Even after years of mass-immigration-driven dysfunction in our national society, many — perhaps most — of our fellow native-born citizens are still hazy on the mad character of our immigration "system" and on what's at stake if the madness continues unimpeded.
I believe, in fact, that the very blithe attitude that Americans have traditionally had towards matters of citizenship and immigration is fast becoming untenable. I say "Americans" rather than "we Americans" because there seems to be a clear division here between "newer" and "older" Americans. It is interesting to note that the two most critical, radical books on U.S. immigration policy this past 10 years were written by Peter Brimelow, a naturalized American born in England, and Michelle Malkin, American-born daughter of recent immigrants from the Philippines. I'm not arguing for any superior innate wisdom on the part of newcomers, but I do think that having some outside perspective on citizenship, either by having been born abroad, or from growing up with foreign-born parents, gives you a clearer picture of the issues involved.
All those issues come under the heading of The National Question. What does it actually mean to be an American? What should it mean? Those of us who have actually arm-wrestled with the INS and deliberated about settling here, or were raised by people who did those things, have at least been forced to think about this. I don't mean to be unkind to anyone, or to sound arrogant about it, but it sometimes seems to me that Americans with deeper roots in this country never think about The National Question from one year's end to the next.
Earlier that year, Derb had written about America as "The Great Attractor":
People everywhere, even the most illiterate subsistence farmers, have a clear idea in their minds of the desirability of different countries. Most desirable is America. Slightly below that is the rest of the Anglosphere â€” Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. Some way behind come Japan and the west European countries, where life is tolerably good, though without the free-wheeling liberties of the Anglosphere. And behind that comes â€¦ everywhere else: the loser nations, the garbage-dump nations like Egypt, Nigeria, Brazil, Bangladesh, with their corruption and injustice, their gross inequalities and stifling bureaucracies, their crony capitalism and environmental degradation.
Americans simply have not adjusted to this new state of affairs. Most certainly the U.S. Congress has not. Years go by with no significant immigration reform. Did I say "years"? Decades have in fact gone by: the immigration regime of today is in all essentials (there has been some tinkering at the margins) the one established by the 1965 Act. No serious reform seems to be contemplated. If you try to get an immigration conversation going among educated Americans, set a stopwatch as you start. Before two minutes have elapsed, someone will have called you a "racist."
At about the same time that Derb was voicing those thoughts, while I was living in southern California, I met a Polish-born American citizen who had immigrated as an adult a couple of decades earlier. Thus he had an adult's recollections of socialist Poland, under the Soviet thumb. I especially remember his recounting of his reaction when he arrived on these shores and became acclimated: "How can such a great country exist?" Tellingly, he and I had gotten acquainted because of our mutual horror at what was happening to his adopted country — he had a perceptive immigrant's sensitivity to it.
What brought those instances of "immigrant insight" to my mind is a small, striking item in the Fall 2010 edition of the Heritage Foundation's Heritage Member News (apparently not available online). On page 7, there's a quote from one T.W. Weston, identified as an immigrant and retired businessman in Texas:
Americans living in freedom have absolutely no idea that they have it ... they do not understand that they have something of such value ... not until they lose it ... they will lose it by "salami tactics" — slice by slice by slice. [Ellipsis as in the original]
Weston's is an important insight, worthy of repeated dissemination: All too many native-born American citizens are as uncomprehending that they're taking our livable society for granted as, classically, fish are about the existence of water.