Migration World Magazine, May-June 1995
Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster.
© Center for Migration Studies of New York Inc. 1995
Immigration will undoubtedly be a key issue in the presidential elections next year, just as the issue was pivotal in the last gubernatorial elections in California. As if on cue, Peter Brimelow, a senior editor of Forbes magazine and the National Review, has written a new book that is sure to become the Bible for hardliners on immigration.
While Brimelow is politically conservative, not all his fellow conservatives share his intense antagonism toward U.S. immigration policy In Alien Nation, Brimelow treats pro-immigration conservatives tolerantly, giving them the equivalent of a tap on the wrist for their misstep. His venom is reserved for the liberal "immigration enthusiasts," blaming them for what he predicts will be the fall of the Republic.
The book's incendiary tone and the author's highly personal and contentious tone may well turn off many reasonable readers. However, despite all the fire and brimstone and the apocalyptic predictions, Brimelow makes some valid points and even offers some sensible solutions.
Brimelow expresses his outrage by casting himself as a modern day Thomas Paine, the Revolutionary War era author of Common Sense An Englishman by birth, now a U.S. citizen, Brimelow warns that the very survival of America rests on stopping the flow of immigrants. He points out that the ride of immigrants is at an historic high - some 2 million legal and illegal immigrants enter the country each year. In a bit of a stretch of reason, Brimelow blames much of what is wrong with America today on immigrants. Immigrants, argues Brimelow, are responsible for: crime, crowded schools, jails and hospitals, and swelling welfare mils. So dire is the situation that the likely result, says Brimelow, that "the snuffing out of the American nation, like a candle in a gale."
The villain, says Brimelow, was the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which reversed the severe restrictions imposed by the Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924. The 1965 law eliminated the principle of preference for northern and western Europeans, allowing all countries to contribute to a maximum number of immigrants; another provision gave the highest priority within each country to family reunification. This, Brimelow says, established a "chain letter effect, ultimately ramifying far beyond the original immigrant." Brimelow argues that the 1965 act was a terrible turn in the nation's history, with monumental and deleterious effects on the nation's economy and society.
Brimelow offers "some quick suggestions" for getting America back on track Among Brimelow's suggestions:
* Defend the border by increasing the size of the Border Patrol from 4,000 to 8,000. He advises sealing the 100 miles along the Mexican border where 90% of apprehensions are made, with a fence or a ditch.
* Increase the INS Investigations Division.
* Institute an Operation Wetback similar to a 1954 program that sent more than 1 million illegal Mexicans back to their homeland.
* Eliminate all amnesty programs - regardless of circumstances.
* Establish national identity card.
* Favor skilled immigration over family reunification.
* Drastic cutback of legal immigration, including reunification and other special categories.
* Eliminate payments to illegal immigrants, including that implicit in public education.
Few would argue that the immigration laws need fixing. Even House majority leader, Dick Armey has called for "a more orderly" policy and some of Brimelow's proposed quick fixes are indeed already being considered in Congress. However, a number of Brimelow's suggestions would turn back to pages in history that are better left untouched.
Foremost among these is establishing another Operation Wetback, which he suggests should be conducted as a coordinated effort by all levels of government, including the IlLS and HUD. Yet, the original Operation Wetback was so reviled that repeating it (particularly in light of the fact that Los Angeles, for example, is 40% Hispanic) could well result in mass dots. The economic and social repercussions of another Operation Wetback would most certainly outweigh any benefits gained. If Brimelow has thought through preventing such civil strife, he does not include this in Alien Nation.
As a financial journalist, Brimelow has done an excellent job of mustering up and analyzing statistics. And, he has done his homework when it comes to reporting the history of immigration legislation. Some of his original reporting is entertaining, while scoring some points with immigration opponents and possibly inciting some readers. Consider Brimelow's request to emigrate to China, which is among the top five countries in number of immigrants to the United States. A surprised Chinese official responds to the request: "China does not accept any immigrants. We have a large enough population."
Even granting Brimelow the luxury of indulging in incendiary rhetoric, however, there is a flaw in Alien Nation Brimelow does not give America due credit He fails to acknowledge that reshaping America to fit his ideological mold would, in fact, destroy what has made America unique.