It`s happened to me maybe a dozen times since I published Alien Nation in 1995: at some conservative gathering in Washington or New York, a well-known figure in the movement takes me aside and, glancing around to make sure no-one from The Wall Street Journal Edit Page is watching, hisses:
"I agree with you about immigration!"
Then he (or she - really true, in this case) scuttles off.
I don`t blame them for being cautious ... well, not much. It`s hard enough for conservatives to get published in the national media. And the few outlets that are available to them take a notoriously uncollegial view of anyone who questions the immigration enthusiast orthodoxy.
Actually, considering the reign of terror, it`s surprising how many established conservatives have quietly spoken out. That`s why we recently linked to an article http://www.hudson.org/American_Outlook/articles_nov-dec_00/reynolds.htm by Alan Reynolds, one of the architects of the Reagan supply-side revolution, now at the Hudson Institute http://www.hudson.org/. Reynolds takes the moderate position that immigration can be a good thing - but the current policy isn`t. (Another article by Reynolds, on Texas, health insurance and immigration, is at /reynolds_texas_kid.htm).
The most dramatic evidence yet of intelligent life within the conservative establishment: the December issue of American Enterprise magazine http://www.theamericanenterprise.org/taedec00.htm, published by the Washington D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute. It`s an immigration special issue with a really critical cast. Note especially the debate on assimilation http://www.theamericanenterprise.org/taedec00b.htm between John Fonte and Michael Barone (who continues to show NO SIGN OF HAVING READ ALIEN NATION or any other critique of immigration, alas). Editor Karl Zinmeister`s lucid summary http://www.theamericanenterprise.org/taedec00a.htm is studiedly moderate ("Currently, my wife and I are helping settle a Sudanese family of six in our hometown through a church refugee program") but nevertheless makes it crystal clear that the current policy is broke and needs fixing.
Ideas do have consequences, and it`s possible that we may be pleasantly surprised by the new Republican Congress`s attitude to immigration. Some time ago, TV pundit John McLaughlin publicly predicted that immigration reform would be passed in the second year of the Gore Administration.
I`ll believe it when my conservative friends stop hissing in my ear.
November 22, 2000