Gideon's Blog

In direct contravention of my wife's explicit instructions, herewith I inaugurate my first blog. Long may it prosper.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2002
 
And John Derbyshire has a strong piece on The National Question, also at NRO. If foreign policy is an issue where September 11th fundamentally changed the mind of a fellow like Brink Lindsey, immigration is an issue where September 11th fundamentally changed my views. I'm not in the VDARE came by a long shot. But I'm a whole lot closer than I was on September 10th.

Before September 11th, I would have described myself as pretty much an open-borders type. I believed in the American nation and in the privilege of American citizenship, and I believed strongly in assimilation. I would have thought that the "visa express" program run by the State Department was madness, had I known about it, and of course I still do. But that's a minor if egregious example of our laxity in security matters. The key thing is, before September 11th I would have argued that America is only enriched by large-scale immigration, and that restrictions would harm our economy without any substantial collateral benefit. I don't believe that any more. I still think we need significant immigration economically, and that the cultural costs can be minimized and the benefits maximized with the right policies. But we must enact these policies now, not hope they will be enacted. And we need to get more discriminating about immigration itself.

We have three separate problems related to immigration in this country. First, the issue of security and our penetration by hostile powers. Second, the issue of national unity and national identity. Third, the issue of citizenship and its privileged status. They are related, but not identical. I'm going to give a brief overview of my feelings about each.

First, security. This issue in itself has three parts: the question of spying, or individual treason; the question of collective treason by groups resident in America but hostile to America; and the question of reliance on foreign labor for strategically critical functions.

Let's turn to spying first. This is an issue primarily if we think foreign powers are stealing military secrets. Let's face it: diplomatic secrets are just not that valuable. Far more valuable are designs for specific military technologies. In this regard, the biggest risk comes not from foreigners but from the American government, which has been all too willing to simply give away valuable information and even the weapons themselves to potentially or actively hostile powers. In the war on terror, moreover, spying would be primarily useful for undermining the effectiveness of our counter-terror operation. Are there spies for al-Qaeda in the FBI or CIA? There may well be. But this strikes me as a fairly narrow question that can be resolved without overturning our whole immigration system.

The question of collective disloyalty is much tougher. One doesn't want to over-react here. I'm not just being PC; there are real diplomatic consequences of any action we might take. Rounding up Americans of Japanese descent may or may not have been unjust; liberals like William O. Douglas thought it just, and I don't know why I have to get to his left. (I know, I know; he repented of Korematsu later in life. What does that prove? When the issues were live, he ruled for the government. When the issues were stale and the political climate had made such a ruling unacceptable, he changed his mind. I think the actual decision was a truer reflection of his feelings.) But in World War II we were at war with the Empire of Japan. We are not currently at war with, for example, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc. Rounding up citizens - or even resident aliens - of Pakistani, Egyptian, or Arabian descent would have serious consequences. Short of that, what can we do about the question of collective disloyalty? I mean as official policy, not a cultural matter; as a cultural matter, we can clearly register our absolute intolerance for anti-Americanism. It seems to me that the main policy action that we will have to take is substantially increased surveillance of these communities, in what amounts to domestic espionage. Our country has a lousy record in this regard in the past, J. Edgar Hoover and all that. Domestic spy agencies, once created and given power, will use that power in their own self-defense, and thereby corrupt their mission and the government. But it does seem to me that this risk is the lesser of two evils. If a terror attack is being planned in a mosque in Newark, we need to know. We won't know without spying.

Finally, reliance on foreign labor. We continue to do a disastrous job educating our young people and incentivizing them to go into fields like engineering. As a result, our universities are increasingly factories for producing PhDs of foreign descent. Many of these choose to remain in America (who wouldn't?) but it is not obvious to me that this arrangement serves our national interest. It is one thing to want to have the best scholarship in the world, and therefore to want to collaborate across national lines on research. It is quite another to devote much of the educational work of our research institutions to training non-Americans. What to do? We should clearly be changing the rules for our research universities to favor domestic candidates, and we should be reordering Federal priorities in funding university education to incentivize our young people to go into fields where foreigners are over-represented. Let a few more Pakistanis become bond-traders instead of designing missiles, and a few more Americans design missiles instead of becoming bond-traders.

My second concern was national unity and national identity. They are not the same question. We could have a single national identity that is quite weak but produces few fault-lines, and we could have a strong national identity that is nonetheless fractured. Canada, for example, suffers from both problems; Canadian identity is weak tea, and Canada is divided sharply into Anglophone and Francophone. America is not so bad as that on either metric, but we have both problems as well. The former afflicts our elites and our urban centers generally. I cannot tell you how many educated, middle- or upper-middle class professionals I know who have no strong sense of patriotism, no sense of jealous pride about America. I feel in this regard like very much a minority in my own milieu, even, on occasions, in my own family. All these people are unmistakeably American, mind you; in Paris, they would be hated just as much as Rush Limbaugh. But they are casually alienated from their country. Is this an immigration problem? It is in part, largely because these alienated elites run our public education system, and the immigrants who pass through that system thereby pick up the alienation. Adults who come to America and go through naturalization are among our most patriotic and loyal citizens. Their children, though, quickly assimilate to the attitudes they pick up from school, the media, the urban culture at large. Those attitudes are not friendly to the American enterprise. Whether or not we continue to have large-scale immigration, we need to tackle this national question.

But the other problem - national unity - is no longer to be taken for granted either. The great Mexican immigration is the big challenge here, but not the only one. The casual national alienation that afflicts our urban (and many older suburban) areas has allowed alienated communities to grow. The Muslim communities are not the only ones who might turn against America in a time of foreign conflict. This is an enormous challenge. It is not entirely unprecedented in American history, but it feels close. Germans in World War I, Japanese in World War II - these hyphenated communities harbored some who were disloyal, but as a group they were overwhelmingly loyal and eager to prove their patriotism. The Kaiser's boast that 500,000 German-Americans would be a fifth column in the American armed forces was utterly without foundation. Would Chinese-Americans be similarly loyal today in a war against China? I suspect so, but I'm not 100% sure, particularly with respect to more recent and more middle-class immigrants from the mainland. Pakistani-Americans if we go to war with Pakistan? Mostly yes, but a large minority is probably more doubtful. Arabian-Americans if we go to war with Saudi Arabia? I think that would be a "no."

(I must, in this regard, draw attention to my own community. American Jews have been overwhelmingly loyal and served with distinction in all of America's wars, and in numbers commensurate with our population. (The same is true today, by the way; about 2% of the population is Jewish and about 2% of the armed forces are Jewish.) Many Jews obviously have an interest in foreign affairs because of Israel's situation, as do Irish Americans because of Northern Ireland, Taiwanese-Americans because of Chinese threats to Taiwan, Polish-Americans (once) because of the (one-time) subjection of their country to Soviet domination, etc. It is vanishingly unlikely that in any of these cases America would come into direct armed confrontation with the country for whom we have affection, in all cases because of the nature of that country. At worst, we will fail to help them, not fight against them. America's wars have overwhelmingly been just; our enemies have been corrupt and weak (e.g. Noreiga) or profoundly dangerous (e.g. Hitler, Tojo, Saddam). If, at the margins, American Jews try to promote Israel's interests, I do not think this is disloyalty in any sense. If that is the standard, I dare say there are few in America who could be considered loyal; even those patriotic Germans, for example, surely had a particular interest in the war, if only an interest in seeing it end quickly and in an honorable peace, that no more German lives be thrown away by the Kaiser's ambition. But if, for example, Israel were to become an active enemy of America (difficult as it might seem to imagine), I do not doubt that American Jews, anxious though they might be, would support "regime change" in Israel. If they did not, and supported the enemy, I would have to characterize my own community - or, at least, that portion which behaved in this fashion - as disloyal. And I would expect us to suffer for it. Moreover - and this is a historic case - where fringe elements who are disloyal are harbored and protected by the larger community, whether or not the larger community has a true understanding of the seriousness of the matter, this does and should bring the whole community under suspicion. The case I am thinking of, of course, is the Rosenbergs, and more generally the case of Jewish Communists. British Communists and Anglo American Communists were more numerous and more damaging, and loyal Jews were the overwhelming majority; only a very tiny number of Jews were ever active Communists. But a much larger minority of Jews did not - indeed, still does not - understand the Communists to be a threat, and Jewish Communists were unquestionably able to operate more effectively in America than they might have because of mostly unthinking support within the community. I am not surprised that this resulted in a certain degree of suspicion of Jews among the more vigorous anti-Communist elements in America, and even in the halls of American government. I'm not sure this suspicion was unjust - even though, as I say, country-club WASP Communists were far more important in the Party and far more dangerous to America. I trust I have absolved myself of the charge of double-standards. End of digression.)

We have, then, two major challenges with respect to national unity. First, we must resist any trend towards bi-nationalism. We have got to end dual-citizenship, end bi-lingual education, fight every trend that pulls Americans apart and reinforce every trend that pushes us together. We have got to look at even non-cultural policies from the standpoint of the unity of our culture. Our welfare policies for instance. I have no doubt that one reason Mexican-Americans in California are less Americanized than those in Texas is that California has far more generous welfare policies. And second, we have got to become discriminating about immigration. There is no right to come to America, no right to become a citizen, and if there are groups inclined to be disloyal they should see an impact on our willingness to let them come here. I remain optimistic about our ability to assimilate the great Mexican immigration, as we assimilated the Germans and the Irish before them. It is a matter of national will, not the nature of the Mexican character, whether we will do so. What concerns me is that, in accommodating this immigration, we have surrendered too many tools for the defense of our borders against those more likely to be our enemies, and too many tools that are necessary for preventing the balkanization of our society. Our dependency on Mexican labor and our concern for offending our large Mexican-American population may be hamstringing efforts to take more urgent actions related to securing our borders. We can't afford that. If we're going to offend anyhow, let's take the bull by the horns and put some limits on mass immigration, and particularly to limit illegal immigration. There will be economic costs to such limits. But there are security costs to not having them.

(And a brief word about illegal immigration. There is a lot of talk about how immigrants take jobs that Americans won't take. It's a load of hooey. In many cases, there are Americans competing for the same jobs. But an illegal immigrant has certain advantages. His employer won't have to give him health insurance. She won't have to pay his Social Security taxes. She will probably be able to pay a lower wage if only because the illegal immigrant is not paying income tax, and so has a higher after-tax yield at the same salary. This is obviously the case in the nanny business, and I would not be surprised if much of the political pressure against tightening rules against illegal immigration stemmed from the desire on the part of the nanny-employing class to limit child-care costs.)

Third and finally is the question of the special privilege of American citizenship. I could not agree more with Derbyshire that this is indeed a privilege, and one that must be defended. American citizens have the privilege of voting; that is primarily what distinguishes them from resident aliens. That isn't enough. The "due process" guaranteed by the 14th Amendment applies to life, liberty or property. Is a government job any one of these? No. So much for the case that prompted Derbyshire's piece. There is a long history of equal-protection jurisprudence which could potentially apply here (whether it properly should or not) but national security should be a sufficiently compelling interest to survive strict scrutiny. The relevant precedent is Korematsu, the case which established strict scrutiny in the first place. If rounding up the entire Japanese-American population of the West Coast was acceptable under the Constitution, it is hard for me to see how requiring citizenship for a government job fails to be so. I think California's attempt under Prop 187 to exclude aliens from education was stupid and vindictive policy. But discrimination on national security grounds seems eminently sensible.

There is a principle in Judaism that one is supposed to discourage conversion, because Judaism is a responsibility as well as a blessing, and no one should take on that responsibility without being assured they know what they are doing. I would not similarly advocate discouraging aliens from becoming citizens. But it seems reasonable to me to require some sacrifice in order to obtain citizenship's privileges. Dual citizenship ought to be abolished. People who accept foreign citizenship must be ineligible for American citizenship. And first in line for citizenship should be those who have done some service to their new country. In that regard, I would strongly support the continued ability of foreigners to serve in the American military. I can think of few better instruments of acculturation, and few better ways to separate those who come to take from those who come to give than by according preference for citizenship to those aliens who have served in the American armed forces.

To summarize:

* We must be willing to engage in domestic espionage in communities - whether of citizens or no - known to harbor enemies of America.
* We must implement an educational and visa policy devoted to reducing the proportion of non-citizens in our research institutions, particularluy in strategic areas.
* We must eliminate bi-lingual education and restore an ethic of assimilation and national and civic pride to our public education system.
* We must increase border security and take serious action to reduce illegal immigration and surveil and screen prospective immigrants more carefully.
* We should discriminate among countries to select for immigrants more likely to assimilate into American society and against those more likely to be disloyal, inasmuch as this can be determined.
* We must examine our domestic policies that are a "draw" for immigrants to ensure that we attract fewer immigrants who are on the economic "take" and apt to care little for America and more who are able and eager to contribute positively to American society.
* We should give priority to immigrants who have given service to America, particularly in the American armed forces.
* We should eliminate dual citizenship and other arrangements that dilute the significance and uniqueness of American citizenship.

Again, I cannot stress enough that I still believe that immigration is of enormous economic and cultural benefit to America. But continued immigration, at reasonable levels, is not the same thing as open borders. Open borders are more a consequence than a cause of our cultural dilemma. But if we don't address the dilemma now, they may make it politically impossible to address in the future. And if we don't address it now, the risk to our physical security could be devastating.