Rending Fences

2006-04-13

I've deliberately stayed quiet about the recent controversy over American immigration policy (mainly emigration from Mexico to America), but here are a few thoughts:

  1. America is a nation of immigrants, built on the foundation made by its original settlers (yes, there is a difference between settlers and immigrants). Immigration has always been good for America, making it a more dynamic, vibrant civilization. I see no reason to think that continued immigration will be a bad thing.

  2. The long border between Mexico and America is just about the only place in the world where the Anglosphere directly interfaces with another culture (the only comparable area of the world is probably the Irish Sea, but Ireland is essentially Anglospheric compared to Mexico, which is a staunch member of the Hispanosphere). This is in contrast to Anglospheric nations such as Great Britain (an island), Australia (a continent), and Canada (bordering only America). We would expect trouble along such an interface, and that's what we've got.

  3. When border enforcement was much more lax and a guest worker program was in place (e.g., in the 1950s and 1960s), people went back and forth as they pleased, often several times a year. More strict enforcement made it much harder to get in, but also much harder to go back, paradoxically resulting in more illegal immigration, not less.

  4. Some Americans resent the fact that immigrants can come into America and sponge off the welfare system (whether they do so in greater numbers than existing citizens is an open question). Here's a solution: get rid of the welfare state and find localized, voluntary solutions to social problems (not centralized, bureaucratic programs instituted and controlled from the District of Columbia).

  5. All the racist claims that Mexicans have lower IQs, will never assimilate, are too different (etc.) were made against the Irish, Italians, Slavs, Chinese, and so on throughout American history. Yet all those groups assimilated just fine. The same is happening for second-, third-, and fourth-generation Mexican-Americans, who overwhelmingly speak English rather than Spanish, are starting lots of small businesses, etc.

  6. One obvious solution to illegal immigration is this: make legal immigration easier. But couple that with a strong commitment to assimilation, assimilation, and more assimilation (welcome to America, you will be assimilated!). English immersion in the schools, English only for governance and business, and a dedication to accepting everyone as Americans (no hyphenation, please) if they abide by American (really Anglospheric) norms and cultural assumptions such as open debate, high trust, common law, respect for the individual, personal responsibility, and economic flexibility.

  7. The root cause of the Mexican exodus to America is not how attractive it is to live in America, but how unattractive it is to live in Mexico. After the Iron Curtain fell, many countries in central and eastern Europe had net out-migration, but that was perceived as a bad thing. Why would you want the people (especially the young people) of your country to think that life is way better somewhere else? The only long-term solution is to make Mexico a good place to live and work, not the hotbed of corruption it is now. Unfortunately that will require a kind of cultural imperialism that is much out of fashion these days, since in essence it would require that Mexico ditch the Hispanosphere for the Anglosphere, or at least develop a kind of hybrid culture with a higher radius of trust, stronger rule of law, more open competition, a more flexible economy, and all the rest. This would give new meaning to the phrase Hispanamerica is coming. It would also present quite a challenge to both Mexico and America. But in the long run it would be much more beneficial to America than, say, the damn war in Iraq.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal