Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Soft Hearts and Hard Heads in the Immigration Debate

Peggy Noonan hits the nail squarely on the head with this article on the question of immigration in America. She says she loves immigrants and wants to kiss their hands. So do I. She says she especially loves Mexican and other hispanic immigrants because they are Catholic (as she is and I am) and love Jesus and Mary. I love that she says that and does not blush in the saying of it. Of course we love those who are like us. It would be wierd if we didn’t. Of course we love those who, in coming here, are saying that our country is doing something right--that it is better than their old country. And, if we are not ungrateful, we remember those in our own family who made the journey and the sacrifice that made us Americans in fact and not just in nature. Immigrants can be the best teachers for spoiled, forgetful, unappreciative Americans who think our liberty is a given and that life owes them something more than a chance. But while Noonan is inclined to be sympathetic, she is also suspicious and disapproving of recent developments among immigrants and their American defenders. The closing paragraph is essential (but, as they say, read the whole thing . . .):

I think open-borders proponents are, simply, wrong. I think those who call good people like members of the voluntary border patrols "yahoos" are snobs. I think those whose primary concern is preserving the Hispanic vote for the Democratic Party, or not losing the Hispanic vote for the Republican Party, are being cynical, selfish, and stupid, too. It’s not all about who gets what vote, it’s about continuing a system of laws that has allowed America to become, among many other things, a place immigrants want to come to. And it’s about admitting immigrants in a coherent, orderly, legal manner, with an eye first to what America needs. That’s how you continue a good thing, which is what we’ve had. That’s how you leave Americans who’ve been here for a while grateful for immigration, and immigrants, and loving them, and even wanting, sometimes, to kiss their hands.

This is, it seems to me, exactly the tone that the debate should take and I think that was Noonan’s purpose in writing it. If only those smart guys with harder heads than mine (or Noonan’s) would adopt this tone in making their arguments I think the debate would be easily won for our side.

Discussions - 4 Comments

Anybody remember the movie "Selena," with Jennifer Lopez in her breakout role as the Mexican-American crossover singer Selena (and also starring Edward James Olmos)? It’s all about how immigants make a life for themselves in America, which includes assimilation, to be sure, but also about preserving something of the old country. There are several reasons for doing the latter, but at minimum it acknowledges that immigrants represent not only a particular nation (from whence they came) but they also bring their own unique individuality. This means, as Ralph Ellison reminds us, they make choices about what to preserve from the old country and what to accept of the new country. Surely we would not claim that everything about America is good, and yes it takes an immigrant some times to point out just what those things are. Conversely, it takes thoughtful American patriots to defend what is good about America so that immigrants can find a sure way into their American future. Ellison always thought that the mixed blessing of the black American experience in the U.S. was precisely that they were the consummate inside-outsiders, growing up in the U.S., becoming Americans under coercion as well as choice but also being denied full membership rights by majority white society; that element of individual and collective choice is what was usually forgotten when folks talked about racial assimilation.

Do we love the illegals, too, people whose first act in America is to break the law?

Personally, I’d prefer to see immigrants who love the (true) principles of the Republican party.
It is possible to love Jesus, etc., and not have a clue about many other things. I would prefer that we see immigrants in terms of culture, not piety. There is an overlap, but piety isn’t enough.

My personal experience with those whom I know or believe are illegal immigrants is largely positive. As Julie says, they appreciate the opportunity they have more than many native-born American citizens. I am not pleased to see thousands of them demanding to be given amnesty, but I know that these are not spontaneous outpourings but are well organized. I have made my position clear here http://www.claremont.org/weblog/004830.html.

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