The Speech That Launched An SPLC "Hate" Honor

Peter Brimelow writes: The rapidly-metastasizing Southern Poverty Law Center attack on immigration reformers and other dissenters from contemporary political correctness is finally inspiring me to get around to writing a full response to the SPLC's naming VDARE.COM a "Hate Group" in early 2004.

I've put it off partly because my natural modesty inhibits me from spending twenty minutes listening to my taped November 15 2003 speech in New Orleans to Chronicles Magazine's  John Randolph Society (which apparently triggered this honor). And because, well, doesn't everyone know the SPLC is just a shakedown scam that preys on the elderly, Holocaust-haunted rich?

Anyway—I'm writing! Meanwhile, here's my notorious speech. The late Sam Francis and the historian Roger McGrath were on the platform with me. I spoke last, and very late.

Moderator [Tom Piatak]:  

Last but certainly not least we have Peter Brimelow, who I know helped change my thinking on immigration in the dark days when I subscribed to National Review but had not yet subscribed to Chronicles.  Peter is the author of the excellent Alien Nation, which I think is still the definitive text on immigration reform; a wonderful book on Canadian politics called The Patriot Game, which, although old, is well worth picking up and reading; the editor of the indispensable VDARE.com webzine which is the source for immigration reform on a regular basis; and most recently The Worm in the Apple, about how the teachers unions are destroying education in America.

So without further ado—Peter Brimelow.

Peter: I'll try to give a speech in just 10 seconds, ladies and gentlemen. 

Read Chronicles! Read VDARE.com! [VDARE.COM April 2005 update: DONATE to VDARE.com!]

Is that all right?

Tom Piatak: Encourage your friends to read, too!

Peter: I want to thank Tom—Dr. Fleming—and all the Chroniclers for inviting me here today, and demonstrating their commitment to diversity. 

As you know, the problem with immigrants is that they speak with funny accents and no one can understand them. So if you can't understand me today, please raise a fiery cross, or some other cultural symbol, and I will attempt to assimilate acoustically!

Talking about assimilation, I was very interested in Scott Richert's very provocative talk [PB note: somewhat despairing, not online] this morning. I think diversity is strength, of course, as we all do. [Laughter]. But from an immigrant perspective, I think it's not true to say there was no American identity after the Great Wave of immigration in the 1890s. I think the assimilation process did work.

It may not be obvious when you're in Rockford, and looking at it from the inside out.  But if you come from a remote part of the north of England, as I do, it's pretty obvious that there is an American identity—to the point where you can actually pick Americans out in a crowd in Europe. 

They're fatter, for one thing.

(Sorry about that!)

It needs thinking about—what Scott said there.  The real problem, of course, is that that American identity is now being destroyed. 

As you know, the Communist poet Bertolt Brecht, after the 1953 risings in East Germany, suggested that the Communist government should just dissolve the people and elect a new one.

That's essentially what's happening here. The American government is dissolving the people and electing a new one.

Now, I want to make, in my remaining eight seconds, essentially three points. 

The first is that I think it's critical to make clear that current immigration policy makes absolutely no sense economically. And the evidence for that has accumulated a lot more since I wrote Alien Nation.

It was the consensus then, in the mid 1990s, among labor economists, that the great influx of immigration unleashed by the 1965 Act, and the associated illegal immigration, really didn't benefit the native-born Americans at all.

It did increase GDP. But that mostly went to the immigrants themselves, through wages. On the whole, basically, America is getting nothing out of the immigrant influx. In other words—America is being transformed for nothing.

One of the things that we now know a lot more about than in 1995 was the impact of the welfare state, the transfer state, generally.  That's what's really underpinning the immigrant presence in the U.S. There's a substantial cross-subsidy to immigration from American taxpayers. We know because the National Research Council has now reported that in California this cross-subsidy amounts to over a $1,000 per native-born family per year.  Every native-born family in California spends more than $1,000 in taxes because of illegal presence in the state. 

In other words, not only is America being transformed for nothing—but also Americans are actually having to pay for the privilege.

Now this is a very unusual situation. Almost everybody—I just had this conversation a few minutes ago, here at the John Randolph Club!—will say they don't mind immigrants as long as they pay their own way. Americans, generally, are extraordinarily tolerant of hard-working immigrants. (Like me!)

But that's not what's going on. What's going on is that Americans are paying to have their country transformed.

Another significant development on the economic front is that George Borjas, the Harvard economist, who is also an immigrant, (we're everywhere!) has produced a new study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics on the wage impact. He's been able to demonstrate, by reanalyzing the data, that there's significant impact on the wages of the college educated in this country from the immigrant influx. 

That's very interesting because if it's just a question of displacing black janitors, nobody cares.  But if it's displacing college graduates, well, they're going to complain about it.

So I do think that we're on a downward slope in the immigration debate.  The policy will fall eventually.

Now, the second point I was going make really flows out of what Sam Francis was saying.  There is some sign that the "conservative" Establishment is going through one of their phases of paying more attention to immigration. So we should be thinking now about a series of litmus tests to judge the policies that they propose.

 You know, I don't read National Review, but I do read the email people send me when there's something interesting in it. There was no interest in immigration in National Review from the moment when John O'Sullivan was fired in 1998 really until the Spring of 2002—almost 4 years of no discussion, except for O'Sullivan's own writing, under the terms of his severance. But then they started to discuss it, and they boosted Victor Davis Hanson, and so on.

It didn't happen after September 11; it took another six months.  Apparently, they then got word from Neocon Central that it was ok to discuss immigration. 

I think it has to do with the Muslims. They're going to propose cutting Muslims out of the immigration influx.

So we to have work on a list of litmus tests that we should use to judge this sort of proposal. Here, I'm only going to talk about two of them.

One of the most important litmus test is that we've got to get immigration numbers down – a lot. That means, essentially, a moratorium. Anything less than that is going to be bid up in the legislative negotiating process. Also, trying for marginal reductions causes all kinds of problems. You'll get the current privileged groups quarreling over their share. But if immigration goes down to a net nothing—a gross of only 200,000 a year—it has a great simplicity.  It's going to impact all the groups equally—except, of course, the American people. For them, it just spells relief.

So that's Litmus Test One, a moratorium.  The second test we ought to look at is how (or if) reform proposals attack the illegal community - this tremendous population of illegal aliens in the U.S. 

When Alien Nation came out in 1995, it was reviewed, quite favorably, by Jack Miles in the Atlantic.  But he was very upset because I had raised the specter of a second Operation Wetback. There was a similar illegal immigration crisis in the 1950s that everybody's now forgotten. The Eisenhower Administration ended it. Within six months after it came to power, it threw out a million and a half Mexicans.  And, as I suggested, it could be done again.

Miles said this would lead to warfare in south central Los Angeles. (As opposed to warfare in Baghdad!)  But what that says is that you've lost control of the country—if you can't enforce the law in it. 

So I am serious about deportation. I would actually be interested in stripping citizenship from people who got it fraudulently.

I'm in favor of a sort of negative amnesty…"I have a dream"!

But the most important way to demolish the illegal presence is not deportation, but simply to remove the incentives. The illegal presence is kept here by the substantial transfers of the welfare state. If you cut off those incentives, the illegals will deport themselves.  That has already happened in various areas. In North Carolina, after 9-11, there was a dramatic reduction in the Hispanic population for a while—until they realized nothing was going to be done.

So Litmus Test Two is, how is the illegal alien presence to be eliminated?

And the critical reform is: something has to be done about the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment. That's the principle that an illegal can come here, have a child, and that child is a citizen, a so-called "anchor baby."

That's the single most important test that I suggest you use on anybody who claims to be doing something about illegal immigration.  Are they going to do something about the citizenship clause?

That applies, by the way, to amnesty, too.  It's impossible to have an amnesty unless we can solve this citizen child question, because it means that once these illegals get in here, as a practical matter it is very difficult to throw them out.

The third point I'd like to make about the immigration situation, is: it's going to take time. You have to be patient.

It took 30 years for the last great wave to be cut off—from the founding of the Immigration Restriction League in the 1890s until the cutoff in the 1920s.  It just takes time.

On the other hand, there's no need to despair.

I first met Bill Rusher, the publisher of National Review, in 1975. He was then trying to organize a Third Party to go up against President Ford and the "moderates" who had total control of the Republican Party, sort of like today. After I'd interviewed him, after he ascertained I wasn't a hostile (I was then working for a Canadian paper), he said to me, off the record you know, "I think that all is lost and the red flag will fly over the world."

"But," he said, "we don't give up."  Because first of all, "you never know what is going to turn up." And, secondly, "there are theological injunctions against despair."

Isn't that right, Tom?

And then, you know, within five years, Ronald Reagan was elected. And I don't have the negative view about Reagan that a lot of people here have—possibly because I come from overseas. I think there's a very good chance if it had not been for Reagan, the Soviet Union would still exist, we would still be subsidizing it, and inflation would be goodness knows where.

Anyway, Bill Rusher certainly felt Reagan's election justified his existence! And I agree with him.

The point is that nobody, least of all professional politicians, has the faintest idea what is politically practical over the long run.  By the long run, I mean two or three years.

The politicians are talking about tomorrow. If that. They are entirely focused on the immediate—this minute. They're like blind shrews. They go snuffling around by sense of smell and memory. That's why they can do these 360-degree turns without rupturing their conscience.  They're not aware they've turned around.

And that's what going to happen on the immigration issue.

So those are the three points we've got to remember.

  • First of all, current immigration policy makes no sense economically. And it makes less sense now than it did 10 years ago.

 

  • The second point is that we've got to start thinking about litmus tests.

 

  • And the third point is that it will take time—but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen.  We don't know when it will happen. But it will happen.

To conclude: some of you who have read Alien Nation will remember that the most denounced passage was my reference to my little boy, Alexander, who had then just been born.  There is one single reference in this book to his blue eyes and blond hair. 

It's the most denounced passage in the book—although it's in the entirely legitimate context of the impact of immigration on affirmative action quotas. 

If immigrants are eligible for affirmative action quotas, then it's a zero sum game, and anybody who doesn't belong to one of the "protected classes" that are eligible for preference is going to be squeezed out. So it actually matters to me, as the father of a boy who's manifestly not in one of the "protected classes," how many immigrants there are in the country who fall into these "protected classes."

I thought that was a legitimate question, a reasonable point to make, then. And I think it is now. And I intend to go on making it. 

What we should do, of course, is remove immigrants' eligibility for affirmative action quotas.  They've never been discriminated against. They weren't here. Why should they get preferences?

In any case, Alexander is now 12 and, as some of you will be interested to know, is an enthusiastic Civil War re-enactor. We live in New England, so he goes out with a well-known New England unit: Company D of the 7th Tennessee—Confederate! 

And the result of this is that in the car I have to play a lot of 19th century music, which is a lot better than this stuff out here [PB note: there was a wedding reception in the hotel courtyard drowning us out], I must say.

 I don't know if any of you have listened recently to the words of Sweet Betsy from Pike, which is about the great westward movement of Americans, their conquest of the West.

It's a Chronicles rule that literary intellectuals get to talk about economics but economists don't get to talk about literature.  So I beg Tom's indulgence here. But I do think Sweet Betsy From Pike rises to the level of the Scottish border ballads—from which, of course, it is lineally descended.

It's the story of Betsy and her lover, Ike, who trek to the West.

And the final verse is this:

They crossed the wide prairies, they climbed the high peaks,

They camped in the mountains for weeks upon weeks,

They fought the wild Indians with musket and ball,

They reached California, in spite of it all.

We just have to do it again.