Is there any other issue where the conservative dogma is so at odds with actual conservatism, let along popular sentiment?
The Chamber of Commerce wing of the conservative establishment (and its mouthpiece, the Wall Street Journal) would have us believe that immigration is pretty much always a good thing.
“We’re a nation of immigrants! More people means more customers, more growth and rising prosperity. There’s a serious labor shortage in tech fields. We need these new arrivals do the jobs native-born Americans just won’t do.”
That’s what we usually see from the Big Bidness folks who regularly lobby for the right to replace native-born workers with lower-paid foreign-born ones (many of whom are effectively indentured servants).
How is that in any way conservative?
Everyone with even a passing knowledge of basic economics knows that increasing the supply of something decreases the price. We need look no farther than oil production. Since US fracking became economical, oil prices have dropped by 2/3 from their previous high. The glut is killing OPEC producers but it’s great news to people who use the stuff.
Well, the same thing applies to workers. Constant downward pressure on wages is great for employers but it sucks for everyone else. Seriously, do any of these immigrants demand MORE money than their native-born competitors? Of course not, that’s why the Chamber wants them to come here in the first place.
Historically, immigration policy cared more about the nation as a whole. When immigration started to force wages too low, people demanded (and generally got) a halt in the rate of foreign arrivals. Again, going back to the 1860 GOP platform, it was very clear that immigration could not be a vehicle to harm American working people. Their needs came first.
The Marco Rubio/Jeb Bush wing insists that by opposing immigration (and amnesty for illegal immigrants) the GOP is committing political suicide. The idea is that it’s a bad issue and the Dems keep using it to drive minority turnout to their side. By adopting their issue, we take it off the table.
The GOP establishment has been using this form of argument for decades and it basically boils down to: “Let’s be Democrat Lite so that if we lose, we can at least keep our cushy jobs in DC. Besides, once in a while we’ll get a win and enjoy a taste of power.” It’s nothing more than a sellout.
There’s also a cultural element to immigration. Here again the historic conservative position is that America is nothing more than an idea, a shared vision of freedom. From many peoples, we become one and are united not by ethnicity or religion but by a shared belief in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Previous waves of immigration brought in diverse people, but they retained a common culture: that of Judeo-Christian values. It seems strange to us now that people would regard Poles and Russians and Italians as “separate races” from Germans and English, but they did. Yet these people assimilated quite well because they shared these values and often found themselves sharing pews with the older arrivals. It wasn’t always easy, but it worked.
The thing was, we also had the wisdom to cut off the tap after a while. After the huge wave of the early 20th Century, immigration was tightly restricted until the 1960s. That allowed the new arrivals to become fully American.
I should note here that not all of these people fit in – one of the more-overlooked stories is how many immigrants ended up failing and going home or being deported.
There were also issues with the treatment of women, particularly in some of the Mediterranean cultures. I’m old enough to remember made-for-TV-movies about this sort of thing and how feminists crusaded against the belittlement of women.
When I first heard of ‘honor killings,’ I was certain that this would get the same treatment, but instead feminists avert their eyes and mutter about ‘diversity.’
How can we assimilate people who refuse it? Will the United States degenerate into a millet system where different laws apply to different populations?
There is also the difference of the welfare state. In 1900, it did not exist. People who hopped off the boat could expect very little in the way of public support. They had to work if they wanted to eat.
Now it is basically a given that one can get free food, housing and medical treatment just for showing up. There is no incentive to work.
Another difference: They were screened for health conditions. If they appeared ill, they went into quarantine to protect the rest of the population.
Now we do the exact opposite – we deliberately import sick people and offer only the most cursory screening for life-threatening illnesses. The entire preventative model of heath care has been discarded in favor of ad-hoc feel-good measures.
So the historic picture of immigrant tells us one overriding thing: It was set up in such a way as to prevent harm to people already here. We were willing to welcome people in, but only so long as they:
- Didn’t drive down wages,
- Shared our vision of freedom,
- Were motivated to work immediately,
- Didn’t make everyone else sick.
The current unthinking dogma ignores all of these points. It isn’t based on what works or what is good for the country, but what the chattering classes like to hear - and what their paymasters want to see.