It's happened to me maybe a dozen times since I published Alien Nation in 1995: at some conservative gathering in Washington or New York, a well-known figure in the movement takes me aside and, glancing around to make sure no-one from The Wall Street Journal Edit Page is watching, hisses:
"I agree with you about immigration!"
Then he (or she - really true, in this case) scuttles off.
I don't blame them for being cautious ... well, not much. It's hard enough for conservatives to get published in the national media. And the few outlets that are available to them take a notoriously uncollegial view of anyone who questions the immigration enthusiast orthodoxy.
Actually, considering the reign of terror, it's surprising how many established conservatives have quietly spoken out. That's why we recently linked to an article http://www.hudson.org/American_Outlook/articles_nov-dec_00/reynolds.htm by Alan Reynolds, one of the architects of the Reagan supply-side revolution, now at the Hudson Institute http://www.hudson.org/. Reynolds takes the moderate position that immigration can be a good thing - but the current policy isn't. (Another article by Reynolds, on Texas, health insurance and immigration, is at /reynolds_texas_kid.htm).
The most dramatic evidence yet of intelligent life within the conservative establishment: the December issue of American Enterprise magazine http://www.theamericanenterprise.org/taedec00.htm, published by the Washington D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute. It's an immigration special issue with a really critical cast. Note especially the debate on assimilation http://www.theamericanenterprise.org/taedec00b.htm between John Fonte and Michael Barone (who continues to show NO SIGN OF HAVING READ ALIEN NATION or any other critique of immigration, alas). Editor Karl Zinmeister's lucid summary http://www.theamericanenterprise.org/taedec00a.htm is studiedly moderate ("Currently, my wife and I are helping settle a Sudanese family of six in our hometown through a church refugee program") but nevertheless makes it crystal clear that the current policy is broke and needs fixing.
Ideas do have consequences, and it's possible that we may be pleasantly surprised by the new Republican Congress's attitude to immigration. Some time ago, TV pundit John McLaughlin publicly predicted that immigration reform would be passed in the second year of the Gore Administration.
I'll believe it when my conservative friends stop hissing in my ear.
November 22, 2000