Nobody actually sprung the "But we're a nation of immigrants!" argument [sic] on me. But I did have to deal with the "Everyone's an immigrant except for the Native Americans" and "Statue of Liberty" variants on that theme.
The experience wasn't one of life's highlights. I report it here in hopes of encouraging others to go out and do intellectual battle in similar circumstances. My goal, always, is getting more people to realize that there are cogent arguments against our current immigration madness and that, if you're unhappy about the madness, you're not alone. Thus encouraged, I hope you'll speak up, too, until pressure to make immigration serve the national interest becomes an unstoppable avalanche.
The occasion was the Wednesday, November 1st, fall opener of the Bozeman (MT) Film Festival. This season's opening theme is "Why Don't They Just Go Home?", covering a two-part series that, according to the local publicity fliers, "will explore contemporary immigration issues from a variety of perspectives."
The description of November 1st's film Balseros, dealing with a 1994 surge of Cuban refugee rafters bound for the United States, made it sound pretty far afield from today's "immigration issues." But I expected that the post-film panel discussion would be the kind of compassion-fest that especially warranted the kind of factual cold water I'd be able to provide.
My suspicions along these lines were buttressed by reading the tendentious description for the series' second movie, showing on November 15 — "The film is the story of a 9-year-old boy who learns Hebrew and French from his adoptive family and racism and bigotry from his adoptive homeland, Israel" — and by the listed qualifications of the faculty from Montana State University's Modern Languages Department, who were to comprise most of the experts on the panel.
The turnout was impressive at several hundred. But it turned out to have been bulked up by Montana State students who were attending for extra credit. The movie Balseros was mildly interesting—turns out some of the rafting refugees, after several years in the U.S., wished they'd stayed in Cuba—and exceptionally L-O-N-G. There was a rush for the exits when the film concluded, leaving about thirty of us in the audience for the panel discussion.
After a round of comments from the panel, including Professor of French Ada Giusti's explanation that family re-unification is a "basic human right" and her assertion that there's no way to stop immigration, the audience was invited to participate.
A young man promptly asked, "How many Latinos are there in Montana and what is their impact?" Panel member Bridget Kevane, chair of the modern languages department, advertised as "an expert on contemporary Latina literature," answered that there are about 5,000 in Billings and 1,000 in Bozeman, working in service jobs and construction, some legal, some illegal. As to impact she said, "The Latino community will make Bozeman thrive."
There was my opening! So, after softball questions from several others, I piped up that, as a recent refugee from southern California, I wouldn't associate the word "thrive" with a Latino influx. I noted that Mexican immigrants and illegal aliens themselves don't like what the mass Latino inflow is doing to California, and I illustrated this by reading aloud the brief, smoking-howitzer paragraph from a July 28th Los Angeles Times article [6 + 4 = 1 Tenuous Existence, By Sam Quinones ] that I had, providentially, printed out and brought with me:
"We're [now] in a state [Kentucky] where there's nothing but Americans. The police control the streets. It's clean, no gangs. California now resembles Mexico—everyone thinks like in Mexico. California's broken.'""
Nobody interrupted me, so I went on to explain that Prof. Giusti's "right of family re-unification," combined with our laws, leads to chain migration, wherein a "seed" immigrant chosen on the basis of skills starts a chain of relatives that averages 90 people. I then lapsed into a few lame remarks that it was a big problem. (I wished I'd had the presence of mind to conclude that what was at stake was avoiding a Third-World-style future for everyone in the auditorium.)
I closed by waving aloft a copy of Common Sense On Mass Immigration, the gem of a booklet [see below] published by John Tanton's Social Contract Press. I told people that I'd be delighted to give them copies.
I was followed by a woman in the audience who fumed about my selfishness in wanting to close the door on others. I replied that it was a matter public policy choices. This earned me a horrified look from another woman.
About this point, Professor Giusti interjected that the cost of produce would skyrocket if we didn't have illegal aliens working in agriculture. I quickly tried to point out that, with lettuce at about $1/head and field labor about 5 cents of that, tripling wages for workers—at which point Americans would do the jobs—would raise the price of lettuce by 10%. And how much, after all, do people now spend on lettuce and other produce?
Anyway, there were multiple educational opportunities here, some of which I will follow up on by email with the several professors.
The attention then shifted to others' questions and comments. But a couple of people quickly stopped by me to get copies of the booklet, one of them (in fact, the young man who'd asked the question about Latinos in Montana) also thanking me for speaking up.
When the program finally ended, half a dozen people clustered around me to pick up booklets and continue discussions. One of them was panel member and free-lance writer Michael Finkel (Author of Desperate Passage, PDF, a June 18, 2000 New York Times Magazine story about Haitian rafters), who, in a perfectly amiable way, threw at me both the "We're all immigrants except for the Native Americans" and "Remember the Statue of Liberty" ploys. Except they weren't really ploys, because that's the way most people think.
For the first, I simply adapted Peter Brimelow's line, "Do they really think other nations sprouted up out of the ground?" To which Finkel gamely but lamely replied that they'd been here centuries longer than anyone else.
For the second, I explained, approximately, that "The statue's real name is 'Liberty Enlightening the World,' and it has nothing to do with immigration. It was a gift from the French to recognize the workings of ordered liberty in American society as an example for the rest of the world, not an invitation for the world to move here. And the Lazarus poem about 'huddled masses' was added later, with no one's permission."
Intense discussions continued with one or two people as we left the auditorium.
Overall, it seemed to me that the number and extent of the conversations I'd taken part in had made sitting through the movie worthwhile.
(Footnote: The Common Sense On Mass Immigration booklet is a resource everyone needs to know about. It contains 20 "micro-essays" (my terminology, meaning each one takes only about a minute to read) on a broad range of issues across the overall topic of mass immigration. The essays' authors are our current leaders for immigration sanity, such as Richard Lamm, Peter Gadiel, Brenda Walker, Peter Brimelow, and Roy Beck. Since the essays are so short, it's realistic to think people will actually read them if you give them a copy of the booklet—in contrast to highly worthwhile books by Pat Buchanan, Dan Sheehy, Tom Tancredo, etc. Thrust such a "must read" book upon a friend and it may well be politely exiled to the shelf for "later." The same essays are available online, but, for distribution, I encourage people to buy copies of the printed booklet, because it is such a handy package. (Note the photo at the page for ordering—I mean literally handy!) Ordered in bulk, the booklets cost as little as 40 cents apiece. When I give out copies, I write my contact information on the cover. And I always encourage people to start their reading with Essay #8, " Mass Immigration and Basic Freedoms," by John Vinson of American Immigration Control Foundation. This particular essay, it seems to me, best gives people a flavor of what's at stake for their own futures if immigration madness continues.)