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Old 11-08-2009, 12:34 PM
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Jeanfromfillmore Jeanfromfillmore is offline
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economy of inexpensive, off-the-books illegal-alien labor again are not so apparent.
But the downside surely is apparent. Truck drivers, carpenters, janitors, and gardeners— unlike lawyers, doctors, actors, writers, and professors—correctly feel that their jobs are threatened, or at least their wages lowered, by cheaper rival workers from Oaxaca or Jalisco. And Americans who live in communities where thousands of illegal aliens have arrived en masse more likely lack the money to move when Spanish-speaking students flood the schools and gangs proliferate. Poorer Americans of all ethnic backgrounds take for granted that poverty provides no exemption from mastering English, so they wonder why the same is not true for incoming Mexican nationals. Less than a mile from my home is a former farmhouse whose new owner moved in several stationary Winnebagos, propane tanks, and outdoor cooking facilities—and apparently four or five entire families rent such facilities right outside his back door. Dozens live where a single family used to—a common sight in rural California that reifies illegal immigration in a way that books and essays do not.
The problem with all this is that our now-spurned laws were originally intended to ensure an (admittedly thin) veneer of civilization over innate chaos—roads full of drivers who have passed a minimum test to ensure that they are not a threat to others; single-family residence zoning to ensure that there are adequate sewer, garbage, and water services for all; periodic county inspections to ensure that untethered dogs are licensed and free of disease and that housing is wired and plumbed properly to prevent mayhem; and a consensus on school taxes to ensure that there are enough teachers and classrooms for such sudden spikes in student populations.

All these now-neglected or forgotten rules proved costly to the taxpayer. In my own experience, the slow progress made in rural California since the 1950s of my youth—in which the county inspected our farm’s rural dwellings, eliminated the once-ubiquitous rural outhouse, shut down substandard housing, and fined violators in hopes of providing a uniform humane standard of residence for all rural residents—has been abandoned in just a few years of laissez-faire policy toward illegal aliens. My own neighborhood is reverting to conditions common about 1950, but with the insult of far higher tax rates added to the injury of nonexistent enforcement of once-comprehensive statutes. The government’s attitude at all levels is to punish the dutiful citizen’s misdemeanors while ignoring the alien’s felony, on the logic that the former will at least comply while the latter either cannot or will not.

Fairness about who is allowed into the United States is another issue that reflects class divides—especially when almost 70 percent of all immigrants, legal and illegal, arrive from Mexico alone. Asians, for example, are puzzled as to why their relatives wait years for official approval to enter the United States, while Mexican nationals come across the border illegally, counting on serial amnesties to obtain citizenship.

These class divisions cut both ways, and they help explain the anomaly of the Wall Street Journal op-ed page mandarins echoing the arguments of the elite Chicano studies professors. Both tend to ridicule the far less affluent Minutemen and English-only activists, in part because they do not experience firsthand the problems associated with illegal immigration but instead find millions of aliens grist for their own contrasting agendas. Indeed, every time an alien crosses the border legally, fluent in English and with a high school diploma, the La Raza industry and the corporate farm or construction company alike most likely lose a constituent.

The ripples of September 11—whether seen in the arrests of dozens of potential saboteurs here in America or the terrorist bombings abroad in Madrid and London—remind Americans that their present enemies can do us harm only if they can first somehow enter the United States. Again, it makes little sense to screen tourists, inspect cargo containers, and check the passenger lists of incoming flights, when our border with an untrustworthy Mexico remains porous. While it may be true that the opponents of illegal immigration have used the post–September 11 fear of terrorism to further their own agenda of closing the border with Mexico, they are absolutely correct that presently the best way for jihadist cells to cross into the United States is overland from the south.

Other foreign developments have also steered the debate ever more rightward. In the last decade, the United States has clearly seen the wages of sectarianism and ethnic chauvinism abroad. The unraveling of Yugoslavia into Croatian, Serbian, and Albanian sects followed the Hutu-Tutsi bloodbath in Rwanda. And now almost daily we hear of Pashtun-Tajik-Uzbek hatred among the multiplicity of warring clans in Afghanistan and the daily mayhem among Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis in Iraq. Why—when we are spending blood and treasure abroad to encourage the melting pot and national unity—would anyone wish to contribute to tribalism or foster the roots of such ethnic separatism here in the United States?

Moreover, all during the 1990s, blue-state America offered up the European Union as the proper postmodern antidote to the United States. But just as we have recoiled from the EU’s statist and undemocratic tendencies—which have resulted in popular dissatisfaction, sluggish economic growth, high unemployment, falling demography, and unsustainable entitlement commitments—so, too, have its unassimilated Muslim minorities served as another canary in the mine. The riots in France, the support for jihadism among Pakistanis in London, and the demands of Islamists in Scandinavia, Germany, and the Netherlands do not encourage Americans to let in more poor Mexican illegal immigrants with loud agendas, or to embrace the multicultural salad bowl over their own distinctive melting pot.

Then there were the April–May 2006 demonstrations here in the United States, when nearly half a million protesters took to the streets of our largest cities, from Chicago to Los Angeles. Previously, naive Americans had considered that their own discussions over border security and immigration were in their own hands. And while Chicano-rights organizations and employer lobbyists were often vehement in their efforts to keep the border open, illegal aliens themselves used to be mostly quiet about our internal legal debates.

In contrast, this spring Americans witnessed millions of illegal aliens who not only were unapologetic about their illegal status but were demanding that their hosts accommodate their own political grievances, from providing driver’s licenses to full amnesty. The
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