Musings of a Real Texas Cowgirl

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mark Steyn from Wasington Times

This is one of the best "immigration" articles I've read.  Read it and think about it.

From last Friday's edition of The Washington Times: "The Senate voted
yesterday to allow illegal aliens to collect Social Security benefits
based on past illegal employment."

    Well, I think that's the kind of moderate compromise
"comprehensive immigration reform" package all Americans can support,
don't you? Some mean-spirited extremist House Republicans had proposed
illegal aliens should receive 75 percent of the benefits to which
they're illegally entitled for having broken the law.

    On the other hand, President Bush had proposed illegal aliens
should also be able to collect Social Security benefits for any work
they had done in Mexico (assuming, for the purposes of argument, there
is any work to be done in Mexico).

    On the other other hand, Republican Sens. Trent Lott of
Mississippi and Ted Stevens of Alaska had added earmarks to the bill
proposing that the family of Mohamed Atta should be entitled to receive
survivor benefits plus an American Airlines pilot's pension based on
past illegal employment flying jets over the Northeast corridor on
Tuesday mornings in late 2001.

    Fortunately, the world's greatest deliberative body was able to agree on this sensible moderate compromise.

    Meanwhile, from the Associated Press: "Mexico warned Tuesday it
would file lawsuits in U.S. courts if National Guard troops detain
migrants on the border."

    On what basis? Posse Comitatus? It's unconstitutional to use
the U.S. military against foreign nationals before they've had a chance
to break into the country and become fine upstanding members of the
Undocumented-American community? Or is Mexico taking legal action on
the broader grounds that in America it's now illegal to enforce the
law? Which, given that Senate bill, is a not unreasonable supposition.

    Whatever. Under the new "comprehensive immigration reform"
bill (Posse Como Estas), a posse of National Guardsmen will be
stationed in the Arizona desert but only as Wal-Mart greeters to escort
members of the Illegal-American community to the nearest Social
Security Office to register for benefits backdated to 1973.

    Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, in a
quintessentially McCainiac contribution to the debate, angrily denied
the Senate legislation was an "amnesty." "Call it a banana if you want
to," he told his fellow world's greatest deliberators. "To call the
process that we require under this legislation amnesty frankly distorts
the debate and it's an unfair interpretation of it."

    He has a point. Technically, an "amnesty" only involves
pardoning a person for a crime rather than, as this moderate compromise
legislation does, pardoning him for a crime and also giving him a cash
bonus for committing it. In fact, having skimmed my Webster's, I can't
seem to find a word that does cover what the Senate is proposing, it
having never previously occurred to any other society in the course of
human history. Whether or not, as Mr. McCain says, we should call it a
singular banana, it's certainly plural bananas.

    The senator raises an interesting point. In Confucius'
Analects, there's a moment when Zi-lu swings by and says, "Sir, the
Prince of Wei is waiting for you to conduct his state affairs. What
would you do first?" And Confucius say, "It must be the rectification
of characters." By "characters," he doesn't mean lovable characters
like Arlen Specter and Trent Lott, but "characters" in the
Chinese-language sense -- i.e., words. Confucius means that, if the
words you're using aren't correct, it becomes impossible to conduct
public policy. If you're misusing language, your legislation will be
false -- or, as Confucius puts it, your "tortures and penalties will
not be just right." When the "torture and penalty" for breaking U.S.
law over many years is that you get a big check from the U.S.
government that would seem to be an almost parodic confirmation of
Confucius' point.

    This is not an "immigration" issue. "Immigration" is when you
go into a U.S. government office and there's 100 people filling in
paperwork to live in America, and there are a couple of Slovaks, couple
of Bangladeshis, couple of New Zealanders, couple of Botswanans, couple
of this, couple of that. Assimilation is not in doubt because, if
you're a lonely Slovak in Des Moines, it's extremely difficult to stay

    This is not an "illegal immigration" issue. That's when one of
the Slovaks or Botswanans gets tired of waiting in line for 12 years
and comes in anyway, and lives and works here and doesn't pay any
taxes, so the money he earns gets sluiced around the neighborhood
supermarket and gas station and topless bar and the rest of the local
economy, instead of being given to Trent and Arlen and Co. to toss into
the great sucking maw of the federal budget.

    But a "worker class" drawn overwhelmingly from a neighboring
jurisdiction with another language and ancient claims on your territory
and whose people now send so much money back home in the form of
"remittances" that it's Mexico's largest source of foreign income
(bigger than oil or tourism) is not "immigration" at all, but a vast
experiment in societal transformation. Indeed, given the international
track record of bilingual societies and neighboring jurisdictions with
territorial claims, it's not much of an experiment so much as a safe
bet on political instability.

    By some counts, up to 5 percent of the U.S. population is now
"undocumented." Why? Partly because American business is so
overregulated there is a compelling economic logic to employing
illegals. In essence, a chunk of the American economy has seceded from
the Union. But, even if you succeeded in reannexing it, a large-scale
"guest worker" class entirely drawn from one particular demographic has
been a recipe for disaster everywhere it's been tried.

    Fiji, for example, comprises native Fijians and ethnic Indians
brought in as indentured workers by the British. If memory serves,
currently 46.2 percent are native Fijians and 48.6 per cent are
Indo-Fijians. In 1987, the first Indian-majority government came to
power. A month later, Col. Sitiveni Rabuka staged the first of his two

    Don't worry, I'm not predicting any coups just yet. But, even
in relatively peaceful bicultural societies, politics becomes tribal:
loyalists vs nationalists in Northern Ireland, separatists vs
federalists in Quebec. Sometimes the differences are huge -- as
between, say, anything-goes pothead bisexual Dutch swingers and
anti-gay anti-drugs anti-prostitution Muslim immigrants in the

    But sometimes the differences can be comparatively modest and
still destabilizing. Pointing out that America has a young fast-growing
Hispanic population and an aging non-Hispanic population, The
Washington Post's Bob Samuelson wrote, "We face a future of
unnecessarily heightened political and economic conflict."

    The key words are "unnecessarily heightened," In Europe, the
political class sowed the seeds of massive social upheaval for the most
shortsighted reasons. If America's political class wants to do the
same, it could at least have the integrity to discuss the issue in
honest terms.


    Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger
Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain's
Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a
nationally syndicated columnist.


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