Tuesday’s New York Times editorial on immigration attracted little comment. I’m surprised. It stated that America will cease being American if we continue to notice that some people are not American. Or something. Here it is:
Someday, the country will recognize the true cost of its war on illegal immigration. We don’t mean dollars, though those are being squandered by the billions. The true cost is to the national identity: the sense of who we are and what we value. It will hit us once the enforcement fever breaks, when we look at what has been done and no longer recognize the country that did it.
Wrong. Every single syllable.
Of course mass immigration (much of it illegal) is changing our country far more than the (small, unfocused) populist campaign against it. Or has the Times not noticed that mass immigration is a leading cause of widening income inequality, disorder and crime, urban sprawl, wage stagnation, over-crowded emergency rooms and schools?
But the Times is not interested in numbers, or in history.
The restrictionist message is brutally simple — that illegal immigrants deserve no rights, mercy or hope. It refuses to recognize that illegality is not an identity; it is a status that can be mended by making reparations and resuming a lawful life. Unless the nation contains its enforcement compulsion, illegal immigrants will remain forever Them and never Us, subject to whatever abusive regimes the powers of the moment may devise.
Why stop at mercy or hope? Why not just go all out and say you saw a restrictionist kicking an immigrant’s puppy and spitting into his chalupa? Illegality isn’t an identity, I agree. But American is. So is Irish, or Gautemalan.
But that doesn’t matter. The Times is promoting a narrative–a nation of immigrants–that has deep resonance in our political imagination but doesn’t quite match up with our history or the anxieties many Americans understandably feel about mass immigration today. American history alternates between periods of immigration (though never on today’s massive level) and periods of restriction and assimilation. Most Americans do not feel a white hot rage against recent immigrants; they worry quietly about the effects of mass immigration on their wages, schools, and hospitals.
In fairness, the editorial makes worthwhile points about the disorder of our border security, which does lead to bizarre circumstances for illegals who are being processed in one way or another.
But one must admire the nerve here, the Times casting itself as the defender of America’s national identity. This editorial doesn’t make an argument; it just whips up hatred against restrictionists- saying that they lack the barest human decency, that their behavior is irredeemably foreign, un-American. Where have I heard that before?