VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow writes: We posted this in 2005: symmetrically, right now Ann Coulter is on the road with her book Adios America! fighting what looks to me like the same battle against Amnesty/ Immigration Surge and for an immigration moratorium.
So you could say there’s been no progress in twenty years. On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal’s late Editor Robert L. Bartley was spectacularly wrong to gloat (July 3, 2000) that because the post-purge National Review had “stopped stridently claiming opposition to immigration as a conservative cause,” the immigration debate was, as his protégé and successor Paul Gigot claimed, “over.”
I append a comment. Let’s meet again in 2025.
Peter Brimelow writes: Firing Line's Immigration Debate Special, a high point in the Immigration Wars of the mid-1990s, was taped ten years ago today, June 6. Maggy had gone into labor very early that morning, but with Spartan fortitude nevertheless sent me off through the lovely early summer countryside to Bard College, where the event was held.
Ten years is nothing in the life of a nation. The fact that the mid-1990s debate was subsequently blocked by ethnic hysterics, business lobbyists and assorted traitors in the Republican ranks will ultimately seem nothing but a blip. The struggle for immigration reform is a multi-decade process—that's what it took to bring the First Great Wave to a halt in the 1920s.
But ten years sure makes a difference to suffering humanity. Hannah Claire, who had her tenth birthday today, went to her first school dance on Friday night. (I was surprised too. Alexander, 13, refused to go.) Her mother, tragically, is dead.
Firing Line is extinct, a symbol and a symptom of the long whimpering worthless end of Bill Buckley's once-important career. Immigration reformers have been purged by Buckley from National Review, although VDARE.COM's frequent pointing this out seems recently to have caused the frequent importation of an outside Beltway beard, the triangulating—and more tactful— Mark Krikorian.
I guess I should have expected this when I realized the great man was flipping through the just-published Alien Nation, apparently preparing himself belatedly, actually during the taping. Or when he turned to me animatedly and said “You must answer that” after Ed Koch huffed about my point, which opens Alien Nation, that the anti-racism obsession that made possible post-1965 immigration policy can be viewed as Hitler's revenge on the nation that defeated him.
Arianna Huffington, who despite her Cambridge Union training was surprisingly unable to handle the ACLU's thuggish Ira Glasser and thereafter disavowed me in a letter to the New York Times, has followed her buccaneering star off to the Left. Watch out, Left!
But Arianna did send us a beautiful baby gift. In fact, everybody was very nice when I got the news, after the session posted here, except Glasser, who turned his back. In the next taping—not posted here— he bet me a year's salary that I had not mentioned, in Alien Nation, the fragmentary evidence that immigrants were not over-represented in state prisons as they were at the federal level. Of course I had, and of course he refused to honor his word.
Glasser is now retired. But I'll take a year's pension, if anyone knows where he is.
This is a long post and you should arm yourself with a stiff drink before reading. As Brenda Walker wrote me recently, alerting me to the rerun of my BookNotes interview, it's fascinating what has changed and what hasn't in ten years.
I think the next ten years will be different.
Hmm. In my defense, as I said recently at the American Renaissance conference, by 2010 the immigration issue was emerging into public debate—only to be aborted, after it had delivered victory to the GOP, by an extraordinary alliance of the Chamber of Commerce Slave Power and neoconservative intrigue. (The same can be said about the 2012 midterms). I believe the consequences of this will be epochal.
Still, things can change unexpectedly for the better also. As a personal harbinger, I offer this recent snap of Lydia photographing Hannah Claire, 20 years old today, with her new half-sisters Felicity Deonne, Karia Sybil Nancy, and Victoria Beauregard.
You can see this debate on YouTube, or watch it on Amazon Instant Video: RESOLVED: All Immigration Should Be Drastically Reduced.
For the Resolution:
Against the resolution:
Michael Kinsley moderates.
KINSLEY: Good evening. From Bard College in Annandale, New York, welcome to a special all-star Firing Line Debate. Our topic tonight is, “Resolved: All Immigration Should be Drastically Reduced.”
Note that word, “all.” This debate is not just about securing America’s borders against illegal aliens. It’s about cutting the total number of immigrants, both illegal and legal. So it’s really a debate about the nature of American society: Are we a nation of immigrants, tied together by America’s values but by no particular ethnic background? Or is that just a lot of sentimental claptrap? Does immigration at current levels threaten not just our economic prosperity, but American culture as well?
Including illegals, more than two million foreigners are moving to the United States every year. In absolute terms, that’s an all-time high, although as a fraction of the population, it’s nothing particularly unusual. But today’s immigrants are different. Most of them come from Asia and Latin America, not from Europe. Does that matter? Well, that’s just one of the questions you’ll hear debated tonight.
Immigration is sure to be an issue in next year’s election campaign. Last year, the voters of California approved Proposition 187, which denies public education and other social services to illegal aliens. The welfare bill now being debated in Congress would deny welfare benefits even to legal immigrants, and a government commission on immigration is expected to recommend this month that the total number of legal immigrants be reduced by one-third. So before it gets totally enmeshed in politics, here is your chance to think and hear about the immigration debate in its pure, high-minded form. Let’s welcome tonight’s pure, high-minded debaters, all eight of them. [applause]
One interesting thing about tonight’s debate is how many of the debaters are themselves immigrants. That does not of course include the captain of the affirmative team, William F. Buckley, Jr. Mr. Buckley is the founder and star of Firing Line, the founder of National Review, syndicated columnist, author of books too numerous to mention, all-around great American. Mr. Buckley actually traces his ancestors in this country back to the early Bronze Age. [laughter] [applause] He traces his politics back to the same period, and they haven’t evolved one little bit since then. [laughter]
Peter Brimelow is a double immigrant, from Great Britain by way of Canada. Indeed, he was once considered America’s best leading expert on Canada, not that there was a lot of competition for that title. [laughter] Mr. Brimelow is presumably not referring to himself in the title of his controversial new book, Alien Nation: Common Sense about America’s immigration Disaster. Mr. Brimelow is senior editor of both Forbes magazine and National Review.
Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington is also a double immigrant, from Greece by way of Great Britain. She’s a former president of the Cambridge Union Debating Society and the author of several books. Her husband, Michael Huffington, lost a close race for the Senate in California last year in which immigration was a major issue. Mrs. Huffington’s current project is a new TV show called Beat the Press, and I can’t tell you how many journalists are already starting to fantasize about being beaten by Arianna Huffington. [laughter]
Daniel Stein is executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR. FAIR is the leading lobbying group for new limits on immigration. Mr. Stein—come on—Mr. Stein was born in Washington, DC, and in the current political climate, I don’t know if that makes you a native-born American or not. [laughter] According to his resume—and I was struck by this, and I quote—“He plays trombone and enjoys a full range of hobbies and interests.” I guess that’s what you call tooting your own horn. [laughter]
The captain of the opposition team is our host today, the president of Bard College, Leon Botstein. Mr. Botstein is also music director of the American Symphony Orchestra. That means he doesn’t have to toot his own horn, he has an entire horn section to toot for him. [laughter] He is the author of several books on music and on European cultural history. Mr. Botstein was born in Switzerland of Jewish refugee parents and immigrated to this country at the age of three.
Ed Koch of course is the former three-term mayor of New York City. He was born in the Bronx. In retirement, Mr. Koch is a partner in a law firm, has his own radio talk show, is host of a talk television show, writes a weekly column for the New York Post, writes a syndicated column of movie reviews, and lectures around the country. It seems to me that Mr. Koch all by himself is stealing more jobs from Americans than any number of illegal aliens. [laughter] [applause]
Our old friend Ira Glasser is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. He was born in Brooklyn, I believe. Now Mr. Glasser may or may not play the trombone. His resume does not say, and of course he has a constitutional right to remain silent on that point. [laughter] I would merely say that if he does by any chance play the trombone, his trombone has both the right and the duty to remain silent tonight. [laughter] That goes for Mr. Stein’s trombone and also for Mr. Buckley’s harpsichord. [laughter] No music.
Frank Sharry is executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which is America’s leading pro-immigration lobbying group. He was active in the unsuccessful campaign against California’s Proposition 187. Mr. Sharry’s resume also does not indicate whether or not he plays the trombone. It does say, however, he speaks Spanish, which is reasonable enough in his line of work, but I believe he may speak English as well, or at least we’ll find out.
So those are tonight’s debaters. I wield the gavel tonight. My name is Mike Kinsley and I now call upon Mr. Buckley to propose tonight’s motion. Mr. Buckley. [applause]
BUCKLEY: Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. The subject we’re debating tonight begs to be mishandled by the Affirmative, those of us who believe immigration should be curbed; and poisoned by the Negative, those who urge no changes in immigration policy. The reason this is so is that we have here before the house a question of public policy in which the great intimacies of ethnic pride are involved. If the subject under discussion were whether to lessen the tariff barriers or raise them, we would only marginally touch on human sensitivities.
The great shadow that looms menacingly over one side is rank nativism, to stumble into saying, “That man who wants to get into the United States is black, brown, or yellow, and we have enough of them.” On the other side, the illuminatory composite. There are the libertarians who say, “Anybody who wants to do anything should be permitted to do so, and if one of the things people want to do is to come live in the United States, why not?” That is one of the great disabling rhetorical limbs that get in the way of clear thought. Another holds that inasmuch as everyone in America is the child or great-grandchild of an immigrant, what reason can there be for adopting different policies from those that let us or our forebears in?
There will be data given on these points as they arise. For instance, it is simply not the case that immigration on the scale at which it now proceeds is conventional in American history, and it isn’t the case that the ebb and flow of human beings into—or for that matter, out of— one country into another, are mechanical questions simply to be governed by the laws of arbitrage. These particulars my colleagues will confront as required in the discussion. I mean to touch on the touchiest of all questions in the hope, probably fruitless, that polemical opportunism will be restrained.
I think it is a legitimate concern of a country, ours especially—we have been taking in year after year 50 percent of all immigrants in the entire world—to give thought to the culture and ethos we hope to preserve. What this comes down-to is a question of assimilation. The ideal of immigration is not alone to provide shelter or even economic opportunity, but to create another American. Now to say any such thing these days in the firestorm of multi-culturalism is to court criticism that can be mortal, especially in academic salons. But recall that it was not so long ago taken for granted that anyone coming to America would need to learn something about American institutions and would need, if he hoped to vote, to read and write in English. That isn’t the case anymore. In New York City schools, we learn courses are taught in 100 languages and there’s a shortage of teachers who can speak Albanian.
The pressures that were brought on immigrants, so to speak pressures to Americanize them, were so direct that during the last half of the 19th century, one-third of immigrants simply gave up and after a while, traveled back home. Immigrants were required, just to begin with, to make their own way economically. That is no longer true under the welfare state, and were required to learn the language of American English, no longer required. Those were the most conspicuous courses of socialization, but there were others, designed to communicate an ethos. One of them, of course, was the discipline of self-government. Self-government is very rare, and in the 19th century something of an eccentricity. And then too, the ethos in America presumed religious convictions. Ninety-eight percent of America at the time of the Revolutionary War was Protestant.
It is our contention that America, the most successful engine of assimilation in the history of the world, hasn’t got the steam needed to handle immigration at the current level, and that the burden of assimilation became more acute when in 1965 the qualifications for immigration changed so radically. Does this mean that it is more difficult to assimilate Haitians and Mexicans than British and Italians? Yes. We’re prepared to go that far, wistfully hoping that this is not to earn a denunciation as racists. We really should be permitted to speak about such matters without risking the charge of un-Americanism.
“Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them?” The person who spoke those words was Benjamin Franklin. And Mr. Chairman, we will bear bravely any charge leveled against us that could also be leveled against Benjamin Franklin. [laughter] He thought it entirely civilized to speak about the ethnic characteristics of other countries.
We do believe that there is something there when we speak of American exceptionalism. This doesn’t bind us to disdain the cultural claims of others. We listen with respect to someone asserting the relative achievements of the Swiss or the Spanish or the Swedes, though we might get restless listening to the claims of some nationalists, best quarantined in the United Nations. We’ve no need here tonight to document American exceptionalism. We need only to document that more is being expected of this country than it can reasonably be expected to furnish while still surviving as the country to whose health and prosperity we are committed. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s drink to that. [applause]
KINSLEY: President Botstein is invited up to oppose the motion.
BOTSTEIN: Today’s debate is an experience in déjà vu. We’ve heard the same refrains before: Too many bad, different, new immigrants, as opposed to fewer good, old-style immigrants; that we can’t afford immigration altogether. It isn’t any different from the predictions of doom expressed by, yes, Ben Franklin, about Germans in Pennsylvania; Republicans in 1896 who wanted a literacy test; Henry Cabot Lodge’s derision of Italians as worse than the Irish; and the misguided immigration commission of 1911 when immigration reached an all-time high, which predicted that new immigrants would either compete for jobs or ruin the fabric of America. They were wrong. So why are today’s nay-sayers, with the same arguments, suddenly right?
Immigration in our past has been more statistically significant than it is now. Almost 15 percent of the population in 1910 was foreign-born. Today only eight percent is. Since the first census in 1790, the percent of immigrants has been unusually high, and America flourished economically and culturally. And there are only a million immigrants coming in a year, not two.
Today’s immigrants won’t behave any differently from our forefathers and foremothers. A century ago, there were public and private schools in the rural Midwest teaching only German, yet by the second and third generation, English triumphed. Second-generation Spanish speakers in Florida are showing the same pattern: loss of ancestral language toward proficiency in English. Even intermarriage rates show their classic upward trend. All previous generations of immigrants and their children had high rates of school dropout, illness, poverty, and crime. We were warned that the masses of foreigners on the Lower East Side would never enter the mainstream and would corrupt American mores, and yet the transition to the American middle class took place. So too today: just look at the Korean grocery markets in New York.
Do our opponents really believe that in our global economy, with its ease and speed of travel, that we can stop immigration? We get 19 million visitors a year. Even Britain, a more homogenous and traditional island culture, has an immigration problem. Sealing the border is a pipedream. So the question is, rather, how we can manage immigration better. Simplify it. Encourage legal rather than illegal immigration. We are not the French and not the Japanese. Our culture, like our language, is the evolving consequence of sustained immigration.
Our opponents, proud conservatives, seem to favor free trade and markets without regulation for everything but people. Why should we not be able to hire the best engineer from anywhere, just as we’re free to buy the best TV set, even if it’s foreign? Look at how much American science, industry, and our universities profited from the intellectual migration of the 1930’s. The poor from over the Mexican border come because they will work where and when others won’t. Sure, immigrants cost money, but they also fill jobs, and they fuel the economy. The Zoë Baird problem is a matter of demand. We should encourage skilled immigration, regulate unskilled immigration according to demand, and preserve America as a refuge from political and religious persecution. Immigration will remain the unique factor behind America’s greatness as a competitive and different nation not characterized by a rigid jingoist and racist view of itself. [applause]
KINSLEY: Mr. Brimelow and Mr. Sharry. It’s your opportunity to ascend to the podium, Mr. Sharry and Mr. Brimelow, and Mr. Brimelow has a minute and a half to make an opening statement.
BRIMELOW: Do I start now, Mike?
KINSLEY: Start now.
BRIMELOW: Okay. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I Want to start off by saying that I’m here courtesy of my wife and Dr. John Sussman, who is delivering her of a baby right about now. [laughter] [applause] Bill Buckley called, so I have to come. And that’s appropriate really, because immigration is typically a policy where A and B get together, we have A and B and C here, and decide what C should do for D. C in this case is our children. Our children have been asked to decide—have been asked to handle the consequences of these decisions which are being made now.
Immigration is out of control, both illegal immigration and legal immigration, legal immigration because of the peculiar workings of the 1965 Act. We must never forget that this is a policy, a government policy, and it works in very paradoxical ways. The US is being transformed against its will, as measured by opinion polls, by accident-to no economic advantage whatever, a thing which I spend a great deal of time on in Alien Nation, and the American people haven’t been asked. There has never been a transformation like this in the history of the world. We’re not saying that it won’t necessarily work, but we’re saying that it’s the risk and the American people should be asked whether they want to take that risk. We should have a pause in immigration precisely to allow that great debate to take place and to allow the immigration policy to be reformed on some rational basis.
KINSLEY: Thank you, Mr. Brimelow. Mr. Sharry, you have a minute and a half.
SHARRY: Immigration is a very highly charged debate, very emotional, I think, really because it gets down to the question of who we are as a nation, as President Botstein so eloquently addressed. We also need a rational debate about immigration. We need to look at the facts and figures rather than the myths and misinformation that this debate is steeped in. For example, most international migrants in the world do not come to the United States; in fact, less than one percent come to the United States. Most stay in the developing world, and of those immigrants and refugees who come to the United States, the vast majority come in perfectly legally, after going through a highly regulated system. In fact, 85 percent of the immigrants and refugees living in the United States reside here legally.
The numbers—we will hear a lot of scary numbers about the zillions of people overrunning the United States; the fact is, legal and illegal immigration comprises about eight percent of the US population. From 1850 through 1940, that percentage as a share of population was up in the neighborhood of 15 percent. The United States has dealt with far greater proportional immigration than we were dealing with in this decade. The economic impacts: Economists from across the spectrum from right to left agree that on balance and over time, immigrants contribute more than they take, starting businesses, through their production, through their consumption: Hardworking taxpaying folks who after being in the country for ten years, have a higher household income than people born in the United States.
Immigrants are assimilating quickly. There are lotteries for adult ESL, English as a Second Language, classes. Kids of immigrants not only learn English, but prefer English. [gavel] The fact is that we need a sensible debate in which we look at the facts, and when we do that, then the policy debate will be a lot easier to handle. Thank you.
KINSLEY: Thank you, Mr. Sharry. Don’t go away, it’s your chance to interrogate Mr. Brimelow.
SHARRY: Mr. Brimelow, in your book, Alien Nation, you make the statement that race is destiny. Can you explain what you mean by that?
BRIMELOW: Yes. I didn’t make that statement, Frank, as you perfectly well know, because we’ve been through this many times before. What I said was, “Race is destiny in American politics,” and that goes to a difference between American politics and European politics. In European politics, political allegiance is determined by class; in American politics, political allegiance is determined by race and ethnicity, and what that means is that where you alter the ethnic balance of the country, you are, in effect, altering its political future. I mean, there is no way that Jesse Jackson is going to be elected President of this country unless the Rainbow Coalition grows to the point where it can basically, putting it crudely, outvote the whites, and of course with the policy that you recommend, that is going to happen.
SHARRY: Well what about the fact that the largest proportional growth of immigration is coming from Asia, and in fact the Asian community is very supportive of the Republican Party? In fact, more Asian-born immigrants vote Republican than Democrat, so how can you say that race is destiny in American politics when upwards of forty percent of Hispanics vote Republican as well? It seems to me that both of those major new groups of immigrants are up for grabs politically, so how can you say—
BRIMELOW: It appears to me to mean, Frank, that sixty percent of Hispanics vote Democratic, and that’s a substantial number.
SHARRY: That’s also true, but the fact is, how can race be destiny in American politics when two major groups are up for grabs?
BRIMELOW: I don’t agree that they are; I mean, it is quite clear that Hispanics are predominantly a Democratic group, although of course, as you know—
SHARRY: The Cubans in Miami?
BRIMELOW: —as you know, it is a very variegated category, Hispanic: it is not really a very true, a very good analytical category. Asians we just don’t have any numbers on. Less than one percent of them voted in the presidential election last year, so we just really don’t know what they’re going to do. But of course what you’re doing here is conceding my point, which is that these groups do differ systematically from the rest of the population, according to ethnicity, and therefore by controlling the ethnic inflow one way or another, you are going to alter the future of American politics, and the question is: Why?
SHARRY: Well, it seems to me, in my conception of America, that we need to be as strong and as confident and as optimistic as we’ve been up until now in order to keep growing, that we’ve gotten here by not only taking risks, but by embracing an incredible amount of diversity—people from different faiths and different backgrounds and different nationalities—and carved out a very strong democracy in the most powerful nation in the world. Why, given the historical evidence of the benefits of immigration, why now is it too much of a risk to take?
Mr. BRIMELOW: What’s characterized American immigration in the past is that it is not continuous, there are pauses. Some of these pauses extend a very long time. In the middle of this century, there was a pause of forty years. After the Revolution, there was a pause of fifty years. When Ben Franklin complained about Germans, the German immigration collapsed and didn’t resume again for nearly 100 years. Those pauses are essential to the process of assimilation. No pauses are in sight now, naturally, because of the demographic structure of the Third World; one will have to be legislated as one was in 1920, the 1920’s.
SHARRY: In your book, you mention that we are attracting most immigrants from the Third World, that they are, quote, visible minorities, that INS waiting rooms look like New York subways, and that you seem to be disturbed by the skin color of immigrants rather than the content of their character, and I was wondering if you could respond to that.
BRIMELOW: I said repeatedly in the book—I don’t know if I don’t have to tattoo it on my head—that I’m confident that the American assimilative mechanism can assimilate anybody; they could assimilated Martians here: but they can’t do it without a pause. It also helps if the Martians are skilled. One of the key criticisms of the 1965 Immigration Act is that it skewed the skill levels downward so that the for the first time, we see an immigrant inflow which is less skilled than the American native born on average, which in turn is why immigrants are nine percent on welfare as opposed to native born Americans at seven percent and native born American whites five percent.
SHARRY: Well, in your book you seem to settle for distortions of the facts: as you know very well, that is only half the story. We are attracting some unskilled immigrants; we are attracting a tremendous number of skilled immigrants. Forty percent of the engineers in Silicon Valley, one of the most high growth areas in the United States, are foreign born. Many, many small businesses, which are the engines of growth in this country, are run by immigrant entrepreneurs. Many of the foreign trade and export oriented industries that are such—
Mi. BRIMELOW: Is this a question, Frank?
SHARRY: Yes it is. So given those facts, in your study have you in fact concluded that immigration does not create economic growth, does not boost the economy of the United States?
BRIMELOW: Sure. Sure. First of all, there is a consensus among economists that immigration is not necessary for economic growth: it does nothing that the Americans couldn’t do for themselves by other institutional means. Economic growth had actually slowed down since 50 years before 1965. Economic growth was faster than it was afterward.
KINSLEY : You can go on the offensive when you’re through.
BRIMELOW: Oh, thank you. [laughs] The best estimate of the economic advantage of immigration, the benefits of immigration to the native born, is by Professor George Borjas of UC-San Diego, who wrote the review article in the Journal of Economic Literature last year, and his estimate is that the benefits to the native born right now is about one-tenth of one percent of GDP: it’s actually wiped out by the welfare loss, which he estimates at about 15 billion dollars. Are you familiar with this study?
MR SHARRY: I am familiar with his study, and Mr. Borjas is always cited by the restrictionists, I believe, because he is the one legitimate economist that sort of supports your view. In survey after survey—economists from across the spectrum—of Nobel laureates in this century: they were asked, “Is immigration of benefit or not?” Eighty-one percent said “Yes,” and the other 19 percent said, “Somewhat.” Not one of them said it was negative.
SHARRY: Well, I also realize that the Bush Administration Department of Labor did really the definitive analysis of labor market impacts and concluded that on balance and over time, immigration creates economic growth. You have conceded that this really isn’t an issue about the economy, right?
BRIMELOW: No, no. You are aware that in my book I quote Professor Julian Simon, who is supposedly the leading expert on your side, saying frankly that he’s never said that immigration is necessary to economic growth.
SHARRY: I believe, Mr. Brimelow, that the questions are now in your hands.
BRIMELOW : That is a question.
SHARRY: That is a question?
BRIMELOW: Are you aware of that?
SHARRY: I am not aware of that, no.
BRIMELOW: Oh dear. [laughter]
SHARRY: I don’t pray in Julian Simon’s church.
BRIMELOW: Are you aware that the Census Bureau projects that without immigration, the U. S. population is going to stabilize at around 250-260 million because Americans of all races are bringing down their family sizes, but with immigration, it will go up, by 2050, to around 390 million. Now that’s the middle series projection; the high series is 500 million. Now, the question I want to ask you here is: Why do you want to second guess the American people on population size?
SHARRY: I’m not second guessing them. I don’t see population growth in and of itself as a bad thing. The United States has modest population growth by international standards. I am concerned about population growth where it is more out of control, but fertility rates have come down all over the world, and particularly in the United States, and I don’t see it as a problem. If you’re getting at the environmental question, which I find interesting for a conservative like yourself—
BRIMELOW: I’m open-minded.
SHARRY: You’re open-minded. [laughter] Now you’re an environmentalist when it comes to immigration. It’s very interesting, this kind of drug pushing that restrictionists do, it’s like: What have you got? Are you concerned about the environment? Here’s the drug: take this blame-immigrants drug and you’ll feel better. Worried about schools, worried about culture—
BRIMELOW: What I want to know is why do you want to drive the population up to 390 million when without immigration it would stabilize at 250 million?
SHARRY: You’re asking me like it’s a problem. I don’t see population growth as a problem.
BRIMELOW: No, I want to know why you want to increase the population.
MR SHARRY: I don’t want to drive population growth. These projections have changed every year in the past five years, based on a current snapshot—
BRIMELOW: They’ve always gone upward.
SHARRY: No, they haven’t. In fact, two years ago, they said population would stabilize in the middle of the next century with immigration, so we can expect those projections to change with the wind and with differences in policies. If you’re concerned about the environmental impact, we should talk about consumption habits of Americans. Let’s not talk about immigrants who come and recycle, let’s talk about the United States consuming more than 25 percent of the world’s resources with six percent of the population. If you want to address environmental concerns, I’m happy to, just don’t blame immigrants in the process. [applause]
Mr KINSLEY: Let’s keep going. You’ve got another minute-and-a-half.
Mr BRIMELOW: You mean you’re not going to answer the question of why you want to drive up the population? [laughter]
Mr SHARRY: [laughs] I have answered it. I’m not concerned about population growth in the United States. I am concerned about population growth in Third World countries where the fertility rates are in the 6-7 per couple. In the United States, it’s 2.1, just a bit above replacement level, and I would prefer to be a young, dynamic country with lots of people being born in this country and lots of opportunity, as opposed to Europe, your hallowed ground, where population growth is below replacement level, where you have an aging population, and where the world is not looking for new ideas. I would prefer to have the United States be the dynamic, robust, confident country that it’s always been, in large part fueled by immigration. [applause]
BRIMELOW: I take that to mean that you are in favor—I take that to mean that you are in favor of increasing the American population so radically. As you know, for more than 40 years, not more than 13 percent of Americans, one-three percent, have said they were in favor of increasing immigration, but in that period, immigration has quintupled. Now, the question is, why shouldn’t the American people by allowed to have their way on this? If they want immigration reform, why can’t they have it?
MR SHARRY: Let me address the proposition. You like to talk about how legal immigration needs to be reduced, and I fundamentally reject that. I do believe that illegal immigration needs to be reduced. There is a big difference.
MR BRIMELOW: What about the American people and their opinions? [gavel]
MR SHARRY: [gavel] The American people believe that most immigrants are coming in illegally, and they’re badly misinformed, and I believe too many of them read your book, and as a result they are misinformed. [gavel] [applause]
KINSLEY: All right. Thank you both. Arianna Huffington has an opportunity to make a short opening statement and then submit to the interrogation of the opposing team.
HUFFINGTON: I want to begin by addressing the apparent irony of somebody with my clear immigrant accent being on this side of the debate. I arrived in this country 15 years before the 1965 Immigration Act and became a citizen in 1990, and what really changed my mind was what happened to me in the last year when I—
SHARRY: It’s all Greek to her.
HUFFINGTON: —why are American children, and indeed Hispanic children, being deprived of the opportunity to learn English and be part of the mainstream?
BOTSTEIN: They are not being deprived—
HUFFINGTON: They are.
BOTSTEIN: In fact, immigrant populations for generations were taught German, Polish. Today, in this day in Chicago, you can go to Polish neighborhoods in Chicago and see—the level of Polish is not that admirable, the continuing use of Polish. What I’m suggesting-
HUFFINGTON: Yes, but-
BOTSTEIN: —is that there were newspapers and schools in the history of America doing exactly what’s happening now.
HUFFINGTON: But they were being taught by their parents, by their schools—
BOTSTEIN: No, by public schools.
HUFFINGTON: they were not being taught by taxpayer money.
BOTSTEIN: By public schools. In the rural Midwest in the 19th century, there was exclusively German taught.
HUFFINGTON: You know, you need to go to Los Angeles and talk to the people who are leading the movement against bilingual education.
BOTSTEIN: Because there’s been racism against immigrants in this country from the very beginning. [applause]
HUFFINGTON: Oh, come on. It has nothing to do with racism.
KINSLEY: Mr. Koch.
BOTSTEIN: People who’ve come in don’t want the next person to come in after them.
KINSLEY: Mr. Koch.
HUFFINGTON: Oh, let’s stop name calling and argue the facts.
KINSLEY: Mr. Koch. Mr. Koch.
KOCH: Arianna, I’m an admirer of yours, but not on this issue, but on many others— [laughter] and I believe that the emphasis that you give is misplaced. Why blame the immigrants for the stupidities of some educators in this country? [applause] Why—is it the immigrant who comes here and says, “I don’t want to learn in English.” That’s not what the—just let me finish this question.
HUFFINGTON: No, it’s people like Leon Botstein who claim that it’s the way— [laughter]
KOCH: I might agree with that, I might agree with that, but I am saying, don’t keep the immigrants out-
HUFFINGTON: Keep Leon out.
KOCH: —keep the educators out. [laughter] [applause]
KINSLEY: Let her answer, let her answer because we have to move on.
KOCH: The multi-culturalism, that wasn’t brought here by the Chinese or blacks or Hispanics, that was imposed upon them.
HUFFINGTON: That is exactly the point I made.
BOTSTEIN: I’m not even arguing it.
KOCH: Get rid of the multi-culturalism, not the immigrants.
KINSLEY: [gavel] Too much agreement here, too much agreement here. Time to move on. [laughter]
HUFFINGTON: That’s exactly what I’m saying. That’s exactly what I said.
KINSLEY: Thank you, thank you, Ms.-
HUFFINGTON: Until we get rid of multi-culturalism, we cannot afford to have the high levels of present immigration.
KINSLEY: Thank you, Ms. Huffington. [applause] Mr. Glasser, it is your opportunity to make an opening statement and then to be interrogated by proponents of the resolution.
GLASSER: The talk about numbers is pretextual. It is over-exaggerated in the extreme. The number of immigrants who come in, including illegals, each year now, is at about a million. If the present commission’s recommendations has its way, it will be cut by about a third. That’s a million against some 258 million people: a very small percentage. We had a million coming in 1910. That was against a population of 90 million, a much larger percentage. The numbers are simply not that big. They aren’t. It’s grossly exaggerated. The economic consequences are marginal. Most economists, including the conservative Julian Simon, say that if we have fewer immigrants, we will be poorer.
We will have a larger federal deficit, we will have a worse position of international competition. He says flatly, and said so to Brimelow in a debate recently, that we can reduce the number of immigrants if we want, but we will make American citizens poorer, that the higher level is better for us economically. Even Professor Borjas, who is your side’s favorite, says that the economic issues are at best indecisive. Mr. Brimelow says that repeatedly in his book and says we have to go to something else. That “something else” is the nature of the American character: we want to keep it the way it was before 1965. Now what does that mean exactly if it doesn’t mean numbers and it doesn’t mean economic consequences? What does it mean?
KINSLEY: Does someone want to take that up? Mr. Stein.
STEIN: Does the ACLU have any objection to the American people, if they choose to, bringing the immigration level down to zero?
GLASSER: We do not.
STEIN: And would you explain to the American people how the Native American benefited from immigration about 400 years ago?
GLASSER: You know, there’s a really interesting thing that’s happened here: first Mr. Brimelow did it, and now you do it. You seem to have a divine way of figuring out what the American people mean, and it certainly isn’t what Congress did. No, no, no. Congress is not what the American people meant. You know what the American people want.
STEIN: How did the Native American—
GLASSER: Tell me what it is that you are talking about, and how you figured this out.
STEIN: I’m talking about Congress reducing it down to zero, Ira. Now, how did the Native American benefit from immigration? Would you describe that for us?
GLASSER: The Native Americans did not benefit from immigration. [laughter] And they did not benefit— [applause]—and they did not benefit from Brimelow’s ancestors, who, as I recall, we threw out [laughter] because they didn’t understand the American traditions. They did not benefit from decimation and genocide, either. But that’s not what we’re talking about, is it? If you want to stick to the germane principle, why did you even ask that question?
STEIN: The reason is because, as even Julian Simon points out, there are various groups, particularly those on the bottom of the labor market, who are more disproportionally affected by the depression on wage rates and labor competition in hotel, restaurants, and service work.
GLASSER: You’re talking about blacks, are you?
STEIN: No, I’m talking about Americans with a high school degree or less, and I think the evidence is clear that if you look at the standard of living and the average wages of Americans with a high school degree or less since immigration’s been going up since 1980. Surely the ACLU must be concerned about their wage rates.
GLASSER: We are, and the fact is that it’s not affected by the levels of immigration and Professor Borjas says that and Professor Simon says it, and it’s marginal at best. You’re talking here about dueling economists, all of whom agree that the differences are small. So why this big debate—what is this big debate about? And the big debate, which you want to run away from, is that we’re doing something, we did something in 1965. But it was more than just the numbers, because the ‘65 legislation left the numbers where they were at the time.. What it did is it changed the American character, and I would like somebody on this side of the panel to tell me: What do you mean by that?
KINSLEY: Mrs. Huffington.
HUFFINGTON: Lucas Guttentag was a lawyer with the ACLU-
GLASSER: Still is.
HUFFINGTON: Yes. Still is. Maybe he won’t be after you hear what he says.
M5. HUFFINGTON: But he-
GLASSER: I think I know more about what he says than you do, but go ahead.
HUFFINGTON: But he said that all this talk about immigration is pandering to Americans’ most primitive fears. Now this is the kind of condescending statement that the American people are tired of, and when you question Mr. Stein’s numbers, every poll, every poll taken shows two-thirds of the American people in favor of reducing illegal immigration, and it is indeed illegal immigration—look at the results of Proportion 187. Four million people, and a half, voted in favor.
GLASSER: Let me tell you something about the American people, since you’re an immigrant yourself. Let me tell you something about the American people and polls. In 1950, all the polls showed that they were in favor of segregation, too, didn’t they? The American people, in terms of the polls show, is not the way we do business in this country, and it hasn’t got to do with the facts necessarily, does it? It has to do with—what I’m saying to you is that if the economic consequences are marginal, and if the numbers are by historical standards not that big, and if you all keep saying that we’re changing the American character because of something we did in ‘65, tell me what you mean by that.
KINSLEY: OK, Mr. Brimelow.
GLASSER: I notice now how nobody wants to do that.
KINSLEY: OK, Mr. Brimelow.
BRIMELOW: Mr. Glasser, you must realize that you’ve walked into Dan’s trap here. He was asking about the effect of immigration on native-born Americans. The point here is precisely that it can radically alter society. It did alter it.
GLASSER: They killed them all, that’s true.
BRIMELOW: I see.
GLASSER: That’s true. However if you let them open up businesses, and have economic mobility, it’s less true, as most of us in this room are evidence of.
BRIMELOW: Are you aware that immigrants on the average are less likely to open up businesses than the native-born?
GLASSER: I am not aware of that—
GLASSER:—because it’s not true.
BRIMELOW: Are you aware of—it is true.
GLASSER: It isn’t true.
BRIMELOW: It is true, it shows in the—
GLASSER: No, it is not true.
BRIMELOW: You really must read my book-
GLASSER: Oh I have, I have-
BRIMELOW: Alien Nation, Random House, $24.
GLASSER: —and I used all my supply of Alka-Seltzer after I did. [laughter] [applause] Your book, Mr. Brimelow—
BRIMELOW: I’m delighted to hear that. You must read it again.
GLASSER: Your book was characterized by your favorite economist, Julian Simon, as “suffused by race.” Your book on every other page worries about your little son Alexander growing up in a world which is non-white. Your book characterizes nonwhite immigrants as typified by Colin Ferguson. Your book worries about going down into the subway where homeless people are almost entirely colored.
BRIMELOW: Let me ask you, let me ask you a question-
BRIMELOW: What is your agenda here? Why do you want to transform America? [applause]
GLASSER: My agenda is exposing you. My agenda is exposing you. [applause] [gavel]
KINSLEY: Thank you both. You’ll both get another crack at it. It’s Mr. Stein’s opportunity to make an opening statement.
STEIN: Thank you. Barbara Jordan and her commission, appointed by President Clinton and Congress, has recommended major cuts in immigration. Now there’s a reason why. Polls show, and I think it’s pretty clear from public opinion otherwise, the American people want to see cuts in immigration. Now there are only three questions we have to deal with when we look into the future on this issue: How many people we are going to admit? Who are they going to be? And how can we better enforce the rules to make sure that all immigrants are legal? We also have to ask a more fundamental question, which is: Why do we need immigration at this point in our national history? As Peter has mentioned, there have been long and sustained pauses. We used immigration to fill up a continent—very low levels compared with today—but we did, with the Northwest Territories and the Northwest Ordinance Act of 1787, we pushed people across the continent, the wilderness, as against contending colonial powers to build a nation with a template of institutions and cultural ideas that were able to help absorb people as they moved across the land. We had one brief period where we had an extraordinarily high rate immigration, around the turn of the century for the Industrial Revolution, to mine the coal and to build the railroads. But throughout most of this century, and during those periods of very high economic growth, we’ve had very low immigration. Now we have very high immigration that going to increase our population to 400 million in many of our lifetimes, and we haven’t asked ourselves: Why do we need immigration? What’s its purpose? And how can we better make the policies that we have today fit our own domestic set of objectives and needs?
KINSLEY: Thank you. Mr. Botstein.
BOTSTEIN: Just a factual matter. John Higham, in his book on the immigrant American history, shows that the rates of immigration from 1790 to 1940 were at 10 percent and 9 percent, approximately at current levels. What’s this nonsense about their being only high for one period of American history?
STEIN: Throughout most of the colonial period, immigration rarely exceeded 5,000 a year.
BOTSTEIN: Oh, the colonial period. Let me ask-
BOTSTEIN: You forgot to take a census of the Native American population, but let me ask you another question, talking about the attitude of America. In 1933, if you had given a poll of Americans, whether they should open the doors—or in the late ‘30’s, 1938—to the Jews of Europe, would you have thought that was an adequate answer, that they didn’t want more Jews in the United States, and therefore, our restrictive quota policy led indirectly to the deaths of millions of Jews. What would you say about this?
STEIN: This is called “the St. Louis gambit.” The suggestion is that we should have moved 6 million people.
BOTSTEIN: It’s not a St. Louis gambit. I’m a descendent of one of the few survivors.
STEIN: Well, but the point is that at that point in time, or even today, we cannot accept everyone who wants to come here, and if you have a totally cavalier attitude about what the public thinks, on this issue or any issue, or to say, “Well, democracy doesn’t matter. Polls don’t matter.” There is a very clear increase in intensity of public concern about this issue, and if you let the ivory tower, inside-the-beltway eggheads decide how many people come in, without regard to its impact on schools and hospitals and the labor market and all the highly impacted areas, you’re askin’ for trouble.
KINSLEY: Mr. Sharry.
GLASSER: Who are those Washington eggheads? You’re the only one who lives in Washington.
KINSLEY: Mr. Sharry.
STEIN: Pardon me?
KINSLEY: Mr. Sharry.
SHARRY: Mr. Stein, your group calls for a moratorium on immigration-
SHARRY: —essentially zero immigration policies, as I understand it-
STEIN: Several bills in Congress.
STEIN: Brothers, sisters,
STEIN: Brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, on and on and on—
SHARRY: That's not true. You know that's not true-
STEIN: It's called chain migration. It's the problem.
SHARRY: Don't misinform the American people. It does not. Siblings is the most extended category, and waiting lists are 18 years.
STEIN: What's the question? You're eating up my time.
SHARRY: Let's just get the facts straight so we can have a sensible debate. Now, families won't be reunited, refugees won't be rescued, and American businesses won't be able to attract the kind of skilled international personnel they need. Does that serve American national interests?
STEIN: But that's not a characterization of what our immigration policy is. About 90 percent of immigrants come simply because a relative came earlier, and many relatives who come today are relatives of relatives through the petitioning process. Look, if you look at our chromosomes, hey, we're all related if you go back far enough, and at some point you have to use a rational—
SHARRY: So you're saying that family members shouldn't be reunited?
STEIN: —you've got to ask the basic question: What's the purpose of immigration? Are we trying to fill up a continent? Are we underpopulated? Is there not enough traffic, not enough congestion? I mean, we don't have immigration as a national need in the way that we once did as a young, thriving nation. Immigration is not serving any key and major national interest objectives and that's why we're gonna have this extraordinarily important national debate.
SHARRY: Strengthening families isn't in the national interest?
STEIN: Let's have the debate.
KINSLEY: Mr. Koch.
KOCH: Dan, when you said a moment ago, "uncles and aunts," and you know that that's not true, and then you don't respond to his inquiry on that, isn't that why people in this country believe that immigration is out of control, because people like you have given them false information? [applause]
STEIN: I have given nothing-
KOCH: That's number one.
KINSLEY: Let him answer the question.
STEIN: If I come in as an immigrant, I can bring in immediately my spouse and my minor children. After I become a citizen, I can bring my parent and my married brothers and sisters—this is what the commission is looking at—my married brothers and sisters and my married adult sons and daughters. If my parent comes in, he or she, when she becomes a citizen, can bring in her brother or sister, that's my uncle and aunt. Now why you tellin' me that that's not the case when it is, Ed? [applause]
KOCH: Your mother may bring in her brother, but you can't bring in your uncle. I want to give you the second question—
KOCH: —and the second question is this: you and many of your colleagues on that side seem to say, "Well, the American people have decided that they want to end or limit immigration and why is it that they don't get their way?" Now I served on the Congress for nine years, and the form of government that we have is that representatives go to Congress to vote as they think is in the best interest, and if they then vote in ways that the public thinks is not in their best interests, they throw 'em out. But there is no suggestion amongst the members of Congress or the voters in the district that I used to represent that I am simply there to push a lever based upon a referendum or a poll, and I am simply saying that to say that the public wants this—the public wants, regrettably on many occasions, that which the demagogues have urged them to demand, and it's wonderful when people stand up and say, "This I will do, this I will not, if you don't like it, throw me out."
KINSLEY: All right.
STEIN: That's why we have elections.
STEIN: Fortunately, in both the House and the Senate, we have two committee chairs on the Immigration subcommittees who think we need to cut immigration, that being the issue on the agenda. What's wrong with a timeout or a pause like we've had many times in our history? We have a wave of immigration, then you have a pause to absorb and assimilate. What is wrong with that?
KINSLEY: [gavel] It's a rhetorical question. Thank you very much, Mr. Stein. [applause] Mr. Koch, it's your chance to make an opening statement.
KOCH: I'm up?
KINSLEY: You're up. [applause]
KOCH: I come to this forum with a bias. My parents were immigrants. They came here in the early 1900's, and they had three children, and one of them became the mayor of the City of New York. I think that we all congratulate Peter Brimelow on the fact that his wife and he are going to have a child, momentarily to be born, and I hope that that child someday could be the mayor or the governor of whatever town you're living in.
KINSLEY: In whatever country you're living in at that point. [laughter]
<a name="koch"></a> MR. KOCH: But I say to myself, "It's a travesty." Here you are, you came here as an immigrant. Your wife came here as an immigrant. Your son or daughter is going to have all of what this country can give, and you have the effrontery in your book to say, not only that this has gotta stop, but there was, I believe, a statement saying that Hitler got his revenge in this period through the immigration situation that we have in the United States. I think that's a travesty. That's an outrage to suggest that what we have in the United States, having brought in the millions from southern Europe as well as from northern Europe, that that's a travesty. [gavel] Then finally, as I said to you, Arianna, I'm a great admirer, but they wanted to keep out the Greeks in 1924, and had you come at that earlier time, we wouldn't have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting you. [gavel] [laughter] [applause]
KINSLEY: All right, thank you. Mr. Brimelow. [applause] Don't go away. Mr. Brimelow.
BRIMELOW: Mr. Mayor, doesn't it occur to you that it is precisely because the immigrant inflow got so large in 1900 and politicians then would not respond to Americans' distress on the question that the Americans became so overwrought, that their cutoff was so ruthless, that they were unable to allow Jews in?
KOCH: You know, as Ira said a moment ago, I want the American people to have whatever it is that they get their representatives to vote for. And if they're successful in ultimately cutting off immigration, which I hope will not be the case, I will be upset personally, but I won't denounce America in that sense.
BRIMELOW: But doesn't it occur to you—surely you recognize that the reason why I describe the 1965 Act as Hitler's revenge is because the hysteria, the anti-racist hysteria that has prevailed since then—as we see exemplified by Leon and Ira here—is so great that we can't have a rational discussion on the question.
KOCH: But you see, Peter, when you say we can't have rational discussion, it is because you know that it is just unacceptable to take your position that the reason that you don't want our immigration law is that it's bringing in too many blacks, it's bringing in too many Hispanics, it's bringing in too many Asians, and in fact, that is the argument that you give, that these people will not be acculturated. They won't. They in fact will if you give them the opportunity.
BRIMELOW: And the pause. And the pause.
KOCH:. No, I don't think the pause has anything—that pause is baloney. [applause] What I am saying is that there are lots of laws in this country and there are lots of bureaucrats and educators who are, particularly the multi-culturalists, who are your allies because what they are doing through the excesses that they're engaged in is making it possible for people like you to go even further in your language
BRIMELOW: Don't you realize that's because of the-
KOCH: Your language in your book and here is reprehensible.
BRIMELOW: Don't you realize that under the workings of the 1965 Act, your grandparents couldn't have gotten here anyway because it in fact has choked off immigration from Eastern Europe?
KOCH: Well, if that's true, I would regret it—
BRIMELOW: What do you mean, "If it's true?" Don't you know?
KOCH: What's that?
BRIMELOW: I said, "What do you mean, 'If it's true'? Don't you know?"
KOCH: That my grandparents couldn't come here after 1965?
BOTSTEIN: We had an immigration policy from their point of view. What are you talking about?
BRIMELOW: No, no, no. The '65 Act choked off immigration from Eastern Europe.
KOCH: Let me just say this-
GLASSER: The '24 Act choked it off, Peter.
KOCH: I am proud of the fact that the immigrants, of which my mother and father were two, contributed enormous amounts to this country. I hope that you and your wife contribute as much as they did. [applause]
KINSLEY: All right. Mr. Buckley. Mr. Buckley.
BRIMELOW: I've contributed the book.
BUCKLEY: Mayor Koch, a moment ago, one of your colleagues cited 1933. Are we supposed to be abject in our contrition for not having then welcomed the Jewish population of Germany? Two observations: number one, nobody, including the Jewish population, knew what was in store for them; number two, to attempt this kind of preemptive prophetic act commits America to doing things which I think even you would argue we can't do. Should we admit a million Rwandans tomorrow? Should we have admitted a million Cambodians after the bombing in 1970? This asks us to make exertions which are simply surrealistic.
KOCH: Let me take it one at time. Firstly, I think you misspoke when you opened your presentation because you said that the British and the Italians are more easily assimilated than Hispanics. You used the reference to the Italians. The Italians couldn't get in to the same extent as the Brits did until 1965. They were the lower classes, along with everybody else who lived in southern Europe. Now when you asked me about the policy vis-à-vis the Jews and the American public, I don't blame the American public: I blame FDR because he knew and did not take the leadership—
BUCKLEY: Not in 1933, he didn't know.
KOCH: I'm not talking about 1933. I am talking about in 1937, 1938, and 1940—
BUCKLEY: Somewhere he did.
KOCH: —and he did nothing. And for me, he will always live in purgatory, [laughter] but that's another debate. [applause] Now the job of a leader is to stand up and educate and then even if the mob can't he educated, to stand up to the mob and say, "I will vote my conscience." [applause] Now with respect to the Rwandans, let me say, "No, we can't take a million Rwandans." But I will say to you that we can take more than one percent of the world's refugees. It is shameful that the United States, which has a good immigration policy, has a terrible refugee policy. For this great country to stand aside and, whether it's the Rwandans or any one of ten different nations that require that we reach out to them, to stand aside and to say that [gavel] we will only take one percent is an outrage.
KINSLEY: [gavel] Thank you, Mr. Koch. [applause] Mr. Buckley.
You've made your opening remark already, so the opposition may interrogate you. Who wants the first crack? Oh come on, don't all leap up at once. Mr. Glasser?
GLASSER: Yes, yes. It won't be about baseball. Rest easy.
BUCKLEY: What's that?
GLASSER: I said the question won't be about baseball. Rest easy. I want to try to discuss, I hope with less heat and more light, the question of why you think that it is going to be more difficult for today's immigrants to assimilate into the American political culture than it was for the Irish, for the Spanish, for the Italians and Jews, for the Greeks, all of whom were said at the time to be impossible to assimilate.
BUCKLEY: For two reasons, both of which I adumbrated in my opening remarks. Number one, we permit bilingual education, whereas the great universalizing experience during the preceding 150 years was that you had to speak the language that you spoke. [applause] Number two, we have a welfare system which reduces those economic pressures to conform to a system in which one has to make one's own way. This is no longer the case. Now that pressure for so many years did two things: On the one hand, it put pressure on the immigrant to make his way economically and also, it galvanized the philanthropic instincts of people in his community who helped him or her during hard times. That is no longer here, and those are critical differences. Next question.
GLASSER: Both of those reasons seem to me unpersuasive for this reason. One is that there was a lot more bilingual education, as Professor Botstein has said, than you are admitting-
BUCKLEY: A lot more what?
GLASSER: Bilingual education back then—and the differences are simply not as sharp as you say. Second of all, immigrant populations today are generationally learning English at at least a fast rate, and most of the studies show at a faster rate, than previous generations. Number three, if you're problem is bilingual education, work to get rid of it, even if I'm wrong about the other two facts. But why you want to keep other people from coming in because of that, I don't understand.
KINSLEY: Hold on. Hold on.
BUCKLEY: That's the question before the house. If you want to talk about antecedent questions, I'll go back—
GLASSER: Well, you're one who's raising them..
KINSLEY: All right. Mr. Koch.
BUCKLEY: —to the Garden of Eden. The fact of the matter is that-
KINSLEY: Were you there?
BUCKLEY: —under the existing situation, it was very overburdened. [laughter]
GLASSER: There was a very bad immigration quota on the Garden of Eden. [laughter]
BUCKLEY: Who said that? Who said that?
KOCH : Well that's the thrust of what you're saying, that they can't assimilate-
BUCKLEY: You're saying you get that impression, but I didn't give it. [applause]
KOCH: Okay, I understand that, I understand. I am saying when you find fault with multi-culturalism, and I do too; when you find fault with the welfare state, and I do too; that wasn't brought here by the immigrants, that was imposed upon the immigrants. What I am saying is that when the immigrants come here, they find that amongst whites, 22 percent illegitimacy, amongst blacks 70 percent, but every one of them is married, no? The immigrants are married.
BUCKLEY: Mr. Koch, we have pointed out that at four periods in American history, there was a great moratorium; it lasted in one case thirty years. Now that was the felt impression of the people and their Congress on the grounds that assimilation had to get a chance to work. Our point is that such a pause is not now in progress, but all of indications that gave birth to the plausibility of those pauses are present.
KOCH: And all that I'm saying is that the pause is a red herring, that what you have to do is to change the system, not the immigrants. They are desirous of learning English, and they stand in line to learn English in New York City.
BUCKLEY: If you want to repeal the New Deal, I'm all for it.
KINSLEY: Mr. Sharry.
SHARRY: I want to get back to this question of social distance—
KINSLEY: Very briefly.
SHARRY:—between groups of immigrants today and immigrants before. When my Irish father married my Italian mother, it was a big deal, in both families. The distance between the Irish and Italians was perceived as great even 40 years ago, not to mention my grandparents who had very little mixing between the races, primarily because of different languages. I don't understand, given the intermarriage rates now—one out of three immigrants marries outside their group; one out of two of their children marries outside of their group. Don't you have confidence that this intermarriage and assimilation process is so strong that it can even supersede the powers of welfare state multi-culturalism?
BUCKLEY: No, not 100 percent, because the divorce rate has risen by 400 percent during the same period, so maybe some of these things aren't working quite well. The Jewish community is frightened to death by the amount of intermarriage which, if you project it, would mean that there'd be no Jews left 100 years from now, and Will Herberg, in his classical study, showed that there was a certain return to the instinct of one's grandparents in many situations. And so I don't think by any means has it been established that the kind of universal man has been procreated by this miscegenation.
KINSLEY: [gavel] Okay. Thank you, thank you Mr. Buckley. Mr. Botstein.
HUFFINGTON: I wonder whether you could respond to my question without going into the past, but strictly staying in the present. Would you agree that this is a very different America into which immigrants arrive than the America of opportunities where hard work was rewarded, either by success, or at least by a decent living? The America they are coming to now is the America of rights, entitlements, the welfare state. Wouldn't you see a great difference that therefore requires different immigration policies?
BOTSTEIN: No. [laughter] [applause] Your colleague Mr. Stein threw me for a loop here with his Mayflower, getting off the bench.
HUFFINGTON: You promised to stay in the present.
BOTSTEIN: No, but I'm saying the number of immigrants in American history, which from 1790 starts with about 500,000, so now too, has always entered an America where opportunity, where a sense of entitlement because one wasn't a born prince.
STEIN: Wait. What was that figure?
BOTSTEIN: In the number, right, of foreign born American, approximately, by John Higham, one of the leading historians, in 1790 was 500,000.
STEIN: Coming into the country each year? MR. BOTSTEIN: Measured in the census of 1790.
STEIN: As having entered that year?
BOTSTEIN: Not entered that year. The census of 1790.
STEIN: But what about the flow of immigrants each year?
BOTSTEIN: By 1800, it had risen to 600,000.
HUFFINGTON: But this is not the point.
STEIN: That's simply not true, that is not the average level of immigration.
HUFFINGTON: Let's not argue numbers.
BOTSTEIN: Yes, go on.
BRIMELOW: John Higham is against further immigration, by the way.
BOTSTEIN: His sins of politics I can't be guilty of.
HUFFINGTON: I'd really like you to answer that question, because it's really at the heart of this debate. Are you saying that America is not different after the Great Society efforts of the last 30 years? The fact that they can come here, and whether they succeed or not, whether they can make a living or not, they can stay on welfare. This is what drives the Americans nuts. Your side may not like that—Mayor Koch, you called them a mob. Somebody else here said that it's just poll numbers that we don't believe in. Look at the fact that [Proposition] 187 won by 4 million 700,000 Americans voting against illegal immigrants being on welfare and receiving free education and free health.
BOTSTEIN: One of the tragedies is that one, I don't think, can make an argument by the fact that a popular vote, which is motivated by not the most admirable human instincts, is a basis for defining the good in our society. So I would say that the proposition, one, is a victory for the forces I don't happen to believe in in this country. I do believe this country, for example, welfare eligibility. A lot of immigrants are not eligible for welfare. I think that these descriptions-
HUFFINGTON: You're in favor of their being-
BOTSTEIN: —let me finish—the description of America as different is really not substantial. It is still a country where people have to make their own way; most immigrants do make their own way. The description of the immigrant as responsible for poverty, responsible for the poverty of the people who are born here—
M3. HUFFINGTON: Who said that?
BOTSTEIN: —is a wrong description of what actually is happening. [applause]
KINSLEY: Dan Stein.
STEIN: Mr. Botstein—
BOTSTEIN: You are blaming people who are not to blame.
KINSLEY : Dan Stein.
STEIN: Well, are you aware of the fact that immigrants are now more likely than native-born Americans to be living below the poverty line?
BOTSTEIN: They always have been. In the first generation they always have been.
STEIN: Are you aware that they are more likely to be on welfare than natives?
BOTSTEIN: Because in the past, in the past-
STEIN: Are you aware that they are more likely to be working at unskilled jobs?
BOTSTEIN: —a lot of welfare was privately done.
STEIN: None of that was true in 1970. In 1970 the census shows the exact opposite.
HUFFINGTON: But that's the big difference.
BOTSTEIN: In 1870 there was the same complaint. When people start at the bottom of the economic ladder, there is more poverty and more disease.
STEIN: Let me ask you this question: If we had been taking immigrants at the level of the last ten years for the last 200, you know what our population size would be today? Tell me. I can tell you. Two billion people. Do you think that's in the national interest to continue what we're doing today?
BOTSTEIN: First of all, we have been taking—
STEIN: Could you get them to go back out and take the fertility and take it for two hundred years?
BOTSTEIN: You've got your facts wrong. We have been taking, for the last hundred years, the same percentage level, we have the same percentage level of foreign born people. The only pause is beginning in 1970 after the '65 law.
STEIN: The foreign-born population dropped dramatically throughout the middle of this century. Immigration was brought to almost a total halt in 1924. The depression reversed it, and then through that post-World War II era, we had extraordinary economic growth with no immigration, just like the Japanese at the time.
Mr. BOTSTEIN: I'm sorry, the percentage of foreign born Americans through the '30's and '40's was over 11 to 12 percent and it has remained that way.
Mr. STEIN: Now let me ask you this: At the rate we're going, our population density in our coastal counties is going to equal that of Haiti and E1 Salvador by the year 2020. Is that something you support?
Mr. BOTSTEIN: Those are projections which are intended to scare the public. The fact is—immigration, if it is a sensible policy of immigration, based on economic need and economic necessity and opportunity in this country and for other people, will not result—you are creating a scare tactic which has to do with some kind of open borders that have no control whatsoever and no one is arguing for that.
STEIN: On an economic basis, how many immigrants do we need next year to fill all the needed jobs?
BOTSTEIN: It seems to me that what the Jordan Commission has put forward seems reasonable, that there should be some regulation of immigration. We now have a million a year. They are suggesting about half that. It seems to me that somewhere between a half-million and a million a year, the rates we've been accustomed to, are perfectly reasonable rates to maintain. The question is what the policy should be.
KINSLEY: Mr. Brimelow.
BRIMELOW: Are you going to change the floor here? I mean, a 50 percent reduction in the legal immigrant inflow is obviously a drastic reduction; that's our side, not your side.
BOTSTEIN: I'm not in favor of the 50. I'm just suggesting, in response to Mr. Stein's point, that there has been a proposal to reduce it halfway. This proposition that we are debating today is shutting immigration all the way down.
BRIMELOW: This says drastically reduced.
BOTSTEIN: I'm not a believer in drastic reduction—
BRIMELOW: Fifty percent is not drastic?
BOTSTEIN: I'm not a believer in drastic reduction.
BRIMELOW: Are you aware that the U. S. Census Bureau has reported for the first time the existence of a completely new category of Americans, native-born Americans who can't speak English, about two percent?
BOTSTEIN: There have been native-born Americans who cannot speak English throughout its history.
BRIMELOW: Not according to the Census Bureau. Are you aware—
BOTSTEIN: I'm sorry. There have been native born Americans who have not spoken English throughout its history.[gavel]
BRIMELOW: Okay. [gavel]
BOTSTEIN: There are native-born Americans who can't read and write. [gavel] There still are. That's a different problem. It's not the fault of immigration.
BRIMELOW: Are you aware—
KINSLEY: Thank you for those rhetorical questions.
BRIMELOW: Are you aware—
KINSLEY: Thank you very much.
BRIMELOW: I'm sorry? [laughter]
KINSLEY: You'll get a chance to make us all aware, I'm sure, at some point in this debate. [laughter] Thank you Mr. Botstein. Now it's a chance for Mrs. Huffington and Mr. Glasser: to interrogate each other, starting with Mrs. Huffington questioning Ira Glasser.
HUFFINGTON: Mr. Glasser, everybody on your side seems to agree that there should be reductions to the levels of immigration. I would like to really get that clear: are you in favor of reductions? Because this is what we're debating.
GLASSER: No, everybody on our side is not in favor of reductions.
HUFFINGTON: Are you in favor of reductions?
GLASSER: Some people don't have positions on whether or not there should be reductions, The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, which is interested in constitutional rights and discrimination on the basis of race and national origin, has no position on what the numbers should be. That's something for a matter of public policy.
HUFFINGTON: Then why are you involved in this debate?
GLASSER: But nobody else—because, as I said before, I don't think that's the issue—
HUFFINGTON: But this is the resolution-
GLASSER: —I think it's pretextual, and I think that it's impossible to discuss this issue without finding that out. You don't want to talk about the numbers. You want to talk about welfare. You want to talk about bilingual education. You want to talk about—about race and skin color and assimilation and population projections that everybody is guessing at. You don't want to talk about numbers.
HUFFINGTON: No, we want to talk about numbers. The reason that we are talking about welfare and bilingual education and multi-culturalism is because this is the reason why we want to reduce the numbers and to have a pause, and that's the main reason, at least in my case: it has nothing to do with color and it has nothing to do with ethnic origin. And that's why I want to stress this fact, that if you don't have an opinion on whether immigration should be reduced or not, you should not be taking part in this debate, because that's what the debate is about. [applause]
GLASSER: Well, then I would be happy not to take part in this debate if once you would talk about the numbers. You never talk about the numbers-
HUFFINGTON: I will talk about the numbers-
GLASSER: —you talk about everything else.
HUFFINGTON: What do you want to know?
GLASSER: You even before said to Mr. Botstein, "Don't talk about the past," and then you asked him to comment on the difference between now and then.
HUFFINGTON: About now— [laughter]
GLASSER: Yes, as compared to then, you said.
M5. HUFFINGTON: I wanted to force him to talk about now.
GLASSER: You want to talk about the past, but you don't want anybody to answer. You want to talk about welfare, but you don't want anyone to answer.
HUFFINGTON: No, I want to talk about the present, and I want to talk about what people are feeling without being condescending about it.
GLASSER: So talk about the numbers.
HUFFINGTON: Ira, the truth is that nobody around this table, nobody is being affected by immigration, and we need to really pause for minute, and think of the people, the millions of Americans, are being affected by immigration. [applause]
GLASSER: According to Julian Simon, they are being affected positively, he says—
MS HUFFINGTON: Yes, I agree, a lot of us are also being affected positively.
GLASSER: You agree?
MS HUFFINGTON: Absolutely, I agree, but—
GLASSER: Well, he says every immigrant who comes, on the average, makes natives richer, and every time we keep an immigrant out, on the average, we make natives poorer. So tell me what the problem is, particularly since the immigration numbers are at a lower percentage of our total population today than they were in 1910.
MS HUFFINGTON: I agree that those of us here in the one percent in terms of income, affluence, jobs and all that are being affected positively. We have more Korean delis, we have more Chinese restaurants, we have all those things that make our life more pleasant. We even have combined Chinese/Jewish restaurants [laughter].
GLASSER: Chinese restaurants are Jewish restaurants. [laughter] [applause] Sooner or later, Arianna, you'll be assimilated.
MS HUFFINGTON: Yes, and Chinese restaurants are so Jewish, that an hour after you eat you're feeling guilty. [laughter] So for us, it's all great, but what about those people whose jobs are being taken away? And please don't tell me there is no displacement, please don't tell me that salaries and wages are not being kept down because of the millions of illegal, unskilled immigrants who are coming into this country.
GLASSER: How many illegal immigrants come into this country?
MS HUFFINGTON: At the moment, right now, over a million unskilled immigrants—
GLASSER: Illegal immigrants?
MS HUFFINGTON: Yes, illegal immigrants; in the last three years alone: yes. In California, alone, 300,000.
GLASSER: Well, the INS says 300,000, half of whom come in on legal visas and disappear.
MS HUFFINGTON: Much less—
GLASSER: Only 150,000—
MS HUFFINGTON: No, No, No. Come on, this is after they go out.
GLASSER: Well that's not true. No the historians aren't right, INS isn't right, only Peter Brimelow is right.
MS HUFFINGTON: Not at all, not at all.
MR KINSLEY: Hold on, hold on.
BRIMELOW: Because I've read the Census Data.
MR KINSLEY: All right, Ira.
MS HUFFINGTON: We're talking about permanently staying here. We're not talking about those who came and then leave. We're talking about the 300,000 illegal immigrants who are staying here, who go on welfare, who depress the public services available to them, and who therefore make fewer services available to those who have been here.
GLASSER: Now you've talked about welfare again, but the fact of the matter is that if you eliminate political refugees who usually come here penniless because they're running away from persecution, the rates that people use welfare—legal immigrants use welfare—is about the same as the rest of the native population, and every study has showed it: a little more, a little less, about the same. You know why? Because, among other things, most of them are ineligible for AFDC and food stamps 3-5 years after they get here anyway. And the major forms of welfare of course are Medicare and Social Security, and very few of them are old. It just isn't true, Arianna.
KINSLEY: All right—
MS HUFFINGTON: This is just not right. I just have to correct that, because right now, people providing public services in California are not even allowed to find out if somebody's an illegal immigrant or not, and this is the absurdity of it.
GLASSER: What public services—you're not talking about AFDC.
MS HUFFINGTON: I'm talking about every service—
GLASSER: you're not talking about AFDC.
HUFFINGTON: Yes, I am.
GLASSER: You're not talking about Food Stamps.
HUFFINGTON: AFDC. Absolutely.
GLASSER: No, you're not.
KINSLEY: All right, Ira, you can keep asking questions.
HUFFINGTON: You know Ira, you know I have to correct you on this, and it's absurd-
GLASSER: You keep making these assertions-
HUFFINGTON: Ira, Ira, an employer who hires somebody has the obligation to establish if that person is illegal or legal, but a welfare service, a health service provider is not allowed to ask about that.
GLASSER: Those are two different things, and you know that. You keep on asserting things that aren't true, but the fact is—
HUFFINGTON: Like what?
GLASSER: —is that AFDC-
HUFFINGTON: Like what isn't true?
GLASSER: —AFDC payments are not the same as going into an emergency room-
HUFFINGTON: I'm not talking about emergency rooms.
GLASSER: —or going to a public school. Well, you're talking about all services, and the laws and the practices are different.
HUFFINGTON: I'm talking about all services except emergency rooms, and I want you to tell me what you think that I have said is not true.
GLASSER: —first of all, you've said health services.
HUFFINGTON: Health services?
GLASSER: But now when I press you, you exclude emergency services.
HUFFINGTON: Everybody excludes emergency services, including Proposition 187.
GLASSER: Well then, what health services are you talking about?
HUFFINGTON: I'm talking about a pregnant—
GLASSER: You think an illegal immigrant can walk into your doctor and get served?
HUFFINGTON: I'm talking about the fact that an illegal, pregnant woman can walk into any California doctor and get all the services paid for free. Yes, I am talking about that.
GLASSER: Who pays?
HUFFINGTON: The state pays. The taxpayers pay.
GLASSER: Based on what program?
HUFFINGTON: Based on what —come on Ira, please. You know, this is absolutely the fact. This is what 187 was about.
GLASSER: You know, you keep—
HUFFINGTON: Are you in favor of this, or not? Are you in favor of illegal immigrants—
GLASSER: Yeah, I am in favor of a poor pregnant woman being able to get prenatal care anywhere she goes. [applause]
HUFFINGTON: Are you-
GLASSER: I have to tell you something. And your notion—It is a mark of civilization not to turn people like that away, and your notion that that is a significant economic drain on this country is bizarre. [applause]
HUFFINGTON: Are you in favor-
KINSLEY: No, no, no. No, no, no.
GLASSER: Can I ask a question?
KINSLEY: I'm losing control of the borders of this debate. Ira, you're supposed to be asking Arianna questions.
GLASSER: You wanted to talk about the numbers. The numbers are, as a percentage of the total population, the number of people coming in now, including illegals, is much smaller, about a third, of what it was in 1910. Why is that a problem?
HUFFINGTON: The problem is not the numbers. The problem is the need— [laughter] No, the problem is-
KINSLEY: "All immigration should be drastically reduced."
HUFFINGTON: No, no, no. One second. The problem is not the numbers—
GLASSER: She just lost the debate. (laughter)
HUFFINGTON: Ira, the problem is not the numbers that are here now. The problem is that is we don't reduce the numbers that keep coming in, we will not be able to assimilate those who are already here.
GLASSER: And what evidence is there for that?
HUFFINGTON: The evidence is that they are not being assimilated. The evidence is that we are spending 5 billion dollars on bilingual education, and we are producing children who cannot speak English.
GLASSER: How much would we be spending on bilingual education if we stopped immigration now? 4.9 billion? How do you tell whether someone's assimilated?
HUFFINGTON: What we're talking about is—
GLASSER: Are you assimilated? Is Mr. Brimelow assimilated?
HUFFINGTON: I'm not assimilated until you take me to a baseball game, which you promised to do on August 24th.
GLASSER: I'm going to, I'm going to. It's my lot in life to educate conservatives in sports and other things, including the Constitution. [laughter]
HUFFINGTON: You know, it's easy to make fun of each other, but the truth is that right now, if you have Americans, whether legal immigrants or citizens or illegal immigrants, who cannot speak English, they cannot be assimilated. Common language is at the heart of it.
GLASSER: They are not not speaking English at any different rates than they ever not spoke English. It just isn't true. Professor Botstein said it, I said, you keep nodding your head. The problem is that you're doing a lot of studies over there, those of you who are here for a couple of years, but you haven't lived-in families very long, and the fact of the matter is that there isn't an immigrant family in New York where there weren't people who didn't speak English and couldn't read English. And to this day, there are many who don't speak English. That has always been true. And the fact of the matter is that people like my grandfather, when he was 11 years old, was thrown out of his public school because he could only speak Polish. Now they didn't have bilingual education, so he was out on the street, and he had to get a job when he was 12 years old. Now I don't consider it retrogression that today, that kind of person might be able to be taught in his native language until he was able to speak English so he could stay in school. That's all we're talking about. [applause] The problem is, isn't it, that you're here, and you want to keep it that way.
KINSLEY: All right.
HUFFINGTON: Oh, come on, Ira. You know that's not the problem, and I've made it very clear, but—
GLASSER: What else do you mean when you say you want to drastically reduce the numbers, even though the numbers aren't a problem?
KINSLEY: All right, all right.
HUFFINGTON: What's your question?
GLASSER: My problem is, if the numbers are not a problem now, which is what you've said, why do you want to reduce them so drastically? [gavel]
KINSLEY: All right, Ira. You've asked that question and she's attempted to answer it already. Thank you very much, both of you. [laughter] [applause] Mr. Koch and Mr. Buckley. And Mr. Buckley can question Mr. Koch to begin with.
BUCKLEY: Mayor Koch, the floor manager in 1965, advocating passage of the immigration bill which we're talking about, gave the following assurances: first, "Our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually." Answer: they were. Secondly, "The ethnic mix of this country will not be upset." Answer: in fact it was. And finally, "Contrary to the charges from some quarters, the bill will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area." In fact it has; for instance, Miami now. That was Senator Kennedy. Our point is not that the processes of democracy were not observed in 1965, as was tossed into the discussion a moment ago, but that the implications of that act weren't sufficiently measured. Is that a fair thing to say?
KOCH: Well, I think it's fair to point out that Senator Kennedy misled—if that's the quote and I'm sure that it is—but everybody knew what they were doing. Everybody knew what they were doing, in my judgment. And Harry Truman said everybody knew what they were doing when they passed this legislation. I—
BUCKLEY: Because they didn't foresee it.
KOCH: Mr. Buckley, I will say this to you. I don't agree with my chairman, Ira Glasser here, on everything and particularly the last round. I happen to support 187. If I had been in California, I would have voted for it. That dealt with illegal immigration, [applause] not with lawful immigration, and the problem is that in any discussion, intentional or unintentional, it is always fused together. Now if we say that there are illegal immigrants receiving welfare, is that their fault really, or is it the fault of the state and federal government, that it doesn't create the mechanism to weed them out? I mean, regrettably in this country, the rich and the poor steal. They do. And the poor are as smart as the rich, and so, if they can find a way to get on some subsidy, they will. But it's our job as legislators to change that. So what I'm saying to you, Mr. Buckley, is this: If you accept my statement that I want the illegals out; I support a trench, which I'm sure my colleagues don't, to keep illegal immigrants out. I want them, if after they're sent back the first time and they come back a second time illegally, I want them incarcerated so they'll understand that there's a punishment. I don't want Americans to be paying for the medical bills of illegal aliens, except in emergency situations. I don't think that is heartless. There are limits as to what any society can do. But that has nothing to do with the legal immigrants who come here. I think they have created a better society. When you come to New York City, the Koreans, the Hispanics, they saved the City of New York in many areas that were just going down the drain and becoming slums, and they came in and rebuilt them. Isn't that to be praised?
BUCKLEY: You've got a logical problem because to prove that somebody has made a contribution to particular society is not sufficient reason to generate a conclusive or persuasive philosophical case for letting that happen again. I can understand a law in which Einstein might have been inadvertently excluded, but that doesn't mean that the laws were designed to exclude Einstein.
KOCH: But, but if I may say this: When one-third to one-half of the Westinghouse scholars are immigrants, from immigrant families, and a huge percentage are Asians, does it make any sense, in this technological age, where we're looking for brains, where we're looking for people to come into our society and upgrade it, upgrade it, particularly in the areas of math, that we should want to exclude these people? [applause]
KINSLEY: All right. That's your first offensive question. I mean, I wonder if that's a—Go on the offensive. Mr Buckley.
BUCKLEY: To which I reply that there are two comments that are appropriate to that question. Number one, why aren't Americans doing better? If you say, "Well, it's because it's a genetic problem," then I'd say, "Okay, then in that case we can't do better." But I don't see what has changed in our genes that caused the SAT scores to go down 80 points in the last ten years, but they have. Number two, if your argument is we ought to be extremely receptive to anybody who can outdo an average American in intelligence tests, then presumably that would be on the immigration policy, right? We could send over to Peking or wherever or Korea, and invite them all over. In point of fact, we don't take that position because America is about something other than pure, raw intelligence, isn't it?
KOCH: And you are right. But it happens that when you allow these immigrants to come in, you're getting both. You're getting everything that's positive where you see it to be positive that doesn't relate to math skills or other abilities that help this society, and I am not for going over and selecting the cream of China. I am happy to rely on those immigrants that come here. You know why? Because the people who are willing to get up and go historically have been the best of any country. They're the ones with the courage. But I want to ask you this, Mr. Buckley. If, in 1924, you were doing then what you're doing now, educating the public and denouncing unfairness and injustice—
BUCKLEY: This is a question, right?
KINSLEY: Yes. Yes. No, it's a question. [laughter]
KOCH: If you were doing then in 1924 what you're doing now, and that immigration bill, which excluded to a great extent the southern Europeans, the Greeks and the Jews and the Italians, would you have stood up and denounced it?
BUCKLEY: I would have used whatever resources I had available. For instance, in 1965 I would have deplored the fact that the immigration bill set aside all considerations of intellectual quality. What became important then was family relations, so that in 1965 we were erecting, establishing a law which worked exactly in the opposite direction of those that you welcome. But incidentally, it's a very bad idea—and I don't need to tell you this with your experience—to generalize about legislative and comprehensive matters by individualizing them. He pulls out the pregnant woman: that's kindergarten stuff. [laughter] Obviously, nobody is going to stop looking after a pregnant woman, nor somebody bitten by a rattlesnake. I'm sure if a rattlesnake victim goes to a doctor, he's not going to say, "Show me your papers and prove that you're legal."
KOCH: He's not required to.
BUCKLEY: The fact is that we're attempting to make a general policy, and that general policy recognizes that the medical resources of California, for instance, are strained. That's why you would have voted for 187.
KOCH: Those are the illegals, not the legals. Why do we mix the two together?
BUCKLEY: Well, because we're talking about a question of volume. When somebody comes in and has passed through the INS procedures and is "legal," as a human being I don't think differently about him from the one who is illegal. In fact, the one who is illegal I might feel greater compassion for. But the fact of the matter is is that it's the volume which is inordinate in an historical view of the matter.
KOCH: You're now telling this audience that you have greater concern and feeling about the illegal immigrant who had no right to come here, who ought to go back, than the legal immigrant?
BUCKLEY: If she's pregnant, I don't distinguish.
KOCH: No, don't bring in this red herring pregnant woman.
BUCKLEY: I didn't bring her in. He brought her in.
Mr. GLASSER: She asked me the question.
KOCH: There's no question that emergent services medically are provided, and as Arianna said, under 187 in California. And that is the problem with people who want to close down or vastly limit immigration. [gavel] They want to confuse the issue by merging and fusing illegal and legal immigration. [gavel]
Mr. KINSLEY: Thank you both. Thank you both, gentlemen. [applause] Peter Brimelow. Here's your chance, all of you, to prove that you've read Peter Brimelow's book. Leon Botstein.
BOTSTEIN: Mr. Brimelow, you started this debate by saying something about race being destiny in American politics. You made a distinction between European politics, and for European immigrants, where citizenship, being part of the French nation or German nation, is really a function of birth and place and language, I wonder why you think that in American politics, race is destiny? Is it merely because you think they're all going to vote Democratic?
BRIMELOW: You mean—you're asking me a technical question here. Why is it in the past?
BOTSTEIN: A policy question which derives from, I think, your position on the immigration question.
BRIMELOW: Well, the point I'm making is very simple. In the past—it's simply a matter of record—ethnicity is what drives American political leaders. If you don't understand that, it's time to read some more political science.
KINSLEY: Mr. Koch
KOCH: Mr. Brimelow, why don't we give greater emphasis, instead of in your direction of stopping it, the immigration, to firm up the sponsorship affidavits, so that everyone who sponsors a legal immigrant is then responsible for, in my judgment, up to five years, until that immigrant has the right to become a citizen? Why don't we give that the emphasis instead of what you're emphasizing, which everyone believes is race. [applause]
BRIMELOW: Everybody believes it. That's why I wanted to write the book. The answer is quite simple: There are all kinds of ways of reforming immigration that are rational, and they should be debated. For example, it is quite clear to me that you don't understand how the '65 Act skewed skill levels downward, actually made it harder for these skilled immigrants to come in. Now this is a bad idea. We should reform that policy. There should be a national debate and policy should be reformed on a rational basis. Well to do that, we're going to have to have a cutoff of up to five years until we get this reformed.
KOCH: Skilled immigrants are about 20 percent of the total number, and the other 80 percent are reunification of families. That happens to be a basic democratic tenet that even the Communists permitted when they said if someone is going to be reunited with their family, even though we don't allow anybody out of the country, we will allow those people out.
BRIMELOW: Nonsense. The Canadians have a family reunification policy, but it's nowhere near as radical as the Americans'. Family unification policy could easily be reformed rationally, and that's in fact what the Commission is proposing and that's what I recommend in Alien Nation.
KINSLEY: Mr. Sharry.
SHARRY: Yes, two questions about policy. One, as a conservative, I would think you would be in support of family values, and it seems ironic that you would then be against a policy which reunites families that are separated by borders. I find that ironic. My second question has to do with skill levels: in 1990, a bipartisan consensus in Congress passed a bill which tripled the number of skilled immigrants who could come into the United States. You refer to 1965: that's ancient history. The current law of the land is to give more priority, over the last five years, to skilled immigrants, and many American employers have come to depend on skilled immigrants who help them stay competitive in a global marketplace. What is wrong with those policies?
BRIMELOW: Of course there's no reason at all why these families couldn't be reunited in their own countries: In many cases, these families are made up of people who marry, immigrants who marry spouses and then call them from the old country. That's not reunification as Americans normally understand it. It's perfectly true that in 1990, because of the disastrous work in the '65 Act, they increased the skill level quota to 150,000, but at the same time, they increased the overall inflow, at the behest, I might say, of immigrant advocacy groups like your own. So skills are still involved.
KINSLEY: Mr. Botstein.
BOTSTEIN: Aren't you really concerned about the consequences of the '65 act having to do with the racial distribution of who comes to the United States and not the numbers?
BRIMELOW: No, I think numbers are of the essence. If the numbers could be brought down, then all these other problems-even skill levels—would go away. And I actually state that in the book, which is why I'm astonished to find Ira Glasser arguing that I'm in favor of quotas. [gavel]
KINSLEY: All right. Thank you, Mr. Brimelow. [applause] Mr. Sharry. Mr. Stein must have a question for Mr. Sharry.
STEIN: Frank, who are the major interests or forces that are pushing for high immigration and what bad thing would happen if we had, say, a 20 year period of, say, a moratorium?
SHARRY: The major interests that support immigration?
STEIN: High immigration.
SHARRY: Well, your definition of high immigration and mine are very different. Who supports immigration? American employers who need skilled personnel that they can't find in local labor markets. American families who want to be reunited with close family members. People who care about the United States' leadership on human rights so that they can rescue refugees through— [applause] —through resettlement. The specific interests?
STEIN: Yes, the interest groups.
SHARRY: It's a very bipartisan issue, as you know-
STEIN: Agricultural growers—
Mr. SHARRY:—from Mario Cuomo to Newt Gingrich.
STEIN: Aren't agricultural growers a big constituency in there?
SHARRY: Agricultural growers? They actually prefer illegal workers because they're easier to exploit. [laughter] [applause] They can't move the fields, so they have to bring the cheap workers, right.
STEIN: And you got the Ford Foundation in there, right?
SHARRY: The Ford Foundation?
STEIN: And you have Church groups.
SHARRY: And Church groups?
SHARRY: Right, religious—yes, the Catholic Church. I wonder if Mr. Buckley knows this: the Catholic Church, an immigrant Church traditionally and currently, does very much support immigration. They believe that immigration makes America strong, and I agree with them.
STEIN: Okay. And what bad things would happen if we had, you know, 20 years of moratorium?
SHARRY: Well, what would happen? First of all, and specifically, families who are now separated by borders couldn't be reunited. Refugees who have nowhere to go and for whom the United States is now a safe haven, would not be able to come here. Employers who can't find the kind of workers—who are in competition with Australia and Canada and other countries for the kind of skilled personnel that they need to stay on the leading edge of technological leadership—they will suffer. And, more fundamentally from my point of view, rather than as sort of the specifics, we as a nation suffer. Our soul and our spirit is open and confident and embracing of new ideas and new people who make us better. That's the America I want to live in, and immigration is a vital part of that. [applause]
KINSLEY: Mrs. Huffington.
HUFFINGTON: Mr. Sharry, I agree with that, but would you also agree with Mayor Koch, who made a very important distinction, at least as a basis, between legal and illegal immigration—would you agree that the American taxpayers, the hardworking American taxpayers, also deserve some respect and deserve groups like yours to allow for the fact that it's their money that's going to support for those services provided for illegal immigrants. Would you be in favor of, at the minimum, that?
SHARRY: As I stated earlier, I do believe there is a very fundamental distinction between legal and illegal immigration. I believe we should do a better job of controlling illegal immigration and reducing it, and it shouldn't be confused with legal immigration. [applause] Where I would part from my new friend, Mr. Mayor, is that I don't think that reaching into the schools and asking them to turn out kids onto street corners who don't have proper papers is the way to go. I do not think asking doctors and nurses to ask for immigration papers when people come in for immunizations is smart for us. I don't think that's the approach. I do think that the Federal Government, which reaps a windfall from immigrant tax dollars—estimates as high as 30 billion dollars a year—do owe states like California and New York some impact assistance to deal with the real education and health costs. [applause]
KINSLEY: Mr. Brimelow.
BRIMELOW: So you want to tax areas where there's no immigrants to support areas where illegal immigrants are settling?
SHARRY: I'm sorry?
Mr. BRIMELOW: You want to tax areas where there's no immigration to support areas of the country where illegal immigrants are settling?
SHARRY: No. I think that-
BRIMELOW: That's what you just said.
SHARRY: Look, what I said was that immigrants pay an estimated 30 billion dollars a year more in taxes than they use in services. As a result—
BRIMELOW: Let me ask my question, though, which is: What number of legal immigrants do you want?
SHARRY: I believe current levels are not the issue.
BRIMELOW: The question is: what number of legal immigrants do you want?
SHARRY: I just answered your question.
BRIMELOW: Do you have a number?
SHARRY: Yes. Current levels. Which are, as you know, 675,000 legal immigrants-
BRIMELOW: And 120,000 asylees a year—
SHARRY: Approximately a hundred-
BRIMELOW: Nearly 900,000 a year. That's what you want to see.
SHARRY: [laughs] Peter, excuse me. The facts are this. I know you wrote a book, but here are the facts. [laughter] [applause] 675,000 legal immigrants-
BRIMELOW: You should really try reading it, you know. It's all there.
SHARRY: —a small number of refugees, 100,000 a year. I think that is very doable for the United States.
BRIMELOW: A hundred-twenty thousand asylees. Nearly 900,000 a year. Okay, so you go to the American people and ask them if they want that. [gavel]
KINSLEY: All right. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Sharry. Mr. Botstein and Mr. Stein ascend to the podium and Mr. Stein questions Mr. Botstein for five minutes.
STEIN: Our population is now about 265 million people. Thanks to immigration, we're now seeing our population levels go up to about 400 million by 2050. That's nearly 150 million more people. Most of those people are going to be going in those coastal regions where half of all Americans already live. What do you think is going to be required to accommodate almost 150 million more people in those areas, and do you think we have infrastructure and services to support them?
Mr. BOTSTEIN: Yes, I do. I think that population unfortunately is inevitable except if there is a volunteer incentive to reduce the population, and that we will have to find a way to, with a greater sense of the environment, manage growth in a way that is compatible. The density of our population here is not as great as that of Europe, which has managed very well. We need to be very concerned about how we do this, but it is not, it seems to me, a reasonable proposition—and the 9th century development, for example, of France "as a nation"—to think that stable demographics and no population growth is a good thing.
STEIN: What environmental goal or objective is made easier by having 150 million more people here?
BOTSTEIN: The most important environmental goal would be that we might find a way to get along better with one another if we actually—as we could find if we might, if we might—could find to continue a nation that is not troubled by the kind of implied racism that the resistance to immigration presents.
STEIN: Well, if you drive down the highway in most of these coastal regions like New York City or Los Angeles, you see already that the roads in particular are very congested. The growth patterns that were established in the 1950's and '60's around Mr. Eisenhower's highway system seem to be choking to the max.
BOTSTEIN: Well, we need a better public transportation system. Do you want to debate that? [laughter] I'd be happy to debate it. [applause]
STEIN: And how do you propose—and how would you finance 150 million more people living in these areas? Where does the housing, the roads, the infrastructure—where are the jobs? Where is everything going to come from?
BOTSTEIN: These 150 million people—let's assume they're all immigrants—are going to do what our grandparents did. They're going to create jobs, ingenuity, create new industries. A lot of them are immigrant based. And they're going to create wealth. And with those people we're going to create wealth, and with that wealth there's going to be tax income, and with that tax income should be a better way of doing things, such as public transportation and other ways to avoid the ills. Don't blame the ills that we can't manage in our cities on the immigrants.
STEIN: So you sound like—the economics of it make it sound like you think as a society we should all be trying to have a lot of kids—four, five kids each—and grow our population.
BOTSTEIN: Now you're changing it. Now you're talking about my productivity, which I don't think is appropriate to talk on television about— [laughter] —but that's different from the question of immigration. We're talking about immigration, not how many children I have, right?
BOTSTEIN: So you're suggesting to me that immigration is a bad thing because we're going to have too many people.
STEIN: I'm suggesting to you that we don't need any immigration so we shouldn't have it.
Mr. BOTSTEIN: We don't—that's essentially what someone on your panel said, "Well, define America. Do we need it?" I think, as my colleagues have said, ethically and morally and traditionally, we do need it because we are a nation about openness, about change, and about development.
Mr. STEIN: Okay, okay.
BOTSTEIN: We are not like the French and the Japanese.
STEIN: Your entire panel has tried to build an immigration policy on the rhetoric that we need some kind of openness or what have you. Well why couldn't we achieve that same rhetorical openness and moral responsibility with three immigrants a year?
BOTSTEIN: Because, traditionally, as I've tried to say and all the historical sources have been bashed, we've had, approximately as a percent of our total population, around ten percent foreign born. And I think the rates today, with the agreement of my panelists—legal immigration, not illegal immigration—at the rates we now have, is a sustainable rate that is traditionally compatible with American history and all the good things we now enjoy.
STEIN: Let me ask you this question: What are Americans doing now in those regions where there's highest immigration? Do you know where they're moving?
KINSLEY: Answer that, then go on the offensive.
BOTSTEIN: The question is: Where are the people with highest immigration are moving?
STEIN: Based on the 1990 census. Where are Americans going who lived in California, Florida, New York, Illinois, and Texas?
BOTSTEIN: You answer the question.
STEIN: They're leaving. And one of the reasons they're leaving is because of the quality of life in those areas. One of the problems we have with immigration today is that the federal government lets in maybe a million immigrants a year, then you have people coming illegally as well. But as Mayor Koch well knows, the fiscal impact immediately falls on the schools and the hospitals and the roads and the housing. The federal government loves to not care about the consequences of the immigration because it's the state and local taxpayer who picks up the tab. Now the Mayor's response was to say, "Let's say we're not going to ask what the immigration status is of New York City residents," and then the state turned around and sued the federal government for the costs, so those who want to profit by immigration love asking the rest of us to pick up the tab.
BOTSTEIN: May I answer the question? This is the old New York City story. There is no doubt, I believe, that there should be a different way to take responsibility for the ports of entry. New York once was a major port of entry and the question is: When they said, "New York, drop dead"—you remember: The rest of the country said, "New York, drop dead." They forget that in fact immigration is about the history of migration. People come to one place, they displace other people. The environment of New York City and Los Angeles will change. As a new group comes in, another group moves out. Therefore, the nation has a responsibility for immigration which cannot only be solved by some old-fashioned distinctions. Just because the city of New York is the place they go or LA is the place they go, they are totally responsible for something that ultimately benefits the entire nation because people moved westward.
STEIN: Yes, but if the people don't want it, why should they have it? Since you're asking me questions, the bottom line is that we really don't—I mean, you have to ask yourself, "What's the purpose of immigration?" Are underpopulated? I say no. Is there a labor shortage in this country? I think most Americans would agree the answer is no. Are we trying to build Napoleon's grand army and sweep down and take over Latin America? No. Are we too homogenous as a nation to be a legitimate nation? You guys seem to think that we are not. Our panel thinks that we are doing fine just the way we are.
BOTSTEIN: May I answer your rhetorical questions?
STEIN: You're askin' me the questions and you won't ask me a question, so I'll answer it myself. [laughter]
KINSLEY: Wait a minute, wait a minute. Mr. Stein. You're asking—you choose to ask a question when you're supposed to be answering them, he has the right to answer them.
BOTSTEIN: Can I make the rhetorical answer?
STEIN: No, I'm waiting. Ask me a question.
BOTSTEIN: But since you've answered yours which I think very admirable— [laughter] own questions,
Mr. STEIN: Thank you.
BOTSTEIN: —I'm going think that economically we globally, and the fact is, immigration—to do the same, and that is that I do need an influx. We're not competitive we have always profited from
STEIN: What's wrong with Americans? Americans can do the job.
BOTSTEIN: —from immigration and from high—I'm a free trader. I actually believe that we should get the very best, and we have profited by that, so I think there's an economic reason. There's also a cultural reason. There's a cultural reason not to become like those European nations which have become very racist and very insular. I don't admire the way those nations have developed. So in fact, yes. We disagree about what is good for America.
KINSLEY: Now ask a question.
BOTSTEIN: What I want to ask for you is: Why are you so frightened of immigration? [laughter]
STEIN: I'm not frightened at all.
BOTSTEIN: Tell me why you're so frightened of immigration? [applause]
STEIN: Those academic institutions that profit from foreign students who get a billion dollars in government assistance-[applause] —never have to worry about these considerations. A country is made up of its land, its institutions, and its people. You take immigrants if you need them as a national priority. You do not take immigrants as needed if it does not mesh with your other domestic objectives. You know, it was Pierre Samuel DuPont de Nemours who convinced Napoleon to sell Jefferson the Louisiana Purchase. Now if an immigrant can come today and double the size of the land mass of the United States with unsettled wilderness, you want to bring in a million immigrants a year to fill up the continent. But the age when you could use immigration to solve problems and fill up continents and uncharted wilderness, that is over, it ended a hundred years ago. We've got to stop trying to do the impossible.
BOTSTEIN: May I suggest two things? First of all, you're wrong. There are immigrants—someone mentioned Einstein and Fermi—that without immigrants the whole major scientific establishment of modern American history would not exist in its current form.
Mr. STEIN: You have no faith in American enterprise.
BOTSTEIN: The fact is—wait a minute, it's not about faith, it's about facts—
STEIN: That is simply not true. That is simply not true.
BOTSTEIN: —and the second, and the second—it's a matter of fact-
STEIN: So you want a policy that will dramatically reduce the numbers and give us the refined level of highly skilled scientists.
Mr. BOTSTEIN: I didn't say that. You're saying that.
STEIN: But that's what your policy position reflects.
KINSLEY: Let him finish.
Mr. BOTSTEIN: And the second thing is that when you say we don't need it, I think part of America's mandate is in fact opening the borders to people who suffer from religious and political persecution.
KINSLEY: All right. All right, gentlemen. Thank you very much, both of you. [applause] It's time for closing arguments, and Ira Glasser this time is closing for the opposing team.
GLASSER: I am greatly concerned because of the descent of this debate, nationally and here today, into racial and ethnic terms. It is quite possible, it is quite possible to debate whether we need immigrants economically or not, how many we should have, what mix of skills we should have. If that were all we were talking about, we would not have such a hot debate. That is not what we're all talking about. Julian Simon, a conservative economist who writes for the National Review and has never published anything for the ACLU, who published a definitive book called The Economic Consequences of Immigration, says that every time an immigrant comes, this country becomes richer; says that every time we reduce our immigration, the country becomes poorer; and he also says that the skill level is going up, not down, as Mr. Brimelow says; and he also says that the data in Alien Nation are erroneous. Now we are not going to be able to figure out who's right here, but I'll put my money on the conservative economist. Now the fact is that when Mr. Botstein asked Mr. Brimelow, "Aren't you really concerned about the ethnic and racial makeup of the immigrants, not the size?" he said, "No. If you reduce the size enough, that'll be taken care of." Well I suppose that's true. But on page 61 of his book he says the effect of the 1965 act was not merely on the size of the flow, but that it "dramatically skewed the sources." He goes on to say, "They're coming not from Europe, the common homeland," of course ignoring the fact that we all came from common homelands that were berated for being racist—the Italians were different, the Swedes were different, the Germans were different, the Irish were different—we came from a common homeland, and now they're coming from "completely different, arguably incompatible cultural traditions." He goes on to say, "An ethnic and racial transformation without precedent in history." He worries on virtually every other page about his son growing up in a world that is no longer predominantly white. Now the fact is that he doesn't want to be called a racist, and I think that's a legitimate argument to make if you're concerned about that, but I urge liberals and conservatives alike to distance themselves from the darkest and the worst and the most ugly traditions that this country has had. The 1924 act was a racist act; the 1965 act was a civil rights act that got rid of national origin discrimination. The 1924 act came at a time of unbridled racism in this country. It was racist against every immigration group. We do not need to restore that tradition [gavel] in order to decide how many immigrants to have and what mix of skills we need. [applause]
Mr. KINSLEY: Thank you, Mr. Glasser. Mr. Buckley, closing for the affirmative team.
BUCKLEY: Mr. Chairman, awhile ago a figure was given that delighted the audience because it was said so contemptuously. It was the figure that America has only six percent of the population of the world, but consumes 25 percent of the world's goods. You could just feel the tremors of self-mortification when that was said. [laughter] But it seems to me that under the circumstances, we're entitled to investigate those figures and say, "If we have six percent of the people in the world, why are we taking in 50 percent of the immigrants of the world?" Any answers to that? All right. We are—50 percent of the immigrants. It's not like Germany, takes none. Japan takes none. Australia charges you if you want to go there, so has Canada recently. It may be in part because, since we have 25 percent of the consumption of the world, we become a place where people want to go. I was in Guantanamo five days ago, and I talked to Cuban refugees, and I asked one woman why had she left Cuba, and she said, "Because I want to feed my child." That's an extremely good reason among others for leaving Cuba, but the answer is, with 25 percent of the consumption of the entire world, we've become a magnet. Question: Is 50 percent of the entire immigration population of the entire world not pulling our oar? Well, we contend it's only pulling our oar, but it's going a little bit too far. It's going a little bit too far as witness that certain mannerisms and habits which are not a part of the American tradition—for instance, a failure to learn the language—are being ignored, and they are being ignored because, under the auspices of multi-culturalism, we tend to be increasingly indifferent to the problem. Now I don't doubt that we could finance 450 million people if they came because people generate more money than they consume in the course of a lifetime. I don't doubt that for a moment, but I do ask the question: why should we want as many as 50 percent of the people who want to travel to a country that consumes 25 percent even though it has only six percent of the population? Isn't it fair to say that practically everybody wants to come to America? Hedrick Smith, writing a book about China, said, "If the lampposts could speak, they'd say, 'we want to go to America.'" [laughter] We should be very proud of that, but in the course of being proud of that, we should be very very careful to be honest and sincere and builders and custodians of a tradition that oughtn't to be trampled upon by sentimentalizations of genuine problems. Don't you agree, Mr. Chairman? [laughter]
Mr. KINSLEY: Mr. Buckley, thank you very much. In answer to your question, Mr. Buckley, I cannot agree with your side or your side because I'm supposed to be scrupulously neutral. There is one argument made by the affirmative that did bother me a little bit, this idea that it's a good argument what Americans want, what the polls say. Yes, what Americans want will ultimately triumph. The premise of these debates, indeed the premise of democracy itself, is that Americans are amenable to persuasion. That's what both sides have been after tonight, and I think they've both done a great job. Thanks to the panelists, thanks to our audience here at Bard, and thanks to the audience watching on PBS. Thank you very much, all of you. Thank you to Warren Steibel, the producer, and thank you to everyone at Bard College who's had us here repeatedly at Leon Levy Institute. Thank you very much. [applause]