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Works and Days

The Philosophies of Illegal Immigration

July 1st, 2011 - 2:33 pm

Should there now be 6 million Korean nationals — and more on their way — inside California without legality, would the proverbial Hispanic community in large part be calling for stricter border enforcement? Would it be amnesty or deportation? English-only or Korean-language interpreters?

Are we back to the 19th century concept that each ethnic group feels itself superior to all others? Or, if the issue is not tribal solidarity, is it some vague sense of reconquest — the American Southwest belongs to those whose ancestors used to have claim to it — as if Germans could now without worry of law or statute migrate en masse into Western Poland on the basis that it is really still East Prussia, a Gdansk still Danzig? Do we remember the arguments from the Volk about “lost land” and “German speakers” that characterized the 1930s?

But that too raises a disturbing question: if, as some polls reveal, a majority of Mexican nationals both wishes to emigrate northward, and yet believes that the American Southwest in some vague way should return to Mexico, then what? Does one wish to leave one’s country and yet recreate its premises where one flees to? Or are we stuck in fantasyland, where logic simply does not exist, and the entire issue is clouded by feelings of victimhood, inferiority, anger, a desire for belonging with fear of rejection, and a need for tribal expression, as one from the Third World is thrust into a highly competitive postmodern America without the requisite tools to succeed (legality, language, education)?

Schizophrenia

And when one adds in the schizophrenia of simultaneously demanding amnesty while couching such demands in a critique of America (as is often the flavor of La Raza literature, or what we saw at the Rose Bowl or the Morgan Hill high school Chicano student anger at someone wearing an American flag T-shirt), should we laugh or cry? Is it: “I prefer the idea of Mexico and will cheer her on, but I will never leave the reality of America that I boo?” Or as the L.A. Times quotes one spectator:

“I love this country, it has given me everything that I have, and I’m proud to be part of it,” said Victor Sanchez, a 37-year-old Monrovia resident wearing a Mexico jersey. “But yet, I didn’t have a choice to come here, I was born in Mexico, and that is where my heart will always be.”

(Such contradictions remind me of the mayor of Los Angeles. Despite his efforts to promote open borders and a permanent political constituency, he nonetheless is the first mayor to insist that he needs a vast wall around his “Getty House” residence to protect himself from hoi polloi.)

Money, Money, Money

The issue of remittances has changed the paradigm as well in three ways: it makes transparent the cynical efforts of the Mexican government to export its own citizenry in hopes that they will live frugally, and/or with U.S. government help, in order to free up a portion of their wages to send back to families that the Mexican government has no interest in — given that many of the expatriates and their Mexican families back home are indigenous peoples far from the centers of concern and power in Mexico City. U.S. remittances are now the second largest source of Mexican foreign exchange (well over $20 billion), and money, not morality, governs most of what we hear from Mexico City.

Second, the level of cash sent to Mexico and Latin America — who knows the exact amount, but variously reported at well over $30 billion — redefines the entire question of immigrant wealth and poverty. We are not talking of $10 million or even $1 billion, but a fantastic amount of capital, which, in theory, computes to several thousand dollars per resident illegal alien. Are aliens, then, sending capital to Mexico with the full expectation that federal, state, and local agencies here will make up the difference with health, welfare, housing, and education subsidies?

Could not there at least be a 10% tax on funds remitted to Mexico as a sort of bond to ensure the sender is not dependent on American taxpayers?

Third, the dollars represent a huge drain in capital from the American Southwest and a transference of financial resources across the border. The one defense of massive remittances — they prevent social unrest in Mexico — is even questionable, especially with the violence today inside Mexico. (Could it be worse without the remittances?) Oaxaca sends more illegal aliens to the U.S. than other regions in Mexico, and is probably the largest recipient of U.S. cash sent back — and yet is one of the most unstable regions in Mexico. Were not the Mexican system propped up by several billion, would it not, in Greek fashion, have to embrace structural reform?

So Tribalism Trumps All?

Then we come to ecological exemption. The American left is proud of its advocacy of radical ecological reform, more government regulation, and insistence on family planning. Yet in matters of illegal immigration, these issues are not merely ignored, but considered racist or illiberal even to introduce. In vast swaths of California, issues like zoning laws, single-family residency edicts, or family planning are simply taboo, as if the impoverished have no choice but to live in garages, to park four or five Winnebagos behind a farmhouse, to plop down a kitchen on the roadside and call it a restaurant without adequate bathroom, washroom, or refuse facilities. So are we the least or most regulated state? The most or least liberal?

Because of the sheer numbers of arrivals, the lack of English and education, and the neglect from the majority population, there is a sort of exemption — in part politically correct, in part benign neglect — from the whole array of environmental and regulatory statutes, and this from the most fanatical of regulators and strident environmental zealots in the world.

Where does all this leave us? A mess of alligators and moats, poor children being arrested on their way to ice cream, wise Latinas, ethical lectures from the Mexican president on the White House lawn, and America as a foreign team in the Rose Bowl. The former liberals have now become the most illiberal sorts; a movement that targeted racism is now itself race-based, as La Raza has sought to resurrect the once discredited notion of Volk — a people to be defined not by ideas or values, but by how they look.

God help us all.

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