The man to see about immigration in California these days is not the oafish Arnold Schwarzenegger but military historian and classical scholar Victor Davis Hanson, author of a new book called " Mexifornia " that details—once again—what mass immigration (or some of it) is doing to his state.
Mr. Hanson certainly has his virtues, but to judge from what he's been saying publicly since his book appeared, there are some immigration issues he just doesn't get.
Last week Mr. Hanson, author of several scholarly studies of ancient Greece and European military and cultural history, was in Washington to boom his book and his ideas. The book makes it perfectly clear that, for California and any other state that follows its path, what the Open Borders lobby has long applauded as "diversity" is largely a disaster.
Mr. Hanson understands that the Mexican ruling class encourages mass emigration to the north because it rids their country of unwanted and unusable human surplus. The illegals who come here don't assimilate and not only increase public costs but threaten to balkanize the state and destroy the underlying common culture. They increase crime, use and import drugs and incite racial antagonism. Mr. Hanson documents all these effects, and he does it pretty well.
He also understands why the immigrants are allowed to come—sort of.
"You have the power of the employers that have a lot of money - meat-packing, restaurant business, agribusiness, hotels, construction. They like to have a perennial supply of cheap labor, all the better if it's illegal and it won't be able to organize or advocate for higher wages," Mr. Hanson told the Washington Times last week. And "They're in alliance with the race industry on the left, [who] want a nonassimilated constituency. You put the two together and the people in the middle get drowned out." [Immigration limitation, By Robert Stacy McCain, Washington Times, August 19, 2003]
Mr. Hanson is talking about the Open Borders boys, or at least those who fund it. And while he does mention the "race industry on the left," he says nothing about the immigration industry on the right at the Wall Street Journal and similar neo-conservative and libertarian outfits.
Moreover, what Mr. Hanson really doesn't seem to get is that it's not just illegal immigration—although that's the only kind he ever seems to criticize or talk about.
Legal immigration, considerably larger than the illegal kind, is what really drives the cultural disintegration that immigration causes. There are more than 33 million immigrants living in the United States but the highest estimate of illegals here puts them at only 13 million.
Many illegals go home sooner or later, and until recently their impact on American cultural unity was secondary. It's the legals, who are supposed to be here to stay, learn English and start becoming Americans, who are driving the cultural withering Mr. Hanson rightly condemns.
Because Mr. Hanson doesn't quite get this, he also doesn't quite get what to do about the immigration problem. If only illegals were the problem, then what he is reported to have suggested on a California radio show last month—amnesty—might be arguable. More recently, he seems to have backed away from that.
"What should we do?" he asked at a press conference last week. "I think most people support immigration, we want immigration, and it always enriches the culture. But we want it in California under legal auspices." What is needed is "legal, measured immigration" while doing "something" to protect the borders.
It's doubtful "most people" do support immigration. It's also doubtful most Americans have had much of a chance to think about the issue at all, since all they get from political leaders is goo-goo talk or ranting about "racism." (For all his denunciations and denials of "racism," Mr. Hanson has already been accused of it himself for suggesting even the moderate changes he supports.)
It's also untrue that immigration "always enriches the culture." Maybe immigrants who share the basic cultural assumptions and institutions can, when the receiving country has room for them. But when you have tens of millions of Third World, non-white and non-Western aliens invading, "enrichment" is not quite the proper word.
Mr. Hanson often seems to be more worried what critics will say about him than with thinking through the immigration issue.
His new book is certainly worth reading, but it's at best a beginning, just as its author seems only to have just discovered the problems he's writing about.
He and other Americans just now awakening to the immigration crisis may eventually come to a tighter grasp of the problem, but the rest of us don't have time to wait for them.
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[Sam Francis [email him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection of his columns, America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available from Americans For Immigration Control. Click here for Sam Francis' website.]