“Is Immigration a Problem? Are the Minute Men the Answer?”
[VDARE.COM Note: We`re
posting this speech from last year, which we`ve been
meaning to do for a while, partly because
recent events on the border have showed that the
Minutemen must be part of the answer—because the
under the control of the Bush Administration,
isn`t the answer.]
also: Questions and
[Watch it in
Ladies and gentlemen, as is immediately obvious to
you from my accent, I am an immigrant myself. And it may
seem strange to you that an immigrant would be critical
of immigration. But the
Wall Street Journal tells us that immigrants do
the dirty work that Americans won`t do. And here I am!
You know, people often react very badly to this when
they are in favor of immigration. They say things like
"Aren`t you pulling up the ladder after you got on the
boat?" And I have a number of answers—such as, you
know, just because I`m the last person on the
lifeboat, am I not supposed to say the lifeboat is
going to capsize?
It`s an objective issue, an issue of fact and truth,
I have a number of answers, as I say. But they`re all
really beside the point. Because the real reason why I
write about immigration is that it`s irresistible.
I mean, here you have a sovereign state transforming
itself by accident, against its will to no economic
Director of the Miller Center Forum] is wrong in his brief
[introductory] summary, by the way, there`s no evidence
that immigration is of any value to the native-born
Americans on balance, in aggregate—in a way that`s
unprecedented in the history of the world.
And you`re not supposed to talk about it!
It`s a really
taboo subject. I`ve been in financial journalism in
the U.S. for 25 years, and I`ve never been able to write
a serious study of immigration in the Mainstream Media.
They just simply do not want to discuss it. That`s
why we have our website VDARE.com, and is why I
wrote my book
Alien Nation ten years ago.
How could I resist it? I`m like a moth to a flame, I
Well, the question is, the topic for today is
"Is Immigration a Problem: Are the Minutemen a
Solution?" I don`t want to keep you in suspense
here as to what I think about that. I think
- immigration is a problem; and
- the Minutemen are a part of
the solution, they`re a significant part of the
It`s important to recognize that immigration`s a new
problem. From the 1920s when the last Great Wave of
cut off through legislation, through the 1960s—more
than forty years—there was no significant immigration
to this country at all. In fact, in the 1930s, there
was out-migration. There are many such pauses that go
right back through American history, right back to the
Colonial period. For example, in the
area of New England that I come from now, after the
“Great Migration” of the 1620s, there was no
significant immigration until
the Irish started arriving in the 1840s. For over
200 years, it was a totally stable society. There is a
wave of Irish—and then they stopped coming in such
large numbers. And these pauses have been essential to
the process of assimilation. This is a pattern that you
always see—until now.
It`s often said that this is a “nation of
immigrants”. Well, of course, all nations are nation
of immigrants. There`s no known case where people grew
out of the ground. But, really what drove American
population growth was natural increase. Immigration is
only a fairly episodic occurrence in American history.
It`s not the constant that popular understanding is
given to understand.
Now what triggered this next Great Wave of
immigration in the 1960s was the 1965 Immigration Act.
It was pushed through by Senator Kennedy, who is still
with us, and in fact
pushing another immigration bill right now. I`m
pleased to see that the Miller Center is doing one of
oral history projects on him. I hope you ask him
about it. In fact, I can supply the questions!
Here is what he said in 1965 when he was on the on
the Senate floor with the Immigration bill. He said the
bill was being misrepresented. He said:
"First, American cities will not be flooded with a
million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill,
the present level of immigration remains substantially
the same. [It was then less than 200,000 a year].
ethnic mix of this country will not be upset.
Contrary to the charges in some quarters, the bill will
not inundate America with immigrants from any one
country or area, or the most populated and deprived
He went on, "In the final analysis, the ethnic
pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not
expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to
Now, every one of those points has proved
false. There are a million immigrants coming in.
The flow of legal immigrants has been captured, because
of the paradoxical workings of the act, by a
relatively small number of Third World countries.
And so on, and so forth.
When I wrote Alien Nation, we tried to ask
Kennedy what did he think about this assertion, did he
feel he could stand by the claims that he made then. Was
he upset that they`d been falsified? It took a very long
time before we got an answer. We eventually got a note
from him that said, "Many things have changed since
then." So I recommend that question to you, George.
So this is something that is of particular importance
right now. Because Senator Kennedy has this new bill up,
which will substantially increase immigration from its
Well, why is immigration a problem? There are four
- The first reason: the
sheer size of the influx. In fact about a
million immigrants a year are coming in, just short
of a million in the last year. And there`s also
about three hundred to five hundred thousand illegal
immigrants net a year.
The stock of illegal immigrants in the country
increases by about three to five hundred thousand a
year. And that`s because the enforcement of the southern
borders simply collapsed in the 1970s at the same time
that the legal immigration floodgates were opened.
Now, there was a very similar illegal immigration
crisis by the way in the early 1950—something which
seems to have
totally vanished from popular memory. But the
Eisenhower Administration ended it in four or five
Operation Wetback. It was called Operation Wetback.
deported over a million people. And that ended
illegal immigration for the next 20 years. So it can be
done. It`s just that the current political class
doesn`t want to do it.
Now, the sheer size of this immigrant inflow has a
number of implications. One of them is that the
population is going to be much higher than it would
otherwise be. Americans of all races have gotten their
family sizes down to replacement level. Population
would stabilize around about 300 million, absent
immigration. But with immigration it is going to go up,
the Census Bureau says, to 400, maybe 500 million by
What that means is there aren`t going to be any horse
farms around here in Charlottesville. What`s
happened in northern Virginia is coming to get you!
It`s going to consume all this area, it will be strip
Actually it`s very distressing. I think the
Virginia countryside is one of the great artifacts
of the world. To see what`s happened in
northern Virginia since I lived in Washington in
1980 is deeply depressing. But it`s going to be more
depressing. It`s going to come here.
I often wonder where the
environmentalists are in all of this. Why don`t the
Sisters“, the big environmental groups, speak up
against this? I mean, the major factor in environmental
degradation is population growth. And that`s driven by
But in fact the environmentalist groups will not
speak out on this question. The reason is, I`m afraid,
that they`re basically run by refugee liberal democrats
who are hoping to get back into the
next Clinton administration. And they don`t want to
disturb their liberal coalition.
The other aspect of this rapid population growth is
that it`s very rapidly shifting the racial balance in
the country—contrary to Kennedy`s assertion. In effect,
the 1965 Act choked off immigration from the traditional
sources of immigration to the U.S., namely Europe, and
it allowed a small number of third world countries to
capture the inflow, as I said. And, above all, Mexico.
The Mexican government, the Mexican ruling class,
appears to have simply made the decision to export its
poor to the U.S.
About one in five Mexicans in the world, now lives in
the U.S. We sometimes call this the "
it`s one of the great population movements in history.
And because of this, and the other movements going on,
the whites in the U.S. are going to go to minority. They
were 90% of the country in 1960. After 2050, they`ll be
At the time of the
1953 riots in East Germany, which the Communist
government put down brutally, the poet Bertolt Brecht
poem, in which he suggested it would be appropriate
if the government "dissolved the people and elected a
new one". That`s essentially what`s happening here.
is dissolving the people and electing a new one.
It`s all happening through public policy.
get very antsy if you raise the question of race
with them. They just can`t handle it. As an immigrant,
I`m insensitive to this. They will often say, "Well
so what if
whites do go into minority in the U.S?"
My answer to that—and it`s a big topic, I`m going to
give a short answer to it here—if you have a situation
where you bring in a very large number of Mexicans, for
example, there is a chance that the U.S. may
actually become Mexico. Immigrants don`t go through
some magic transformation when they cross the border.
So that`s an interesting question to me: is this
going to be America, or is it going to be Mexico? It is
going to be really determined by the makeup of the
- The second reason
immigration is a problem: current policy is
perversely impacting immigrant skill levels.
It`s had the effect of skewing skill levels
downward, because of a paradoxical selection
It`s not that employers go out into the world and try
to find immigrants who have skills. In fact, there`s
virtually no consideration of skills in the immigration
selection process. What matters is so-called
"family reunification"—which is very broadly
interpreted. Families that aren`t united—because they
never existed—can come in. If an immigrant goes back and
marries a spouse in the old country, that`s the highest
priority, a spouse.
What that means is that even legal immigration is out
of control. Americans have no control over who come into
their country. They can delay it, but they can`t
actually deny entrance to large numbers of foreigner.
Not just illegal immigration, but legal immigration, is
out of control.
What this means is that, for the first time in
American history, the skill levels of immigrants are, on
average, lower than the natives. It is, as George said,
it is a bipolar distribution. There are skilled
immigrants (although it`s not true any more immigrants
have degrees than the native-born. That was so in the
1970s, but the phenomenon has evaporated in recent
years.) But it is true that many more immigrants aren`t
educated at all. On average, their
education levels are significantly lower than the
And they`re not doing well in the work force. They
are heavily dependent on welfare, and are, in fact,
quite clearly responsible for the formation of a new
underclass in the U.S. That`s what`s happening; the U.S.
is basically importing a new underclass through public
So that`s the second reason why immigration is a
problem, because of this
perverse skewing of skill levels.
- The third reason
immigration is a problem: the
I don`t mean, when I say the welfare state, just
welfare. The term “welfare state” means transfer
payments of all kinds.
Education, for example, is a major form of transfer
payment. It amounts to something like 7 or 8 thousand
dollars per year
for every kid in the K-12 system—a subsidy from the
taxpayer to an immigrant child.
In fact, there are transfers that don`t even go
through the government`s books. As you all know, right
now, there is a major healthcare crisis in this country.
Insurance premiums are rising. Those insurance premiums
are rising in significant measure because hospitals are
required by federal law to treat indigent patients,
who are, to a large degree, immigrants and illegal
immigrants. And the hospitals have got to find the money
from somewhere, so they turn around and stick it to the
people who do pay health insurance, namely you. It`s
basically a mandated transfer from the middle classes to
I`m not saying this is wrong per se, but it`s
completely different from the way that immigration used
to work in this country. We`ve had mass immigration
before in the U.S. And we`ve had the welfare state, from
the 1930s onward. But we`ve never seen both together.
And it`s totally altered the incentive structure that
the immigrants face. In the last Great Wave of
immigration, between 1880 and 1920, significant numbers
of immigrants—it`s usually thought to be about
40%—ultimately ended up
going back to the country from which they came. With
some immigrant groups, it was even higher than that. The
Italians for example, went back something like 70-80%.
Now that`s all gone. Net immigration now is more than
90% of gross immigration. And you can see the reason. In
the old days, if somebody failed in the work force, they
would go home to the family farm or something. But now,
there`s every reason to stay here. For one thing, their
kids are being educated for free. For another, they can
go to the hospital emergency rooms. There are a million
reasons why they should stay and not go home. And they
are staying. It`s completely altered the incentive
structure for immigration.
And that`s why the economist
Milton Friedman, unquestionably one of the greatest
economists of the twentieth century, said recently, and
I`m going to quote him
"It`s just obvious that you can`t have free immigration
and a welfare state". He
said that in 1997. The realization has not yet
penetrated the political class. But he`s right, it can`t
be done. You can`t have the welfare state and mass
- The fourth reason
immigration is a problem now: its macroeconomic
impact and its redistribution effect.
I`m sorry to break into financial journalist jargon
there! I`ll try and translate.
It`s the consensus among labor economists—the
consensus—that this immigrant inflow, this
foreign-born presence in the American population, is, in
aggregate, of no benefit to the native-born.
It`s the consensus. It`s been the consensus for more
than ten years. It was the consensus when I researched
my book Alien Nation and it was confirmed by the
National Research Council report,
The New Americans,
that came out in 1997. In aggregate, this inflow doesn`t
benefit the native born. They would be just as well-off
Immigration does increase the economy`s size—Gross
Domestic Product. But the bulk of that is captured by
the immigrants themselves, in the form of their wages.
So there`s substantially no benefit to the native born.
But there is a tremendous impact within the
native-born community because of immigration. It causes
tremendous redistribution of income, essentially from
labor to capital.
George Borjas, who is the preeminent economist in
the field, and also an immigrant from Cuba, estimates
2% of GDP is being transferred from labor to
capital—to the owners of capital from the worker—from
the poor to the rich—because of this policy. It`s an
ugly policy. It`s having a serious effect.
If you chart, as I occasionally do, the real incomes
of blue-collar workers, they`ve basically stagnated
since 1970. And immigration is a major reason for that.
And this is particularly true for minorities, by the
way. The displacement of African-Americans is simply
extraordinary. Just recently in VDARE.COM we ran an
looked at African-American unemployment, it has
actually risen through this recovery. And the reason for
that is that there is an enormous shift within the work
force towards Hispanics.
Hispanics are getting
30-40% of all the new jobs created, although they`re
only about 10% of the workforce right now. They`re doing
it because they`re working
for less money, of course. This is having a
tremendous impact on the American blue collar workers.
You know, when I was a kid, in England, I went to a
very left-wing university, and I spent a great deal of
time arguing with the Left, about the Vietnam War and so
on. It`s a major reason why I chose to come to the
U.S.—because I was opposed to all that stuff. But I have
to admit that immigration policy is susceptible to a
Marxist analysis. It is a class policy. It benefits
upper classes. It disadvantages the lower classes.
What`s going to happen if it continues is that the
U.S. is not going to be a “Republic” in any sense
that Jefferson would recognize. It`s going to become
Brazil, or Mexico. There are going to be
gated communities of very wealthy people, and a lot
of peons who are going to live in the
So these are the four reasons why I think immigration
is a problem. The numbers are too large, one. Two, the
skill levels are too low. Three, the interaction with
the welfare state is disastrous. And, four, there is no
macroeconomic benefit and there is a serious
redistribution effect which we ought to be worrying
I turn now to the Minutemen. I assume you all know
that what`s happened here. A grassroots group got
together and put a lot of volunteers on the border. And
they did it with a great display of organization. And it
was a great success. I mean, they did cut down the
numbers of illegal immigrants very dramatically, despite
the Bush Administration`s attempt to finagle the numbers
telling the Border Patrol not to pick people up
afterwards and things like that.
So I regard the Minutemen as part of the solution.
They show that enforcement works.
There are 50,000 miles of interstates in this
country, 3,000 miles of southern border. It`s madness to
suppose that Americans couldn`t seal the southern border
if they put their mind to it. There were less than
10,000 people in the border patrol at any one point on
the border. There are 135,000 men in Iraq. The
disproportionality is extraordinary. If the American
government wants to seal the border, it can do it.
The other reason I think the Minutemen are part of
the solution is that it is a popular and grassroots
movement. It shows, basically, that there is great
discontent out there and that it cannot be contained by
the current political system.
I was fascinated to read, talking of interviews that
you do, I guess you`ve interviewed Lyn Nofziger from the
Reagan administration. [VDARE.COM
note: they have—
Well, Nofziger was one of the Reaganauts from
the California governorship days onwards. He most
recently wrote in his blog—I mean, he`s a real
wrote in his blog, to my great amazement, that he
now thought that immigration was an issue, like slavery,
that couldn`t be contained in the party system. That it
would ultimately break the party system.
Every once in a while in the U.S., the party system
is broken up and a new party comes around. Nofziger
thinks that`s what`s going to happen now.
Well, not all problems have solution. But the
immigration problem does have a solution. And it`s a
There should be a moratorium on immigration—that is
to say, no net immigration. About two hundred thousand,
three hundred thousand people, leave the U.S. every year
anyway, so that would mean gross immigration would be
about two-three hundred thousand. That would take care
of hardship cases and any really needed skills, and so
on. Ironically, this is very close to what Kennedy
said would be the case when he put through the 1965
The second part of the solution is that the American
people should be asked—they should be asked what
they want. Do they want 500 million people living here
Because up to now, they`ve not been asked.
This is all nearer than you may think. You know, the
last time there was a Great Wave of immigration like
this, it really took
thirty years of argument to resolve the question.
Immigration Restriction League was founded in 1894,
and the restrictions came in
1924. The best known immigration reform organization
right now, FAIR, the
Federation for American Immigration Reform, was
founded in 1980. So, I expect that we`ll have this
problem pretty well solved by about 2010.
It just takes longer that you think to solve these
problems, but it does happen.
And actually, we were
very close to a major solution in the 1990s when my
book was published. At that time, the Jordan Commission,
which was headed by a black congresswoman by the name of
Barbara Jordan, had made a series of recommendations
which would have radically reduced immigration. And
President Clinton endorsed it. The Clintons have
always been very sensitive to immigration. It took a
great deal of lobbying and lying by special interest
groups, ethnic groups and so on, to stop that bill—the
Smith-Simpson bill, which embodied the Jordan
We were very close to getting significant reforms
then. And I believe it will quickly mushroom now, given
a couple of good elections.
I guess I will finish on a personal note—another
point I make when I`m accused of being an immigrant who
isn`t toeing the party line on immigration.
I have children here. My little girl was
born the year my book came out, in 1995. She just
turned ten. She will be, just let me think, 50? No, 55,
in 2050…I never was good at math…55 in 2050, when this
transformation of the U.S. reaches the critical point,
when the traditional American nation goes into the
I no longer view 55 as being very old. I won`t be
here in 2050, and I`m afraid some of you won`t be here
either… (Some of you will!)
But, she will be here.
Our children will be here. And that`s why we have to
solve this problem. And that`s why we have to win this
Peter Brimelow is editor of
VDARE.COM and author of the much-denounced
Alien Nation: Common Sense About America`s Immigration
Disaster (Random House –
The Worm in the Apple (HarperCollins – 2003)