Speaking Immigration Truth To Fat Cats

[Don Feder was a columnist for The Boston Herald for 19 years, where he wrote frequently on immigration. He is the author of A Jewish Conservative Looks at Pagan America and Who`s Afraid of the Religious Right? Feder is currently doing political/media consulting through Don Feder Associates and planning to open a website soon.]

Stupid White Men is the title of Michael Moore`s latest screed against Republicans, corporations and anything to the right of Kim Jong Il. Still, Moore has a point (besides the one on his head). America is run by Caucasian dudes with large portfolios and low IQs. But, thanks to the immigration policies these dummies defend, not for long.

I recently addressed the annual high-dollar-donor event of a prominent, conservative group. Since I was their guest, it would be bad form to be more specific. Suffice it to say the group raises tons of money to save Western Civilization by cutting marginal tax rates.

I was asked to speak on an immigration panel as the designated ritual sacrifice. (Let`s all beat up the rotten, racist xenophobe so we can bask in our own nobility.)

The other panelists included two college professors–who, despite their disreputable occupations, actually made sense. One, in discussing the history of immigration, noted the Founding Fathers favored immigrants like themselves–of English stock, who shared their language and historical experience. The other, a second-generation Chinese-American, said: Look, if we`re to have immigration, for God`s sake let`s at least take in immigrants we can use, as opposed to those with fifth-grade educations, which we`re getting through family reunification.

The third panelist was a “conservative” writer whose shtick is blaming it all on our anti-assimilationist ethic. In essence, he argued that if we could only get rid of bilingualism, multiculturalism and anti-Americanism, we could easily absorb all of the untrained, uneducated, irredentists from south of the border who have absolutely no desire to learn our language, assimilate to our culture or identify with our nation. (That`s my interpretation of his position.)

Mr. Blame-it-on-Multiculturalism showed his true colors, when–in response to a question on dealing with illegal immigrants–he whined: Well, you can`t just round up these people in the middle of the night, “like fascists.”

Instead, he suggested making a deal with the left (can you guess what came next?): We`ll amnesty illegals and the Gephardts and Daschles will graciously give us effective control of our borders.

The Asian-American academic dryly responded that we made that deal in 1986, but (surprise!) the lefties didn`t keep their end of the bargain.

My race and gender grows stupider by the minute. Here was an individual who holds himself forth as a conservative, proclaiming that arresting those who break our laws and spit on the Constitution (not to mention jumping ahead of all the would-be legal immigrants standing patiently in line for years) is akin to gas chambers and torture cells.

As the cleanup speaker on the panel, I delivered one of my typically cogent and witty, but forceful critiques of the insanity of importing social Thalidomide. It ended with a call for a five-year moratorium while we rethink the whole bloody mess.

I was practically lynched.

The first hand that shot up was attached to the beefy arm of a venture capitalist who said I should move to France and join forces with Jean-Marie Le Pen. (I was tempted to respond–but then I`ll be an immigrant and I`ll have to hate myself.)

By advocating policies to maintain our national identity–by trying to keep out folks who think this country`s history is a wretched chronicle of slavery, genocide and exploitation—and that gringos are trespassers in California, Texas and the Southwest—I had marked myself as anti-American.

Mass immigration–love it, or leave the country.

I heard other equally enlightened defenses of a nation sans borders. A questioner told me that the newcomers (undocumented workers, don`t you know) are “taking jobs Americans don`t want.”

The novelty of the argument left me speechless.

When I recovered, I rejoined that the solution, of course, is for employers to offer American workers American wages, instead of forcing society to subsidize their low-income labor.

The great 19th century economist, Frederic Bastiat, taught us that most government programs have seen benefits and unseen costs. So it is with mass immigration, a government program devised by Ted Kennedy in 1965.

The beefy businessman and his brethren see Juan coming here illegally and taking one of those proverbial jobs the supposedly pampered native-born don`t want–say, washing dishes. The restaurant owner gets cheap, docile labor. Patrons get cheaper meals.

What isn`t seen, except by the more discerning, is Juan`s extended family who join him here–his elderly mother who eventually ends up on SSI, his children who are educated in our public schools, cared for in public hospitals and supported by AFDC and food stamps, his teenaged son who joins a Mexican gang–as well as the intangible costs of having more residents who speak an alien tongue, live in a different culture and maintain their loyalty to the nation of their birth.

Then came a question from one of the organization`s directors, a prominent retired politician. He told of encountering a Vietnamese boat person in a refugee camp in Hong Kong. When asked, through an interpreter, why he risked a voyage in dangerous waters to escape his homeland, the refugee produced a letter from his son in the U.S. saying America is the land of freedom and opportunity and the father must do whatever it takes to get here.

The director delivered this homily with the air of satisfaction of one who assumes he`s ended a debate, once and for all.

I replied that surely my questioner understood that a national immigration policy can`t be based on anecdotes. His Vietnamese is no more typical of immigrants generally than is the Egyptian who shot up LAX a few weeks back, killing two people. These are extremes. Reality lies in the middle. And that reality is perceived not by our personal experiences with immigrants or individual cases–positive or negative–but on aggregate.

I might as well have had a conversed with the numero uno special at my local Mexican restaurant. These high-dollar donors (six-figures, minimum) had assembled at a five-star resort–speaking of a pampered existence–to have their gut feelings reinforced.

For rich white guys, immigration means cheap domestic labor and the industrial equivalent of field hands.

The immigrants they encounter on a daily basis smile a lot–because they`re servants. Unlike low-income whites and blacks, these high-dollar donors don`t live cheek by jowl with the nitty-gritty of our immigration nightmare. Their self-interest is dressed in Nation-Of-Immigrants nostalgia, and served with a side of Compassionate Conservatism.

I am consoled by the knowledge that they will–as they age in an increasingly Third World America–eventually encounter the consequences of their stupidity. Will they be able to buy enough private security to protect them in their gated communities?

Unfortunately, so will the rest of us.

Stupid white men, indeed.

July 30, 2002