Say No To Immigration Compromise

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Libertarian Democrat Terry Michael has an excellent op-ed in today's Wash Times on immigration and Dubya's (lack of) leadership. Michael, director of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism and a former press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, recaps conservative columnist Michael Barone's argument about contemporary immigration:

Barone explains [in 2001's The New Americans: How the Melting Pot Can Work Again], the late-20th and early-21st-century immigrants won't be "minorities" for more than a few generations, any more than their earlier counterparts were stuck in time as outsiders. He offers this summary of his arguments, which is also a powerful case against today's liberal race-consciousness, virtually promoted on American college campuses and by mainstream news organizations that insist on seeing far too much through the prism of race: "America in the future will be multiracial and multiethnic, but it will not or should not be multicultural in the sense of containing ethnic communities marked off from and adversarial to the larger society, any more than today's America consists of unassimilated and adversarial communities of Irish, Italians or Jews."

Michael then looks at contemporary political dynamics, especially President Bush's incapacity for clearly articulating a Baronian case for immigration reform. What we're left with:

Congressional Democrats aren't going to help this president make that kind of intelligent case for immigration, because too many of them want a 2006 and 2008 campaign issue more than they desire sensible reform. A few, like Edward Kennedy in the Senate, are interested in a serious effort to find accommodation with those who favor tough enforcement of statutes against illegal entry, while taking a practical approach to legalizing the 12 million or so who have entered without documentation in the past few decades.

But on this hugely important challenge, the nation pays a policy price for a president recently reduced to differing with his wife on whether the national anthem can be sung appropriately in Spanish. Without effective presidential leadership, if we do reach a compromise, it may well be a bad one.

Whole thing here.

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  1. The sad thing about the whole thing is that GWB may be the best political friend that immigrants have.

  2. “America in the future will be multiracial and multiethnic, but it will not or should not be multicultural in the sense of containing ethnic communities marked off from and adversarial to the larger society”

    Well, certainly not, but that’s not the only, or even the primary, definition of multiculturalism. It is sloppy thinking or worse to assume that individuals, groups, or neighborhoods that are proudly in touch with their roots are necessarily adversarial to the larger society.

    As the very Jewish Hassidim of NYC, the very Irish-American Irish Americans of Southie, and the very Amish Pennsylvania Amish demonstrate. I don’t think my city is worse because the Thai thakeout places aren’t Burger Kings. I think it’s better.

    Conformity is not peace, and difference is not war. It is only those who wish to impose conformity, and wish to wage war on the different, that strive to make it so. Then, when they succeed, they point at the mess and cackle, “See? You see what those people are like?”

  3. geez, joe, you beat me to it. If you don’t think there are unassimilated sections of Irish, Italians, or Jews in the U.S. today, you haven’t been to NYC, Boston, or Philly.

    And I personally really enjoy visiting these places, and the people that I know that grew up in such places really cherish the neighborhood community vibe present. Not for everyone, and not to be forced, obviously, but there is nothing wrong with resisting assimilation. or did I just accidently log onto Free Republic?

  4. There is a big difference between a “little Italy” scetion of NY and a Muslim section of London that wants its own separate laws.
    I’m all for many cultures living in sections of cities, as long as they live by the laws of this country and contribute to the defense of those liberties we all share.
    What’s funny is that we don’t want to impose an “American culture” on people, yet we rely on other countries to uphold their own cultures for own indulgences.

  5. Anthony,
    How about the Hassidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn? They’re as separate as can be from the encroaching hipsters around them, and they live by their own rules. Are they somehow different from London’s muslims because they are jewish?

  6. “What’s funny is that we don’t want to impose an “American culture” on people, yet we rely on other countries to uphold their own cultures for own indulgences.”

    Actually, people do quite well upholding their own cultures as long as others don’t try to impose theirs on them. See the examples Joe cited.

    And if you don’t think that the Hassidem and Italians in these sections live under a different set of rules and laws than the rest of us do, you haven’t met any of them. Custom and reputation are stronger enforcement mechanisms than anything the state can ever create, short of ethnic cleansing.

  7. Quasibill,

    I wouldn’t call them “unassimilated.” They have jobs in mainstream society, speak English, pay their taxes, vote…well, except the Amish, I guess.

    There’s a difference between structural assimilation and cultural assimilation, and it’s a distinction that too many people aren’t aware of.

    Anthony, residents of Little Italy are structurally assimilated but not culturally, and it’s working out fine. The rioting residents of those French suburbs, on the other hand, got cultural assimilation shoved up their ass by the state for years, but were never structurally assimilated, and look how that turned out.

    “What’s funny is that we don’t want to impose an “American culture” on people, yet we rely on other countries to uphold their own cultures for own indulgences.” Anthony, please take note of how the use or rejection of force comes into play in this “funny” example of yours. No one is suggesting forcing anyone into retaining their own culture.

  8. Actually it’s when these groups compete for their share of the group pie or to influence common rules that the disputes break out. So a little more federalism might be a good thing.

  9. Joe,
    I didn’t say we are forcing other peoples to uphold their culture. I am saying we rely on them to maintain their culture so we can indulge in their various foods, music, styles, etc.
    It seems hypocritical to deny an “American culture” while praising and enjoying other cultures.
    I know that here at work when I put up a small American flag, everyone started thinking I was a Bush-loving Republican (far from it).
    Yet I know if I put up an Italian or French flag, they would say “Cool, what part of Italy is your family from.”

  10. By “ethnic communities marked off from and adversarial to the larger society,” Barone means, “like the Amish, but less picturesque.” If insular, hostile minorities were more picturesque, they’d be valuable voting constituencies rather than vilified culture-diluters.

    Bring on the colorful ethnic customs!

  11. I wouldn’t call them “unassimilated.” They have jobs in mainstream society, speak English, pay their taxes, vote…well, except the Amish, I guess.

    All of those traits are held by the Amish, though the degree to which they “hold jobs in mainstream society” depends mostly on their age, and voting among the Amish is admittedly a fairly new and rare phenomenon. They definitely speak English and pay plenty of taxes.

  12. Dang… First paragraph of the above post should have been italicized.

  13. I used to wait tables with a first generation Thai immigrant in D.C., whose Thai father owns (still) a Cajun eatery on Connecticut ave, Woodley park area.

    colorful indeed.

  14. The Amish are really much more “assimilated” than people think. Compare living in the Chinatown section of NYC to dealing with the Amish daily at the local farmer’s mart or even roaming the PA countryside and you’ll see that most Americans have more in common with the latter than they think.

    A shared language is very helpful, of course, but even beyond that the Amish tend to be very affable and fairly open. While I had nothing but good experiences in Chinatown, there is no doubt that I was treated as more of an “outsider” there than in western PA. I don’t mean that in a bad way and it’s hardly a new phenomenon.

    The truth is, especially given the current political climate, that it can be difficult to find the common thread that unites everyone living in the US. This apparently worries some people far more than it should. You can’t create a culture through government decree. American culture will continue to create itself through shared experiences, and it will continue to evolve as it has been during our very brief history. It just might happen that our culture will be bilingual or full of people who have funny notions about family and community or whatever. I just don’t see this as a problem.

  15. joe: the hassidim are not the best choice for a non-hostile unassimilated minority group for this particular argument.

    just sayin’.

  16. When I listen to the anti-immigration rhetoric, it doesn’t sound like they’re worried much about immigrants not assimilating–they seem to be worried about immigrants assimilating well.

    …That’s what xenophobia’s all about.

  17. Ken,

    I think you’re right, but not in the way that you meant it. What it sounds like when you listen, is a function of how you perceive and remember opposing points of view in addition to what is actually said.

    Since there isn’t one single (i.e. “the”) anti-immigration rhetoric, and since some of the anti-immigration rhetoric is indeed concerned with immigrants not assimilating, your not hearing those worries may be a sign of an irrational fear of foreign ideas.

    I’m not chiding you for being pro-immigration. It’s just silly, at best, to dismiss the antis as being xenophobic. Of course there’s no way to disprove the idea that it’s all about xenophobia, because the people who are claiming not to be xenophobic might be lying or might not understand their true inner selves.

  18. people who are claiming not to be xenophobic…might not understand their true inner selves.

    I can help.

  19. And what constitutes “American” culture? Hollywood? Video games? American Idol? Capitalism? Hot dogs?
    Ingredients, all of them.

    But more importantly it’s the recognition that the various customs and cultures that people bring with them add to our lives in so many ways. What makes that possible, and peacable, is the concept of civil liberty. “Cultural assimilation” is a euphemism for “drop your funny ways at the border,” and it plays well into the hands of rednecks and various xenophobes. I say open up the borders and let ’em all in. Every one of them. Screen for would-be terrorists and child molesters and such, but open up the damn borders.

  20. Since there isn’t one single (i.e. “the”) anti-immigration rhetoric, and since some of the anti-immigration rhetoric is indeed concerned with immigrants not assimilating, your not hearing those worries may be a sign of an irrational fear of foreign ideas.

    Yeah, that’s a common problem with us libertarians—we pick up most of this stuff from our parents. …that and the mainstream media.

    It’s hard to get exposed to new ideas when you spend time talkin’ to other libertarians–because we all agree on everything.

  21. …besides, xenophobes are worried about foreigners assimilating regardless of whether I’m closed-minded.

  22. Ken,

    I certainly believe that xenophobes are worried about foreigners assimilating. I was only pointing out that you are misrepresenting your opponents. I believe you may not think you’re doing so, but it’s your own words that led me to comment:

    “When I listen to the anti-immigration rhetoric, it doesn’t sound?”

    Either you’re not listening, or your internal filters are preventing you from hearing.

    Yes, there are xenophobes.

    Yes, xenophobes are opposed to immigration.

    However, when I listen to anti-immigration rhetoric, I hear a number of different arguments and relatively few of the ones posted on this board are xenophobic. It’s just that casting your opponents as xenophobes is just a cheap rhetorical trick that too few people are afraid to point out. Oh no, if I point that trick out, he may accuse me of being a xenophobe.

    The fact that you’re a libertarian and have come to that position through reflection and contemplation is great. That doesn’t mean you’re not being a jackass when you imply that the “anti”s are xenophobes.

    Go ahead, take on the antis with facts and reason, but you’re not doing anyone a favor by ignoring what they’re actually saying, no matter how annoyed you get with me for pointing that out.

  23. I admit it–I have my biases. …but that Dickie Hitler guy sounds kinda xenophobic to me.

  24. Ist “Hilter,” not “Hitler.” Oh, you make joke. Ha, ha, ha. (laughing it off) The fun we have.

  25. Hilter? I don’t like the sound of these ‘ere boncentration bamps.

  26. America in the future will be multiracial and multiethnic, but it will not or should not be multicultural in the sense of containing ethnic communities marked off from and adversarial to the larger society, any more than today’s America consists of unassimilated and adversarial communities of Irish, Italians or Jews.

    Does this guy know anything about the history of immigration in the U.S. or worldwide? And since when did the Durkheim/Weber functionalist school of sociology rear its ugly head again?

  27. There is one very simple solution to this problem.

    We don’t need a wall. We don’t need the National Guard at our boarders. But we DO need agents to seek out employers that hire illegals. Find them. Give 60 days notice to that their business will be shut down unless they give their illegals 30 day notice that their illegal employment will end and that they have to go back to Mexico or their country of origin. They pay the way back– not U.S. taxpayers. And they can take thier children with them.

    Shut the jobs down and they will have no reason to come to this country and deplete social services for legit U.S. citizens.

    OUTRAGED !

  28. I don’t see anywhere in the Constitution where it says employers should have to check with the government to see if it’s okay to hire somebody. …but if you run on a platform of deporting everyone using social services–legit U.S. citizens or not–you’d have a shot at gettin’ my support.

  29. I am amazed by the desire of some people for the government to use employers as an an extension of police power and threaten insanely harsh treatment if they fail to comply.

    What’s next? Require employers to run monthly drug tests on all their employees? Require all tax returns to be submitted through the employer’s accountants, so they can verify that everyone files, properly reports all in-kind compensation, and properly counts their deductions?

    Or is it only people who were born somewhere else that draw this treatment?

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