Immigration and multiculturalism: Why are the conservatives silent?

Earlier this year, I was invited to address an influential conservative organization on the subject of immigration and its effects on our culture. In the 12 years I have been writing and speaking about these issues, it was the first time I had ever had the chance to speak to a mainstream (i.e., grassroots, Protestant) conservative group; indeed, as I found out after my talk, it was the first time in the twenty-year history of this organization (which holds major conferences covering all kind of subjects thrice yearly) that they had had any speaker on immigration. Phyllis Schlafly, one of the few mainstream conservatives who criticizes current immigration policies, and who chaired the panel I appeared on, said to me: “Immigration is not on the radar screen of the conservative movement.” Since I have obsessed for years about conservatives’ mysterious failure to grapple with this vital national issue, I decided to make that failure the topic of my talk, which follows:

Mass Immigration And Its Effects on Our Culture:
Why Are the Mainstream Conservatives Silent?

Lawrence Auster

Council for National Policy
Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, Dana Point, California
February 9, 2002

The problem of immigration and the changes it is causing in our culture can be approached from many different angles. I could speak about the redefinition of America as a multicultural society instead of as a nation; or the permanent establishment of affirmative action programs for immigrants based on their race; or the town in Texas that declared Spanish its official language; or the thousands of Hispanics at an international soccer match in Los Angeles who booed and threw garbage at the American team; or the decline in educational and environmental standards in areas dominated by Hispanics; or the Hmong people from Laos who bring shamans and witch doctors into hospital rooms; or the customs of voodoo and animal sacrifice and forced marriage and female genital mutilation that have been imported into this country by recent immigrants; or the pushing aside of Christianity in our public life to give equal respect to non-Western religions; or the evisceration of American history in our schools because our white-majority American past is no longer seen as representative of our newly diverse population; or the vast numbers of Muslims established in cities throughout this country who sympathize with the Muslim terrorists and dream of turning America into an Islamic state; or our own leaders who, even after September 11th, keep telling us that the Muslims are all patriotic and tolerant, keep warning us against our supposed anti-Muslim bigotry, and continue letting thousands of people from terror supporting countries to immigrate into America.

At bottom, each of these phenomena and many more like them is happening for one reason and one reason only—the 1965 Immigration Act which opened U.S. immigration on an equal basis to every country in the world, rather than, as in the past, favoring our historic source nations of Europe. Without the 1965 Immigration Act, for example, the two or three million Middle Eastern Muslims who now reside in the United States wouldn’t be here, so there would have been no need for politicians to accommodate them by intoning that “Islam is a religion of peace” and by subjecting the whole American populace to random security checks in airports in order to avoid the “racial profiling” of Muslims. Of course many of the recent immigrants from non-European countries, including Muslims, have fitted into America and made good contributions here. It is the unprecedented scale of this diverse, non-Western immigration that is the problem.

Now I could easily devote this talk to piling up one example after another showing how the post-1965 immigration is indeed changing our culture in a host of negative ways, including, most importantly, the destruction of the very idea that there is a distinctive American culture. But today I want to ask a different and more difficult question that goes to the very heart of the immigration issue: Why have we Americans allowed this to occur? Why are we continuing to let it happen? And why, even when we gripe and complain about some aspects of it, do we feel helpless to do anything to stop it?

Not the cultural left but the mainstream

Many on the right have argued, most recently Patrick Buchanan in The Death of the West, that these things are happening because of the cultural left that hates America and wants to destroy it. There is no doubt that the cultural left hates America and wants to destroy it; and there is also no doubt that the left see mass immigration from Third-World countries as a handy way of achieving that. But that argument leaves unanswered a more disturbing question—why has there been no significant opposition to this leftist agenda? Presumably, the Republican party does not hate America and want to destroy it. Presumably, the conservative movement does not hate America and want to destroy it. Presumably conservative Protestants and parents groups that have fought against Whole Language teaching and homosexual indoctrination in the schools do not hate America and want to destroy it. Yet nowhere among these legions of mainstream conservatives and the organizations that represent them have there been any serious calls to reduce this immigration from the non-Western world and the inevitable cultural transformations it is bringing.

Nor is the fear of political correctness an adequate explanation for this conservative surrender. Whatever the power of PC in our society, it cannot account for the fact that tens of millions of mainstream conservatives ranging from Rush Limbaugh fans to conservative evangelicals either support the current immigration policy or fail to speak up against it—even in the relative privacy and safety of their own organizations.

We are thus left with a remarkable paradox: that the patriotic and Christian Right supports exactly the same immigration policy that is supported by the anti-American, atheistic left—an immigration policy, moreover, that spells the permanent eclipse of the Republican party and the victory of big government, since most of the recent immigrants vote Democratic.

Indeed, our conservative Christian President, when he’s not busy embracing so-called “moderate” Muslim leaders who are allies of terrorists, wants to expand Third-World immigration even further. But that’s not all. Unlike Republicans in the past such as Ronald Reagan, who supported Third-World immigration on the hopeful if mistaken assumption that the immigrants were all assimilating, President Bush actively promotes the growth and development of foreign languages and unassimilated foreign cultures in this country. In a speech in Miami during the 2000 campaign, he celebrated the fact that American cities are becoming culturally and linguistically like Latin American cities:

We are now one of the largest Spanish-speaking nations in the world. We’re a major source of Latin music, journalism and culture.

Just go to Miami, or San Antonio, Los Angeles, Chicago or West New York, New Jersey … and close your eyes and listen. You could just as easily be in Santo Domingo or Santiago, or San Miguel de Allende.

For years our nation has debated this change—some have praised it and others have resented it. By nominating me, my party has made a choice to welcome the new America.

As president, Mr. Bush has not only left in place Clinton’s executive order requiring government services to be provided in foreign languages, he has started his own presidential bilingual tradition, delivering a Spanish version of his weekly national radio address. Even the White House web site is now bilingual, with a link accompanying each of the president’s speeches that says “En Español” and points to a Spanish translation of the speech.

Yet, with the exception of Mrs. Schlafly and one or two other conservative columnists, these steps toward the establishment of Spanish as a quasi-official public language in this country have been met with complete silence on the right, even though opposition to bilingualism used to command automatic agreement among conservatives. My own efforts to publish an article about the president’s Spanish language radio addresses were refused at the most prominent conservative web sites. Now if conservatives are no longer willing to utter a peep of protest in defense of something so fundamental to America as our national language, is there anything else about our historic culture that they will continue to defend, once it is has been abandoned by a Republican president?

What all of this suggests is that mass immigration and the resulting multiculturalism are not—as many immigration restrictionists tend to believe—simply being imposed on us by the anti-American left. Rather, these destructive phenomena stem from mainstream beliefs that are shared by most Americans, particularly by conservatives. Of course economic and political forces, and the birthrate factor, are pushing this process in a variety of ways, but on the deepest level the cause is not material, it is philosophical and spiritual. The reason Americans cannot effectively oppose the transformation of our culture is that they subscribe to the belief system that has led to it.

The credo that has left us defenseless

What is that belief system? At its core, it is the quintessentially American notion that everyone is the same under the skin—that people should only be seen as individuals, with no reference to their historic culture, their ethnicity, their religion, their race. Now there is a great truth in the idea of a common human essence transcending our material differences. But if it is taken to be literally true in all circumstances and turned into an ideological dogma, it leads to the expectation that all people from every background and in whatever numbers can assimilate equally well into America.

This explains why patriotic conservatives acquiesce in a policy that is so obviously dividing and weakening our nation. Since the end of World War II, and especially since the 1960s, conservatives have tended to define America not in terms of its historic civilization and peoplehood, but almost exclusively in terms of the individual—the individual under God and the individual as an economic actor. For modern conservatives, what makes America is not any inherited cultural tradition from our past, but our belief in the timeless, universal, God-granted right of all persons in the world to be free and to improve their own lives. Therefore conservatives don’t believe there can be any moral basis to make distinctions among prospective immigrants based on their culture.

We cannot say, for example, that a shaman-following Laotian tribesman or a Pakistani who believes in forced marriage is less suited for membership in our society than an Italian Catholic or a Scots-Irish Presbyterian. And we can’t make such distinctions because, from the point of view of pure individualism, our inherited culture does not reflect any inherent or higher truth, and therefore cannot be the object of our love and protection. The only value that reflects higher truth and is deserving of our energetic defense is the freedom and sacredness of each individual. In practical terms this translates into the equal right of all individuals to make their own choices and pursue their own dreams, even if we are speaking of tens of millions of people from alien cultures whose exercise of their individual right to come to America will mean the destruction of our cultural goods.

In theory, multiculturalism is the opposite of liberal individualism. In practice it is the direct result of pursuing liberal individualism to its logical extreme. The 1965 Immigration Act was not about multiculturalism. No lawmaker said in 1965: Hey, we need Third-World cultures, we need female genital mutilation in our country, we need Shi’ite Islam and Wahhabi Islam to fulfil the meaning of America. The 1965 legislators voted to open our borders to the world, not because of a belief in the equal value of all cultures, but because of a belief in the equal rights of all individuals. The single comment most frequently heard in the Congressional debate was that prospective immigrants should be chosen solely on the basis of their “individual worth.” But this noble-sounding sentiment was largely an illusion, because, in the real world, most of the people admitted into America under the new law did not come just as individuals. They came as part of the largest mass migration in history, consisting largely of family chain migration, and inevitably brought their cultures with them.

Thus, in passing the 1965 Immigration Act, we did two fateful things. We announced that we had no culture of our own except for the principle of non-discrimination toward people of other cultures—and we began admitting millions of people from those other cultures. We started letting in all these other cultures at the very moment that we had defined our own culture out of existence.

This delusional act led to the next stage of our self-undoing. In the late 1970s and 1980s, we began waking up to the fact that those other cultures were here, that they were very different from our own, and that they were demanding to be recognized and given rights as cultures. But by that point, what basis did we have to resist those demands? We had already said that the only thing that defines us as a people is non-discrimination toward other peoples; we thus had no justification for saying that maybe it’s not such a great idea to import people adhering to radical Islam or Mexican nationalism into the United States. Having cast aside our own culture, we had no choice but to yield, step by step, to the elevation of other cultures. This is how America, through an indiscriminate and unqualified belief in individualism, ended up surrendering to its opposite—to multiculturalism.

Is immigration restriction immoral or un-Christian?

I know that what I’ve said up to this point will offend many conservatives, particularly Christians. For one thing, the Christian church consists of people of every culture and race, so why can’t a nation? The answer is that the church is a heavenly organization, it is not responsible, as a nation is, for the defense and preservation of a particular earthly society. Mexico and Nigeria, for example, are largely Christian, but in cultural terms are radically different from the United States.

To believe that all peoples on earth should join our country is the very idea that God rejected at the tower of Babel. God said he did not want all men to be united in one society, because that would glorify human power. If I may presume to say so, God had a more modest idea of human life on earth. He wanted men to live in distinct societies, each speaking its own tongue, developing its own culture, and expressing God in its own way. This is the true diversity of cultures that constitutes mankind, not the false diversity that results from eliminating borders and coercively mixing everyone together, which destroys each country’s distinctive character. Consider how today’s multicultural London has lost much of its Englishness, and increasingly resembles multicultural New York.

So I would respectfully suggest that when Christians translate the spiritual idea of the unity of people under God into the political ideology that people from all cultures should be allowed to come en masse to America and other Western countries, that is not the traditional teaching of the Christian church, that is a modern liberal idea, that is the Religion of Man, which has been infused into the Christian church over the past 50 years.

But if this is the case, how can we reconcile our potential spiritual unity as human beings under God with our actual cultural differences? The answer is that in individual and private relationships, people of different backgrounds can relate to each other as individuals, without discrimination of culture and ethnicity. But on the group level, on the level of entire peoples and nations and mass migrations, cultural differences do matter very much and cannot be safely ignored.

Thinking and Acting Anew

It would therefore be a tragic error to limit our thinking about immigration to technical matters such as law enforcement against illegal aliens and security measures against terrorists, as vitally important as those things are. Beyond the immediate threat of mass physical destruction, we face a more subtle but no less serious threat to the very survival of our civilization. As Daniel Pipes writes in a recent issue of Commentary: “To me, the current wave of militant Islamic violence against the United States, however dangerous, is ultimately less consequential than the non-violent effort to transform it through immigration, natural reproduction, and conversion.” Of course I agree with Mr. Pipes. But, as I’ve tried to demonstrate, we cannot hope to stop or significantly slow that immigration unless we abandon this contemporary idea that America is defined by nothing except individual freedom and opportunity—the idea that America has no particular culture of its own that is worth preserving. Rethinking these beliefs and rewriting our immigration laws accordingly will not be easy, but if we fail to make the attempt, we will simply continue sliding, slowly but surely, toward the dissolution of our culture and our country.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 02, 2002 12:45 PM | Send


Impressive! A very insightful piece. Just a few points:

1) How was the speech received?

2) If the immigration crisis is really a result of how Americans think of America, can we really blame, say, Mexican settlers in the US for retaining their language and culture? Maybe the reason immigrants are not assimilating is that there is nothing to assimilate to.

3) Did you see the recent LA Times article discussing studies showing that 2/3 of foreign born residents in the US consider themselves “white,” and how the expected decline in America’s white population might not occur? Worth a look.

Posted by: William on August 2, 2002 1:26 PM

William, what’s the title of the LA Times article?

Posted by: John on August 2, 2002 2:04 PM

“The Great ‘White’ Influx: Regardless of color, two-thirds of immigrants choose that designation on census replies. For some, it’s synonymous with America”, by Solomon Moore and Robin Fields, LA Times, July 31, 2002.

[Note the quotation marks around the word “white” in the title.] The left must be gnashing its teeth over this news. It would be interesting to see what Steve Sailer or Robert Locke make of it.

Posted by: William on August 2, 2002 2:16 PM

In response to William’s first question, some people were very enthusiastic about the speech, but by and large I did not get any great response, or even much response at all. I had the impression that people didn’t know how to take it. It was outside their framework. It was when I was discussing this with Mrs. Schlafly afterward that she said immigration is not on the radar screen of the conservative movement.

In response to the second question, I have never blamed the immigrants—at least in any primary sense—for what is happening. Once America, as I said in the speech, essentially cancelled out its own culture while opening its doors to large numbers of culturally unassimilable immigrants, the rest was inevitable. This is a point that the great majority of people who gripe about immigration never understand. They keep saying, “When my immigrant grandparents came here, they learned English and became good Americans,” etc. etc. They fail to grasp the main point: that the earlier immigration, though very troublesome in many ways, concerned European peoples who were more assimilable coming into a country that demanded assimilation. The non-European immigrants are much less assimilable, and are coming into a country that demands nothing of them by way of assimilation because it has given up its own identity (and also because it secretly suspects that the newcomes are, indeed, not assimilable); which only leads to the further destruction of that identity. The blame is ours for letting them in, not theirs for coming and bringing their cultures with them.

But of course, people who want to dismiss any criticism of immigration say that the critics are “blaming” immigrants. It’s not a matter of “blaming” the immigrants but of saying that many of them simply don’t fit here, and because they don’t fit here, their presence in such numbers is changing our country into something else.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on August 2, 2002 4:13 PM

Lawrence’s speech was a sobering analysis of the immigration problem facing this nation. As I was in attendance at the meeting Lawrence references, I can say that most agreed with his take; it’s very difficult to argue with what he says, since it’s demonstrable everywhere one looks.

Nevertheless, there was a contingent there that felt Lawrence was racist. Of course, they couldn’t point out anything he said which qualified him as such, but they branded him a racist anyway.

There is certainly a large portion of the “modern” conservative movement that has an aversion to the realities of illegal and even legal mexican immigration. Of course, these people are the portion of the movement who identify themselves as fiscal conservatives; they find social, cultural conservatives to be a necessary evil so that they can forward their free market ideas. And don’t get me wrong, I’m as free market as anyone, but we must not rush headlong into free trade if it means we facilitate our own destruction through cultural atrophy. If you allow your culture to be invaded as it were by people who don’t hold your values, who encourage educational dysfunction by not seeing to the education of their youth, who shrug their shoulders when their children flunk out of school at 50% in some states, then we have a problem.

Posted by: Jeff Brewer on August 5, 2002 12:03 PM

It’s time to close our doors to the world.

If you think we’re in danger from terrorists from middle eastern countries, you don’t know anything about the “emotional terrorists” who have come here from Georgia (former Soviet Union). Women from that country are here with the sole intent of defrauding Americans out of their financial assets. There is a presence of Georgian women in the U.S. who have jobs as “healthcare workers” taking care of the elderly in their homes. In the beginning they will make themselves indispensable and do a great job to gain your trust. We found out that the 34 year old Georgian “live-in” health aide hired to take care of our paralyzed 75 yr. old father convinced him to marry her to avoid deportation. The “secret” marriage was kept from our family for 17 months. She did this to gain the status of permanent resident and a green card as well as a lifetime of assets acquired by an old man. INS recently granted her the status of “permanent resident” while she was under indictment by our local Superior Court for four felonies.

One of her friends from Georgia, a 40 year old “healthcare worker” taking care of a 78 year old gentleman in NY was recently granted an asylum hearing by INS after it was discovered that she purchased a fraudulent visa. Why should INS give her another chance? What kind of message does that send to other illegal aliens who hold fraudulent visas? Get caught and we’ll give you another chance to make fools out of us?

Yes, close the doors to our country as soon as possible. Don’t open them again until we have an agency capable of protecting American citizens. INS is a useless agency and it is run by idiots.

Don’t ever try to contact any U.S. Senators on the subcommittees for Aging or Immigration. They send you back automated messages that say if you are not one of their constituents, they can’t help you. Don’t try to call INS. You will only get an answering machine. Foreigners know all of our laws and how to use them against us.

As an American citizen, I’m ashamed and embarrassed at the way our Federal Government is being run. It seems to me that our officials only care about getting elected—not about helping ordinary people who contact them to do the jobs they were elected to do.

Posted by: Marie on August 10, 2002 2:20 PM

The first paragraph walked a fine line between between western bias and common sense. Yes, I oppose illegal immigration with all my heart but stating that “…Christianity is being pushed aside in our public schools…” implies a de facto bias which I feel hinders the argument.

(As an aside, ultimately both Christianity and Judiasm are middle eastern religions for that is where they originated and the lands they originated are considered holy.)

What I think the author was trying to imply was that all people are equal but all cultures are not and therefore we should consider what immigrants we let into this country.

It is my belief that a set of standards should be created that embrace a quality immigrant rather than a leech. Those standards should certainly exclude any sort of dual citizenship status, they should exclude a severe lack of education or language skills if that individual is an adult, of course those with criminal records should be excluded, and those with no honest belief in the Pledge of Allegiance or our great republic should be denied access as well.

Others standards could be added, but to exclude an individual due to race or non-european heritage, their religious beliefs, or the fact that they are Asian and non-european is not the American way.

I would have no problem accepting an Asian with a $250,000 net worth, or a Russian mathmatician, or Pakistani programmer who loved this country not for its opportunities but rather its ideals.

As for the improverish, they should get at the back of the line. We are a quality nation and we should demand a quality immigrant.


Posted by: Tony Austin on August 12, 2002 1:29 PM

Actually, until relatively recently, limiting immigrants to those of European racial stock has been the American way.

If we want to preserve and strengthen the Western, Christian character of the United States, and if we want to avoid the racial Balkanization and outright war plaguing other continents, such standards in immigration policy must be reinstated.

Posted by: William on August 12, 2002 1:35 PM

If you are troubled by what is happening go to and send free faxes to your Congressmen. It’s easy and powerful.

Posted by: Aaron on August 12, 2002 4:38 PM

It is the duty of every patriotic American to get Mr. Auster’s message spread across the country.Jorge “La Puta ” Booosh and the other clowns in politics have put this country on the road to civil war.

Posted by: john on August 12, 2002 7:03 PM

FYI: The “john” that posted above is not this “John”.

Since I was on this blog first I claim homestead rights to the name. Or people could use our e-mail addresses or suchlike to discern the difference. :-]

Posted by: John on August 12, 2002 11:43 PM

Lawrence Auster says,

” … as I’ve tried to demonstrate, we cannot hope to stop or significantly slow [inappropriate] immigration unless we abandon this contemporary idea that America is defined by nothing except individual freedom and opportunity — the idea that America has no particular culture of its own that is worth preserving.”

Is this “contemporary idea” which we must abandon the brazen Ben-Wattenberg/neo-con position that “America is the first ‘Proposition Nation’ “?

The neo-cons are, as Prof. Paul Gottfried has pointed out, simply that faction of the Left which, unlike Prof. Howard Zinn, Alexander Cockburn, and Prof. Noam Chomsky, has sense enough to be anti-Communist. They are more or less Leftist in virtually everything else. Prof. Murray Rothbard referred to them as the Mensheviks. Apart from their anti-Communism, they are of no use in helping bring to a halt the abolition of America and Europe which is currently under way. On the contrary, they warmly applaud it. (How the likes of Bill Buckley ever came under neo-con control is a baffling mystery.)

That being said, two central truths were clarified by Auster in this excellent piece: 1) the primary fault lies not with the neo-cons, the Left, or elsewhere than with those groups and individuals thought of as traditional conservatives, whose elites are refusing for some reason to recognize the danger or to fight it; 2) the Teddy Kennedy 1965 Immigration Bill disaster is THE necessary and sufficient condition for all the rest which has followed and must be THE primary target of attack.

Posted by: Unadorned on September 2, 2002 8:59 PM

The “American Family” page of the PBS web site depicts a portion of what was an American flag. Here, however, the bars are red, white and green—the colors of the Mexican flag. Major funding for “American Family” is provided by Johnson & Johnson. This information may be verified at

Posted by: shawn fulcher on April 20, 2004 6:54 PM

Aaron gives us a glimpse into the mind of the Kool-Aid swilling left in his rambling, incoherent post of 9:02 PM. I think he managed to cover the majority of open-borders cliches and fictions.

If we all go along with Aaron’s program (remakably similar to George W. Bush’s) of allowing anyone and everyone in, I wonder what Aaron will do in a few short years when he finds himself before the local Sharia court. Aaron may think it’s OK to steal food from a Publix, but I expect the Imams and Mullahs would view things differently and order his hands to be ‘forcibly removed’ (with a sword).

Posted by: Carl on June 7, 2004 10:09 PM

“Aaron gives us a glimpse into the mind of the Kool-Aid swilling left in his rambling, incoherent post of 9:02 PM.”

Where is this mythical post?

Posted by: Clark Coleman on June 8, 2004 3:03 PM

Mr. Auster mercifully deleted the post. It was pretty awful - but certainly all too common among the brainwashed minions of the left.

Posted by: Carl on June 9, 2004 12:34 AM
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