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Open borders Freedom Ride to nowhere

By W. James Antle III
web posted October 6, 2003

A busy news cycle filled with stories about Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rush Limbaugh and White House leaks often pushed the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride to the back pages of the papers, preventing a full discussion of the issues it raised. Emulating the famed 1961 Freedom Rides organized to fight against segregation, bus convoys of activists traveled the country to win sympathy for such causes as amnesty for illegal immigrants. It was also an attempt to recast amnesty and further immigration policy liberalization as the great civil rights struggle of our time while presenting secure borders and effective immigration law enforcement as the new Jim Crow.

Thousands gather for the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, a two-week campaign that has carried nearly 900 immigrants representing 50 countries, and supporters to more than 100 U.S. cities and townson October 4 in New York's Flushing Meadows Park
Thousands gather for the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, a two-week campaign that has carried nearly 900 immigrants representing 50 countries, and supporters to more than 100 U.S. cities and townson October 4 in New York's Flushing Meadows Park

It has long been standard operating procedure to dismiss any criticism of current immigration levels, or even illegal immigration, as racism. Certainly, racism does attract some people to the immigration reform movement – there are those who object to high levels of both legal and illegal immigration solely because they dislike the color of the immigrants. But many others raise legitimate, responsible concerns about assimilation, homeland security, the environment, the preservation of a middle-class society and national cohesiveness. It would be a mistake to reject such considerations out of hand and suppress debate through name-calling and the use of politically correct scare words.

In fact, those who are concerned about racial equality and improved race relations have ample reason to oppose mass legal and illegal immigration. The current system amounts to the importation of cheap, disproportionately minority labor for the benefit of corporations and a disproportionately white upper class in need of domestic service. In the process, many lower-income Americans – also disproportionately minority – find themselves displaced from jobs and their wages reduced.

Consider a recent study by the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA. It found that as recent immigrants entered a given occupation's local labor pool, workers on average saw their earnings reduced by 11 percent. Black, Hispanic and other minority American workers earned an average of 14 percent less. Although the researchers attributed this finding to "the devaluation of work performed by low-status groups," a more likely explanation is that an influx of new workers with low skill levels relative to the U.S. labor force at large has collided with the law of supply and demand.

This is consistent with the findings of other studies. The National Research Council, for example, concluded that immigration caused half the real decline in wages for American high school dropouts from 1980 to 1994. Economic analyst Ed Rubenstein, writing in VDARE.com, reported that 36 percent "of the U.S. poverty population is directly attributable to post-1965 mass immigration."

Additionally, the Mexican government appears to be using mass emigration to the United States – and the billions of dollars in remittances this entails – as a safety valve to avoid needed reforms that would improve the economic situation in Mexico. This has led some Mexican officials lobby for amnesty themselves rather than work to rectify the problems in their own country that drive so many of their people across the border in search of work. An analogous policy would be if the U.S. decided that rather than end welfare as we knew it, we would merely import public assistance recipients to the more generous welfare states of Western Europe.

In addition to the economic impact, the effect of the cultural balkanization that accompanies large-scale immigration without assimilation on minorities is also largely unexamined. The intersection of mass immigration and racial preferences has been the subject of ground-breaking work by Steve Sailer and UC Santa Barbara historian and political scientist Hugh Davis Graham, the latter the author of Collision Course: The Strange Convergence of Affirmative Action and Immigration Policy. Present immigration rates are increasing the number of preferences beneficiaries and reducing the ratio of beneficiaries to those penalized by quotas in much the same way other demographic shifts have reduced the ratio of workers paying into the Social Security system to retirees drawing benefits from it.

This portends an unmistakable risk of polarizing society along racial lines. Carol M. Swain, professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University and the author of The New White Nationalism: Its Challenge to Integration, considers it likely to be a factor in the advancement of a harmful trend toward white racial nationalism. Do we really need an American Jean-Marie Le Pen or a more widely accepted David Duke?

It is in the context of all this that the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride seeks to appropriate the mantle of the civil rights movement to promote unsound immigration policies. That it does so is particularly galling since, as the writer J.P. Zmirak has pointed out, the immigration advocacy of the open-borders crowd often ignores the interests of those "whose ancestors slaved for this country, and who disproportionately enlist and fight our wars today."

Bu not only does this publicity stunt take the radical position that U.S. citizenship is virtually a global civil right. It essentially slanders those who understand the flaws in our current immigration system but don't think the solution is another amnesty, greater numbers and yet more liberalization. Immigration reformers aren't 21st century Bull Connors attempting to stop progress with police dogs and fire hoses – indeed, the assimilation of the last great wave of immigrants into the American family occurred during a lull in immigration. There is a strong case to be made for another pause now, and it would be entirely consistent with the American tradition of intermittent immigration.

Of course, this doesn't mean that immigration restriction isn't a difficult thing for Americans to contemplate. Even conservatives, wrongly assumed to not appreciate diversity, are divided on this question for important reasons. There is nothing that stirs a sense of patriotism more than knowing that millions of people throughout the world see your country as a beacon of freedom and hope, and would consequently make great sacrifices to come here. Nothing perhaps other than the realization that our free society allows so many of these newcomers to achieve beyond their wildest dreams things that would have been impossible in their home countries.

Ronald Reagan captured this imagery well in his final televised speech to the nation as president from the Oval Office: "I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still."

Those words moved me then and they still move me today. Yet Reagan also said, "A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation." Not everyone loves our shining city on a hill. As Michelle Malkin demonstrates in her book Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores, porous borders can threaten American lives and security. Others love their nations as we love our own. They may want to come here for the material abundance few other countries in the world can provide, but that does not mean that they will abandon their loyalty to their homelands or customs that may not be compatible with our own. Immigration policy cannot just be shaped by our hopes, but also by these realities.

The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride may at first seem like a politically over-the-top isolated example. After all, organizers proudly link to the Communist Party USA on their website and list it as an endorser. But it is representative of a number of influential ideologues who would obliterate our borders, devalue U.S. citizenship and blur the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. The real triumphs of the civil rights movement allowed all Americans to participate more fully in the institutions of their nation. This imitation doesn't respect the idea of a nation and its institutions at all.

W. James Antle III is a senior editor for Enter Stage Right.

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