Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lefties Losing It Again for May Day

As usual, the lefties organizing this May Day's "Day of Action," intended to show the country what it would be like to go "A Day Without a Mexican," are hysterical. They're whipping themselves into a frenzy in anticipation of yet another pointless tantrum aiming to show the rest of us just how self-righteously bothered they are. And also as usual, they've completely deluded themselves with the grandeur of their cause and power.

These progressi-fascists just do not understand who their real enemies are. Employers who hire immigrants, especially illegals, know very well how much they depend on the cheap labor those immigrants provide. They're the last ones supporting tougher measures against illegals. In this regard, organizers who think they're going to show employers a thing or two are really just preaching to the converted.

Meanwhile, what those who truly are anti-immigrant want is not a day without a Mexican, but everyday without any Mexicans, or El Salvadorans, Chinese, Indians, and other immigrants. Having immigrants out of work for a day will not bother them in the least. Indeed, they cheer the absence of immigrants and wish the general strike would go on much longer than a day.

In reality, the only people who will feel the sting are those poor immigrants already living at the margins who are misled into joining the strike. They'll miss a day of pay. The rest of us may have to wait an extra day to have our offices vacuumed and our bathrooms cleaned. We may even be forced to buy fast food from a black, white or Asian working on May 1. But our daily routines will hardly be affected otherwise.

Fortunately, most Latinos recognize this absurd stunt as the residue of disaffection among the many Che worshippers infesting our communities. We see the defeatism, the nihilism in their worldview and we prefer the contentment that comes with not imprisoning ourselves in their constant state of defensiveness.

Monday, April 10, 2006

America Needs Legal Immigrants

America needs immigrants not just to do dirty, low wage labor, but to remain competitive in all sectors of the global economy, including high technology. For some time, we have relied on foreign-born researchers, doctors, engineers, and other highly educated, highly valuable workers to meet the needs of American business. Even if more native born Americans took interest in these careers, it would still be a significant challenge to produce the number of highly skilled workers our economy needs to stay ahead of our international rivals.

Historically, America’s productive potential has been restrained by a dearth of labor – with notable exceptions such as during the Great Depression.

Besides filling jobs, immigrants are also needed to supply the next generation of Americans. For a number of reasons, natives simply do not procreate at a rate sufficient to maintain our population. More than an issue of maintaining our numerical standing, this is important because of its implications for such programs as Social Security and Medicare. Without replenishing the ranks of the working, we will have an imbalanced population structure in which we have more retirees taking out of the system than we have workers pumping wealth into it.

Of course, opponents of illegal immigration have valid complaints. First, it is unfair that people who have disregarded our sovereignty and crossed illegally into the United States enjoy the benefits of living and working here while others who go through the legal procedures often must wait for years.

Also, because illegal immigrants must avoid detection or risk deportation, they regularly accept pitifully low wages and poor working conditions, thereby depressing wages and benefits for all workers, but especially low skill, uneducated Americans, and most of all blacks. Without a ready pool of illegal aliens willing to work for very little, employers would be forced to offer legitimate wages to poor blacks and others. The current situation, though, benefits illegals and their families back home while depriving our own poor of the opportunity to begin their climb out of poverty.

Finally, illegal immigration does pose a real threat to our security. If we cannot control our borders or track who comes into the country and what they bring with them, we greatly increase the risk of more terror attacks. There have been reports in the past few years of radical Muslims going to Latin America and learning Spanish. During my service in Kuwait and Iraq in 1991, I saw many Arabs who looked Latino. Imagine the ease with which terrorists could operate in America if we fail to seal our borders.

As for the immigration reform initiatives being discussed now, we should immediately implement strict border security provisions. We should increase the quotas of legal immigrants we allow into the United States, and we should streamline the process to make it work efficiently and quickly for those who play by the rules.

Meanwhile, we should offer illegal aliens already here a one-time opportunity to register with the federal government and apply for residency. Those with children born in the United States should be allowed to remain as long as they violated no other laws. Those without American-born children should be required to return to their home countries and await the opportunity to immigrate legally.

America needs to keep its doors open to immigrants, but we also have a right to expect immigrants to enter through those doors, and not climb through back windows like thieves in the night.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Comparing America’s and Europe’s Experiences With Immigration

It has been popular recently for opponents of President Bush’s proposed guest worker program to point with dismay at Europe, where guest workers have remained largely separate, even alienated from their host societies, and to lecture that such a policy would be a disaster for the United States. This assertion, though, overlooks the true substantive differences between conditions in Europe and North America, as well as between the people flooding into these two vastly different places. Rather than disparate policies, it is different cultures that have made our experiences with immigration so different.

There are important cultural differences between Europe and North America. The former, locked in a mindset of elder superiority and comfort with the “natural order of things,” resists change far more stubbornly than the upstart west of the Atlantic. America, despite its own fits of nativism and identity politics, nevertheless has over its entire history been a destination for those bold or wary people looking for a new beginning, and has benefited from the resulting mixture of ideas and people. What most immigrants find, despite well publicized angst, is a society that, for the most part, is curious about them, their food, their lives, and which welcomes them and their children as American citizens.

Only in the past few years have European countries begun to grant citizenship to those native-born children of immigrants, and this policy change certainly does not reflect the assumptions of the people. No matter what French law, for example, might say about what it means to be French, a Jean or a Marcel or a Monique with an equally French surname and white skin knows intuitively that a Sayeed is not truly French, and never will be. In America, where Spanish names are becoming much more familiar, once foreign sounding names from other languages are now as American as pizza or Chinese takeout. This culturally paradigmatic difference between Europeans and Americans, manifested in totally different concepts of citizenship, results in vastly different environments for the immigrants who turn up on our shores. Thus, it is little surprise that the two continents would have such different experiences with immigration.

So far, this is all pretty much conventional wisdom. Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington raised quite a storm when his 2004 analysis (“Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity”) of cultural differences between mostly white, Protestant America and mostly brown, Catholic Latin America concluded that contemporary immigration threatened to divide and undermine our national unity and strength. Making, as he did, cultural arguments to demonstrate the peril of immigration, Huntington inflamed the political correctness regulators throughout the country and, I think, overstated the case. But he was on to something. Cultural differences are often very difficult to reconcile, so different values, beliefs, and especially assumptions about daily living, do intensify centrifugal forces within society, pushing people away from one another in various ways. Logically, the greater the differences, the greater will be the pressure pulling society apart. Huntington, however, overestimated the differences between Latinos and Anglos. Despite denominational differences, both groups share belief in Jesus Christ and nearly identical Bibles. Both groups trace their cultural traditions to Europe and, despite different colonial experiences, largely see that continent in an organically paternal light. That is, North Americans and Latin Americans see their cultures and societies as being essentially linked to Europe, even descended from it.

The cultural attitudes of Europe’s immigrants, however, are exponentially more estranged from those of their hosts. The colonial experiences of those countries sending Muslim immigrants to Europe today were, for the most part, much less violent and cruel than the experiences of Latin American countries. In the Americas, Spain built the most ruthless colonial system the world has known. In Muslim lands, meanwhile, colonialism was a rather recent and mild phenomenon. Most of the Middle East, for example, was only colonized by Europeans for a brief period of 30 to 60 years following the defeat of the Ottomans in World War I. Even then, these colonies were administered by the increasingly liberal British and, to a somewhat lesser degree of liberality, the French. Yet despite a milder, largely beneficial experience with colonialism, these Muslim lands today supply Europe with an immigrant population overflowing with resentment, even rage against Europe, and everything for which it stands.

Those Muslims who talk or write about such things as colonialism do not see themselves or their ancestral societies as being essentially “of” Europe. Rather, they were only “under” Europe, and express great eagerness now to turn the tables. Where from comes such hostility? Is it not a result of failed policies, or economic inequality? Perhaps it is to some extent. Certainly there are those Muslims in Europe who have assimilated and, even while preserving their Muslim faith and affection for their heritage, have become orderly citizens due in some part to their economic success, or some useful policy. But the great mass of Muslims in Europe does not even express an interest in assimilating, integrating, or becoming Europeans. They really are spoiling for a “Clash of Civilizations,” as Huntington described in his 1996 book of that title.

Why this is so has less to do with economics or policies than the incompatibility of fundamentalist Islam with liberty, let alone liberal democracy. This is not to say Muslims can never be liberals, or that democracy cannot work in Muslim lands. For the religiously democratic like me, democracy is a salve to all wounds. But the fundamentalists who read every surah of the Koran as civil law, and pile on top the shariah, simply will not become liberals, nor even tolerate true liberty in their midst. And unfortunately for Europe, large numbers of fundamentalists have emigrated from countries where they once made Muslim tyrants nervous. Americans anxious about 11 million undocumented Latino immigrants should consider how much different our experience with immigration would be if instead there were 11 million completely legal Algerians, Moroccans, Egyptians, Syrians, Jordanians, and various other Muslims flooding into the U.S. Even within our own less hostile environment, these immigrants would likely be much more difficult to integrate than Latinos.

Of course, a number of Muslims have successfully integrated into American society – a small number. Indeed, America has only a fraction of the number of Muslims that Europe has within its borders. And for the most part, they are very different from their coreligionists elsewhere. For one thing, they tend to be from the ranks of the most educated, well-to-do groups in their old countries, most comfortable moving about a globalized world with an increasingly universal culture. These are not fundamentalists with exclusionary images of distinctive self, but typically American celebratory images of distinctive self. That is, they are proud to be Muslim, but being Muslim does not place them psychically outside the rest of society. This is in stark contrast to the separatist, fundamentalist Muslims who predominate in Europe. This also offers a glimmer of hope for Europe, though. It suggests that a culture, even one poisoned with zealous hate, can moderate with exposure to others. That does seem to entail economic and political components, of course. But nowhere have we seen money or policies lead to calls for holy war. To stir that sort of passion, antagonisms are much rawer and closer to the heart. They challenge identity, shaped as it is within a cultural context that, in this case, is highly intolerant of others. Europe’s problems with its immigrants may have something to do with bad policy choices such as relying on guest workers rather than encouraging permanent citizenship and integration. But all policy issues pale beside the cultural challenges I have outlined here. Whatever immigration policy we Americans choose, we are not likely to turn into Europe, nor suffer the same turmoil associated with immigration.

In some future post: Why America Needs More Immigrants

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Media's Selective Credulity

The media has long suffered from the mental impairment known as selective credulity. Whatever jibes with a reporter's personal views on a given topic is automatically believed and reported as fact. Take, for instance, MSNBC's story today relating that Scooter Libby has told prosecutors that he believed the president had authorized him to leak secrets. Rather than reporting this rather straightforward story as what it actually is -- one criminal defendant's representation of events -- the reporter editorialized that, "the disclosure in documents filed Wednesday means that the president and the vice president put Libby in play as a secret provider of information to reporters about prewar intelligence on Iraq."

Of course, the disclosure means nothing of the sort. The disclosure merely means Libby claims to have had authorization from the president. And that may turn out to be true. But merely claiming something does not make it so, nor does it mean that any other assumptions that flow through a reporter's mind are true. Again, it could be true. I'd even go so far as to say I believe the reporter's conclusion probably is true. But it's not the media's job to jump to such conclusions and report them as facts. After all, it's possible that Libby is lying now to save his skin. Perhaps he's angry that the White House has not tried harder to shield him from prosecution. Maybe he's actually mistaken. I'm too jaded to believe it, but it certainly is within the realm of reason to assert that maybe one person interprets a conversation or series of events differently from another person, or that something relayed by an intermediary (Cheney, allegedly) gets "lost in translation." Then there are other possibilities regarding the White House's actions. Maybe the president did "put Libby in play as a secret provider of information" as MSNBC reports, intentionally subverting his own policy of keeping secrets. Or perhaps the president never knew the issues at hand were ever classified. Funny how reporters -- and the left more broadly -- love to ridicule President Bush as a simple minded dunce, then act as if he must be some evil genius intimately knowledgeable about every detail of WMD intelligence, clandestine operations, etc. The left simply cannot let loose of its belief that Bush is a liar who gave the green light to divulge sensitive information, doing irreparable harm to the nation's security, for petty political gain. They may even be right about certain elements of that view.

Still, no matter what reporters believe in this (or any) case, they should refrain from editorializing and presenting the resulting polemics as objective truth. It wouldn't even require much effort -- just a little attribution, which they should have learned in Journalism 101. That is, rather than reporting that the sky is falling they should report that, "According to Chicken Little, the sky is falling," or "Critics of God say these developments indicate the sky is falling." But that would leave the door open for some truth other than the reporter's own perception of it. We couldn't have that, now could we?