John Derbyshire Is Buoyant, Long-Term, About Immigration Policy—And Trump’s Right: They ARE [Outhouse] Countries

Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, available exclusively on

Friday finds me in an unusually buoyant mood about the immigration outlook—long term. But first, was the President’s much-denounced remark fair?  Let’s investigate.

In Haiti‘s case the President’s remark was very apt. From the National Public Radio website, dated July 29th 2017: You Probably Don’t Want To Know About Haiti’s Sewage Problems (by Rebecca Hersher) describing the state of sanitation in Haiti in fascinating detail:

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is one of the largest cities in the world without a central sewage system. There are no sewers connecting sinks, showers and toilets to hulking wastewater treatment plants. Most of the more than 3 million people in the metro area use outhouses, and much of that waste ends up in canals, ditches and other unsanitary dumping grounds where it can contaminate drinking water and spread disease.

When it rains, the canals overflow and flood poor neighborhoods.

Since the earthquake in 2010, international groups have spent millions of dollars on a plan to build eight open-air sewage treatment plants across Haiti. Seven years on, only one of the eight is operational.

That one is

below capacity and struggling to cover its operating costs. International money covered its construction, but domestic funding and customer fees are insufficient to cover long-term maintenance and payroll.

One other of the eight did open in 2012, funded by the government of Spain, but it was shut down eighteen months later, and remains closed. Plans for the others have been abandoned.

 Gabriel Toto, 35, has been working as a bayakou, or latrine cleaner, for a decade. On nights without a journalist watching, he generally works naked.A rainstorm on Good Friday last year filled the streets and alleys of one Port-au-Prince neighborhood with 3 feet of raw sewage. Seven people drowned in it. A guy interviewed for the NPR report got an infection that still hasn’t gone away

You get the picture. I’ve spared you the more graphic details; but if you sometimes think you have the worst job in the world, by all means go read that NPR report, which describes the work of the latrine-cleaning guys.

“Outhouse country”—my preferred euphemism for the President’s alleged remark— isn’t a bad description for a nation of eleven million people with one poorly-maintained sewage treatment plant struggling to stay in operation.

It’s the same in black Africa. Ghana, for instance, is one of the more stable and peaceful nations in West Africa, a self-governing independent nation for more than sixty years. Here’s a quote from a UNICEF report dated July 2016:

Ghana has a very low coverage for wastewater and faecal sludge treatment … The national average for sewerage coverage is as low as 4.5 percent. Tema is the only municipality with a comprehensive sewerage system. Accra [that’s the capital] has a sewerage system covering the State House and ministries area and parts of the Central Business District … The treatment facilities for both the Accra and Tema systems have broken down and [are] not in use.

UNICEF Assessment Of Waste Water Treatment Plants In Ghana By Civil Engineering Department, July, 2016, PDF

Open Sewage in GhanaThat’s Ghana, which as I said is a poster boy for development and progress in sub-Saharan Africa. (Pictured right–open sewage in a Ghanan village.) I just did some cursory checking on the situation in Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Check them yourself, if you have the stomach for it.

Outhouse countries? I’d say President Trump nailed it.

OK, so what about this White House meeting with congressfolk to talk immigration laws?

The initial meeting, on Tuesday, was televised—an unusual thing for a gathering of this kind. The general assumption was that the President wanted to show himself chairing a big event like this knowledgably and authoritatively, putting the lie to Michael Wolff’s book with its stories about how ignorant and indecisive he is.

Whether that was the reason for televising the thing, and whether, if it was, the ploy succeeded, is a matter of opinion. I watched Tucker Carlson and then Sean Hannity back-to-back Tuesday evening. Carlson was not happy. His brow furrows were so deep you could hide quarters in them. The President, he implied, had been totally rolled by the congressweasels. He’d given the cheap-labor and open-borders lobbies everything they want, in return for nothing at all.

Hannity on the other hand was upbeat. The President, he told us, was totally in control of the situation. He’d just been pretending to defer to reptiles like Diane Feinstein. Actually, he was playing four-dimensional chess.

My own take on the meeting was closer to Carlson than Hannity. The President seemed clumsy and ill-informed. The bit where he was about to hand the keys of the store to Feinstein until Kevin McCarthy stepped in and warned him not to, was seriously embarrassing.

The President, or his advisors, tried to repair the damage afterwards, putting out stern-sounding statements. But if the President’s performance on-camera was a sample of his negotiating skills, his next book should be titled The Art of the Kneel.

Who were they, these legislators in the room with Trump, the new DHS Secretary, and three White House staffers?

Well, there were 25 of them: 16 Senators, 9 Representatives. That’s nicely Pythagorean, for a hypoteneuse of five … sorry, sorry.

Checking their grades for immigration at NumbersUSA on the recent voting records, 2015 to 2018, I see three As, three Bs, one C-plus, three Cs, seven Ds, and nine Fs. Six of those nine Fs are F-minuses, including two Republicans: Lindsey Graham, of course, and Miami Representative (and Steve Sailer doppelganger) Díaz-Balart.

That gives you a median grade, across all the congressroaches present there, between D and D-minus. These are the people who are going to reform our immigration laws. [Laughter.]

It doesn’t look good. So … why am I buoyant? Shouldn’t I be sunk in despair, like Tucker Carlson?

Well, I have no great hopes of real patriotic immigration reform from this Congress and this President. I’m sticking to my prediction that Congress will throw Trump a small bone—an end to the “diversity visa” lottery is my guess—in return for a mass amnesty of illegals. The whole thing will of course be dressed up with promises on border security and enforcement—promises that will never be kept.

Taking a longer view, though, I think there’s been some kind of breakthrough here. Fifteen years ago, I wrote a column arguing that there was something in the national psyche of the U.S.A. that prevented Americans from thinking seriously about immigration. Even quite prominent opinionators used to be clueless about immigration issues. My long-time favorite example: Bill O’Reilly quacking that what the country needed was a guest-worker program—when, as I got weary of pointing out, we already had twenty-odd guest-worker programs, covering everything from fruit pickers to opera singers.

Now it seems like every time I turn on the TV someone’s talking about immigration; and the general level of knowledge among the talking heads is higher than it used to be. Tucker Carlson has really done his homework; he’s light years ahead of where O’Reilly used to be.

I believe I’m noticing a similar improvement among ordinary Americans. In conversation with a not-particularly-political neighbor yesterday, I was surprised to hear him pour scorn on the fuss about the President’s referring to outhouse countries. “If those countries are not outhouses,” my neighbor said—I’ve bowdlerized slightly—”why should these illegals [I’m just quoting him, the TPS folk are not all illegals] mind going back?”

That’s a very obvious point to those of us who’ve been working the immigration beat for years. To hear it from a layman, though, was striking.

There flashed through my mind the joyous thought: We’re getting through!

As I said, I’m taking the long view here. You may say—and Ann Coulter, for example, does say—that taking the long view isn’t much use; that if we don’t get this fixed now, the whole country will go the way of California: traditional America, its laws and customs, drowned beneath a tide of aliens.

I think we have more time than that. As Peter Brimelow and Ed Rubenstein argued here at five years ago, the GOP could be alive and well in today’s California even if no blacks or Latinos voted for it. It’s California’s whites that have turned the state blue.

To the nation at large that applies a fortiori. We just need to wake up white Americans somehow—white women especially. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I believe I do see early signs of that awakening. Say not the struggle naught availeth!

A key front in the struggle is numeracy. The wisest thing ever said about immigration—I quote it at pretty regular intervals, three or four times a year—is: “Numbers are of the essence.” That’s a shame, because the way the human mind is structured, most of us have great difficulty thinking about big numbers.

There are functioning human societies whose language contains no words for numbers at all. Even among civilized peoples who know their multiplication tables, the main reference number for everyday thinking about human affairs is usually “one.”

So if you get a conversation going with Joe Q. Public about immigration from Central America, you’ll hear something like: “Well, I have this guy from Guatemala who comes in to look after my garden. He’s great—a really hard worker!” And Joe’s thinking about the immigration issue stops around there.

Again, our recent public conversations have done a lot to improve understanding. Respectable people, politicians and TV talking heads, have been discussing “chain migration.” As a result, it has sunk in to a lot of American heads that, while a million immigrants isn’t many among our population of a third of a billion, the million quickly swells to tens, then hundreds of millions.

I really do think there’s an enlightenment going on: or rather, as I wrote three years ago when I got my first glimpses of it, an Entzauberung, a de-magicking or de-sacralizing of the immigration topic. Immigration no longer carries the high moral charge it once did. People are coming to understand that it’s just a policy, like farm price supports or interstate highways maintenance.

And this administration is doing some quiet good work at enforcing the people’s laws on immigration. Even if this current round of argumentation between the President and Congress comes to nothing—which is quite likely—there’s an immense amount that can be done with the laws we already have.

Example: Here’s a posting at by an IT developer cutting code at some big corporation. Ninety percent of his colleagues are from India, he tells us. Quote:

The typical scenario is that every year, a stack of visas goes in for renewal and about a week later they come back stamped [APPROVED] … At the start of this year, instead of coming back approved, each application came back with a huge list of questions and requests for documentation about why the applicants were being paid so little. The lawyers were confused and assembled a huge pile of documentation for each applicant and sent it back. Every single application then came back with either more questions or a denial. EVERY SINGLE ONE is either in limbo or denied … As a result of this, our company’s HR department has quietly decided … to no longer hire employees that need sponsorship. Trump quietly working behind the scenes on H1B Visas, personal story, January 11, 2018

That’s just one candle in the darkness. Here’s another: Wednesday this week, from the Detroit News:

Immigration agents descended on dozens of 7-Eleven convenience stores before dawn … to begin checking on employees’ immigration status … Agents targeted about 100 stores nationwide … Twenty-one people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally were arrested.

7-Eleven probe opens new front on immigration,  by Elliot Spagat, Associated Press,January 10, 2018

I tell you, things are looking up. Yes, I’m feeling buoyant.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com:FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge.His writings are archived at

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