I don’t find those who worry about illegal immigration necessarily rawly emotional, much less volatile, racist, nativist, or all the other slights thrown their way from abstract thinkers. After all, there are some 11 million people here illegally, largely from Mexico and/or Latin America. Aside from the social, economic, and ethical issues, there is the unspoken notion of the violation of the law. No humane or civilized society can exist long when the laws—and there are no statutes more fundamental than those governing citizenship and entry into a nation—are systematically flouted by employer, government itself, and immigrants alike. If one talks to Korean, Punjabi, or Southeast Asian immigrants who came here legally, and who try to have relatives do the same, there is a great deal of resentment that the law is not being applied equitably, and has lost both its legal and moral force.
Again, I do not see the need to conceptualize illegal immigration in terms of the Iraqi war, or the purported unfairness of the American system—not so apparent to much of the world, since the United States accepts more legal immigrants than almost all other nations combined. Most students of the issue accept that the present non-system must change. Compromise is possible that envisions a sort of earned citizenship for most of those here illegally, who should not be deported en masse, with the understanding that the border will close to those who in the future attempt to cross illegally.
Questions such as methods of assimilation and guest workers can be adjudicated once the most pressing problem—what to do with those here and how to restore legality to the crossing of the border—are dealt with. I think anyone who has grown up in largely Mexican communities composed of illegal aliens realizes that when immigrants are assimilated, not found in non-integrated enclaves, and living alongside other Americans of differing races, religions, and ethic backgrounds, their eventual pattern of Americanization in fact does resemble those of 19th-century Italians. However, when we witness de facto apartheid communities of largely Spanish-speaking, poorly educated immigrants who are without legality, then their record of success, and their childrens’, is a very different matter altogether. We are seeing both patterns of success and failure, but when the pool of 11 million is so large, we can be 70% successful and still have considerable problems with millions of illegal aliens.
That the worry over illegal immigration resonates broadly with Democrats and Republicans of the Southwest, both supporters and opponents of Mr. Bush, black, white, and Mexican-American, of all religions, should suggest that it cannot be simply written off to some emotional or unhinged cadre of Americans. In short, nothing I have read in the Cato Unbound essays and exchanges has dissuaded me that one’s position is often predicated along class lines, with elites— who are not in competition for employment with illegal aliens, whose children are not in affected schools, whose homes and property are not near influxes of illegal aliens, and who find that illegal labor is essential in many of the services they draw upon—not merely unconcerned with the severity of the issue but, in condescending fashion, deprecating those who are.