One of the more remarkable aspects of the continuing debate over American immigration policy is that the nation’s liberal elites seem, ever so gradually, to be finally catching up with the people. For years opinion polls have shown that a large majority of the American people, of all political persuasions and all ethnic backgrounds, want less immigration.
Yet year after year immigrants continue to flood across our borders as “opinion molders,” elected officials, business executives, and professional eggheads insist that mass immigration is really beneficial and its dangers are much exaggerated by “nativists” and “racists. Only in the last couple of years have a few books been published that dissent from that view, and the appearance of these books, published by major New York houses, suggests that the elites are finally beginning to grasp what uncontrolled immigration means for the people and the country they rule.
What began as a popular protest against elite policies and preferences has now started influencing the elites themselves, even if the elites still like to imagine that they thought of it first. Roy Beck’s *The Case Against Immigration* is the most recent example of a book published by a major publisher that challenges the onventional wisdom about immigration (Peter Brimelow’s *Alien Nation,* published last year, was the first), and although Beck has been actively engaged in the movement to restrict immigration for some years, he has done so as a card-carrying liberal.
A former newspaperman in Washington, DC who has been deeply involved in the social activism of the Methodist Church, Beck has seen firsthand what immigration means for ordinary Americans, not only underclass blacks but also middle and working class whites. His book is an exhaustive documentation of the evil consequences that immigration is causing for these groups as well s for the nation as a whole.
Beck’s liberalism, however, is by no means of the polemical or partisan variety, and the impression that his book gives is that he is a man deeply and genuinely concerned about the injustices endured by the real victims of immigration. He avoids most of the cultural arguments against immigration that conservatives tend to use, his main concern focusing instead on the economic effects of immigration on workers and on the social consequences for those Americans whose jobs and communities have been savaged by increased populations they are unable to handle and ethnic and cultural conflicts they neither wanted or anticipated.
Because he deals in detail with the impact of immigrant invasions on several local communities in the Midwest and South, he winds up building a more credible and concrete case against immigration than many conservatives who have written on the cultural aspects of the issue. As a result, his book is not only persuasive in its artful combination of facts, statistics, and analysis, but also is emotionally wrenching, as the reader is introduced again and again to communities that have been destroyed or stand on the brink of destruction because immigration has served the private interests of the ew.
Beck’s thesis is that “The federal government’s current immigration program primarily benefits a small minority of wealthy and powerful Americans at the expense of significant segments of the middle class and the poor. Attempts to protect the current level of immigration by wrapping it in the language of tradition or humanitarianism generally distort both history and the practical realities of our own era while diverting attention from immigration’s role as a tool against the interests of the broad public.
Put somewhat differently, Beck has discovered that elites make use of liberalism to ustify policies that accrue to no one’s interest but their own. He makes clear that current immigration policies are the result of laws and policies deliberately adopted by the federal government over the last 30 years. Since 1970, some 30 million people, “the numerical equivalent of having relocated within our borders the entire present population of all Central American countries,” have been added to the U. S. opulation because of immigration, and this influx has largely been the result of a single legislative measure, the Immigration Act of 1965.
During the congressional debates on that legislation, which was een at the time as part of the civil rights revolution, its liberal sponsors argued repeatedly that it would not result in large increases in immigration and that the immigrants who arrived because of it would not alter the traditional ethnic composition of the American population from its historic European base to a Third World base.
This was explicitly stated by Edward and Robert Kennedy, its chief sponsors in the Senate, as well as by Representative Emmanuel Celler in the House, President Lyndon Johnson, and various Cabinet officials. Within a decade, however, they were proved to have been wrong, as conservative ritics of the act predicted, and the consequences are with us to this day.
The 30 million immigrants who have arrived in the last quarter century are overwhelmingly from non-European Third World societies, and as a whole they bring with them many of the ideas, habits, and manners that make their native countries Third World in character: the lack of a work ethic, an inclination toward authoritarian and often violent political behavior, and an unfamiliarity and uneasiness with the religious, educational, hygienic, scientific, and moral conventions of the West that most Americans take for granted.
The U. S. Census Bureau has published at least two reports showing that by the middle of the next century — less than 60 years from now — the United States will cease to be a nation with a majority of its population descended from Europeans and will acquire a non-European majority. The conclusion is simple: Because of uncontrolled immigration, the United States is in grave danger of becoming a Third World country within the next half century.
Of course, if immigration were halted now, there might be time for non-European immigrants to assimilate, both by acquiring Western habits of work and social relationships and by moving upward in the economic cales. But because immigration is continuous — because its apologists refuse to consider any reduction in the number of immigrants — the constant flow virtually insures that unassimilated immigrants will keep coming faster than those already here will begin adapting to our culture and that America will assimilate to them rather than the other way around.
That, after all, is why police departments, schools, and businessmen now find it necessary to train their personnel in Spanish, Chinese and various other languages, and a polyglot babble of other tongues virtually unknown in this country outside anthropology nd linguistics departments. While Peter Brimelow in *Alien Nation* concludes that even advocates of immigration do not argue that immigration is necessary for continued American economic growth, Beck goes him one better, arguing that immigration has been demonstrably harmful to the middle and working class.
It has been harmful because by making available to employers an inexhaustible supply of cheap labor, immigration has destroyed the bargaining power of workers. Middle class wage levels and living standards have certainly declined since mass immigration began in the 1970s, but, not content with pointing to this curious oincidence, Beck also argues that the decline has been in part the result of immigration. Thus, he cites a study of various large American cities by a team of economists that compared wage levels before and after large waves of immigration.
According to Beck, the study “found that the average wage increase (not factored for inflation) was 26 percent lower in high-immigration cities than in the average U. S. city — and lagged a whopping 48 percent behind wage increases in low-immigration cities. ” In California, state government studies have shown that “during the 1980s, under the heaviest immigrant influx of he state’s history, California blacks lost much of their economic advantage.
In Los Angeles, wage increases lagged 31 percent behind Birmingham, Alabama and 47 percent behind Pittsburgh, both of which were low-immigration cities. Mr. Beck also points out that it was during the era of restricted immigration, between passage of the 1924 Immigration Act and its effective repeal in 1965, that black Americans made the most economic progress. Cut off from bottomless supplies of cheap foreign labor, employers were able to hire blacks, who moved from the South to the North by the millions in those decades and were able to find rewarding ork in a restricted labor market.
It was only when alien labor again became easily available after passage of the 1965 act that black Americans again started sliding toward their present underclass status. And, of course, for every American displaced from his job by immigrants, other Americans must pay through higher taxes for unemployment compensation and other benefits, as well as for the costs of controlling the crime and dislocations that result from an immigration policy that has helped impoverish both middle class whites and blacks and destroyed their social institutions.
Beck’s most compelling chapters are those that recount the effects of mass immigration on small towns and cities in the Midwest and the South, where industries like meatpacking and poultry processing have abandoned the American workers who traditionally filled those jobs and have deliberately imported cheap and often inadequately trained foreign workers to replace them.
The result has been unemployment for American workers, the disruption of their communities at every level, an increase in crime and ethnic tensions, the erosion of local education, uncertainty about the future, distrust of neighbors, and conflict etween classes and races. Nor do the big corporations who import the foreign workers care much about them either. Workplace injuries have increased as foreign workers who lack the training to cut meat have taken over.
The companies don’t need to be too concerned about the safety of their new peons since there are always more to replace them. It is important to Beck that readers understand he is not talking mainly about illegal immigration, a phenomenon that today almost every politician assures us he is against. The workers who mainly take jobs from Middle Americans and urban blacks, and increasingly from anagerial and technically skilled workers in high-tech industries, are largely legal immigrants, as are the vast bulk of the 30 million who have arrived over the last generation.
The current political chatter about “controlling the borders” and stopping illegal immigration is merely a sop to make voters worried about the immigration crisis think that their leaders are really doing something about it. But the truth is that despite public opinion and despite overwhelming evidence as to its real consequences, this year’s immigration bill did nothing to reduce or halt legal immigration. It is precisely the refusal of the political, business, and cultural elites in the United States to take any measures to control or stop immigration that is so frightening.
The evidence for the real meaning of immigration — the lowering of wages, the displacement of workers, the increase of crime, the heightening of ethnic and racial conflict, the disintegration of the bonds of nation and culture, and the sheer burden of numbers on natural resources and an eroding infrastructure — is now overwhelming, and still the political leadership of both parties regurgitates the cliches about “a nation of immigrants” and our “global responsibility. “