Gangs of the New America: Heather MacDonald vs. Open Borders

The most recent contribution of the Open Borders Lobby to the decomposition of American civilization is the immigrant gang, which has now spread itself from the inner precincts of San Diego to such places as the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

In the summer issue of the City Journal, published by the libertarian think tank the Manhattan Institute, Heather MacDonald tells the bad news. [The Immigrant Gang Plague]

Of course it's bad news only if you think crime, violence, poverty, and individual and social crack-up are bad. If you're part of the Open Borders crowd, you probably don't think so, as long as the borders are porous and the wages are low. In the event you prefer the truth, Miss MacDonald has plenty to tell about the impact of mass immigration on American cities and those unfortunate enough to have to live in them.

"Hispanic youths, whether recent arrivals or birthright American citizens," she reports "are developing an underclass culture…. Hispanic school dropout rates and teen birthrates are now the highest in the nation. Gang crime is exploding nationally -- rising 50 percent from 1999 to 2002—driven by the march of Hispanic immigration east and north across the country. Most worrisome, underclass indicators like crime and single parenthood do not improve over successive generations of Hispanics—they worsen."

Ah, well, the Open Borders nuts respond. Of course, there are temporary problems with mass immigration, but the immigrants eventually assimilate and move up the economic ladder into the middle class. Wrong again.

As Miss MacDonald also writes, there is (often) upward mobility, but "Upward mobility to the suburbs doesn't necessarily break the allure of gang culture. An immigration agent reports that in the middle-class suburbs of southwest Miami, second- and third-generation Hispanic youths are perpetrating home invasions, robberies, battery, drug sales, and rape."  

The agent knows of college students who are gang members. As for cultural assimilation, what there is seems to be assimilation into the worst of American society.

Recruitment into gangs now starts earlier than ever, and the violence the gangs practice is increasingly lethal. Miss MacDonald cites one 16-year-old who shot a California Highway Patrol Officer picked at random "in the hope of gaining entry to Pomona's 12th Street Gang." Previous codes among the gangs that tried to limit violence are now obsolete. "When I grew up," one gang investigator, himself Mexican, says, "there were rules of engagement: no shooting at churches or at home. Now, no one is immune."

One supposed reason for the escalation of the gangs is the "disintegration of the Hispanic family." You've probably heard the Open Borders lie about "strong Hispanic family values." Miss MacDonald offers some details.

"The trends are worsening, especially for U.S.-born Hispanics. In California, 67 percent of children of U.S.-born Hispanic parents lived in an intact family in 1990; by 1999, that number had dropped to 56 percent. The percentage of Hispanic children living with a single mother in California rose from 18 percent in 1990 to 29 percent in 1999. Nationally, single-parent households constituted 25 percent of all Hispanic households with minor children in 1980; by 2000, the proportion had jumped to 34 percent."

Teen parenthood—"the marker of underclass behavior"—is now larger among Hispanics than among blacks. Among Hispanic teenagers, the stigma of out-of-wedlock births has vanished. Not surprisingly, "welfare use actually rises between the second and third generation—to 31 percent of all third-generation Mexican-American households. Illegal Hispanics make liberal use of welfare, too, by putting their American-born children on public assistance: in Orange County, California, nearly twice as many Hispanic welfare cases are for children of illegal aliens as for legal families."

You may recall back in 1994 when neo-conservative Open Borders boosters Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett went around attacking California's Prop 187, which would have cut off welfare to illegal aliens.

Miss MacDonald doesn't spend a lot of time sparring with the pro-immigration nuts, but she does talk a bit about what Open Borders ideologue Michael Barone tries to claim in a recent book. [The New Americans] Hispanic immigrants today, he argues, are analogous to Italian immigrants of generations past. Just as the Italians assimilated, so will the Mexicans and other Hispanics.

But the size of Mexican immigration today (30 percent of the foreign-born population) is far larger than that of Italians previously (17 percent of all immigrants). Moreover, immigration stopped for the most part after World War I. Today, with both major parties babbling about amnesty, there's no prospect whatsoever of it stopping.

For that you can thank the Open Borders crowd that has simply fabricated lies about the nature of mass immigration or ignored the truth and demonized anyone who tried to tell it. Thanks to Miss MacDonald, it's getting harder and harder to get away with that.

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Sam Francis [email him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection of his columns, America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available from Americans For Immigration Control. Click here for Sam Francis' website. Click here to order his monograph, Ethnopolitics: Immigration, Race, and the American Political Future. His review essay on Who Are We appears in the current issue of Chronicles Magazine.