The Immigration Debate: Racism—Or Treason?

(First published under the title
Activities: If Immigration Destroys America, Does That
Make The People Who Favor It Un-American?”

National Review,
June 16, 1997)



appalling Senator John McCain

was at it again last week—
trying to intimidate critics of immigration policy by
playing the racism card. (
we going to say work-authorized immigrants have to ride
in the back of the bus?

for audio).

ten years ago, I pointed out the answer: The riposte to
the charge of racism is the charge of treason. Of
course, I didn`t then realize that Bill Buckley was
about to


Review of immigration reformers and allow the

charge of racism
to be

with no opportunity of reply,
against me.

New York City Mayor

Rudolph Giuliani
has turned on his fellow
Republicans in Congress, calling their welfare law
“un- `American”
because it denies assistance to
legal immigrants. —UPI, May 8[1997]

AH, the immigration debate—that`s what I love about it.
There`s none of this nonsense about “My distinguished
and “Will the gentleman from Armpit
please yield?”
We don`t take prisoners here.

All in good fun, of course. Civilians startled by the
abuse that is quite routinely exchanged by us
immigration debaters need to bear in mind Samuel
Johnson`s definition, in his

, of “[expletive deleted]”:
“a term of endearment between sailors.”

Personally, I don`t even find Rudolph Giuliani`s
tergiversations (see above) especially distressing.
Needless to say, legislation to ensure that immigration
is not being

perversely subsidized
by the American taxpayer
cannot possibly be regarded as “un-American.”
Indeed, the attempt to keep immigrants from being

“public charges”

is one of the most consistent themes of
American immigration policy. The

Bay Colony
legislated about it in 1639, only 19
years after the Pilgrims landed. At the height of the

last great wave of immigration in the early 1900s,

more than half of the 2 per cent of arrivals sent back
after inspection on Ellis Island were suspected
potential charity cases. American authorities have
always struggled to keep out the


, and

—until now.

But hey, New York was an alien place to most Americans
even before the influx accidentally triggered by the
1965 Immigration Act, which has driven the

foreign-born proportion
of its population to the
current incredible 40 per cent. Anyone attempting to get
elected as a Republican there must be viewed with the
clinical detachment you would bring to studying an
unusually ambitious performing flea.

At least, I should say, I assume the abuse is all
in good fun. I`m indulging in the usual polite fiction
when I say that immigration debaters

abuse. We don`t. As any fair-minded observer must agree,
all the

comes from the immigration enthusiasts, and it
is directed at those of us who think the current system
is less than perfect.

This is not, God knows, because we don`t feel like
hurling abuse back. But the major media are so
pro-immigration that only the most squeaky-clean facts
and logic on our side have any chance of making it

Still, there`s a certain lack of symmetry when one side
in a debate can routinely make charges that would seem
designed to drive their opponents out of public
discourse and even destroy their chances of making a
living if they work in journalism or academe. Is there a
moral equivalent to their charges of xenophobia,

, racism,

, etc.? (Just to select a few from my own

Yes. The morally equivalent charge is this: What the
immigration enthusiasts are doing is, in the last
analysis, treason.


Well, I don`t literally mean they should be arrested and
tried. I mean it in the same warm, cuddly, fun sense in
which they describe us as xenophobes, nativists,
racists, neo-Nazis…and

Treason is defined quite specifically in the U.S.
Constitution (Article III, Section 3): Treason against
the United States shall consist only in levying war
against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving
them aid and comfort. The Founders were specific because
they were aware of the danger of what Oliver North was
later memorably to describe as

“criminalizing policy differences.”

But the Founders did not mean that only armed attack
constituted treason. The Supreme Court, in Cramer,

quoted a definition of treason
as “an act which
weakens or tends to weaken the power of the [United
States] . . .”
Treason required an act and conscious
intent; but not necessarily war.

And this definition of treason must be read in the
context of what the Founders believed they were doing.

preamble to the Constitution
begins: “We, the
People of the United States, in order to form a more
perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic
tranquility, provide for the common defense, and secure
the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our

. . .”
[Italics mine.]

Not posterity in general, note—but the

specific posterity
of those

men who signed that document.
They represented a
full-fledged nation. Newcomers might be assimilated. But
there was no thought that they should transform.

Today, however,

immigration triggered by the 1965 Act
is changing
the U.S. in a way unprecedented in history. The Census

that by 2050, the population will be nearly
400 million, of whom 130 million will be post-1970
immigrants and their descendants—virtually all from
non-traditional sources of U.S. immigration. So by 2050,
the U.S. will be “a place that

George Washington
would not recognize,”
John Hope Franklin
recently gloated to

Duke University freshmen.

There is an obvious and undeniable risk that a country
which in 2050 will be, for example, one-quarter

, must also be, in some degree,

Latin American
in its

and culture. Will it then be

tranquil domestically?
Will the blessings of liberty
be secured?

And do supporters of current immigration policy know and
intend that it will

the United States?

Paradoxically, the political correctness that has
protected immigration enthusiasts for thirty years hurts
them here. It has lulled them into saying some
interesting things:


Or (this just in) how about Clinton-appointed U.S. Civil
Rights Commissioner

Yvonne Lee,
in the May 16


Here Miss Lee openly says that her agenda is to build an
ethnic faction—with taxpayer money to finance it.

Why not? Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo

told Mexican-Americans in 1995
that they were
“Mexicans—Mexicans who live north of the border.”

to allow them to

retain Mexican citizenship
while exerting

influence here.
Washington said nothing.

All these immigration enthusiasts apparently wish, quite
consciously, to end the

U.S. as it existed in 1965.

Does this make them guilty of treason? I don`t think so.
No doubt they truly do not realize the implications of
their position. Once the facts are pointed out, they
will hasten to recant.

Won`t they?