Two Years After 9/11, Time For An Immigration Reform Litmus Test

Two years later, it can be said of the dead of 9/11, in the words quoted at every family gathering when I was a child in the 1950s, with the ghosts of two World Wars silently looking on

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

In those two years that have elapsed since the event that was supposed to have Changed Everything, change has indeed been dramatic in some areas. But it is virtually non-existent in others.

Most dramatically, the U.S. has, in effect, acquired two colonies in the Middle East, along with what increasingly appear to be two colonial wars. But, whatever the wisdom of this policy – VDARE.COM is neutral, our syndicated columnists are divided pro and con – it is quite obvious that the Bush Administration has refused to respond to the point that we made immediately after the terrorist attack: "IT'S THE IMMIGRATION, STUPID!"

Yet without sweeping immigration reform, any War on Terrorism can be at best an F-14 with only one wing.

Indeed, the Bush Administration seems determined not merely to ignore, but actually to insult, immigration reformers. Thus the Miami Herald's Frank Davies has just (September 9) reported that "the new top U.S. diplomat for Latin America, Roger Noriega" says that, in U.S.-Mexico relations, "we need to focus more on immigration," Bush-speak for amnestying illegals. And – wait for it – Noriega is himself "the grandson of undocumented Mexican immigrants."

Ambassador Noriega is thus well qualified to twist Vicente Fox's arm about illegal immigration—or at least lick his cowboy boots.

For at least six months after 9/11, well into the spring of 2002, immigration enthusiasts like Tamar Jacoby were congratulating themselves that they had dodged the immigration reform bullet. The instant popular demand for it appeared once again to have been frustrated. One ever-politic bellwether: National Review, which had all but nominally abandoned immigration reform after 1997 when Bill Buckley secretly fired John O'Sullivan, continued to publish vitriolic attacks on those of us (me) who had crafted its original line and to curry Beltway favor by featuring open-borders loonies like the Cato Institute's Dan Griswold.

But at least in the little world of "conservative" journalism, this has finally changed.

Quite why is one of those curious things. It happened too late to be directly related to 9/11. Maybe it was Michelle Malkin's book Invasion, with its tight, hard-to-smear focus on the flawed U.S. admissions process, a best-seller despite being reviewed by no major newspapers when it was released last fall. Or maybe it occurred to someone that declaring World War IV on the Muslim world might also require restricting Muslim immigration.

The Hudson Institute's John Fonte has now discerned what he calls a "second thoughts" group of "conservative intellectuals and activists," newly interested in immigration reform, inspired especially by Victor David Hanson's recent book on illegal immigration, Mexifornia. (Commercial message: I will be commenting on this book soon in The American Conservative.)

As befits a regular National Review contributor a.k.a. Buckley courtier, Fonte says tactfully that what he calls "the first-wave debate" just somehow "faded in the late '90s."

Us first-wave veterans who were "faded" from our respective publications – I'd include here Scott McConnell and Sam Francis – would have to be made of stone not to view this Second Thoughts group with a certain, well, wryness.

Indeed, although I've never discussed it with him, I've always felt that even the saintly Sam, first in the field of immigration reform along with his Chronicles Magazine colleagues, yielded a little to this temptation when he reviewed my Alien Nation in—those were the days!—National Review.

But for Christians, jealousy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. So I want here to put on record that I thought Rich Lowry's recent columns on the impact of immigration on the poor and on why California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger should run on Proposition 187 were very good.

We might even have considered publishing them in VDARE.COM, if we hadn't covered the ground before.

And who cares about that? For an idea to become policy, it must spread from radicals to moderates, from the fringe to the center, from the original to the orthodox. Whatever. Only when the idea is thoroughly ventilated will professional politicians even begin to consider it.

We all need each other, I like to think in my collegial way.

Jealousy is one thing, however. Uncritical acceptance is another. Because the motives of the late-comers are significantly different, there is a constant danger that so too may be the outcome of any policies they promote.

Just look what happened to poor Mark Krikorian of the Center For Immigration Studies this year when he awarded his Eugene Katz journalism prize for "excellence in the coverage of immigration" to National Review's Joel Mowbray because of his coverage of the Saudi visa scandal.

At the May 30 ceremony, Mowbray was said to have been "unexpectedly sent on assignment in Israel." So the award was accepted on his behalf by the notorious NR immigration enthusiast John J. Miller. And Miller read out an email from Mowbray explicitly disassociating himself from the cause of immigration reform. ("It's ironic that I'm getting an award from a group who has a principal focus on reducing immigration levels. Though I think very highly of CIS, I do not agree on the key question of immigration levels.")

We regularly tease Mark Krikorian because of his amiable attempts to triangulate his way into respectability at the expense of VDARE.COM and other immigration reformers. But he did not deserve this public humiliation.

Nor did the immigration reform movement deserve to lose one of its few public platforms.

My advice to Mark: next year, give the Katz Award to Sam Francis.

You can count on Sam! [email your vote to the Center For Immigration Studies.] 

At any rate, at this (relatively) happy juncture in immigration reform history, it's time to consider what litmus tests to apply to immigration-reformers-come-lately. 

I'll suggest a few in my next article.