No Tears Over Chavez by Paul Gottfried
Chavez: The End! by Scott McConnell
Well, all of us ex-conservative media types can't help liking Linda Chavez personally, although she did wimp out on the heroic John Tanton and wrote a poisonous review of Peter Brimelow's Alien Nation (or at any rate signed it, it was probably ghosted by the unspeakable John J. Miller). Maybe this just shows we're sexists. Or maybe she's not so bad?
The controversial appointment of Linda Chavez as Labor Secretary is one of Dubya's more interesting choices, and probably his most courageous. I hope Chavez weathers the tempest around her Guatemalan friend/housekeeper. I find it rich that the AFL/CIO of John Sweeney, rapidly selling out the interests of American workers with the adoption of its own pro-illegal alien policy, should be taking the lead role in trying to block Chavez's appointment over what is clearly an ambiguous situation. (For a dissenting paleocon view see Paul Gottfried.)
Chavez is the only member of the incoming cabinet who has not only thought seriously but actually written about the issues which animate this site. Her views, if not congruent to VDARE's, are far more reasoned and sound than most in the Bush coalition. And she gives every indication of real familiarity with the arguments for considerably reducing immigration levels.
The early objections to her appointment turned on her long-standing and courageous opposition to "affirmative" discrimination and racial quotas; she is also an outspoken opponent of bilingual education. These are standard (and praiseworthy) neoconservative positions; I expect Chavez to weather the storms she will face on them with eloquence and style.
More interesting battles will come when she is in the cabinet and, somehow or other (a mild economic slowdown, a surprising outbreak of common sense on the part of the GOP strategists), immigration reform works its way onto the agenda. Here Chavez may find herself at crossed swords with many neo-conservatives and Wall Street Journal post-nation-state types. I can readily imagine her being the first voice in the Bush cabinet to argue for immigration reform.
Here are some italicized excerpts from a piece Chavez published in Commentary in June 1998, with some of my comments interspersed:
In 50 years, if trends hold, [Hispanic-Americans] will comprise one-quarter of the total U.S. population. Not since the first decades of this century has the United States experienced so intense and far-reaching a demographic shift.
The implications of this shift have alarmed opinion-makers and policy analysts on both the Left and the Right, provoking calls for an immediate curtailment of immigration from Latin countries. There is, of course, nothing new in this: Spanish-speaking immigrants are hardly the first to stir apprehension in the hearts of native-born Americans. It was once a commonplace of elite opinion that the millions of Jews and other Europeans who were pouring into American ports at an unprecedented rate would not only fail to assimilate but would become, as a Harvard economics professor warned in a full-page New York Times advertisement in 1913, "a menace to Anglo-Saxon civilization." (Standard Commentary boilerplate thus far: those perfidious Anglo Saxons again. But then this:)
But if it is tempting to dismiss today's warnings as no less fallacious and misplaced, the fact is that our situation is far more complicated than it was 75 years ago, and our predicament correspondingly more serious. Among other things, the United States itself has changed dramatically over the course of the century; while it remains a magnet with great powers of attraction to immigrants of all kinds, its ability to absorb them may have declined. (Yes, indeed.)
Thanks to a 1965 change in immigration law that henceforth gave priority to relatives of persons already living in the United States, a tide of poorly educated, non-English-speaking Mexican immigrants began to wash over the towns and cities where established Mexican-Americans had lived for decades. These new arrivals, their ranks swollen still further by substantial numbers of illegal immigrants, exerted a marked downward pressure on wages in California in the 1970's, especially for low-skilled Mexican-American males. Not until the 1980's, according to a recent study by Kevin F. McCarthy and Georges Vernez, did wages resume a healthy growth. (She understands the 1965 law, and reads the literature. About what other cabinet officer in the past thirty years can this be said?)
Except among Puerto Ricans and the most recent immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere, then, the real problem in the Hispanic community is not a lack of economic mobility. The real problem is that, whatever the degree of their economic success, only haltingly are Hispanic immigrants becoming part of the social, political, and cultural fabric of the U.S. The anecdotal and statistical evidence attesting to this fact is, unfortunately, abundant, especially in relation to Mexicans. (Here, the standard neocon position - heard less often these days - that assimilation is the problem.)
If second-generation Mexican-Americans fail fully to assimilate, however, it will not be primarily on account of the actions of the Mexican government. America's family-reunification policy, in place since 1965, virtually guarantees that Latino immigration will increase yearly. Although Congress has fiddled with current immigration quotas by enlarging the number of skills-based slots, and adding preferences for so-called "diversity immigrants" (mostly from Africa and Eastern Europe), the proportion of Mexicans continues to grow. Each year, on average, 100,000 Mexicans arrive legally, and many more illegally.
This constant influx from a single country is unprecedented in American history, and is unquestionably a factor inhibiting the successful assimilation of Mexicans already here. Although politicians are wary of addressing the issue directly, for fear of being called racist, the irony is that both recent immigrants and America itself would have much to gain if fewer Latinos were admitted, allowing time for those here to learn English, improve their skills, and become Americanized. (But look at this, recognizing that great numbers inhibit assimilation - making the point with restraint, clarity and candor.)
Linda Chavez is not beating the drum for an immigration moratorium or even immigration reform right now. These excerpts - picked out from a piece which is often quite upbeat about the new immigration - might make her sound more restrictionist than she actually is.
But it is clear that Chavez understands that
1) the immigration of unskilled immigrants lowers the wages of the less skilled immigrants already here; and
2) immigration at current rates makes the assimilation of new immigrants more problematic, and
3) Mexico poses a special problem.
Dubya understands none of this. Hopefully La Chavez can educate him.
January 8, 2001