Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Donald Trump’s blunt and clumsy comments about illegal immigration sparked the usual firestorm of criticism from the well heeled of both parties. Particularly vocal were those Republicans who think that an amorphous, make-believe category comprising “Hispanics” or “Latinos” will vote Republican if only Republican meanies like Trump would stop insulting them by complaining about illegal aliens. As usual, willful ignorance or blindness about the costs of illegal immigration underwrites these dubious ideas.
Trump’s comments about crimes committed by illegal aliens, for example, were attacked by the usual denial and obfuscation. Various statistics, some mixing illegal and legal immigrants, were touted as showing illegal criminal activity was proportionately less than that of the native-born. But as Brietbart reported, while illegal aliens are 3.5% of the population, based on federal sentencing data they represent 12% of murder convictions. Add state crime data, and according to an analysis at American Thinker illegals commit 10 times more murders than do citizens.
Murder obviously gets the most attention, especially after a five-time deported illegal alien felon in San Francisco gunned down Kate Steinle in broad daylight. Yet the champions of the “path to citizenship” typically ignore the less spectacular disorderly behavior of the sort rife in regions with large concentrations of illegal aliens like the San Joaquin Valley. Driving under the influence or while intoxicated, driving without insurance, perpetrating hit-and-run accidents, discarding garbage and trash along roads, disregarding laws and codes covering construction, animal control, restaurants, and sanitation, breaking into homes and cars, stealing copper wire from farm pumps––all these quality of life infractions have increased as more illegal aliens have settled in the Valley.
In other words, the “broken windows” theory of policing that many conservatives are criticizing New York mayor Bill di Blasio for attacking––the idea that cracking down on minor quality of life crimes creates a sense of enforced public order that deters more serious crimes––is nowhere to be found in many parts of the rural San Joaquin Valley. The social costs of this breakdown in civic order, of course, are born by those––law-abiding Americans of whatever ethnicity–– tied by tradition or necessity to these Valley towns. And the economic costs are paid by every state and federal taxpayer whose billions of dollars––$20 billion a year in some estimates–– fund the costs of unpaid emergency room visits, criminal prosecution and incarceration, highway mayhem, illegal welfare benefits, schools crowded with the English deficient, and fraudulent social security disability payments.
Nor is it true, as the race industry hacks claim, that such criticism merely reflects bigotry or racism against the oppressed brown “other.” The Mexican-American legal immigrants of the sort I grew up with in the 50s and 60s suffer today just as much from this influx of peoples from cultures with very different mores and attitudes towards law, relationships to legal authority, and civic obligations. Yes, America in the past took in many other ethnic groups and nationalities with similar differences that often caused social problems. But back then, immigrants were faced with a brutal trade-off: change your cultural habits, learn and obey American law, political principles, and social customs, and speak English. If not, go back home, or pay a price for your refusal. No one had a right to come to America and then demand that Americans adjust their culture and mores to those of the newcomer.
That old mechanism of assimilation has been broken. The triumph of multiculturalism and its evil twin “diversity” have taught many immigrants, legal and illegal alike, that they should not have to assimilate, that their culture is just as good or even superior to America’s, and that political and civic institutions must adapt to their culture and language. Organized lobbies like La Raza and LULAC institutionalize such separatism, demanding all the privileges and boons of living in a liberal democracy ruled by law, at the same time they counsel their clients to resist endorsing and practicing the very culture that underwrites their freedom. Rather than a privilege to be earned, American citizenship and its advantages are considered justified reparations for all the historical sins Americans have inflicted on their southern neighbors. Add a porous border with Mexico continually refreshing the old country’s culture with new arrivals, and the obstacles to transforming illegal immigrants into Americans make the “path to citizenship” rhetoric a pipe dream.
Of course, there are millions of illegal immigrants who don’t commit crimes other than the first one of crossing the border. They don’t illegally receive welfare benefits––though their children born here can and do. No doubt many would become good citizens, and want their children and grandchildren to become more American. The problem is that no one touting “comprehensive immigration reform” can lay out for us a specific program for sorting out the potential good Americans from the murderers, welfare cheats, and thugs. It’s so much easier politically just to confuse illegal with legal immigration, indulge Emma Lazarus “nation of immigrants” sentiments, and scold critics that they are keeping Republicans from winning millions of voters.
Trump’s rapid climb to the top of the polls, at least for now, reflects a widespread anger with establishment Republicans who refuse to tell the truth about the costs of illegal immigration. Trump’s fans are sick of their reasonable complaints being dismissed as the bigotry or stupidity of “crazies,” as John McCain called them, or as the bitter tantrums of the narrow-minded fearful of change. They are very much like the New Yorkers of the 70s, who finally had enough of bums, punks, criminals, hookers, welfare freeloaders, and all the other detritus that made New York the dystopia of Taxi Driver and Death Wish.
Those New Yorkers got Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a police force empowered to restore civic order by enforcing the law. Those today fed up with the costs of illegal immigration disorder and violence, or the virtual nullification of federal law wrought by “sanctuary cities,” get insulted and ignored by their own party. Is it any surprise that they are supporting a politician who, for all his political opportunism, takes their anger seriously and promises to do something about it?