By Thomas Sowell
May 18, 1995,
Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc.
Peter Brimelow may become the Charles Murray of immigration, even if his book "Alien Nation" never sells as many copies as "The Bell Curve." Like Murray, Brimelow has presented a lot of unwelcome facts that lead to even more unwelcome conclusions on an emotionally charged subject.
The taboos against saying a discouraging word about immigration are second only to the taboos surrounding race. In both cases, this not only leads to policies based on false assumptions and emotional rhetoric, it puts an enormous leverage in the hands of racist demagogues, who may seem to be the only people talking straight, instead of in lofty rhapsodies about "diversity."
Brimelow is not a demagogue but neither is he as disciplined in his writing as Charles Murray. Still, he says a lot of important things that you are not likely to hear from other sources.
Where else will you learn that diseases that were virtually extinct in the United States—tuberculosis, leprosy, measles, cholera and malaria—have been reintroduced into this country by immigrants? Where else will you learn that people who just crossed the border are eligible for preferential treatment under affirmative-action policies?
Where else will you learn that refugees stay on welfare longer than either native-born Americans or other kinds of immigrants? Where else will you learn that some immigrants—mostly from Southeast Asia—go on welfare 10 times as often as immigrants from Western European countries like Britain and Germany?
Where else will you learn of the organized criminal activities of Soviet émigrés or immigrants from Nigeria?
Brimelow rejects the notion that it is somehow morally wrong to be selective as to who gets in and restrictive as to how many are let in altogether. In short, he rejects the citizen-of-the-world posture of those who think that borders are arbitrary things that should give way to lofty rhetoric.
Brimelow proceeds from the premise that a society needs bonds to hold it together and that a common culture and even a common race may be part of those bonds. The case that a common culture is necessary is stronger than the case that a common race is necessary. Most Americans do not regard native-born Japanese-Americans or Chinese-Americans as foreign, as shown by high rates of intermarriage of both groups with whites and the fact that neither group is confined to ethnic enclaves any more.
It may be worth noting that a 1992 study that showed blacks being turned down for mortgage loans more often than whites also showed whites being turned down more often than Asians. White hegemony seems to matter less to most Americans than either Brimelow or many liberals think.
That is very different from saying that most Americans want to see this country Balkanized by programs that keep foreigners foreign in the name of "bilingualism" or "multiculturalism." The fact that so many of these programs are fundamentally opposed to the values and traditions of this country makes them all the more dangerous in the hands of people with ideological axes to grind.
Many of these ideologues are native-born middle class and affluent white Americans, using immigrants as mascots to symbolize their countercultural values. Their net effect is to raise both the social and the financial costs of absorbing immigrants, thereby creating more public opposition to immigration.
Neither immigrants nor other mascots of the anointed necessarily benefit from their patronage.
The tragedy and farce of American immigration policy is painfully brought out in "Alien Nation." Nothing that would be effective in securing our borders is acceptable to the ideologues or to the media pundits whom they have either captured or morally intimidated into silence.
The negative facts that Brimelow brings out against immigration are, of course, not the only facts that matter. However, there is little danger that the positive contributions of immigrants will be overlooked in the present atmosphere where "diversity" has become a magic word that is supposed to trump all arguments.
We need a real debate about immigration based on fact and logic. Professor Julian Simon of the University of Maryland would be the best advocate of a pro-immigration policy. Brimelow's "Alien Nation" makes him a top choice for the contrary position.
Can the television networks find time for a serious debate on this subject, in between the sitcoms and the O.J. Simpson trial?