Saturday, April 15, 2006

Charles Krauthammer’s Immigration Errors

Charles Krauthammer is in a generous mood, at least regarding illegal immigrants. He wants them, and their leaders to choose between amnesty and continued illegal immigration. Concerning the various illegal immigration legalization measures before Congress he asks of them: Is it a precedent or a one-time -- last-time -- exception? Are they seeking open-ended immigration, or do they agree that they should be the last wave?

Who is he asking? The estimated eight to eleven million illegal immigrants already here? The Pew Hispanic Center found ” that about four of every ten adults in the Mexican population say they would migrate to the United States if they had the means and opportunity and that two of every ten are inclined to live and work here without legal authorization. The willingness to migrate, even illegally, is evident in all sectors of Mexican society including the middle class and the well-educated as well as those who are poor and who only completed low-levels of schooling.”

Most new immigrants retain strong emotional connections to their home countries. That is a normal stage in the process of integrating new immigrations into the American national community over time, if and when that happens (a subject for another day). Would these newly- minted green card holders deny the benefits of American opportunity and freedom to their relatives, friends and their fellow countrymen and women back home? Unlikely.

Mr. Krauthammer also addressees his question to those in charge of the mass marches though these organizations are “young,” and lack “unified leadership.” Yes, some groups like La Raza, founded in 1968, are young. But other groups like those connected with the Catholic Church and related religious groups who supported the march and advocate on behalf of illegal immigrants are not. Yet young or old what distinguishes these organizations on the question of illegal immigration is their focus, insistence, and effectives. They speak loudly, with one voice and have many allies in the public and private sectors. The great majority of other Americans speak only though national polls which repeatedly report that they want illegal immigration stopped and not by granting amnesties. Mr. Krauthammer might consider that he is asking the wrong people.

He closes his essay by asserting that, “ The politically mobilized millions need to tell America where they stand: Are they ready to be welcomed into the American family as the last illegals -- or only as the first of many millions more?’ Even if those mobilized millions were to agree that they were the “last” illegal immigrants, how much confidence could Americans have? Not much really.

The fact that eight to eleven million illegal immigrants will make the transition to green card holders is an inducement, not a deterrent to future illegal immigration. Counties that benefit economically and politically from sending their nationals to the United States will be encouraged to continue to do so. Amnesty allies in the Democratic Party, while savoring the millions of likely new recruits to their party, will no doubt be receptive to adding to those numbers at a future date. Their paradoxical allies in the GOP will always be pushing for more immigrants to do the “jobs that American’s won’t do,” or alternatively increasingly afraid, given the large numbers of new immigrants, to be do anything that could be construed or characterized as “anti-immigrant.” The churches will continue to help those who are marginalized by their lack of legal immigration status. The La Razas of the country will continue to advocate for the “rights” of those want to come here, legally or not.

Worse, a large majority of Americans will become further demoralized by the failure of their government to take their views on immigration seriously. Leaders need not slavishly follow public opinion, but on this matter public views have a great deal of legitimacy on their side. Continued illegal immigration in the face of the government’s inability or disinclination to do anything effective about it, is deeply corrosive to the fabric of the American national community. Matters are made worse, much worse, when leaders of both parties try to mask what they are doing behind rhetorical euphemisms like “earned legalization” that bear little relationship to what Senators from both parties are doing behind closed doors. As Senator Jeff Sessions points out in a Senate speech [Thanks to: Mickey Kraus] the Senate compromise bill contains numerous amnesty loopholes. This is egregiously duplicitous.

Charles Krauthammer, whose sharp intelligence I deeply respect, errs here. He is asking the wrong questions of the wrong people. Instead of asking illegal immigrants whether they can guarantee the future migration patterns of their countrymen, which they can’t, he might consider asking political leaders from both parties why they can’t be honest with us, and why they can’t do something to stop the hemorrhaging of the public’s sense of border and national security and, along with it, our civic fabric and national identity.