Steyn on Zamnesty

A funny and terrific column by Mark Steyn that captures the beyond-insanity of the legalization provisions in the immigration bill. There are many quotable passages in the article, starting with:

Great news! Being illegal is now perfectly legal! Just for being one of the circa 12 million people who shouldn’t be here, you can now be here indefinitely! If you were living and working in America illegally before Jan. 1, 2007, you’re now entitled to one of the new Z-1 “probationary” visas. And your parents and spouses are entitled to one of the new Z-2 visas, and your children to the new Z-3 visas.

Don’t worry: It’s not an “amnesty.” Every politician in America is opposed to amnesty—if not the concept, then at least the word. That’s why the visa starts with the letter that’s furthest away from the one “amnesty” begins with.

And here’s another:

I’m not a fan of “bipartisanship” for its own sake. This is a very divided political culture in which bipartisanship is all but nonexistent on everything else, starting with war and national security. So, when the political class is in lockstep bipartisan mode, that’s sufficiently unusual all by itself. When it’s in bipartisan mode on an issue on which the public is diametrically opposed, that looks less like bipartisanship and more like the lockstep myopia of an out-of-touch one-party state.

Also, Steyn is using arguments from the traditionalist and immigration restrictionist camps that he’s never used before. For example:

The economists may see the vast human tide as an army of much-needed hotel maids and farm workers and nurses and plumbers, but to assume that everyone on the planet sees themselves [sic] as primarily an economic entity is complacent and (post-Sept. 11) obtusely deluded.

Here’s another passage which sounds odd though most welcome coming from Steyn:

Yet, whatever the virtuousness of immigration for the host society, a dependence on it is a sign of profound structural weakness, and, when all the self-congratulation about celebrating diversity has died down, that weakness ought to be understood as such.

Reading this, one feels almost as though Steyn, who has never written an argument against immigration in his entire career, were undergoing “a sea-change, into something rich and strange.” Or perhaps he has been reading my 1997 Huddled Cliches, part of which was published in revised form at FrontPage Magazine in 2004:

“We need smart Asians to fill high-skill jobs in engineering and the sciences because Americans are not going into those fields.”

Although the argument sounds hard-nosed and realistic, relying on a constant supply of high-skilled immigrants has the somewhat the same effect on a society that welfare dependency has on an individual: it destroys the need and incentive to become independent. It is an escape from reality, shielding us from the painful fact that we are failing to prepare our own citizens to carry on our civilization. If we stopped concealing that failure from ourselves, we would be forced to respond to it in a serious way, doing whatever was necessary to remain a self-sustaining society.

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Paul Nachman points out that Steyn’s sentence beginning, “Yet, whatever…” also has an echo of the following passage from George Kennan’s Around the Cragged Hill, p. 153:

Actually, the inability of any society to resist immigration, the inability to find other solutions to the problem of employment at the lower, more physical, and menial levels of the economic process, is a serious weakness, and possibly even a fatal one, in any national society. The fully healthy society would find a way to meet those needs out of its own resources. The acceptance of this sort of dependence on labor imported from outside is, for the respective society, the evidence of a lack of will—in a sense, a lack of confidence in itself. And this acceptance, like the weakness of the Romans in allowing themselves to become dependent on the barbarians to fill the ranks of its armies, can become, if not checked betimes, the beginning of the end.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 20, 2007 01:09 PM | Send

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