December 29, 2005

Victor Davis Hanson Nails the Illegal Immigration Issue

Filed under: Economy,Immigration,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:03 am

I wanted to find this somewhere other than The Wall Street Journal (requires subscription) because Hanson’s column is a definite “must save.” I will add a link later if I do.

The fact that this column ran at all in The WSJ is a near shocker — enough to make you wonder if the paper’s editorial board is rethinking its knee-jerk open-borders advocacy.

Hanson totally “gets it,” and adds a couple of interesting insights:

The allusions to the Berlin Wall made by aggrieved Mexican politicians miss the irony: The communists tried to keep their own people in, not illegal aliens out. More embarrassing still, the comparison boomerangs on Mexico, since it, and not the U.S., most resembles East Germany in alienating its own citizens to the point that they flee at any cost. If anything might be termed stupid, underhanded or xenophobic in the illegal immigration debacle, it is the conduct of the Mexican government.

“Stupid” characterizes a government that sits atop vast mineral and petroleum reserves, enjoys a long coastline, temperate climate, rich agricultural plains — and either cannot or will not make the necessary political and economic reforms to feed and house its own people. The election of Vicente Fox, Nafta and cosmetic changes in banking and jurisprudence have not stopped the corruption or stemmed the exodus of millions of Mexicans.

….. Mexico receives between $10 and $15 billion in annual remittances from illegal aliens in the U.S., a subsidy that not only masks political failure at home, but comes at great cost to its expatriates abroad. After all, such massive transfers of capital must be made up from somewhere. Poor workers who send half their wages to kin are forced to make do in a high-priced U.S. through two exigencies — they lower their standard of living here while often depending on state and local governments for supplemental housing, education, medical and food aid.

Rarely in the great debate over illegal immigration do we frame the issue in such moral terms: If life back home is improving thanks to money wired back, first-generation Mexican enclaves in the U.S. remain chronically poor, not investing where they live and work.

Mexico senses that the longer its poor are away from Mexico, the more likely they are to grow sentimental about a homeland that they can visit but need not return to. In short, the growing Mexican expatriate community offers valuable political leverage with the U.S.

….. How did we get to this impasse — where Americans would embrace such a retrograde solution as building a fence, or Mexico would routinely slander its northern neighbor? The answer is the vast size of the illegal population — now over 10 million — and the inability or unwillingness of the U.S. government to sanction employers or deploy sufficient resources to enforce the border. Sheer numbers has evolved the debate far beyond the old, “We need labor” and “They have workers,” to something like, “Can the U.S. remain a sovereign nation with borders at all?”

….. But somewhere around the year 2000 a tipping point was reached. The dialogue changed when the number of illegals outnumbered the population of entire states. There also began a moral transformation in the controversy, with the ethical tables turned on the proponents of de facto open borders.

Employers were no longer seen as helping either the U.S. economy or poor immigrants, but rather as being party to exploitation that made a mockery of the law, ossified the real minimum wage, undermined unions and hurt poorer American citizens. The American consumer discovered that illegal immigration was a fool’s bargain — reaping the benefits of cheap labor upfront, but paying far more later on through increased subsidies for often ill-housed and poorly educated laborers who had no benefits.

Nor is the evolving debate framed so much any more as left-versus-right, but as the more privileged at odds with the middle and lower classes. On one side are the elite print media, the courts and a few politicians fronting for employer and ethnic interests; on the other are the far more numerous, and raucous, talk-radio listeners, bloggers and cable news watchers, the ballot propositions, and populist state legislators who better reflect the angry pulse of the country.

….. So the world is upside down. The once liberal notion of ignoring illegal immigration is now seen as cynically illiberal. And taking drastic steps to enforce the law — including something seemingly as absurd as a vast fence — is now seen as more ethical than the current subterfuge that undermines the legal system of the nation.

Like I said, the fact that The Journal ran this is remarkable. Next thing you know, they’ll be letting sane immigration policy advocate Michelle Malkin grace their pages again.

UPDATE: It’s nice that The Journal is allowing sane views on illegal immigration to be printed on its pages, but their editorial board’s open-borders obsession continues unabated in an piece commented on here.



  1. VDH is, as always, very insightful.

    Comment by Josh — December 29, 2005 @ 11:01 am

  2. #1, As you’ll see in the next post going up shortly, The WSJ editorial board still totally doesn’t get it.

    Comment by TBlumer — December 29, 2005 @ 11:17 am

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