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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Immigration and its Discontents

Jack Kemp

I want to recommend a discussion on the rapid immigration and non-assimilation of "the unmeltable ethnics" from all countries. It advocates a more moderate immigration rate than we now have and a greater emphasis on becoming an American, even as we live in a world of internet connections, cheap international phone calls, and discount flights back to the "Old Country." The article was written by an American Jew in October 2001 urging fellow Jews to realize that unfettered immigration will change the governance and values and votes of America in 50 years in a way that most Americans of European extract - and Jews in particular - in unpredictable ways they may not like.

Ironically the smaller quoted part of this 24 page article below denounces Pat Buchanan and his politics at the same time it agrees with many of Buchanan's observations and conclusions about a quickly balkanizing America. As for more irony, Pat Buchanan himself quotes this essay in his latest book, "Suicide of a Superpower." Buchanan's book also contains chapter discussions on both general Christian and Catholic demographic changes in the U.S. (lower church attendance and birthrates) and their implications for America's future.

I recommend both the book and the full essay (which is not limited to matters impacting Jews, as those who keep reading the section from it below shall see).

The Link:

The extended quote:

Supporting Immigration by Reducing Its Scale

Before offering specific recommendations about immigration policy, we should immediately anticipate the predictable opposition and state emphatically what we are not advocating. We are not advocating an anti-immigration position. It would be the height of ingratitude, moral amnesia, and gracelessness for a group (Jack's Note: The Jews) that has historically benefited enormously from liberal immigration � as well as suffered enormously from illiberal immigration policies � to be, or to be seen to be, suggesting that we cruelly yank the rope ladder up behind us. It is also, frankly, in our own best interest to continue to support generous immigration. The day may come when the forces of anti-Semitic persecution will arise once more in the lands of the former Soviet Union or in countries of Eastern Europe and Jews will once again need a safe haven in the United States. The Jewish community requires this fail-safe. We will always be in support of immigration; the question is whether it should be open-ended or not? The question is what constitutes the smartest approach to supporting immigration?

We also believe that generous immigration has been and remains one of the greatest strengths of American life for a multitude of reasons, perhaps the chief source of the remarkable social, cultural, and intellectual vitality and continual revitalization that is the byproduct of the periodic reinvention of American society. Along with our constitutional principles, democratic values, ideal of equal opportunity, and free market economy, immigration and the cultural variety it produces is one of the principal engines of our creativity, genius for invention, impatience with outworn ideas, anachronistic social arrangements, and stifling cultural conformity. It is also main source of a deep-seated historic tolerance for diversity.

Which is not to say that Americans are ever well inclined toward the present crop of immigrants. We tend to dislike them in present time and only appreciate their virtues in retrospect � usually primarily as foils to compare to the even more repulsive characteristics of the newly unwashed arrivals in a curiously insincere but useful form of social nostalgia. American history is replete with outbreaks of political xenophobia (from the anti-Catholic Know Nothing Party to the America First movement to Buchanan's Reform Party), and racism, in particular, has been our Achilles heel. But all in all, and especially in comparison to the more ethnocentric European and Asian societies, we have a comparatively excellent record with regard to welcoming strangers to our shores over time. Time is the key factor. We are, to use the well-worn clich�, a nation of immigrants, but acceptance only comes when a critical mass of what are perceived by ordinary Americans as characteristically American cultural norms and attitudes are imbibed and displayed by immigrants in their daily lives.

Also, U.S. world leadership in virtually every area of science, high technology, in the learned professions, and in every sphere of artistic endeavor is the direct result of the vast range of sources of creativity that immigration provides. We are able to draw on distinctive modes of creativity and inspiration from across the entire earth and then liberate it in the free air of America to accomplish all it is capable of achieving. Immigration gives America intellectual, social, and artistic vitality unknown in equal measure anywhere else in the history of the world.

Having made this sincere genuflection to the great good that has come of immigration, in light of unprecedented, ascending challenges, what changes might we contemplate with regard to Jewish advocacy on immigration and immigration-related issues? How should we think about acculturation, assimilation, and an old term we should not be ashamed to resuscitate � Americanization?

For starters, we should give serious, immediate consideration to terminating our alliance with the advocates of open borders � we do not belong in their coalitions � and ally ourselves, instead, with pro-immigration advocates who favor immigration reform that includes moderate reductions in immigration, such as the Center for Immigration Studies. With them, and others, we should support an approach to immigration that restores its good name and helps immigrants make a successful, well-planned transition to American life. These goals are realistic only if the present stratospheric numbers are reduced, criteria for entry are rationalized, and legal and cultural processes of naturalization and acculturation are more efficient and deliberate. Successful immigration is defined in this context first of all as naturalization � acquiring citizenship � and, second, as striking a proper balance between ethnic/cultural group loyalty and a larger sense of national belonging.

Immigration Policy and Identity Politics

Our current policies encourage the balkanization that results from identity politics and the politics of grievance. The high percentage of new immigrants who are poor and uneducated, suffer linguistic handicaps, dizzying cultural disorientation, and possess no competitive skills for a postindustrial labor market remain effectively trapped within the underclass and/or the suffocating and meager support systems offered by their tight tribal enclaves. The numbers simply overwhelm available resources at the state and federal level. The new faith-based initiatives, so questionable from a First Amendment standpoint, potentially troubling in terms of generating sectarian strife over the pursuit of federal dollars, and capable of providing federal government sanction to discrimination, would also be utterly incapable of laying a glove on the problem. That is if � and it is a big if � the program survives the Senate and is found to be constitutional.

Now, none of this would be a problem if we were willing to adopt the Chamber of Commerce/Wall Street Journal mentality. That worldview applauds an endless supply of immigrants as desirable in order to fill the bottomless demand for the wretched of the earth to occupy the bowels of the service sector, to suppress U.S. wages overall, and to further weaken the already marginalized American labor movement. But if we are interested in sustaining the American dream of upward mobility and social integration, that vision is both cynical and hopelessly inadequate. According to social analysts from the political left to the political right, the Alan Wolfe thesis tends to find substantial if not solid agreement. American social cohesion and the integrity of its democratic process are faring pretty well but the nation faces one paramount challenge: the growing chasm between the very rich and everyone else. With this large anxiety in mind, and with concerns about creating a workable pluralism in the face of an exploding and increasingly transient immigrant population, does it make sense for America to follow the European model and create a massive underclass of impoverished, alienated, and socially disconnected guest workers? It is hard to imagine that anyone who values social democracy could favor such a solution � but it is becoming a reality on the ground for three reasons: the misery of the world's desperately poor, employer greed, and the loss of control of America's borders.

The inability of government to begin to cope with the scale of the problem (whether on the side of policing borders or providing adequate social services) also strengthens the role of the ethnic enclave in addressing it. And the resultant dependence on the religious and cultural institutions within the ethnic communities for sustenance often slows or blocks acculturation, and worse. Within those tight ethnic enclaves, home country allegiances and social patterns endure, old prejudices and hatreds are reinforced, and home-country politics continue to inordinately shape, even control, the immigrant's worldview. In many cases, ethnic communal support for new immigrants or patronage of their business establishments are subject to the blessings of atavistic, unassimilated, and anti-pluralistic communal and religious leadership that frequently has a political agenda fundamentally at odds with American values. This is certainly the case within the Pakistani immigrant community. In many cases, the Old World political party structures, replete with their targeted, self-serving meager handouts, remain powerful.

Breaking these patterns of control exerted by the sending country and promoting acculturation that honors the immigrant's culture and origins but principally foregrounds and nurtures American values can be achieved only by reducing the present overwhelming scale of immigration that thwarts any effort to develop practicable solutions to these problems. As noted earlier, cheap air fares and overseas telephone rates, and the internet permits the home country to exert a strong continuing influence on immigrants that is substantially different from what was the case with previous generations of newcomers. Many new immigrants are and remain, in effect, primarily citizens of their home countries and resident aliens in America, here merely to benefit from American resources and return income to the home country before returning themselves. (There are even cases of immigrants to the United States that hold political office in their home countries!) The present tidal wave of immigration swamps all efforts to promote an active sense of civic partnership, dramatically slows the process of naturalization by taxing the INS and other institutions beyond their capacity to respond, and sustains a meaningless approach to naturalization and citizenship tests. (The citizenship tests with their intellectually lame content constitute a particular disgrace.) It also allows no time and space for one group to begin assimilating before the next wave comes crashing ashore.

Though there has been some progress in recent times, the number of resident aliens not seeking naturalization is enormous. Contrary to popular mythology, it was not unusual for many immigrant European national groups in the great wave of immigration in the nineteenth century and at the turn of that century for large numbers to return home after only a brief sojourn in America. Something like half of the Italians who immigrated to the United States at the turn of the 19th century returned to Italy. Now we have large groups remaining but not naturalizing.

The time may have arrived to advocate a policy that determines that a legal prerequisite for immigration, in the first instance, is a sworn affidavit that the prospective immigrant will seek citizenship at the earliest practicable date, with timeframes rigorously enforced by deporting violators. The bottom line should be up or out. Needless to say, adequate funding must be provided to the INS to handle this process in an orderly and efficient manner. The goal of immigration should be citizenship, an acceptance of the rights and obligations of full participation in the national life, accompanied by an embrace of American political and social values; its goal should not be access to opportunities for better-paying jobs and public benefits, and nothing more.

Trendy Postmodernism Skews the Debate

There are, of course, within the opinion-making set, increasing numbers of trendy philosophical internationalists, mostly privileged academicians protected from real world pressures by tenure, who strenuously object to the notion that one must select and emphasize one aspect of the multiple cultural and national identities human beings possess. Though still a relatively small fraternity, one bumps into them more and more at foundation-sponsored conferences on immigration policy. According to their worldview, such hoary notions as citizenship or whole-hearted assimilation � God forbid patriotism � are historically outmoded, embarrassing concepts. In a shrinking, porous world with huge populations on the move, we are told, they have little to recommend them, and we should feel greater and greater comfort with multiple simultaneous identities, juggling conflicting national and cultural allegiances, and the attenuation of specific national loyalties. Such thinkers not only have no problem with multiple citizenship, but they see it as an ideal, the embodiment of a higher form of global consciousness, the ultimate expression of New Age cosmopolitanism.

The great masses of ordinary humanity across the world have no such perspective: tragically for themselves and for those who are often victimized by them, they continue to be driven by various forms of tribalism, including the most violent and extreme sort. This is true from lethal interethnic clashes in soccer arenas in every continent, and from the mass killing fields of Africa, to the killing fields of the Balkans. Ethnocentrism and has proven remarkably enduring into the new millennium; those who counted it out, who thought humanity was ready for some higher notion of fraternity, have been shown to have been utterly mistaken in their predictions. Ethnocentrism is the undisputed world champion.

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