An immigration debate at the Corner

A debate took place this afternnon at the Corner involving John Derbyshire, John Podhoretz, Mark Krikorian, and the new person who suddenly seems to be everywhere at NRO, David Freddoso, who seems to be something of a wet. J-Pod does his usual thing: liberal use of the ad hominem argument which would virtually prohibit anyone descended from an immigrant from having any position other than open borders. One highlight: J-Pod declares that the percentage of immigrants in the U.S. population at the turn of the 20th century was 25 percent, about twice the actual figure. As I’ve said, the moment J-Pod makes any cultural or historical reference apart from tv shows, he gets it wrong, sometimes spectacularly so, as here. This is not just a matter of not knowing a single datum. It’s a matter of common sense, of a sense of proportion, a feel for America. No one familiar with American history would imagine that foreign born persons ever made up a quarter of the U.S. population. But when it comes to the Mary Tyler Moore Show, J-Pod, the editor-designate of Commentary, knows his stuff cold.

Since it can be hard to follow a debate that goes up the page and is interspersed with other topics, I’ve put the whole exchange together here for easier readability. The drawback of my version is that many of the indented block quotes will be lost, sometimes making it hard to tell when quoted material begins and ends. (Note: the debate at the Corner continued on the morning of October 19; the new entries are not posted here.)

Aztlan North [John Derbyshire]
Incidentally, while hobnobbing with those Midwesterners at Storm Lake, Iowa—their surnames mostly taken from the Stockholm, Oslo, and Berlin phone books—I heard a couple of times the remark that in this little corner of rural Iowa, the student body in the schools is half Hispanic. The remark was passed in a polite, diffident and non-condemnatory way—of course! this is Iowa—and when I tried to probe, people just retreated into niceness (“These Mexican restaurants are really great!”)

Still, I found it hard to believe, surrounded as I was by Lundqvists and Muellers. In an idle moment, however, I looked up the stats on Sure enough, the “Student Stats” on GreatSchools for Storm Lake show percentages Hispanic as:

  • High school: 32

  • Middle School: 43

  • Elementary schools: 53, 66, 63, 53.

Say what you like, that is truly an invasion. Why on earth are we letting this happen?
10/18 11:15 AM

re: Aztlan North [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
Um, Derb…. I have no idea the situation as to their immigration status, but if that population consists of legal immigrants who speak English …. I’m not moved to invasion outrage. (I say that knowing nothing about Storm Lake, Iowa). If you told me Iowa was being overtaken by lawbreakers on the other hand….
10/18 12:42 PM

Aztlan North [John Derbyshire]
I can’t agree, Kathryn. Legal or illegal, this is asking for trouble.

Don’t take my word for it. Read Chapter 9 of Sam Huntington’s Who Are We? Almost any page should give you pause to reconsider your insouciance. Page 232, for instance:

Overwhelming majorities (66 percent to 85 percent) of Mexican immigrants and Hispanics have emphasized the need for their children to be fluent in Spanish. These attitudes contrast with those of other immigrant groups. “There appears,” as one study concluded, “to be a cultural difference between the Asian and Hispanic parents with respect to having their children maintain their native language.” In part, this difference is undoubtedly a result of the size of Hispanic communities, which creates incentives for fluency in the ancestral language. Although second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans and other Hispanics acquire competence in English, they also appear to deviate from the usual pattern in maintaining their competence in Spanish. … Spanish-language competence, Professor F. Chris Garcia of the University of New Mexico has said, is “the one thing every Hispanic takes pride in, wants to protect and promote.”

Or p. 247:

If this trend continues, it could produce a consolidation of the Mexican-dominant areas into an autonomous, culturally and linguistically distinct, economically self-reliant bloc within the United States. Given “the unique coincidence of Hispanic ethnicity with specific regional territoriality and with an ideology of multiculturalism,” Graham Fuller warns, “we may be building toward the one thing that will choke the melting pot: an ethnic area and grouping so concentrated that it will not wish, or need, to undergo assimilation into the mainstream of American multi-ethnic English-speaking life.”

Or p. 256:

The continuation of high levels of Mexican and Hispanic immigration plus the low rates of assimilation of these immigrants into American society and culture could eventually change America into a country of two languages, two cultures, and two peoples. This will not only transform America. It will also have deep consequences for Hispanics, who will be in America but not of it.

You can happy-talk all you like, Kathryn, but sixty-six percent? If we must have mass immigration, can we please return to the fine old American tradition of taking people from (A) lots of different places, none of which are (B1) contiguous to our territory and (B2) make historical claims—propagated, for instance, in their school textbooks—on that territory?
10/18 01:56 PM

No One’s Happy Here! [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
Obviously there are important questions regarding mass immigration that we ask in these parts and need to. That post on its own begged for more. And here we are.
10/18 01:59 PM

“Legal or Illegal, This Is Asking for Trouble” [John Podhoretz]
Once again, I am gobsmacked by the fact that John Derbyshire, a person born in another country who is married to a person born in yet another country, seems to think it’s unacceptable for people to come to America from a country of which he evidently disapproves. You can write a million words in response to this sentence, John, but I will always note that if you spoke those words instead of writing them, you would be speaking them in the accent of a foreigner welcomed to these shores. I have no problem with that. I welcome you. I have a problem with the fact that you have a problem with it when the accent hits your ear in a timbre you find unpleasant—legal or illegal.
10/18 02:39 PM

News from Storm Lake [John Derbyshire]
As it happens, the San Diego Union-Tribune just ran a news story from… Storm Lake, Iowa! Several readers sent it in. Here is one:

Derb—No bitterness in Storm Lake? I suspect the reason the folks you talked to didn’t complain is because they’re your typical sensitive college students. But immigration is having a huge impact on the presidential caucuses. McCain has gotten earfuls from Iowans on the matter.

Our political classes, venturing out from their intern-stacked DC offices and gated-community homes to mingle with the—ugh!—actual American people, are getting a fast education in demographics. One of the most revealing things that happened in politics last year was the eagerness of pols like Teddy Kennedy and Hillary Clinton to show up and give support at the first batch of ¡Sí se puede! rallies, followed by their utter invisibility at the second batch. Pols are stupid, but not unteachable.
10/18 02:39 PM

Demographics 101 [John Derbyshire]
It doesn’t need a million words, JPod, just five: Numbers are of the essence.
10/18 02:49 PM

Numbers Are Of the Essence [John Podhoretz]
In 1904, John, if memory serves, fully 25 percent of the population of the United States was foreign-born. The nation that resulted had the greatest century in the history of mankind. In 2007, the number of people living on American soil who are foreign-born is around 10 percent.

But that is not my point. My point is that you are a legal immigrant. You are married to a legal immigrant. I recall that when we first began arguing about this in this space in 2004, you were constantly regressing to capital letters to inform me that you were opposed to ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, not to LEGAL IMMIGRATION. Guess that doesn’t hold true any longer. So boy—you’re lucky you got in before people like you could keep people like you out.
10/18 03:28 PM

Spanish Versus English [David Freddoso]
Derb: Just FYI, the #1 advertiser on Spanish language television is the purveyor of a series of English learning tapes, Ingles sin Barreras. If you ever get a chance to see it, one of their ads portrays a Hispanic woman who doesn’t speak English, straining as she mops a floor in a drab, institutional building late at night. Then they portray the same woman, having learned English, interviewing for a job as a receptionist.

If Latin American immigrants are so dead-set against becoming Americans, the market certainly hasn’t figured it out.

You mention the 66 and 85 percent of Latin American adult immigrants who want their children to speak Spanish. The fact that people speak Spanish does not mean that they don’t speak English, that they don’t want to speak English, or that they aren’t trying to learn it right now. My parents wanted me to speak Spanish and whatever other language I could, and I don’t have a drop of Hispanic blood.

And as for Aztlan, even the illegal immigrants who come here are doing so to take part in our economy—not to segregate themselves from it. They come to make money, don’t they? Isn’t that where the “take away our jobs” line comes from?

I can appreciate the idea that unchecked immigration brings with it security concerns. But if Hispanic immigrants populate an area of Iowa that everyone else is fleeing as soon as they get a college degree, how is that threatening the Republic?
10/18 04:22 PM

The Right Numbers Are of the Essence [Mark Krikorian]
JPod: The danger of pulling numbers out of the air is that they’re likely to be wrong. A quick look at the historical census figures (nicely digested for you here) shows us that the foreign-born share of the population in 1900 was 13.6 percent, while the foreign-born share in March of this year was 12.6 percent. Of course, since we’re talking about numbers, it’s also important to know that the immigrant population in 1900 was 10.3 million people, whereas it’s now almost 38 million (and if the guesses about the number of illegals missed by the Census Bureau are correct, the real number might be almost 40 million).
10/18 05:02 PM

Why Can’t Immigrants Criticize Immigration? [Mark Krikorian]
I frequently encounter the attitude reflected in JPod’s scolding of Derb, and I’m afraid it’s incoherent. Immigration policy is supposed to be about what’s good for the nation as a whole, not what’s good just for me or you, much less for foreigners abroad. If you go through law school, say, and later come to the conclusion that we have too many lawyers, are you somehow constrained from expressing that opinion just because you benefited from the too-many-lawyers policy? Too much of this debate centers on sappy nonsense about the experience of my grandpa from Izmir instead of the future prospects of my grandchildren in America.

10/18 05:19 PM

Immigration [David Freddoso]
From a reader:

Could you people at least PRETEND to be conservatives?…You know perfectly well that the “immigrants” you speak of are not coming here legally, and that they spell the end of the GOP and conservatism, if not of the Republic itself.

If you scroll down, you’ll see that the discussion was about whether legal immigration is a bad thing, and also about exactly how and why illegal immigration is a problem. I agree that it is a security problem, but I don’t see how it has to be a cultural or even a political problem.

We should enforce our laws and our borders (north and south) vigorously in order to protect ourselves from the occasional malefactor. If we need a fence, let’s build it. But the presence of immigrants—even of many more immigrants—does not threaten American culture.

With regard to the politics, fully 44 percent of Hispanics voted for Bush in 2004, back when he campaigned as a pretty conservative guy—and that was a close election, not some kind of landslide. So we already have proof that even if they are still Democrats at heart, Hispanic U.S. citizens and legal Hispanic immigrants are not necessarily always going to vote for Democrats.

Hispanics in the U.S. are disproportionately pro-life and they start three times as many businesses per capita as the rest of the American population. Right now, they vote mostly against their economic interests and their values by supporting Democrats whose policies punish economic success and promote legal abortion even behind the backs of minor girls’ parents.

This doesn’t have to be the case, but it will be if Republicans keep chasing phantoms like “Aztlan” instead of going out and talking to them about taxes and babies.
10/18 05:20 PM

My Wrong Numbers [John Podhoretz]
Mark, I’m sorry to have gotten the numbers wrong. But since you referred to my views as sappy nonsense, let me return the favor. The same sort of sentimental , hysterical, culturally backward, America-is-being-destroyed-from-within nonsense that you spout was common in the early part of the 20th century. It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now, for many if not all the same reasons. Yes, what matters is what is best for America. False notions of cultural homogeneity are not what is best for America, in my view. Your view differs. History—American history—is kinder to my view than it is to yours. And, though curses be on my head for saying so, you are, in fact, damned lucky that your view did not prevail when your grandfather from Izmir was looking for a place to live. Because then you wouldn’t have a grandfather from Izmir. Because there would be no you.
10/18 05:28 PM

Derb, JPod, and those Hispanics in Iowa [Peter Robinson]
By contrasting the current situation with that at the turn of the century, John, you don’t weaken Derb’s case one whit. You strengthen it.

Below, after all, Derb quotes Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, Samuel Huntington’s book, at some length. Huntington’s case? That immigration in which a huge proportion of newcomers come from a single country, in which those newcomers then settle on our border with that country rather than dispersing throughout our own, and in which the newcomers find themselves in a cultural and ideological milieu that discourages rather than encourages their assimilation as Americans—that nothing like this has ever before happened in history of the United States.

I’m more sanguine about Hispanic immigration than is Derb—and on Huntington’s own argument it ought to be of some comfort to find Hispanics dispersing themselves to places as far-flung as Iowa rather than clustering entirely in the Southwest. But Derb and Huntington do most certainly have a point—an historically accurate point—and noting demographic patterns in 1904 (or Derb’s British accent, or Mrs. Derb’s country of origin) does nothing to refute it.
10/18 05:50 PM

Uh, No [Mark Krikorian]
Sorry, David, but while numbers aren’t everything, we at least should get them right. As Ramesh tirelessly points out, Bush did not get 44 percent of the Hispanic vote; he got 38-40 percent, still good for a Republican, but still a landslide against him.

Also, the entrepreneurship thing is something that particularly bugs me. Immigrants used to be more likely to own their own businesses decades ago, but aren’t any longer. And Hispanic immigrants are among the least entrepreneurial of all immigrants, with their self-employment rates at half or less the rate for the native-born. If you want entrepreneurship, it’s Koreans and Middle Easterners you want. See Table 9 here; for an older, but more detailed, examination, look here.

Hispanics are indeed more pro-life than whites. So are blacks. Your point is …? It would seem to be at least as relevant to voting behavior to know that 43 percent of all Mexican-immigrant-headed households are on welfare.

Saying that Hispanics vote (and have been voting for as long as anyone has checked) “against their economic interests and their values” is the same kind of patronizing thing the leftists say about any Republican who’s not driving a Mercedes. Voters—of all ethnicities—are adults and know what they’re doing.
10/18 05:52 PM

“False Notions of Cultural Homogeneity” [Mark Krikorian]
The question of Americanization, which is at root what we’re talking about, is even more fundamental than Huntington says. The fact of Mexico’s contiguity and historical grievance against us is indeed unique; not to name-drop, but he wrote it up first for me. But it’s more fundamental than that, which gets to JPod’s claim about how the “nonsense” that I keep “spouting” simply represents a repeat of the past. But we’re not experiencing a repeat of the past—and the more important difference is not in the immigrants but us. America is a completely different place from a century ago and (as I explain in my book—coming this summer from Sentinel!) immigration is incompatible with a modern society. This is true with regard to economics, government services, security, but also assimilation—in the modern context of cheap and easy communications and transportation technology, and with an elite that’s unwilling to insist that immigrants conform to our norms, Americanization happens much more slowly, less thoroughly, and differently; as our own John Miller put it, “If the schools miss their chance [to inculcate American language and values], un-Americanized children grow up to become un-Americanized adults—at which point their Americanization becomes much more difficult and unlikely.”
10/18 06:17 PM

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 18, 2007 07:04 PM | Send

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