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McConnell On Krikorian

Krikorian explicitly rejects the notion that the predominantly Mexican ethnicity of the new immigration is an issue, pointing out that America has always had an elastic definition of “white” (which used to exclude Germans and later Irish) and has steadily expanded it.

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The fact that most new immigrants speak Spanish means that many new arrivals can live entirely in Spanish-speaking environments, do business in Spanish, conduct legal affairs in Spanish, and come in no contact with American norms at all. ~Scott McConnell [1]

Scott’s entire review is worth reading, and I intend to read Krikorian’s book, which seems to deserve the high praise it has been receiving, but these two remarks stood out for me since they seem to contradict one another.  If most immigrants are Mexican, Mexicans speak Spanish and the fact that most new immigrants’ assimilation is delayed or halted by the fact that they speak Spanish, the Mexican origins of most of the new immigration would seem to be a major part of the current predicament.  One need not believe that Aztlan is about to rise up to recognize that Mexico is unusually aggressive in its cultivation of emigrants through its consular offices, as Krikorian acknowledges, and that its President has continued a bad habit of President Fox by uttering phrases that Mexico is wherever there are Mexicans.  Even coming from a country with a less well-established sense of historical grievance in an era where unilateral declarations of independence were not sponsored by major powers, this sort of language would have an irredentist ring to it.  

The main argument that our economy no longer assimilates unskilled and uneducated workers in the way that it did a century ago is absolutely vital, and so in this sense large-scale immigration from any other country would represent a major problem.  However, if one of the reasons why the new immigration is different is that there is insufficient pressure on new immigrants to assimilate, the proximity to their country of origin and the land connection between their old country and ours represent significant differences from previous waves of immigration that reduce whatever pressure is currently being brought to bear. 

Then there is another equally important point:

The negative consequences of high rates of immigration remain whether the new entrants sneak across the border or are relatives by marriage of someone who arrived a dozen years ago.

In much the same way that railing against “foreign oil” is a way to avoid talking about the problem of dependence on oil, railing against illegal immigration only makes it seem as if the important issue is simply the legal, documented status of people entering the country rather than the effects a large influx of people has on wages, social services, demographics and politics.  Hence the proposals to legalize those who are already here–if all that matters is legal status, the implication is that mass immigration itself would be desirable if only there were a mechanism to accommodate it.

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5 Comments To "McConnell On Krikorian"

#1 Comment By kranza On September 19, 2008 @ 2:29 am

I think McConnell just means that the “Mexican” part doesnt matter, not that the “predominantly [one] ethnicity” doesnt matter, which it does for the reasons you (and Krikorian say). And by saying that the “Mexican” doesnt matter he means that race and culture are not at issue, not that the political and geographic concerns you (and, again, Krikorian) raise are not at issue.

#2 Comment By tenaciousd On September 19, 2008 @ 7:00 am

My grandmother came to America from Mexico in the early 1900s and married and American. It was a very different age. My sister an I retain no vestiges of our Mexican heritage beyond brown eyes and skin. We’re not even Catholic. (My poor Nordic-looking wife was amazed that our son emerged into this world as brown as a bean!) Anyhow, I have no doubt that current resident-Mexicans will assimilate culturally in most places outside of the Southwestern barrios. However, I think most are simply assimilating into a lower/lower-middle class melting pot with little upward mobility and which is increasing the “drag” on our economy in a variety of ways.

However, I don’t think you can win this argument against what I call the “peasant-ification of America” (this includes all ethnicities and points of origin, not just Mexicans/Central Americans) unless you find a “bleeding-heart” angle. Fortunately, Mexico’s central banker has offered [2]: Mexico need’s its American-trained workers back.

[via The Big Picture] “What’s really hurting the [Mexican] economy is that less money is being sent home from workers living abroad. And by abroad, you can probably guess what country I mean. Speaking of which, Ortiz also favors, sit down for this one, stricter immigration controls in the U.S. so Mexico can hold on to its workers. Ortiz said, ‘I think Mexico needs its people. It would be best to keep its people in Mexico, and it would give incentives for Mexico to create the jobs that are needed.’ Increíble!”

Maybe in some ways this is a case of accidental benevolence. We’ve provided Mexico with a huge infusion of dollars via its expatriot workers. More than any bailout or “aid package” could have provided. Now, maybe we owe it to Mexico to return those laborers, who only pass for semi-skilled (at best) north of the Rio Bravo but are in the first tier of blue collar laborers by Mexican standards. What if we are stymying Mexico’s future by not sending them back?

#3 Comment By el_longhorn On September 19, 2008 @ 9:14 am

“One need not believe that Aztlan is about to rise up to recognize that Mexico is unusually aggressive in its cultivation of emigrants through its consular offices”

That has increasingly become the case as US states have reduced the services provided to undocumented immigrants (driver’s licenses, in particular), but only in the last decade. Most Mexicans only contact with their consulate is to get a matricula consular, the official unofficial ID of undocumented Mexicans in the US that is now widely accepted by US businesses. What else do the consulates provide? Nothing else, that I am aware of.

“The main argument that our economy no longer assimilates unskilled and uneducated workers in the way that it did a century ago is absolutely vital”

A dubious argument, at best. Is it just coincidence that the greatest periods of economic growth in the US coincide with the greatest periods of immigration? And what is unskilled labor? Carpentry, masonry, and welding are important skills in the US that are in high demand and are not being filled by native workers. Unemployment rates among undocumented Mexicans are also very low.

Finally, by most every quantitative measure, assimilation is occurring at traditional rates, maybe even faster thanks to modern media. Statistically speaking, the Mexican immigrant that comes to the US speaks no English and will probably not learn the language in any significant way. His children will be fluent in English, with many being unable to speak Spanish in any significant way. By the third generation, half the grandchildren will marry a non-latino person. Hard to see how you can quicken the pace of assimilation. A first generation immigrant has always had trouble learning the language and has always clung to his old culture, nothing new there.

PS Good point on legal v. illegal immigration. From an economic standpoint, there is no distinction.

#4 Comment By rawshark On September 19, 2008 @ 9:19 am

‘Krikorian explicitly rejects the notion that the predominantly Mexican ethnicity of the new immigration is an issue, pointing out that America has always had an elastic definition of “white” (which used to exclude Germans and later Irish) and has steadily expanded it.’

What a crock of shit that is. Spend a month in Arizona and then tell me it ain’t about Mexicans.

#5 Comment By haddox On September 19, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

You’re probably well aware of it, Daniel, but you’re channeling Sam Francis in your final paragraph. He once asked: “If the only problem with illegal immigration is that it’s illegal, if you’re not willing to say mass immigration by itself is a problem, then why should we have any laws against it at all?”