The Weirdness of Illegal Immigration
Set aside for a moment all the controversies over illegal immigration—the wall, deportation, amnesty, Donald J. Trump, “comprehensive immigration reform,” etc. Instead, contemplate what happens in a social, cultural, and economic context when several million immigrants arrive from one of the poorest areas in the world (e.g., Oaxaca) to one of the most affluent (e.g., California). For guidance, think not of Jorge Ramos, but of the premodern/postmodern collision that is occurring in Germany, Austria, and Denmark.
The first casualty is the law. I am not referring to the collapse of federal immigration enforcement, but rather the ripples that must follow from it. When someone ignores a federal statute, then it is naturally easy to flout more. In Los Angeles, half the traffic accidents are hit-and-run collisions. I can attest first-hand that running from an accident or abandoning a wrecked vehicle is certainly a common occurrence in rural California. Last night on a rural road, a driver behind me (intoxicated? Malicious? Crazy?) apparently tried to rear-end me, then turned off his lights, sped up, and at the next stop sign pulled over swearing out the window in Spanish. In this age and in these environs, why would one call a sheriff for a minor everyday occurrence like that? The point is simply that when there is no federal law, no one has any idea how several million arrive in the U.S., much less what exactly they were doing before their illegal arrival. I note the latter consideration, because legal immigration does require some sort of personal history, and at the airport I am always asked by U.S Customs what exactly I was doing in Greece or Germany that prompted my trip.
Out here almost all laws concerning the licensing and vaccination of dogs seem to have simply disappeared. No one can walk or ride a bicycle along these rural roads without being attacked by hounds that are unlicensed and not vaccinated—and that have no ID or indeed owners that step forward to claim ownership once the victim is bleeding. The Bloomberg Rule reigns (i.e., if you can’t keep snow off the street, deplore global warming or cosmic war): we talk of dreamers because we have not a clue how to ensure that hundreds of thousands of pets are registered and given rabies shots. No one suggests that once one breaks the law of his adopted home, and continues to do so through false affidavits, aliases, and fraudulent documents, then the law itself become an abstraction, useful as a shelter, expendable if an inconvenience. Again, one assumes that if a citizen were to do that, he would face a felony indictment.
I don’t think we have many zoning laws left, at least for particular constituencies. Yesterday, in field research for this essay, I drove in a 10-mile radius and counted the percentages of rural dwellings that had some sort of living quarters haphazardly attached—garages, Winnebagos, sheds, trailers, etc. Seven out of ten residences had multiple dwellings, and I counted an average of six cars at each residence—in a manner that 30 years ago would have quickly earned a visit from a county zoning officer (or would today, if county officials thought the violator would pay quickly the fine). Noncompliance has apparently become a cultural and economic necessity—especially with bigger fish to fry (such as the SWAT-team assault ¼ miles away last month on a den of supposed prostitution and drug sales, camouflaged in a barbed-wire enclosure in an orchard no less). That racket was certainly no “act of love.” Jeb Bush, where are you? The arrested were not on their way to have ice cream when the SWAT team pounced. Barack, where are you?
For a green state that worries over three-inch baitfish, California has no interest in the rank pollution of its rural roadsides. I counted three mattresses, one couch, and a baby carriage tossed on a road a quarter of a mile away—that had been cleaned by the owner 48 hours earlier. But to paraphrase Petronius, why complain of the pimples on someone else’s cheek when you have a wart on your own nose? Six trash bags of wet garbage were not long ago dumped on my own alleyway and the coyotes have had a field day picking through the litter. For once in my life, I refuse to clean it all up. Will I be fined?
On the roadsides of another nearby rural highway there are now four “mobile” kitchens. But they are not really mobile kitchens, but seem permanently fixed: no plumbing other than porta-potties; no traffic impact studies, given that cars just pull off and on the highway in the midst of heavy traffic. No dinner facilities other than benches and canopies in the dirt. I admire the entrepreneurial spirit of the owners, but the entire operation would be shut down if anyone else sought a similar enterprise. (I would not recommend a German-American plopping down a frankfurter stand and making it a permanent restaurant of sorts; he would be fined and fined in a nanosecond.)
There is no “broken windows” notion that such small infractions lead to much larger ones. To read the local Fresno Bee is to collate a daily tally of stabbings, shootings, gang violence, carjackings, thefts, and chop shops—without any exegesis why this is so. Cuts in law enforcement? Therapeutic approach to the law? A complete failure to integrate and assimilate the second generation of illegal immigrants? The inability to offer jobs in a command state economy?
One reads shocking stories in California newspapers as if they exist in a vacuum: one out of four Californians admitted to hospitals for any cause proves to have onset type 2 diabetes. Forty-four percent of those admitted to the 23 campuses of the CSU system—the largest university in the world—fail either the basic English or math tests necessary for entrance. The universities spend millions of dollars on high school courses to remedy (“remediation”) the problem, even as calls grow to change (i.e., water down the nature of the test to ensure higher compliance [read Plato on that]). Are these colleges, way stations, or fifth-year high schools? For all the sophisticated studies, why is remediation soaring? To suggest that it is because of a general breakdown in primary education and a three-decade long influx of illegal immigrants is taboo. Racism, callous indifference to dreamers, red tape, greedy one-percenters who think a 13% state income tax is too high, etc., are the preferred exegeses.
Of course, in highly regulated California, there are few jobs for newcomers. Only 20% of illegal aliens now work in agriculture. We have seen a radical transformation of farmland from labor-intensive crops like tree fruit to those species entirely mechanized, as for example the jump in almond acreage over the last 30 years from 100,000 acres to over one million. Talk to farmers—and learn that labor, not just commodity prices, often drives their decisions.
The answers to all these challenges are time-honored assimilation and integration. But tragically, illegal immigration coincided with the cult of multiculturalism. How strange that those who vote with their feet to abandon their own country for an entirely different cultural and economic system are mostly greeted with propaganda about how woeful is their new home and how wonderful is what was rejected. I am pessimistic: to return to the melting pot and ethnically blind admissions and hiring, and rigorous classical education would de facto mean the end of a huge grievance industry—and with it hundreds of thousands of well-paid government jobs for second- and third-generation hyphenated careerists.
An indigent Oaxacan immigrant is reminded more often by his host that his poverty is not the result of his own wild gamble to leave his home and enter illegally an entirely foreign universe, but due to the racism, nativism, and xenophobia of his clueless host—pathologies that can be ameliorated by plenty of advocates whose own careers are predicated on open borders and slow if any assimilation.
Yesterday, I saw this story of a walkout from a local high school, five miles away: Among the many racialized complaints was a strange one that that were not enough Latino school board members (that might apparently ensure interpreters at board meeting). “We feel oppressed and underrepresented. When we try to speak up, they don’t listen,” said student Monica Velazquez. “When the majority of the school board is white and male, I don’t see us being represented. And [Laton High School] is just a small piece of that problem.” In our world of victimology, being oppressed and underrepresented are quirky assertions (e.g., ethnic chauvinism mean that coveted spots must reflect ethnic percentages of the population, while ethnic disproportion in unmentionable activities is left unsaid).
How could a high school student believe that the supposed absence of educational excellence at her high school was due to too many white school board members, who are elected by a community that is about 80% Hispanic? Is her solution to appoint school board members rather than to elect them?
Where does all this lead? I suggest we open our eyes and watch it in progress. Mass flight either out of state, or to coastal enclaves, where liberalism and abstract progressive utopianism can be indulged safety without worries over the concrete ramifications that follow from one’s own idealism. If deeds trump words, then the real racists or exclusionists are those in the mostly affluent coastal enclaves who suddenly want no part of the California that they have helped to create.
The final tragedy? If the border were to be closed, if immigration laws were enforced, if there were some reduction in legal immigration, if entry were to be meritocratic, if we reverted to the melting-pot ideal of assimilation, if we cut –studies courses and jettisoned therapy and ideology for hard science, math, and English language, in just two decades one’s particular ancestry would become irrelevant -- the image of Oaxaca would be analogous to having a grandfather from Palermo or cousin from the Azores. In other words, things would work out fine.
But that is certainly not the wish of the present culture or the direction that this rather sick society is headed.
(Artwork created using multiple Shutterstock.com images.)