Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Minutemen

I don't often agree with Cal Thomas, but I do give him credit for saying what he thinks, even if what he's thinking doesn't necessarily jive with what prominent conservatives are thinking. He takes on illegal immigration in his latest column. Thomas argues that illegal immigration is destroying our history, language, culture, and faith. I don't really buy into this argument at all. I don't see why social conservatives have any reason to be appalled by the culture and faith of most illegal immigrants. Most of them are coming into the US from heavily Catholic countries where so-called traditional family values are very strong. Language is a common concern of a lot of people. The anti immigration camp likes to tell stories about how immigrants from Latin America are not making any effort to learn English, while people who favor some sort of immigration reform generally downplay this figure and assert that almost all immigrant children are fluent in English. It is true that current immigrants to the US, either legal or illegal, are much more likely to retain their native language and perhaps other aspects of their native cultures than the immigrants from the early 20th century. My maternal grandmother doesn't know a lick of Polish, despite the fact that her parents settled in the US only a few years before she was born. Today's first-generation immigrants are more likely to be bilingual. I think that this is a good thing and I have seen no evidence that retention of native languages diminishes anyone's ability to integrate into American culture.

It's really hard for me to get behind the idea that the current wave of immigration that is going on is any different than any of the others that have cascaded across the US over the past 200 years. People have been getting worked up about immigration ever since people who looked, spoke, or prayed slightly differently than the majority started showing up en masse on our shores. In all cases to date, those worries have proven to be unfounded. I don't think that the US is in any danger of seeing street riots like the kind that have been spreading across France. Our culture is somehow uniquely designed to accept immigrants from around the world and at all socioeconomic levels and turn them into Americans. Until you can convince me that the great American sausage-making machine is broken, I'm going to have trouble buying into any of these arguments.


MDS said...

Do you ever watch Fox News Watch? It's the only thing I watch on Fox News. For 24 hours a day, six days a week, and 23.5 hours a day, one day a week, I do all I can to avoid Fox News, but for the half hour that Fox News Watch is on, I never miss it. Cal Thomas is one of the panelists, and I'm always impressed at how fair and balanced the show is. The two conservatives sometimes concede that liberals have a point, the two liberals sometimes concede that conservatives have a point, and the host does a good job of giving everyone equal time.

I share Thomas's concern that we could have similar problems with Muslim immigrants in this country to what France has had, although there's probably not as much risk of it here because French society tends to be much less welcoming of other cultures than American society does. I also share Thomas's belief that the laws of immigration should be enforced. Now, if you want to change the laws, I think there are some good cases to be made for that, but Bush's proposal is basically to keep the laws as they are but tell law enforcement to ignore them. That's a recipe for disaster.

dhodge said...

No, I've never seen Fox News Watch. When is it on? I'm reading The Flight of the Creative Class right now. I haven't gotten too far into it, but I think the argument that the author is trying to make is that America needs to be at least as open to immigration as it has been traditionally, if not more so, in order to maintain our position as the world's economic superpower. I'll let you know once I finish reading it.