and will vote accordingly.

Dismissing peoples concerns about illegal immigration out of hand is not going to cultivate a more positive climate for immigration in general.

despite the fact that people do appreciate being able to communicate with their neighbors

people in America have had trouble communicating with their neighbors going back centuries before the USA was even founded. from the second Europeans set foot on this continent, they've have had to deal with people who didn't speak their language - native Americans and other Europeans. how does that Thanksgiving legend go again?

it's turned out alright so far, yes?

the idea that communities in North America have always been homogeneous and that people today are entitled to live in a culturally homogeneous community is just more of that naive right-wing nostalgia. the days of isolated small towns are gone - Mayberry was fictional, even in the 1960s.

people have always immigrated to America. there's always been a wave of immigrants that the natives were afraid of, distrustful and resentful of. and it's always turned out fine.

Dismissing peoples concerns about illegal immigration out of hand is not going to cultivate a more positive climate for immigration in general.

if concerns are silly, out-of-hand is the best way to handle them.

people in America have had trouble communicating with their neighbors going back centuries before the USA was even founded.

No argument about that. But given that people living in America today aren't likely to have had that experience, they are not going to be happy about it.

it's turned out alright so far, yes?

Sure has. But it's not going to stop people from being cranky today.

the idea that communities in North America have always been homogeneous and that people today are entitled to live in a culturally homogeneous community is just more of that naive right-wing nostalgia.

I'm not talking about a culturally homogeneous community - I'm talking about having a language in common.

I agree completely that in the end it's all going to work out fine. But until then, people are going to be pissed. We live in a democracy, so we can't pretend that just because we don't agree with the concerns that they don't matter. I don't think that idea that we should share a language in common is silly or unreasonable, so I'm willing to take that concern into account.

"That’s why the push for things like fences and English requirements are actually more than nativist racism. In their heads, these people are defending an America -- their America -- that they perceive as being under siege. It’s an interesting perception – and one that pops up in a number of different contexts, but it’s ultimately wrong. Basically, the logical error is that people are equating their own preferences and social norms with “America.”

So basically, "my culture is better than your culture"? Frankly, this is precisely how I'd define nativist racism, so I'm curious what you're referring to when you say it's "more than nativist racism". What is your conception of racism that you're contrasting with this?

I'm talking about having a language in common.

by the second generation, immigrants pretty much all know English. that's been the case for 200 years. why do things have to change *right now* ?

But until then, people are going to be pissed.

people are always going to be pissed about something. if there's nothing obvious to be pissed at, they'll invent something or their leaders will invent something for them. that's human nature.

I might be more willing to accept the argument that language is a major cause of trouble if we didn't have the Irish example as a powerful counterweight. It strikes me that people decide they won't like X and then find reasons not to like them.

Thanks. Now that you have me (generic conservative) all psychoanalyzed and figured out, that $120 I would have spent at the therapist I can now spend on beer. Probably a low-brow brand you would not approve of, but I can buy more of the cheap stuff.

(Sprinkles publius, where are my sprinkles?)

Jonas: "2. Everyone is dismissing the language concerns, despite the fact that people do appreciate being able to communicate with their neighbors. No racism or irrational fear of foreigners necessary."

That's true, up to a point.

My own point is that I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. From my infancy onwards I dealt with people in the original apartment building, and then with many neighbors on our block, who spoke little or no English, but instead spoke their native tongue.

Those tongues ranged from Cantonese to Greek to Spanish to Turkish to Romanian to Arabic to Hungarian to Mandarin to Russian to Italian to Lithuanian to African dialects and on and on and on.

Half the merchants on Avenue J. and Coney Island Avenue and the rest of the neighborhood didn't speak English. Hell, I had relatives who didn't speak English.

We all got along. Being able to speak the same language is a blessing, but not a necessity.

Unless you're trying to give instructions on how to fly a plane, or use an electron microscope, or something that needs precision, people can get by in different languages; there's certainly nothing inherent about not speaking the same language that mandates hostility or fear.

Normal as the latter responses are, to be sure.

There's nothing about not having a common language beyond gestures, and our common humanity that requires or causes "people are going to be pissed," absent some other factor making them angry.

What puzzles me is: what accounts for the sense of paranoia that really does animate parts of the right? Why are they so quick to see thing as some sort of attack on America?

I dunno, Hilzoy. It seems to me that I can easily imagine some fair-minded Red saying the same thing about you on the basis of your posts about torture (of terrorists), civil liberties violations (minor, and short termed), etc. I'm sure some did. That's basically the ground on which "the left hates America" sits.

They think differently than we do. So we sort out who we can do deals with and do our best to limit the power of the others. That's all there is.

Now that you have me (generic conservative) all psychoanalyzed and figured out

you're being sarcastic. did i get something wrong ?

Probably a low-brow brand you would not approve of, but I can buy more of the cheap stuff.

oh Steve. whatever you want to drink is fine with me. really!

i do recommend Brooklyn Local 1 Ale, though. i'm soaking in it. it does good things for your powers of generalization.

"...there is a sincere belief that the influx of Latinos is going to fundamentally alter American culture..."

Sounds like racist nativism to me. Bigots are not incapable of sincerity in their beliefs. And how many atrocities in the old South were perpetrated in the name of "defending" white culture? How many truly evil actors were excused, enabled, and supported by well-meaning people who were just uncomfortable to see their society influenced by people different from themselves?

[...] people in America have had trouble communicating with their neighbors going back centuries before the USA was even founded.

No argument about that. But given that people living in America today aren't likely to have had that experience, they are not going to be happy about it.

Wait, what? Where are these people living, that they've not had the experience of neighbors who speak a different language than English?

Tiny, isolated, small towns? How many Americans today have actually never had neighbors (defined as, say, people living in reasonable walking distance, whom you've encountered more than once) who primarily speak another language?

I have no idea what the number is, but I'd certainly be surprised if it were more than 15% of the country, and I'd be somewhat surprised if it were that many.

And while I don't mean to be unsympathetic, I'd tend to lean towards thinking that any such people don't particularly have any call on the rest of the country to maintain their state of ethnic and linguistic isolation.

So I'm a bit unclear why any response of "not going to be happy about it," with "it" being the experience of having neighors who primarily speak other than English, should be catered to.

Basically, if it's a new experience for them, and they're not happy about it, maybe they should learn to get over that, rather than alternatively the country should enforce a policy of keeping their encounters ethnically and linguistically pure.

"I dunno, Hilzoy. It seems to me that I can easily imagine some fair-minded Red saying the same thing about you on the basis of your posts about torture (of terrorists), civil liberties violations (minor, and short termed), etc. I'm sure some did."

Why would a communist say that about Hilzoy's posts?

Making English an "official" language shouldn't affect anybody's relationship with their neighbors...unless they're already predisposed to discriminate against non-English speakers.

Let's face it: English is already the official US language. Are criminals whose first language is Chinese, Russian, or Spanish entitled to cite loopholes in the law that arise when legal codes are translated into their home tongues? No. The English version of the law is the official one.

Cleek: you're being sarcastic. did i get something wrong ?

I wasn’t actually responding to you, I was responding to the main post, to publius. Actually I haven’t even read all the comments yet. Apologies if it came off as responding to you – it wasn’t. Timing in the thread I guess but I should have been clearer it was directed at publius.

He gave me sprinkles with my free ice cream the other day, today he’s peeing in my cornflakes.

Time to go to bed…

I think the line between racism and the reification of some idea of some sort of generalized "American heritage" is pretty fine. I've written a couple blog posts on the topic (http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2007/05/american_heritage.php and http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2007/06/more_on_heritage.php), and no one has been able to suggest a non-xenophobic definition of it which would not encompass Latino immigrants, or exclude many undisputed Americans.

How to make an active link:

Here is a handy guide to HTML tags.

You can use "find" to go to "link something."

Here's how you link (you can copy this and paste it as necessary, if you can't remember): <A HREF="URL"> </A>

Put words as necessary between > <

Put the actual URL to link to where it says "URL."

You're done.

From Josh's dead link: "The setting is not wholly unfamiliar to me; it reminds me of the neighborhood where my mother's parents lived in Brooklyn. They kept a kosher house, and my mother's grandmother got by just fine with Yiddish, and never picked up much English. She did fine. As far as I know, she voted, read the papers (my grandfather was a typesetter for Yiddish newspapers, and a member of a union founded by Horace Greeley). My mother and her sisters played stoopball and hopscotch with other kids from the neighborhood, mostly other Jewish kids, but with other nationalities and ethnicities, too.
Nothing seems more American to me than that."

It's quite clear that far too many Brooklyn Jews, whose grandparents came from Eastern Europe, have infiltrated the American homeland, and are even now attempting to defile the purity of America with our insidious notions of Brooklyn pluralism.

On the upside: more egg creams for us.

Jonas,
I don't want to pile on, but what bothers me is that the concern over language often masks a concern over power.

It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it what it is like to live in a country where your language isn't the majority language, and the place where I live is one where the language I speak is granted a special status, so I really don't have the true insight into that, but every immigrant community that I know of has lost their language after the 2nd generation when being moved into a minority language situation, so I think your fears are overblown. This is true with the Latino population as well, but the insistence on keeping them as illegal serves to have them use their language far more than they would if they were legal. In essence, a trap is set up, suggesting that if they really wanted to stay, they would reject their native language and culture, but offering them no guarantee to stay and then holding up their clinging to traditions of their home country as evidence that they will not assimilate, even though it is only the first generation that is like that, and the second generation is indistinguishable from the 'natives'.

And, when you have the kind of draconian policies that we have here in Japan, you end up sending children back to a country they have never lived in, where the language is not one they speak. Japan does this because children born here don't get citizenship, whereas they do in the US. So, you have talk of 'anchor babies' and ways to take citizenship away from them. It's really hard not to take these sort of retroactive measures as being driven by racism, regardless of the purity of intention of their proponents. This is not to put you in the same group, just to point out that the slope seems pretty slippery.

Before we all brick ourselves into our respective corners, with one side shouting "Racists!" at the other, and the other side replying with "Law-breakers!," let's take a step back.

Immigration happens not to be a hot button issue for me, so I understand and sympathize with both sides.

Of course there's some racism in the anti-illegal immigration admix. But that isn't what animates all of the anti's, and saying it is just makes them less inclined to listen to anything else you have to say. Saying, "Ah, but you're just not aware of your racism" is also a great way to not communicate - assuming, that is, that you want to communicate, and not just score rhetorical points.

As I've mentioned before, I lived in a city that has become "the northernmost capital of Latin America." Miami-Dade County is not a good and pleasant place; it's chronically and unspeakably violent, hostile to non-Spanish speakers, and so corrupt that at one point in the 90s the federal government had to take over administration of the county because practically all of its officers and managers were under indictment or investigation for some federal crime or another. So do not get all condescending and dismissive of people who fear for "the American way of life." They are not all racist idiots who loathe multiculturalism for no good reason.

There are good reasons to be concerned about unlimited immigration, legal and illegal, that have nothing to do with racism. There are good reasons to want to bring the millions of illegal aliens out of the shadows and into citizenship that have nothing to do with "wanting to reward law-breakers."

As I've also said previously, the immigration issue not only isn't going to go away, it's going to get worse in the next few decades. We already know what happens when we refuse to deal with the issues honestly and forthrightly. Name-calling, denigrating peoples' motives, and putting facile labels on them so you can pat yourself on the back for your superior understanding are all really, really stupid and counterproductive and won't solve anything.

The liberal side doesn't like the idea of guest workers, because it's so expensive it guarantees the creation of a permanent serf class. That's a legitimate beef; let's talk about it. How about lowering the cost of getting and renewing guest-worker visas, and shortening the time needed to get permanent residency status or citizenship?

The conservative side doesn't like the idea of amnesty because it could open the floodgates and let millions more in. That's a legitimate beef; let's talk about it. How about more small-scale economic development projects in the countries the illegal immigrants are coming from, maybe getting corporations who've offshored their factories and whatnot anyway to move them to, say, Mexico, or Guatemala?

The anti-translation rhetoric is also now appearing in British politics, coming from New Labour politicians. The argument is that providing translation services discourages integration by new immigrants. The specific problem normally raised is that this prevents people working (although in practice there are a fair number of menial jobs where an ability to speak English isn't key). The underlying claim is that this lack of integration somehow leads to British youths becoming terrorists. The fact that the British suicide-bombers have been English-speaking and by other measures 'well-integrated' is brushed aside.

CaseyL,
Good comment, interesting stuff. However, for corruption, you think about New Orleans, Philadelphia, Wash DC, so the notion that immigrants are somehow a cause of corruption misses the mark. Also, I have the impression that the unique status of the Cuban exile community contributes to the problems in Florida because with an exile community, you want them to maintain their culture. The fact that such a community is being used to score political points muddies the water considerably. However, consider what you point out to be well taken.

I think it's a coincidence of three fairly conservative impulses:

(1) the impulse to protect the american archetype, which, despite overt references to the melting pot, persist in the minds of many who either have power or vote for those who do.

(2) it is linked in our minds to terrorism. empirically, border control is probably an R-squared relationship approaching zero as a predictor of terrorist attacks, but the idea of terrorists passing undetected through new mexico energizes groups that fear genuinely, but to an irrational degree or at least in irrational contexts, for our national safety.

(3) it is a marginal reaction to what i consider to be the core of what divides liberals and conservatives. conservatives don't necessarily believe that you get what you deserve, but at least that every bums lot in life is his own. liberals perceive everyone'slot in life as either a lotter victory or lottery loss. as a result, they view distinctions of all types - social, economic, political - as curable by means of curing the far-ranging effects of that genetic lottery. the idea that liberals "give" amnesty to illegal immigrants facilitates just the type of narrative that their opponents prefer. bestowing resources upon those who don't deserve it, who don't deserve it because of so controllable characteristic. good policy, bad policy, i dunno. i just know that it gives a conservative reactionary a good story.

just disregard that last post. i'm too drunk. i have a point but it's just not hiding somewhere in this miller lite bottle.

there is a sincere belief that the influx of Latinos is going to fundamentally alter American culture and, by extension, America......(It’s noteworthy that critics accused virtually every ethnic immigrant group throughout history of the same thing).

How is what you're describing not, basically racism? Or bigotry (if you prefer)?

Kovarsky, I found your points pretty clear. You say that the immigration issue fits 3 separate conservative themes.

There's protection of an american "archetype", a concept that there is a unitary american culture that accepting too many immigrants would corrupt.

There's the fear that if illegal immigrants can get in, so can terrorists. Sealing the borders to illegal immigrants probably wouldn't do much at all to stop terrorists, but letting them leak is obviously scary. "How did they get that nuke into the USA?" "They smuggled it in inside a bale of marijuana."

And there's the concept that people go out and get what they deserve, and the government shouldn't take stuff that people earned for themselves without any help from anybody and give it to lazy people who don't deserve it. Every government service or charity that illegal immigrants use is that much less for the rest of us, and legalising them is that much worse.

The main thing I'd object to in your description is your use of "genetic" in the third point. I doubt that either conservatives or liberals tend to think of it as a genetic lottery where you inherit the competency genes that let you succeed or not. In my image of the dispute, conservatives would tend to think of it as some people simply having "the right stuff" to succeed, while liberals would tend to think of it as a social lottery -- while the most important thing that determines your wealth comes from your choice of parents, you also play an opportunity lottery that restricts the circumstances in which you can display your capabilities.

The interesting question to me is how did this issue come up? Did it evolve out of hundreds of thousands of individual choices by conservatives about what to complain about, or was it created by a few marketing geniuses? Evolution or intelligent design?

And did it turn into a giant issue now because a lot of people just got upset about it, or were they directed to get upset about it by the media? Clearly the national security issue is mostly used up. The public doesn't trust republicans or democrats to handle national security so that isn't such an important issue anymore. ?! !!

Wow. Somehow I didn't notice that until I wrote it. The most important issue, practically the only important issue, the one that could get us all killed, and we're agreed that it isn't being handled well and it won't be handled well, and we're arguing about immigration? Illegal immigrants flocking into our cities to take the chance to get blown up with the rest of us, that's the biggest issue?

Have these guys decided that national security isn't really an issue after all? Or are they just getting mad about whatever the media tells them to get mad about?

"How is what you're describing not, basically racism?"

Because race and culture aren't the same thing. Are you having trouble grasping the rather elementary distinction between genes, and behavior? It's so basic, it's really, really difficult to accept that these accusations of "racism" are sincere, rather than an attempt to intimidate people into silence.

When you assimilate immigrants, you are also assimilated. It's a two way street, the change isn't one sided. And it's not just new styles of cooking that you bring in, darker things come along for the ride, too.

When people look at Mexico, and see massive political corruption, violence, and so forth, they ask, "Why the hell would we want to add more of THAT to our cultural mix?" Make no mistake about it, we are.

Thinking that in no way requires you to care about the shape of somebody's eyes, or the color of their skin.

Personally, I'm all in favor of a massive increase in legal immigration. But not all from Mexico, please. A ballanced mix of immigrants from all over the world, preferably with concentration on countries with some good entrepenural culture, (We were mad not to give the residents of Hong Kong refuge when the UK sold them out, for instance.) would be better than 'monoculture' immigration from the neighboring third world kleptocracy.

J Thomas, observe the frightful intersection between the immigration and national security issues here: Malkin supports a Tancredo measure to deny DHS funding to cities with sanctuary laws.

OK after some sleep I’ll take another (more serious) whack at this.

I think CaseyL summed it up the best; both sides have legitimate concerns that get lost in all the rhetoric (great comment CaseyL). So I’ll touch on another aspect of “what makes them so mad” that hasn’t been covered here yet (much).

Dubai Ports, Harriet Miers, essentially being ignored. The pundit class believes they represent the “base”, whatever that is these days. They get hundreds of emails or blog comments that reinforce that. Beyond the larger questions swirling around this bill, they are saying you (the administration and leaders of the party) are not listening to your base. You are going to damage the party. Party supporters are riled up enough about this that you ignore them at your peril. They will stop giving you money; they will stop voting for you or will not go to the polls at all. You are heading down a path that is going to weaken the party still more.

They are saying look; we tried to tell you what a bad choice Harriet Miers was (HH aside). You ignored us and look what happened. We tried to tell you how stupid it was to support the Dubai Ports deal. You ignored us and look what happened. We are trying to tell you that you are doing things that lose you the support of Republicans much less anyone else.

And not just being ignored, but scorned and publicly ridiculed by the administration and high level Republicans for wanting to be part of the conversation. The party and the administration are taking shots at them that could have come from this post, dKos, or the DNC:

Trent Lott: “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.”

At some point, Mr. Lott said, Senate Republican leaders may try to rein in “younger guys who are huffing and puffing against the bill.”

"I'm sure senators on both sides of the aisle are being pounded by these talk-radio people who don't even know what's in the bill," Lott said. He added that the "leadership will have to be prepared to do what needs to be done."


Chertoff: “Mr. Chertoff also faulted much of the right-wing blathersphere for its opposition to the Senate bill.”


Bush: "Those determined to find fault with this bill will always be able to look at a narrow slice of it and find something they don't like," Mr. Bush said in the May 29 speech about the legislation now being debated in the Senate. "If you want to kill the bill, if you don't want to do what's right for America, you can pick one little aspect out of it, you can use it to frighten people. Or you can show leadership and solve this problem once and for all."

…critics of the immigration bill "don't want to do what's right for America."


Etc. Note that I think there is at least a hint of jealousy in all this: The netroots on the left have the ability to at least get the ear of the senior Democrats, while the blogs on the right feel mostly impotent. Oh they get the occasional interview or a conference call with McCain, but it’s mostly blowing smoke.

Back to the actual bill, the closest thing to a consensus I have seen is “enforcement first”. I don’t see anyone completely rejecting a path to citizenship for current illegals or guest worker programs – they are saying this time we want enforcement first. This is a completely legitimate point with historical precedent to back it up. They are saying in past bills the amnesty provisions happened immediately while enforcement was promised but never delivered. The fact that we have 12 million illegals now is proof enough of that. This time we want it fixed once and for all so we want enforcement first because we do not believe that you will ever deliver on enforcement.

Now if this is racist, or economics, or a matter of law enforcement, or even a belief in a fundamental threat to America – 69% of Americans are on board, including 55% of Democrats.

Uncontrolled, illegal immigration, yet another infringement on our rights by the gov't. Add it to the ever-growing list of violations:
They violate the 1st Amendment by opening mail, caging demonstrators and banning books like "America Deceived" from Amazon.
They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns during Katrina.
They violate the 4th Amendment by conducting warrant-less wiretaps.
They violate the 5th and 6th Amendment by suspending habeas corpus.
They violate the 8th Amendment by torturing.
They violate the entire Constitution by starting 2 illegal wars based on lies and on behalf of a foriegn gov't.
Support Dr. Ron Paul and end this madness.
Last link (unless Stark County District Library caves to the gov't and drops the title):
America Deceived (book)

This is a completely legitimate point with historical precedent to back it up

Possibly true, but it doesn't matter. Many of the complaints about the immigration bill from the Right seem like reasonable ones. Doesn't matter. After six plus years, what sane American trusts a Red? If you give them enforcement first, will they ever find the benchmarks have been met? Doubt it. You don't even need to assume bad faith on their part. The words just mean something different to them than they do to us. Or they'll see some action, which you didn't even notice, was some sort of breach.

If Dems want to get the immigration bill done--and I don't personally care much--they need to ignore the Republican Southern base.

I was wondering when Ron Paul would be mentioned here. I know some folks have some problems with Dave Neiwert here, but I think this discussion of Ron Paul's previous history should be looked at.

When people look at Mexico, and see massive political corruption, violence, and so forth, they ask, "Why the hell would we want to add more of THAT to our cultural mix?" Make no mistake about it, we are.

The Mexicans crossing the border are fleeing those evils, not bringing them. Imputing the corruption of the government and the ruthlessness of the criminals to the average border-crosser who is guilty of neither is indistinguishable from bigotry.

kovarsky: about your third point (conservatives believe you get what you deserve, liberals believe it's just a big lottery):

I don't want to deny that if we were forced to pick one of these two answers, liberals and conservatives would probably line up as you say. But I also think that people on both sides, but most especially liberals, would want to deny the choice.

I, for instance, believe that there are lots of ways in which what happens to us reflects our choices. But there are also lots of ways in which it doesn't. If I get a serious illness, odds are it has nothing to do with my choices at all; and yet it can not only be bad in its own right, but also bankrupt me. On the other side, I got to have a really wonderful education, a childhood lived far from guns (I did get bullied, but the worst it got, physically, was having the most hateful kid in class start at the other end of the skating rink, work up speed all the way to me, and slam me into the hockey goal), etc., etc., and while this absolutely reflects my parents' choices, I have no clue what it would mean to say that it reflects mine.

I think it's crucial to recognize that we don't face a choice between believing in individual responsibility and believing in luck. Surely the shape of our lives reflects both. And one of the reasons I am a liberal is because I want it to have more to do with individual responsibility, so that (for instance) a couple who have been working hard and playing by the rules will not find themselves suddenly bankrupted when they have a child with a serious illness.

If Dems want to get the immigration bill done--and I don't personally care much--they need to ignore the Republican Southern base.

Well, if Rasmussen is to be believed, Dems may want to start by selling it to their own party.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) of voters would favor an approach that focuses exclusively on “exclusively on securing the border and reducing illegal immigration.” Support for the enforcement only approach comes from 84% of Republicans, 55% of Democrats, and 69% of those not affiliated with either major party.

Again if Rasmussen is to be believed, we should all be asking why both parties are pushing so hard for something opposed by 70% of the country. (Admittedly 800 is a pretty small sample. I’m not a statistician, so someone else chime in on the validity of the poll.)

OCSteve:
"Admittedly 800 is a pretty small sample. I’m not a statistician, so someone else chime in on the validity of the poll."

A quick-and-dirty rule of thumb: the 95%-confidence interval is pretty close to the reciprocal of the square root of the sample size. For sample size 800, that works out to about plus/minus 3.5%. (This assumes that the sample was a "simple random sample", which, for practical reasons, it probably wasn't, and there are a couple of other constraints, but as a rough estimate it works pretty well.)

Here are a couple of examples that might help people understand what's going on:

1. The scene: A historically black neighborhood that's the site of several projects to demolish old houses and install expensive condos to be bought by rich white yuppies. Some of the black residents resent this process, and feel that their neighborhood is being changed into something that they don't recognize.

2. A traditional African tribe lives off the land; it has a rich culture full of traditional rituals and beliefs, etc. But things are changing: Corporations are moving in, giving people jobs that pay more money. The old rituals start dying off as the younger people become more Westernized.


So, in both situations, if anyone objects to what's going on, is it just insidious racism? That's the only conceivable reason that anyone would like their old neighborhood or culture and not want to see it changed?

Steve, there was also a recent Gallup poll showing that 78% of the public favors granting a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants already here.

No doubt it is possible to favor a path to citizenship but wish that enforcement were first tightened up. But there is nowhere near the hostility to amnesty as such that Dobbs and Malkin et al allege. Moreover, with such a large number of Americans favoring some way of mainstreaming the existing illegal immigrants, the vehemence of a wish for "enforcement first" has to be doubted. Most likely the disparate poll results reflect a public that doesn't have strong opinions on the subject (outside the Dobbs/Malkin/Buchanan faction), and is sensitive to how the questions are framed.

Besides, elections are where political preferences are revealed, rather than merely stated. We know that the CA Republican party suffered no less than a generational setback due to Prop 187 (the revisionism on this point being wildly unpersuasive). OTOH, I can't remember the last time a Democrat lost a statewide race by being too immigrant-friendly, if it ever happened.

Having open borders is definitively at odds with national security. Refusal to enforce the law is also at odds with the legitimacy of a government.

To take the supposedly weakest argument, an abandonment of the rule of law, I suppose that marijuana laws should simply not be enforced. Even if someone opens a business that sells marijuana. Those truckloads of marijuana should not be stopped, because it is just too trivial to worry about.

Concerning the second argument, one would certainly hate to be populist in making political appeals. Just because the NRO crew is wrong on everything else has no bearing on the economic fundamentals. Unchecked amounts of unskilled labor creates a significant and permanent downward pressure on domestic wages. Skilled labor is usually under the rubric of legal immigration, and can be measured to maintain a certain wage level.

The argument for a concern over cultural purity is closer to the mark. The problem with this argument is that it fails to distinguish between someone invited into the country and a trespasser. The obligations entailed by one situation simply do not apply to the other.

1. The scene: A historically black neighborhood that's the site of several projects to demolish old houses and install expensive condos to be bought by rich white yuppies. Some of the black residents resent this process, and feel that their neighborhood is being changed into something that they don't recognize.

Actually, generally the fear is that come the next property tax assessment, the black residents won't be able to afford to live in their own houses anymore and will have to move, while the condo developers and their rich white yuppie purchasers will enjoy 15-year property tax abatements for engaging in urban renewal projects.

[i]"How is what you're describing not, basically racism?"

Because race and culture aren't the same thing. Are you having trouble grasping the rather elementary distinction between genes, and behavior? It's so basic, it's really, really difficult to accept that these accusations of "racism" are sincere, rather than an attempt to intimidate people into silence....[/i]


I, for one, am not going to apologize for putting bigots on the defensive. Which is not to say that anyone who's uncomfortable with open borders is a racist: there are legitimate concerns about drug trafficking, terrorism, and effects on wages. I'd like to see a secure border myself (in combination with much more liberal immigration policies). But the thing that really animates the hard-core opponents to immigration reform is unhealthy xenophobia, and in many cases racism.

I think we'd all like to believe that racism has been mostly beaten, but unfortunately that's just not the case. A few years ago I lived in northern Sacramento, CA, during a period when a huge influx of East European immigrants decided to make the area their new home. Mostly hard working people but they brought some negatives with them, as all immigrants do: some criminal associations, higher than average alcoholism rates, old-fashioned ideas about things like domestic violence.

Living in a pretty whitebread neighborhood I heard some grumbling that the local donut shop now sold blini, but other than that they were accepted and assimilated pretty quickly.

Nothing, nothing at all like the cries that come from nativists when the immigrants happen to be brown.

MattT

"How is what you're describing not, basically racism?"

Because race and culture aren't the same thing. Are you having trouble grasping the rather elementary distinction between genes, and behavior? It's so basic,

That's why I offered 'bigotry' as an alternative. I'm not trying to 'intimidate anyone into silence' (as if that would work anyway! Give me a break). You are playing semantic games to avoid the question at hand, Brett: why are immigrants - legal or otherwise - from Central America so culturally threatening as compared to other groups (many of whom were also originally feared, as pub notes)? The Huntington rationalization that they 'don't assimilate' gives the game away, because it's just factually wrong - there must be another reason. You're fine with (legal) immigration, just not from Mexico. You're reason is that Mexico has a violent corrupt political system/culture, so we don't want people from there. Well, to expand on what has been mentioned already: if this country had never accepted people escaping from countries with extreme poverty and its attendant violent and corrupt governments and cultures, we would've had almost no immegration at all! What does that leave? A clear racial/cultural bias. Just admit it.

A stronger version of your argument (but still wrong) would've been one against letting all those Sicilians in the country, since they were coming from a violent, gang oriented culture, and - voila - the Cosa Nostra. It's wrong because any immigrant cultural group can have a semi organized criminal element, and most of them don't go on to become 'Organized Crime' in the Al Capone sense. When they do, there's a reason. If you remember, there was a cultural backlash back in the early part of the last century: anti Catholic, anti Irish and Italian. The culmination of that was a little thing called Prohibition...cause and effect. Sorry, but you authoritarian/libertarians are at cross purposes with yourselves so often it's laughable. When you look at cause and effect, you only see rigid 'principle'; when you see actual principle (eg anyone can become an American) you see cause and effect.

People are scared of Mexican immigration because Mexicans are 'different'. Same as it ever was.

I'm afraid I'm rather vague on how that's not nativist racism.

How is what you're describing not, basically racism?

I think that most objection to Mexican immigration on nativist grounds is more about cultural differences, and less about race per se. So, the charge of "racism" is, IMO, not always deserved.

That said, I'm not sure that objecting to immigration on cultural grounds is any better. IMO, it's still bigotry. Further, the cultural ideal folks think they're preserving is largely imaginary. It's a myth.

Regarding Mexicans in particular, there are significant parts of the country where Spanish speaking Mexicans have been living far longer than English speaking WASPs. Who's the "native" and who the "usurper"?

Large parts of Pennsylania and Ohio were culturally German for much of their history. There are lots of communities in northern New England that were, historically, culturally French. The upper midwest was settled by Scandinavians. It worked out.

People come here because they can do better here than at home. The folks that make the trip are the motivated ones, the ones who see an opportunity and want to work to make their lives better. We should structure our public policy to make it possible for those folks to not only come, but to stay, to participate, and to build a stake in this country.

If millions of Mexicans want to come here, let them come, and make it possible for them to stay and become citizens. They're here already, they already are working, they already are buying homes and having kids, they are already starting small businesses and employing their friends and relatives, they're already paying taxes and contributing to this country. If it bugs you that you can't understand what they're saying, learn some Spanish.

Open the door. My two cents.

When people look at Mexico, and see massive political corruption, violence, and so forth, they ask, "Why the hell would we want to add more of THAT to our cultural mix?" Make no mistake about it, we are.

Sorry, but I don't see a widespread increase in political corruption or violence that has any credible relationship to immigration, legal or otherwise.

Thanks -

"The Mexicans crossing the border are fleeing those evils, not bringing them."

Sorry, Kth, they're doing both. You think Mexico is a nation full of innocent people who just happen to have corrupt government? That the Mexican people have nothing to do with the sort of society you have in Mexico?

You think Mexico is a nation full of innocent people who just happen to have corrupt government?

What then does our form of official corruption say about us? That we're 'discreet' enough to make much of our corruption legal? Should be deport ourselves?

As I said earlier, if we used your criterion, we wouldn't have had many immigrants at all. Poverty and corruption at home aren't the only reasons people have come here over the years, but it's a huge one.

When I was a lad, I lived in a town of about 5,000 in a rural state. The two largest employers in town were the packing plant and the canning factory. Both were independent, owned by someone within a county or two, and took bids from a variety of national brands and grocery chains for their output. The work was hard and somewhat seasonal, but paid enough that a full-time employee could raise a family and purchase a modest home.

While I no longer live there, I am told that the two largest employers continue to be the packing plant and the canning factory. But they are now owned by large multinational corporations and the employees are almost exclusively hispanic immigrants. Wages are far below what would be needed to purchase a home, and many qualify for public assistance of one form or another. It seems unlikely that local ownership could have made such a drastic change.

I suspect that in many areas, opposition to immigration is the response to the effects of large, distant ownership that does not care about the the local community.

Wages are far below what would be needed to purchase a home, and many qualify for public assistance of one form or another. It seems unlikely that local ownership could have made such a drastic change.

Actually, they probably would have. What do you think would happen when Walmart or another great big national chain started demanding ever lower prices?

I suspect that in many areas, opposition to immigration is the response to the effects of large, distant ownership that does not care about the the local community.

I half-agree. Maybe the community sees the immigrants as the problem, when in fact the problem is the low wages. The alternative to low wages is not necessarily high wages. It may be closed factories.

You think Mexico is a nation full of innocent people who just happen to have corrupt government? That the Mexican people have nothing to do with the sort of society you have in Mexico?

This is an interesting thought in light of Hilzoy's most recent posts on Taguba and Black Shadows.

I suspect that in many areas, opposition to immigration is the response to the effects of large, distant ownership that does not care about the the local community.

Yes, I agree; and that's been a problem since at least the 80s. Big corporations care about local communities only as much as they have to; their real constituency is the shareholders. No, not even the shareholders per se, but the big portfolio managers - some of which happen to be retirement porfolios for employees of big corporations. America's salaried workers depend on employer-run retirement programs as much as they depend on employer-paid health insurance. It makes for an interesting entanglement and conflict of interests, doesn't it?

"Why immigration and why now?" someone asked.

As much as I've gotten tired of the term "the perfect storm," I have to use it now. Like a real storm, there are obvious and not-so-obvious forces at play.

The obvious ones: Bush wanting a legislative victory; businesses wanting their cheap labor; the GOP base and politicians needing an issue to overshadow Iraq; liberals wanting to end illegals' shadow lives.

One less-obvious force is corporations caught in the middle, between potfolio managers demanding better "shareholder value" and the ever-rising cost of healthcare/retirement, needing desperately to find another way to enhance profitability.

And, to the less-obivous I would add a seemingly unrelated force: the so-far underreported threat to food and drug safety.

It's under-reported because the Administration, and MSM, focus so hard on terrorism as a cross-border threat. That's one of the issues getting raised on immigration, that we have to guard against terrorists or bombs coming in illegally.

I have trouble taking that threat seriously, at least, as a reason for harsh policies against illegal immigrants. Here's why:

One, it would make more sense to beef up cargo inspection - not just scans and visual, but paper trail tracking, to ensure the cargo originated and traveled through the ports listed on the lading. These programs are already underfunded. Yet Tancredo snuck in an amendment to the immigration bill which would defund them altogether, by denying DHS money to any city that had a sanctuary movement. This makes no sense at all, and puts a lie to the idea that immigration reform is an anti-terrorism program.

Two, terrorists don't pose anywhere near the threat that the under-reported story about food and drug safety does.

Chinese companies have exported toxic chemicals masquerading as glycerin and gluten; those chemicals have been put into toothpaste and pet food. There have been horrific human casualties in Panama and Haiti, and heart-wrenching pet casualties in the US. The only reason we haven't had the human toll is, again, because (unlike Panama and Haiti and heaven knows who else) we do have strict laws regarding chemicals meant for human consumption - and, again, those laws are under seige by big business, and their enforcement is underfunded by the Bush Administration.

Making a huge stink about illegal immigration, about the threat of terrorists coming over the border illegally, means we pay less attention to the unraveling of our food-and-drug safety protections. It means we're less likely to demand expensive, bad-for-business restrictions and inspection/testing of imports from favored trading partners like China.

I don't fear terrorists coming over the border, or bombs smuggled in bales of pot.

I fear toxic chemicals getting into the food and consumer-good supply, either via predatory, unregulated companies overseas... or via canny terrorists who've been watching the China glycerin and gluten story, and thinking of adapting it to their purposes.

CaseyL: I would add to your list: an officially OK way for Republicans to express their anger at Bush. A lot of the others, like his Iraq policy, would be a lot harder for them.

At least, that's one thing I think is behind the way this bill crystallized fury so quickly, like dropping a paperclip into a supersaturated solution of sugar and getting rock candy where before there was, apparently, nothing.

I suspect that much of the antipathy is the dittoheads needing an "other" to look down on. Then-Senator Lyndon Johnson in 1960 explained the appeal of racial demagogues:

"If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."

As Doug Marlette's character, the Rev. Will B. Dunn, said of talk radio, "Ever heard of think radio?"

If not for racism, why do the hate radio hosts not clamor for a fence along the Canadian border? (To those who say crossing the Canadian border is not a source of the problem, how many of the 9/11 hijackers entered this country from Mexico?)

"If not for racism, why do the hate radio hosts not clamor for a fence along the Canadian border?"

Because most of the illegal immigrants are crossing our southern border, and the fence isn't intended to get in the way of terrorists, it's intended to get in the way of illegal immigrants.

So the darker-skinned folks coming in from Mexico are a greater threat to our way of life than those who fly airplanes into buildings?

"Because race and culture aren't the same thing. Are you having trouble grasping the rather elementary distinction between genes, and behavior?....Thinking that in no way requires you to care about the shape of somebody's eyes, or the color of their skin.
"
There is no genetic basis for race: individual differences within a race are larger than the group-level differences between them. And no one hates anyone for the shapes of their eyes or the color of their skin per se. Those are just convenient external markers of otherness. There's plenty of intraracial bigotry, for example, the Chinese vs. Japanese, WASPs vs. the Irish, Italians, and Poles, and American Blacks vs. West African immigrants. There are also plenty of racists who makes exceptions for "good ones" who are invariably members of the hated race who are well-assimilated into the dominant culture. Defining racism as just hating people for external physical traits is just making a straw man to define it out of existence.

"There is no genetic basis for race:"

Yes, Greg, we're all aware that, with a sufficiently tendentious defintion of "race", and averting one's eyes from more recent studies using *better* sequencing techniqes, (The older ones couldn't "see" how many times a gene was repeated, just whether or not it was present.) you can make "race" disappear. As if those technical quibbles had anything to do with real world racism.

Ok, for the sake of argument, call it "appearence" instead of "genetics". Caring about culture still isn't racist. It *might* be another sort of "ist" altogether, but you're going to have to independently establish that it's wrong to care about culture, instead of just casually borrowing the already established nastiness of judging people by their appearance.

It *might* be another sort of "ist" altogether, but you're going to have to independently establish that it's wrong to care about culture

I wouldn't say that it is wrong to care about culture, but I would say it is wrong to blame individuals for the culture they come from. You feel that Mexican (or Latin, it's not really clear) culture is 'dysfunctional' because people are coming to the US, so the fact that people are taking advantages of opportunities is taken as an indictment of that culture. This seems to be a bit circular.

It also fails to take into account the amount of destabilization that Western capitalism has wrought. The fact that these people want a higher standard of living might be traced to the desire to have those people purchase Western goods, which then has them want to raise their standard of living to be able to afford such things.

This WaPo article seems to be apropos

It *might* be another sort of "ist" altogether, but you're going to have to independently establish that it's wrong to care about culture

I think it's a different "ist". Can't really call it nativist, because Americans aren't natives here. As noted above, in the southwest Mexicans have a stronger nativist claim than Americans do.

Maybe it's "native-language-ist", but contra Jonas IMO that's pretty thin soup. The second generation will be English speaking.

IMO the issues here are these:

1. We were here first
2. They're different from us
3. They're going to take something away from us

Those are the same issues raised ever since the Puritans objected to non-church members coming over to settle.

They're not unreasonable issues. They're just not enough, IMO, to refuse to let folks come in.

Thanks -

CaseyL,

You wrote, "I don't fear terrorists coming over the border, or bombs smuggled in bales of pot." My question is why are you unconcerned about terrorist? I mean, it seems overly optimistic to think that there are no terrorist who are looking for ways to get into the country.

I agree that the amendment Tancredo introduced was petty and spiteful, but at the same time I don't know why any city would provide sanctuary to begin with. It is not like most illegal immigrants were being persecuted in their home countries. If they were, they should be applying for asylum. I also don't see a strong connection between DHS funding for a city's first responders and cargo inspection at the border. Which is not to imply that this funding is trivial or should be used in such a retributive fashion.

Since the illegal immigrants come here to work, they are obviously an industrious sort. So why not be industrious in their own country, where they at least have some roots and cultural ties? Why not try to build a future that directly improves their home community?

Lastly, I support a fence along the Canadian border as well. Border security means all borders, not just some of them.

"but I would say it is wrong to blame individuals for the culture they come from."

Cool, we agree: It is inappropriate to blame people for the culture they came from. You should never blame people for things they had no control over. Fortunately, I'm not proposing to blame anybody for anything.

It is simply a brute fact that, if we were to admit without any restriction everyone who wanted to move here, and could manage to make the trip, we would end up a very crowded 2nd world country. Things would, quite naturally, equilibrate with the world average, and the world average sucks.

So, unless you're proposing that we become a 2nd world country, we are going to have to restrict entry into this country.

Under such circumstances, refusing somebody entry does not constitute blaming them, nor should it be considered in any sense a punishment. It's just rationing in a situation of scarcity.

Now, given that we're going to be restricting entry, it's merely sensible to restrict entry selectively in order to maximize the benefit to us of their entry. That's what US government policy is supposed to be: For the benefit of people in the US. While the Constitution does not mandate Spencer's "Social Statistics", neither does it mandate Jeremy Bentham's "Utilitarianism".

This means selecting for law abiding, educated people of good character, who will maximally contribute to our society.

I will gladly grant that the culture you came from is a somewhat poor proxy for "the contents of one's character". But we can't do a Vulcan mind meld on every potential immigrant, now can we? So we're going to be using proxies, and I don't think it's one we should ignore.

It is simply a brute fact that, if we were to admit without any restriction everyone who wanted to move here, and could manage to make the trip, we would end up a very crowded 2nd world country. Things would, quite naturally, equilibrate with the world average, and the world average sucks.

The trouble is, we're heading there anyway though without all the crowding.

Why should anybody pay for expensive US labor when they can get cheap foreign labor? Why should the american middle class be middle class?

In general our well-paid people are plaing a game of musical chairs where they keep hoping they can hold onto their chairs.

What are we providing the rest of the world that's worth the oil and aluminum etc that they give us? I've seen some arguments. Like patent rights. We invented the internet so they should pay us for it? Ozonized water purification? Aluminum cylinder heads? Disney? They're supposed to watch Disney movies and pay us in oil? Rap music? We invented rap music so everybody who does rap in hungary or bulgaria should pay us royalties?

Then there's the argument that our army and navy protects them so they should pay. Haha.

We provide financial services that nobody else can provide. Haha.

Our homes are worth so much they should buy our mortgages as long-term investments.

We have a slight cutting edge in computer technology so they should pay us for the ideas and then sell us the actual components cheap.

There's just no reason for our middle class to stay middle class. We can't compete on the world market. So if we keep the foreigners out, and we put up trade barriers, then we can be self-sufficient until our oil runs out....

2nd world? Iron curtain? We're heading toward a 3rd world economy whether we let foreigners share in it or not. I have the strong impression even pundits aren't making the money they used to.

If we want to avoid a shallow pyramidal income structure, we need cheap alternative energy. We should be putting as much money as we can afford into research in that direction. Alternate energy that's as cheap as $70 oil isn't good enough to save the middle class. At a minimum we need alternate energy that's as good as $30 oil.

Illegal aliens are doing jobs that americans don't want. It makes some sense to wall the aliens out and force americans into those jobs. But that assumes we're heading third world, and I'd really like to hope we don't have to go there yet.

It is inappropriate to blame people for the culture they came from. You should never blame people for things they had no control over.

But you do want to punish them, unless you can create a way that allows the 5-10 million illegal immigrants already in the country (who seem to have already been selected for being types who are hard working and will contribute to society) to stay.

""How did they get that nuke into the USA?" "They smuggled it in inside a bale of marijuana."

. . . But at least the subsequent deaths from radiation poisoning were relatively painless and relaxed . . .

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