Another controversial question of great political interest concerns immigrants' use of public services and benefits. Immigrant households are somewhat more likely to use welfare (AFDC and SSI) than native ones. Although this differential is small (7.5% of natives, 8.7% of immigrants), it increased during the 1980s as immigrant utilization rates grew and native rates declined. And in a very recent survey, immigrants self-report much higher utilization rates.(105) A number of earlier studies had found that if one controls for socioeconomic variables, immigrants were less likely than otherwise demographically similar natives to receive AFDC and SSI.(106) A very recent study using 1990 data indicates that this pattern of lower immigrant welfare utilization continues to be true for AFDC but not for SSI.(107) Immigrants now receive SSI at higher rates than demographically similar natives, a development that has generated strong public and congressional reaction.(108) Like the growing relative quality gap discussed earlier, the higher immigrant utilization of SSI is mostly due to the very large Mexican cohort and to the Asian refugee cohort, whose utilization rates more than doubled during the 1980s.(109)
A number of studies have attempted to determine whether immigrants on balance benefit or burden the U.S. economy. Brimelow, citing a highly disputed analysis by Donald Huddle(110) and a puzzling "back-of-the-envelope" estimate by Borjas, obviously thinks that the burdens predominate.(111) Urban Institute researchers Jeffrey Passel and Rebecca Clark recently reviewed the estimates made by Huddle and by state and local governments seeking reimbursement of immigration-related costs from the federal government.(112) Passel and Clark severely criticize these estimates for systematically understating tax collections from immigrants; overstating service costs for immigrants; failing to take account of the economic value generated by immigrant entrepreneurs and immigrant consumer spending; overstating job displacement impacts; overstating the size of the immigrant population, especially illegals; and ignoring the fact that natives also use more in services than they pay in taxes.(113) In particular, they find that Huddle underestimates the taxes paid by immigrants by $50 billion!(114) Correcting this error alone, Passel and Clark argue, would defeat the claim that immigrants cost more than they contribute. Indeed, they estimate that the post-1970 immigrants—legal, amnestied, and undocumented—generate a surplus of $27.4 billion a year, not including nontax economic benefits.(115)
The large gap between these estimates reflects some quite technical methodological judgments by researchers. It would be foolish to allow immigration policy to turn on such judgments, especially since neither Huddle's cost estimate nor Passel and Clark's benefit estimate would count for much in a $7 trillion economy. Even so, there is no denying the political significance of these numbers: Public attitudes toward immigration are less favorable to the extent that immigrants are perceived to impose even small burdens on the economy and on taxpayers. Recent congressional actions confirm a strong consensus that immigrants (or their sponsors) should at least pay for themselves.(116)
The fourth claim—that post-1965 immigrants may displace many African-American workers(117)—might seem almost self-evidently true. After all, low-skilled immigrants and low-skilled blacks would appear to compete for a shrinking number of low-skill jobs. The terms of this competition, moreover, often favor even non-English speaking immigrants, especially illegals. Immigrants are accustomed to, and may accept, lower wages, and many employers perceive them to be more reliable, hard-working, and docile than native black workers.(118)
Much depends on the extent to which immigrant labor is a substitute for or a complement to native labor. If immigrant labor is a substitute, immigrants would increase unemployment among blacks (who unlike unsuccessful immigrants have no other home to which to return) and would, other things being equal, drive down wage levels for those blacks who are hired. Such effects would be consistent with studies indicating that real wages have declined for low-skill workers during much of the post-1965 period, and especially with studies concluding that recent immigration has contributed to the widening earnings gap between high-skill and low-skill workers.(119) But to the extent that immigrant labor instead complements native labor, immigrant labor would increase job opportunities for natives, including blacks. This increase might occur if immigrants fill labor niches that native workers are abandoning or if immigrants develop new entrepreneurial enclaves. There is evidence that both of these possibilities often occur.(120) Indeed, during the 1980s, immigrant groups seem to have competed more with each other than they did with native workers.(121)
Empirical studies have consistently failed to establish significant immigration-induced harm to native black workers.(122) Nevertheless, various methodological limitations of those studies, as well as subsequent changes in economic and immigration factors, mean that such effects cannot be ruled out.(123) The harmful effects, if any, appear to be much too small to justify a radical change in immigration policy on this ground alone.
IV. Cultural Assimilation
Brimelow suggests that the post-1965 immigrants bear, and presumably transmit to their children, different and less attractive values than did the earlier waves of immigrants.(124) Although he is not clear precisely which values he has in mind, he presumably prefers those that most other people admire—honesty, industry, family stability, morality, education, optimism about the future, and respect for law and legitimate authority.(125) And although he is a bit vague about the indicia of the decline in immigrants' moral values, he does mention three areas of particular concern: crime, limited English proficiency (particularly among Hispanics), and high illegitimacy rates (particularly among Mexican-Americans).(126) Each of these three areas is certainly worth worrying about. Immigrant crime may be even worse than he suggests, and his concern about illegitimacy rates, at least among some immigrant groups, is warranted. On the other hand, his conclusions about limited English proficiency are exaggerated, and he fails to discuss the risk of second-generation attraction to underclass culture, which in the long run may be the most serious cultural problem of all. I discuss each of these areas in turn.
The incidence of immigrant crime is significant, if only because the number of immigrants is large. Most immigrant crime is drug-related.(127) Although the number of criminal aliens under law enforcement supervision in the United States is impossible to establish precisely, it has increased approximately ten-fold since 1980, imposing substantial costs of arrest, detention, and deportation. A 1993 congressional study estimated that 450,000 deportable criminal aliens were either incarcerated, on parole, or on probation in federal, state, and local jurisdictions.(128) A more conservative compilation of various federal and state estimates suggests that at least 270,000 deportable aliens are under criminal justice supervision.(129) Newly convicted aliens, of course, constantly replenish and enlarge this population. Illegals account for over half of the deportable aliens in state prisons.(130) Quite apart from other law enforcement costs, the costs of incarcerating alien criminals are high. The operating cost alone of a prisoner-year in federal prisons was estimated in early 1994 to be about $19,000.(131) If this cost were applied to the 100,000 deportable criminal aliens imprisoned in federal, state, and local facilities,(132) it would mean nearly $2 billion in annual incarceration costs.
Although the systematic data on point are somewhat dated, legal immigrants do not appear to commit any more crime than demographically similar Americans; they may even commit less, and that crime may be less serious.(133) Nor does today's immigrant crime appear to be worse than in earlier eras. The immigrants who flooded American cities around the turn of the century (the ancestors of many of today's Americans) were also excoriated as congenitally vicious and unusually crime-prone, not only by the public opinion of the day but also by the Dillingham Commission, which Congress established to report on the need for immigration restrictions.(134) The evidence
suggests that those claims were false then, and similar claims appear to be false now.(135)
These historical and demographic points, however, are largely irrelevant to the contemporary political debate, which is concerned with the here and now. Media reports about criminal activity by Asian street gangs,(136) Latin American drug lords,(137) Islamic terrorists,(138) and Russian mafiosi(139) are profoundly disturbing to the American public and surely fuel restrictionist sentiment. In its concern about immigrant crime, as in other respects, the public often fails to differentiate between legal and illegal aliens.
Two abysmal policy lapses of the federal government have aggravated this political response. First, the government has failed to police the border and the interior effectively against illegal aliens, some of whom commit crimes after entry. Second, the government has failed to expel those legal and illegal immigrants who have been convicted of deportable offenses in the United States and who are already in governmental custody. The INS succeeded in deporting 31,000 criminal aliens in 1995,(140) approximately five times as many as it deported in 1989,(141) but this still amounts to just over 10% of the deportable aliens under criminal justice supervision. The federal government is now addressing both of these problems. The Border Patrol has been rapidly expanded(142) and is implementing some new enforcement techniques.(143) The INS, spurred by state and congressional pressures, is finally taking active steps to expedite the removal of criminal aliens; through a combination of new funds and special efforts, the agency hopes to deport 58,000 criminal aliens in 1996.(144) Increased efforts by the Border Patrol, however, have been unsuccessful in the past.(145) The effectiveness of the new campaign, therefore, remains to be seen. Most recently, the Clinton administration proposed to bar companies that violate the immigration laws from receiving federal contracts.(146)
B. English Language
On the question of immigrants' acquisition of English-language proficiency, however, Brimelow stands on weaker ground. To be sure, he is correct that English proficiency is a precondition to full participation in the economic, political, and cultural aspects of American society. A recent four-country empirical study confirms the conventional wisdom: Dominant-language fluency is highly correlated with labor market returns, especially in the United States.(147) Dominant-language fluency is also important, even if not essential, to immigrants' full participation in the political process, which, despite some legal requirements for minority-language voting materials, is still conducted largely in English.
Brimelow refers to census data indicating that 47% of the U.S. foreign-born population does not speak English "very well" or "at all" and that 71% of foreign-born Mexicans report not speaking it "very well."(148) English fluency is probably the most important step to, and index of, full integration and participation in American society. It would indeed be a disturbing danger signal, and an augury of further linguistic fragmentation, if newcomers were not learning English at an acceptable rate. In any event, the American public is manifestly unwilling to accept this risk.(149)
Brimelow's figures, however, actually tell us little about the prospects for the linguistic assimilation of post-1965 immigrants, much less about how the new immigrants' progress compares to that of their predecessors. The reason is that those figures fail to distinguish between the first and second generations. Yet Americans hold the first generation to a much lower assimilation standard than that to which they hold succeeding ones.(150)
Brimelow overlooks the historical reality that first-generation immigrants have always been slow to acquire good English proficiency. This phenomenon is especially common if they arrived as adults, arrived recently, think that they are likely to return, are refugees rather than economic or family migrants, had little earlier exposure to English, had little schooling, or live in a minority-language enclave.(151) The post-1965 immigrants exhibit some of these variables more than earlier ones did, while exhibiting other variables less. Even as to first-generation immigrants, however, English use appears to be quite high.(152)
It is the English fluency of the second generation—those born in the United States or brought here as small children by foreign-born parents—that is critical to immigrants' integration and to society's cultural coherence. A recent analysis by Portes and Schauffler summarizes the historical pattern:
In the past, almost every first generation's loyalty to their ancestral
language has given way to an overwhelming preference for English
among their children....
... [I]n no other country have foreign languages been
extinguished with such speed. In the past, the typical pattern has been
for the first generation to learn enough English to survive
economically; the second generation continued to speak the parental
tongue at home, but English in school, at work and in public life; by
the third generation, the home language shifted to English, which
effectively became the mother tongue for subsequent generations.
This pattern has held true for all immigrant groups in the past
with the exception of some isolated minorities.(153)
Powerful evidence of the second generation's continued progress in mastering English appears in Portes and Schauffler's recent empirical study of English-language proficiency among eighth- and ninth-grade second-generation students from many Caribbean, Latino, and Asian nationality groups in the Miami area, which has a larger proportion of foreign-born residents than any other American city. According to their data, gathered in 1992, fully 99% of the students reported that they spoke, understood, read, and wrote English "very well" or "well"; only 1% knew little or no English.(154) Time in the United States and ethnic-enclave residency were the most important independent variables; parental education and occupational and class status were unimportant. Moreover, the children's preference for daily communication in English over their parental language was overwhelming—even among recent arrivals, and especially among those living in communities in which the parental language was dominant.(155) The evidence on post-1965 immigrants' English fluency, then, belies Brimelow's animadversions, at least as far as the crucial second generation is concerned.(156)
In contrast, his concern about the high illegitimacy rates among some immigrant groups is amply warranted. He approvingly cites Michael Lind to the effect that "Hispanic 'family values' are another immigration enthusiast's myth—Mexican-American out-of-wedlock births, for example, are more than twice the white rate, at 28.9 percent."(157) Other evidence suggests that Mexican, Latin American, and Caribbean immigrant nonmarital fertility rates are much higher than those for immigrants from Asia and Europe.(158)
If such rates accurately indicate the incidence of children growing up in single-parent families, the rates would herald bleak life prospects for those children and hence for the quality of American life more generally. To those who would extenuate high alien illegitimacy on the ground that illegitimacy among black Americans is far higher and illegitimacy among white Americans is rising precipitously, Brimelow offers a compelling rejoinder: "[What's the point of immigrants who are no better than we are?"(159)
Immigrants' cultural impact on American society, however, is a function both of the values that they bring with them to the United States and of those that they acquire here as they rub shoulders with Americans. Although Brimelow focuses entirely on the former, the latter are probably more important in the long run. Some evidence on what happens to immigrants' behavior and values as they rub shoulders with Americans is profoundly disturbing. Illegitimacy rates for some immigrant groups—for example, Caribbean immigrants, who tend to live closest to inner-city native minority populations with high illegitimacy rates—seem to increase the longer they are in the United States.(160) According to a recent study by demographer Frank Bean,(161) divorce rates, a subject that Brimelow fails to mention, reinforce this pattern. The study indicates that Hispanics, most of whom are Mexicans, exhibit lower divorce rates in their countries of origin than demographically similar U.S. natives do. Divorce rates rise, however, among the second generation here, and by the third generation, divorce rates are equal to those of U.S. natives.(162)
Recent research on second-generation immigrants suggests that these examples may simply illustrate a more general dynamic of cultural transfer. In this pattern, first- and second-generation immigrants, particularly second-generation children, are inducted into American subcultures that transmit some of that subculture's social pathologies to the newcomers. In this way, dysfunctional behavior that is relatively rare in the country of origin may, with exposure to that subculture, become more common among immigrant children to mimic the American norm.
Some sociologists of immigration, notably Alejandro Portes, describe this as a downward or "segmented" assimilation process.(163) Most new immigrants locate in areas that bring their children disproportionately into close contact with native minorities. Many of these natives, who may be the children and grandchildren of immigrants unable to escape from the inner city, suffer from prejudice, disadvantage, joblessness, and a variety of social pathologies that foster a cluster of self-defeating attitudes and behaviors, including negative views of education that contrast sharply with the optimism and socially adaptive strategies that immigrants usually bring with them and seek to transmit to their children. These natives, enraged and defeated by their blocked mobility, can powerfully influence—and contaminate—the values of the new immigrants' children, especially in the shared school environment. Portes starkly depicts the problem:
The confrontation with the culture of the inner-city places second
generation youth in a forced-choice dilemma: to remain loyal to their
parents' outlook and mobility aspirations means to face social
ostracism and attacks in schools; to become "American" means often
to adopt the cultural outlook of the underclass and thus abandon any
upward mobility expectations based on individual achievement.(164)
In this context, Portes says, the best option for today's first generation may be to join dense immigrant communities where their children (the second generation) can "capitaliz[e] on the moral and material resources that only these communities can make available."(165) There the children may gain the breathing space and support they need to develop the skills that can move them securely into the American mainstream.(166) But if they fail to develop these skills, the children may succumb to the adversarial culture that surrounds, and insidiously penetrates, the immigrant enclave and may turn for solace to a negatively reconstituted ethnic culture that widens the differences between the second generation and their native counterparts.(167)
For our sake and the sake of the new immigrants, we must pray that they can enable their children to resist these seductions. If the new immigrants succeed in doing so, their children—like most (though not all) second generations have in the past—will in all likelihood enter the mainstream of American society, and Brimelow will have no cause for complaint. If the children fail, however, their future—and ours—may be even bleaker than Brimelow imagines. Although he does not discuss this possibility or the second-generation problem more generally, his argument clearly implies that the risk of failure is one that America can and should avoid either by eliminating immigration altogether or by limiting it to groups that are already so successful when they arrive that their children are relatively invulnerable to the blandishments of underclass culture.
Brimelow believes that the post-1965 immigration is already sapping the strength of the American political system. Some of his fears—for example, irredentist movements by Mexican immigrants to reunite the Southwest with Mexico and Mexican revanchism seeking to manipulate the continuing allegiance of Mexican-Americans(168)—are fatuous and even insulting in their depiction of the latter as pawns whose disloyalty Mexico City could successfully exploit. He warns that neither major party can count on being helped electorally by immigration and that continuing our current proimmigration policies may spark a voter revolt that could strengthen an already budding third-party movement.(169) The Democrats and Republicans, of course, well understand this: Both the Clinton administration and the Republican majority in Congress are supporting reforms that, while different in some respects, would significantly restrict and restructure legal immigration.(170)
The political specter that haunts him most darkly, however, is balkanization(171) The fragmentation of nation-states, both real or imagined,(172) into ethnic shards—a process observed in Lebanon, the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, many African states, and perhaps even Canada—has become a leitmotif of the post-Cold War world. This unraveling of political authority, often accompanied by massive human rights violations, brutal warfare, economic immiseration, and suppression of political and religious dissent, is an exceedingly dangerous development.
Could it happen here? Brimelow and many other Americans think so, and they believe that post- 1965 immigration has increased the odds. Brimelow cites programs or cultural altitudes that create incentives for groups to exaggerate their differences, and he denounces the "New Class," which, he claims, wants to devolve the nation-state into ethnic tribes or to transcend the nation-state in the name of universal human rights.(173)
He mentions five specific policies that are effecting "the deconstruction of the American nation as it existed in 1965."(174) The first, of course, is the policy of immigration itself(175) But how could the mere fact of immigration, even racially heterogeneous immigration, threaten national unity? After all, most of those who have chosen America presumably identify at least as strongly with its ideals and institutions as those who just happened to be born here. Especially in the first generation, many might continue to identify strongly with their country or culture of origin, but that was also true of the Germans, the Irish, the Jews, and even Brimelow's own group, the English.(176) Brimelow does not show that the new immigrants are somehow less patriotic than earlier ones or than native-born Americans are today. (Recall that he himself is a recent immigrant swiftly transformed into a flag-waving American). Indeed, new evidence suggests the contrary.(177)
He mentions four other balkanizing policies: bilingualism, multiculturalism, affirmative action, and a "systematic attack on the value of citizenship."(178) Unfortunately, he fails to provide any clear definitions, useful distinctions, or other analysis for the genuinely thoughtful, open-minded reader. Nevertheless, I believe that he is right to worry that these policies are weakening our coherence as a polity.(179) In seeking to use these policies to discredit immigration, however, Brimelow poses a seductive but perniciously false choice. Immigration may have encouraged the adoption of such policies, but it does not require them; we can reject them and still have immigration. If they are misguided policies, as in some respects they are, we can and should reform or repeal them without holding immigration hostage. We must instead evaluate immigration on its own merits. Brimelow might resist such a separation, of course, arguing that immigration by groups other than white "Anglo-Saxons" assures that the United States will maintain such policies, even if they prove to be perverse. I have more confidence, however, in the responsiveness and corrigibility of the American policymaking process. Recent reactions against the more extreme versions of these misguided policies are already taking hold, and I believe that my confidence will ultimately prove justified.
Bilingualism. I noted earlier that the crucial second generation of new immigrants seems to be acquiring both competence in and a preference for English, much as their predecessors did.(180) Still, it would be most imprudent to ignore the danger signals raised by evidence suggesting that government-sponsored bilingual education programs have subordinated pedagogical goals, such as improving student performance in school by facilitating rapid English fluency, to the ideological purpose of strengthening the child's identification with her presumed ethnic culture.(181) In my view, ethnic cultural retention is a perfectly appropriate goal when pursued privately by parents and without public aid or interference, but it has no place in the governmental agenda of a society as pluralistic and liberal as ours. Most disturbing of all are recurring indications that this deformation of bilingual education may actually retard the English fluency, the educational progress, and hence the assimilation prospects of already disadvantaged immigrant children.(182) My present point, however, is that we can and should reform bilingual education without abandoning immigration.(183)
Multiculturalism. Multiculturalism can take many forms, with vastly different social consequences. A limited multicultural policy affirms the social value of diverse cultural traditions and practices, protects individuals' and groups' freedom to engage in them, and incorporates diversity values into public school curricula, holidays, and national symbols. A more ambitious multiculturalism goes beyond recognition and respect of such traditions to define, preserve, and reinforce group differences through law.
The limited forms of multiculturalism are essential in a pluralistic democracy in which ethnic pride can be personally enriching, group strengthening, and socially integrative.(184) These forms should not weaken newcomers' ability or desire to achieve minimal levels of social assimilation, or exacerbate inter-group conflict.(185) Limited multiculturalism need not degenerate into the intolerance, humorlessness, hypersensitivity, and bogus essentialism that insists that group membership, rather than individual character and personality, is our most defining and precious attribute.(186)
In criticizing more expansive policies of multiculturalism that deploy the law to entrench and even construct group differences, Brimelow parrots an already palpable and increasingly effective public impatience with their excesses.(187) This impatience is salutary so long as it does not in turn breed its own parochialism and intolerance.(188) In a vibrant democracy like ours, policies such as multiculturalism tend to engender their own repudiation and ultimate reversal precisely because enthusiasts push them beyond any sensible limits.
Quite apart from the growing political opposition to perverse versions of multiculturalism, some purely demographic considerations make rigid racial division of the kind that Brimelow predicts most unlikely. First, the racial data that Brimelow cites rely on self-ascriptions that are themselves remarkably changeable over time and on highly arbitrary racial categories that grow less and less meaningful over time.(189) This phenomenon is particularly true of nonblack groups. Most Hispanics, the largest ethnic minority grouping, identify themselves as white.(190) Furthermore, racial and ethnic boundaries blur as people of different groups marry. Exogamy, already high between some groups in the United States, has been increasing for all. Black-white marriage rates (the smallest exogamy category) more than quintupled between 1968 and 1988, rising from only 1.6% of all marriages involving an African-american to 8.9%. Exogamy between blacks and other groups and between whites and other groups has also been increasing.(191) Exogamy between American-born Asian women and non-Asian men is strikingly high, reaching 41.7% in 1990.(192)
The conventional demographic projections that Brimelow uses do not account for these remarkable (and in my view, highly desirable) trends, which seem likely to continue or even accelerate in the future.(193) Such analyses assume that "exogamy is nonexistent by assuming single ancestry offspring, usually taking the father's racial status as the marker."(194) A recent analysis that does seek to take exogamy (but not the other sources of shifting racial identities) into account shows that doing so can make an enormous difference in racial composition projections.(195) The study simulated future racial composition by factoring differential exogamy rates into the analysis and projecting the effect of those rates over multiple generations. If all mixed ancestry persons were classified as single ancestry and self-identified as white, the number of non-Hispanic whites could be 31 million people (nearly 15%) larger than under the conventional census projection by the year 2040.(196)
My point is not that whites therefore have less to fear from demographic change. Rather, the very meaning of the traditional racial categories that structure such fears is rapidly becoming obsolete. Social attitudes and choices are evidently catching up to this demographic reality. Static, rigid, self-perpetuating policies of affirmative action and multiculturalism, premised on these obsolete meanings and categories, are already proving to be reactionary, not liberating.
To return to the larger point: Militant, mindless multiculturalism can be a destructive ideology that one should oppose on a variety of empirical and normative grounds. Immigration, even the post-1965 immigration, does not require such folly. Policies calculated to foster, or at least not impede, immigrants' assimilation to the dominant American culture without suppressing their ethnic ties continue to be the best antidote to balkanizing pressures.(197)
Affirmative Action. Brimelow complains that, as the demographic pincers close, affirmative action will place Alexander, his white son, at even more of a disadvantage than the poor lad labors under today. But like multiculturalism, race-based affirmative action—at least in its strongest, nonprocessual forms—is a policy with a doubtful political future. The Clinton administration, for example, has not fought very hard for it.(198) But if affirmative action is plainly on the defensive in Congress, the courts, and public opinion, it also enjoys the political advantage of any long-standing, institutionalized program.(199)
Brimelow neither defines affirmative action nor engages in a detailed analysis of it, but he is clear that the post-1965 immigration renders it even more problematic than it would otherwise be. I emphatically agree.(200) Until the recent assault on affirmative action in Congress and the Supreme Court, the policy steadily expanded from the protection of blacks in the employment setting to the protection of new groups in new contexts. The new groups include immigrants who happen to possess the protected demographic characteristics, such as race, even though they did not personally suffer the historical discrimination that prompted affirmative action's solicitude for American blacks or descend from those who did. In my view, this policy is impossible to justify, even if one is not the father of a white child, and especially if one is the father of a black one.
This Review is not the place to analyze the merits and demerits of affirmative action in particular domains or in general.(201) Only affirmative action's connections to the post-1965 immigration concern me here. Affirmative action has benefited the post-1965 immigrants in at least two senses. First, affirmative action programs now confer protected status on the millions of immigrants who happen to be members of currently favored groups. Second, the rhetoric of affirmative action was used to legitimate and augment the power of ethnic interest group politics, spawning a program of so-called "diversity" admissions—wholly unwarranted, in my view(202)—that adds 55,000 visas each year for immigrants from countries whose nationals supposedly have been disadvantaged by the 1965 law.(203)
In contrast, the racially diverse post-1965 immigration has been decidedly bad for affirmative action. I predict that recent immigration, far from serving as a firm buttress for future affirmative action policies as Brimelow believes, will eventually contribute to their demise. Immigration has undermined race-based affirmative action programs by revealing and then magnifying the moral, political, and empirical weaknesses of some of their underpinnings.(204) First, immigration enlarges the beneficiary pool to include immigrants who, unlike American blacks, cannot claim that they themselves have suffered historically-rooted discrimination here, but who nevertheless are entitled by affirmative action programs to compete with Americans for program benefits. This phenomenon not only dilutes the programs' benefits (such as they are) but also undermines their moral integrity.
Second, the group-based nature of the claims that affirmative action programs endorse inevitably invites attention to the fact that some immigrant groups, including some that arrived after 1965, endured harsh discrimination based on religion, language, class, and race, yet have managed to achieve greater economic and social progress than have many American blacks.(205) This record of achievement is bound to weaken the claim of many traditional civil rights activists that policies such as affirmative action are essential to individual and group progress. Third, immigration renders transparent the illogic, even absurdity, of the racial classifications and methodologies on which the integrity of such programs ultimately rests.(206) Finally, as Brimelow points out, the growth of "new minorities, each with their own grievances and attitudes—quite possibly including a lack of guilt about, and even hostility toward, blacks"—casts an ominous shadow over the long-term political prospects of affirmative action and its capacity to promote interracial reconciliation.(207)
Brimelow unaccountably ignores another realm, voting rights, in which immigration erodes the coherence of affirmative action. Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965,(208) the U.S. Department of Justice, with the acquiescence of Congress and the federal courts, has frequently insisted that legislative district boundaries be drawn to maximize the number of seats safely controlled by representatives of racial minorities. Many legal scholars and political scientists question the wisdom, legality, and representational efficacy of this practice,(209) and some political commentators blame it for many of the devastating Democratic losses in the 1994 congressional elections.(210) The Supreme Court recently subjected the Justice Department's policy to heightened constitutional scrutiny.(211)
The post-1965 immigration renders affirmative action districting of this kind even more problematic. By multiplying the number of residentially concentrated ethnic groups that can assert claims to a limited number of safe legislative seats, immigration has intensified intergroup conflict and made negotiated solutions to these inevitably bitter disputes much more difficult. While Asian-origin voters are unlikely in the near future to achieve the numbers and concentrations needed to qualify for this form of relief, Hispanic-Americans, whose numbers are increasing more rapidly than the black population, have already crossed that threshold in a number of jurisdictions and will soon do so in others.(212)
The flaw in Brimelow's logic should now be clear. Whatever one's evaluation of the merits of race-based affirmative action programs and whatever the bearing of immigration on those programs, they can and should be considered separately from the issue of immigration policy. We can choose to have immigration without choosing the kind of affirmative action that discredits immigration by association.
Citizenship. Part of "the deconstruction of the American nation" that Brimelow laments results from a "[s]ystematic attack on the value of citizenship, by making it easier for aliens to vote, receive government subsidies, etc."(213) The content of "etc." appears in his call, inter alia, for fundamental changes in our approach to citizenship. They include a new Americanization campaign modeled on the programs of the first two decades of this century, an English-language requirement for new immigrants and stricter enforcement of the existing English requirement for naturalized citizens, constitutional amendments eliminating birthright citizenship for the native-born children of illegal aliens and prescribing English as our official language, and possibly the lengthening of the residency period for naturalization to as long as the fourteen years required under the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798 and repealed in 1801.(214)
Brimelow presents these ideas in a manner that treats them more as rallying points and political slogans than as serious, thoughtful proposals for change. He shows no interest in analyzing the evidence bearing on them, the substantial objections that might be made to them, or the features that might be necessary to make them politically palatable or practically implementable. He simply presents items on his laundry list.
Brimelow's ipse dixits will therefore be of little value to policymakers. Nevertheless, some of the items on his list do deserve serious consideration; indeed, some are already receiving it. An example is the issue of birthright citizenship for illegal alien children, which is now under active discussion in Congress.(215) Political scientist Rogers Smith and I coauthored a book analyzing this very question. We argued that the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,(216) properly interpreted, permits Congress to regulate or even eliminate birthright citizenship for such children if it wishes.(217) We noted that whether Congress should prospectively eliminate birthright citizenship, and, if so, how to go about it, entail genuinely difficult normative, empirical, and policy questions.(218) We expressed a particular concern (shared by our critics(219) that such a policy change risks creating a destitute, highly vulnerable, more or less permanent caste of pariah children who, due to ineffective INS border and interior enforcement, might remain in that condition for the rest of their lives in the United States.(220) We proposed strategies to avert this grim possibility, including an amnesty for many then-illegal aliens.(221) Nevertheless, this concern remains deeply troubling, especially today when the number of illegal alien residents in the United States may exceed four million and a new amnesty is politically inconceivable. The ever-insouciant Brimelow, however, appears not to have even considered the extremely difficult problems that this situation creates.
His proposal for an "official English" amendment is an even more telling example of his aversion to analysis. Because a similar policy has already been adopted in twenty-two states,(222) some evidence about how it actually works already exists. Brimelow fails to cite this evidence, which indicates that the policy has had no practical effect—except, perhaps, to convince many Hispanic-Americans, who already have overwhelming incentives to acquire English fluency, that they are unwelcome in their new country.(223)
A new "Americanization" program—if designed to foster immigrants' social and linguistic integration without the paternalism, cultural intolerance, and outright racism that tainted many of the early twentieth century campaigns(224)—might well be desirable. At a minimum, such an effort should significantly augment the woefully inadequate public resources now available for teaching English to adult immigrants.(225) The government should also abandon its traditional passivity with respect to naturalization and instead emphasize its benefits to immigrants.(226) Again, however, Brimelow does not trouble to explore seriously the programmatic content of an Americanization policy.(227)
In truth, his discussion of citizenship is really a diversionary tactic. His real agenda is something he portentously calls "the National Question."(228) He wishes to affirm his belief in a distinctive American nation-state in contrast to the one-worlders who, out of misguided guilt or bland cosmopolitanism, would dismantle our borders and throw open our doors to all comers—the more the merrier, the poorer the better.
This target, of course, is a straw man. There are indeed a smattering of academics, ethnic advocates, immigration lawyers, and militant multiculturalists who, if judged by their rhetoric, seem to fit this description.(229) But, as Brimelow surely knows, they are outliers—no more representative of immigration enthusiasts than Brimelow is of restrictionists. (I know of no restrictionist in Congress, for example, who proposes to go to zero immigration, as Brimelow seems to do.(230) Americans Vigorously disagree about precisely what Americanism consists of They always have;(231) presumably they always will. Our core political identity is more elusive than that of, say, Japan, Germany, or Sweden—nation-states whose ethnic solidarities have powerfully shaped their self-understandings.(232) But while Americans struggle over the contemporary meaning of Americanism,(233) only a handful would deny that the United States is a distinctive polity that must protect its national sovereignty, nourish its culture, choose among its potential immigrants, and thus turn many away from its shores.