There is no more contentious issue in America today than immigration.
So a thoughtful and informative book on the subject written in plain language is more than welcome. It's vital.
And that's what a new title from Regnery, The Politically Incorrect Guide To Immigration, offers. I freely acknowledge here that I may not be perfectly objective as I composed a previous book in the publisher's popular series of Politically Incorrect Guides. But there are now 31 such titles, and I would note that this is the first one I felt compelled to write about.
All of the books in the series have had certain qualities in common. They are contrarian, witty, snarky, relatively brief, unabashedly conservative and highly informative. The Politically Incorrect Guide To Immigration is one of the best. Subtitled "An America First Manifesto," its authors are emphatically in favor of limits on legal immigration and for doggedness in dealing with the problem of illegal immigration.
Both writers, John Zmirak and Al Perrotta, come from families of fairly recent immigrants. This makes many of their arguments that much more striking.
Those arguments start with the most stark facts. It's worth pointing out that beliefs of Democratic voters about immigration tend to be based on the myths that the writers successively take apart. According to the Pew Research Center, Democrats with graduate degrees are almost five times as likely to believe that illegal immigrants are not more likely to commit crimes than the general population. But, as the authors observe, this idea is belied by a wealth of data. In particular, legal and illegal aliens make up an astonishing 27% of the federal prison population while representing only about 9% of the whole U.S. population. Quoting a recent study by the non-partisan Government Accounting Office (GAO), they note that an examination by the GAO of 55,322 illegal aliens found that they
"had been arrested 459,614 times, an average of 8.3 arrests per illegal alien, and had committed almost 700,000 criminal offenses, an average of roughly 12.7 offenses per illegal alien."
The researchers reported that these offenders were committing a wide range of crimes. Some of the law-breaking was immigration-related. But other commonly-cited criminal acts involved drugs, fraud and counterfeiting. And more than twelve percent of the sample was incarcerated for the most serious kinds of felonies, including rape and murder.
Pew researchers have also found that Democrats with graduate degrees are nearly seven times as likely to believe as to not believe that immigrants only work at jobs that Americans don't want. One might say that most "educated" liberals apparently have skipped Economics as this implies a wholesale unfamiliarity with the idea of supply and demand. That these positions might be attractive to native-born workers if they offered better pay and working conditions and that immigration of low-skilled workers is one of the major causes of growing economic inequality is at once an unavoidable conclusion to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of economics and something which the liberal intelligentsia is determined not to admit to itself.
Regardless, Zmirak and Perrotta provide a mass of information on the subject. Among their most astonishing snippets: between 2008 and 2015 employment among native-born workers fell by 1.1 million while immigrants took a net of 1.9 million jobs. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, employers were collectively replacing the native-born with lower-paid and more docile foreigners. Zmirak and Perrotta also document how the labor movement in this country was strongly in favor of strict immigration enforcement until recently, and that legendary Mexican-American farmworker organizer Cesar Chavez was among the most unabashed supporters of efficient deportation of illegals.
However, the book is far from a compendium of data or simple background on the topic. While composed of fewer than two hundred pages of text, it manages to provide a lot of thoughtful intellectual analysis of why immigration policy cannot be conceived in exclusively economic terms. This conviction has several principles underlying it. One is founded in an assessment of how and why multiculturalism works in tandem with high levels of immigration to undermine a clear sense among the nation's newcomers of what is to be an American. The authors show that this stands in stark contrast to what took place during earlier periods of immigration when Americanization was very much expected of immigrants, and immigrants were required to "renounce and abjure" all foreign influences in order to gain citizenship. By contrast, from at least as early as the 1990s, there have been classes and textbooks used in American public schools for the teaching of immigrant children that promote ideas like the "reconquista" of the American southwest by Mexico.
The authors go from this to a larger point: it is not only a matter of whether immigrants are arriving with skills and knowledge but where they come from. If they are from societies with little knowledge of the basic ideas underlying American democratic pluralism and with a conscious or unconscious animus towards the predominant American traditions and beliefs, they may prove to be exceedingly difficult to assimilate.
In presenting this analysis, the authors provide a considerable amount of intellectual history, and while one of the pair is Catholic, they are frank in stating the obvious: the American traditions of secular authority and limited government have expressly Protestant and British origins. From this, they argue that some degree of cultural continuity is essential as shared traditions and beliefs play a role in welding together any political community.
The Politically Incorrect Guide To Immigration is a smart and very important book that's well-worth picking up.
Jonathan Leaf is a playwright and journalist living in New York. He writes frequently about issues of popular concern.