Editor’s note: Below are the video and transcript to Victor Davis Hanson’s speech at the Freedom Center’s 2015 West Coast Retreat. The event was held March 6-8 in Palos Verdes, CA.
Victor Davis Hanson: I have spoken about the brilliance and, believe it or not, the morality of William Tecumseh Sherman at Louisiana State University and I did not get shouted down. I spoke about why the surge would work at UC Berkeley and it wasn’t shouted down. Every time I’ve spoken at a university about illegal immigration, I’ve been shouted down. I get more hate mail on that one topic than Barack Obama, Israel, any other controversial hot topic. It’s an issue that nobody wants to address. I didn’t want to address it either, but I grew up, as Michael said, on a rural farm where it was primarily, by 1960, Hispanic. My mother, who was a Pat Brown-appointed – she was a Democrat, and then Jerry Brown-appointed superior court, and appellate court, first woman appellate court justice in California. She really was an old-type Democrat who believed that if you were going to talk about social justice, then you had to put your money where your mouth was, so she forbid us to go to the rural school out in the country with all the other farm kids, where it was racially diverse, instead, insisted that we go to the barrio, where there was only about six of us who were not Hispanic. Any my father then said, well, they’ll even be better because they’ll either make it or they won’t. If they make it, they’ll be stronger; if they won’t, they don’t deserve it. So, that was a very formative experience.
Then my father, he was a J.C. administrator and a farmer, and he was very upset that the Hispanic dropout rate was approaching 70 percent, so he started a third campus in Fresno State Junior College called the Vocational Training Center, which today has over 5,000 students. And my mother was very active, a member of the Mexican-American Political Association as a judge. I was very lucky, because not only did I live there, but as people left the area because of illegal immigration, I thought that I would do the same thing with my own children, make them go to the public schools. And all my friends that I grew up with that are non-Hispanic have mostly left Selma, and now Selma’s about 90 percent Mexican-American. And it’s a very different experience, to get up in the morning where the unemployment rate is 16 percent and the per capita income is 15,000, and end up three hours later on the Stanford campus where the per capita income in Palo Alto is 110,000 and the unemployment rate is 3 percent. It’s going from Mississippi to Massachusetts in three hours.
So, with all this in mind, I thought, well, maybe I should – I was asked one day – it wasn’t my idea to write “Mexafornia.” I was asked by a person at City Journal to write something about why diversity was wonderful and why the open market was adjudicating the border and it was wonderful. And I said, I can’t, it’s a disaster. So then he said – he’s a very great editor – he said, well, then write about the disaster. And one thing led to another, and then Peter Collier, who I think of all the editors I’ve had, from Elizabeth Tipton to Adam Bellows, is by far the best. He edited it. I will say that the original manuscript with Peter’s edits came to me, and my brother, who has a large Hispanic family, found it in my mailbox, opened it and read it, and then destroyed it. So I was in this situation with trying to write Peter and saying, can you do all your work over again. It did arrive, but it arrived in the wrong hands. And my brother hasn’t spoken to me, really, since then. A twin brother, I should say.
So, it’s a controversial topic. If I had said to you 20 years ago, 10 years ago, we’re going to get in a situation in the United States where 160,000 people are going to arrive at the border and break immigration law and we’re going to let them all in at once without any prior check, medical histories, you would think I was a right-wing conspiracist. If I had said to you, we’re going to have a president who is going to not only nullify existing federal immigration law, but on 22 occasions prior to that nullification warn us that he couldn’t nullify it, or, if I had said, he’s not only going to nullify federal immigration law, which he said would be unconstitutional, but that he is going to punish members of ICE, the border patrol, who follow existing law rather than his own unlawful existing order, I could go on, but you’d all think this was surreal, Orwellian, it couldn’t happen. Yet that’s the status quo as we look at it today.
So, what’s wrong with illegal immigration, as distinguished from legal immigration? And a couple of things. The first is, no citizen, no resident, no person on American soil has the right to choose according to his own perceived interests which law he’s going to follow and which he is not. I got a letter from the IRS not too long ago. Can I say that I don’t want to follow it because it’s unfair? No. But we’ve created an entire class of U.S. residents who knowingly broke the law and now are saying to us as guests, I don’t like the situation I find myself in my host’s house. When you bring somebody into your home, he doesn’t come in and say, I don’t like the china, I don’t like the silverware, I don’t like the look on your face, change it. That’s what we’ve done with illegal immigration.
But more importantly is the left seems to think that was the initial and sole violation. But once you violate that law and you are residing illegally, that is the beginning not the end of unlawfulness. Because you have to fill out forms, you have to sign your name to the Social Security card, you have to go to the DMV. In my case, when the second round of illegal immigration came in the ‘80s it was very different than what I grew up with. When I grew up, it was 100,000 people per year. The age-old forces of immigration, of integration, assimilation, and inter-marriage made people Americans within a generation. Most of the immigrants were from diverse places in Mexico, Tijuana, Guadalajara, Sonora, Galisco. This second wave in 1980 was mostly from Chiapas, but especially from Mojaca, mostly indigenous people and a lot of people who did not Spanish. So, when my children were going to school, it was very strange to see people with all of the – we’d go to the PTA or go to school, and all of the instructions for the parents were in Spanish and English but a large number of the parents couldn’t read the Spanish because their indigenous language was a dialect. And I thought this was so strange, that we’re spending all this money to translate documents to people who can’t understand things. Or if I go to the Citibank in Selma, I would be in line, and the person would make an X. I hadn’t seen that since I was a little boy. I see that all the time.
So this is a different type of immigration. Not just by numbers, but by the location of the – these are indigenous people, wonderful people, but they’re not like prior – they don’t have the same cultural advantages of assimilation. And we, the hosts, have radically changed in the last 40 years. And we put all of that together, and it creates this climate of illegality. So if I looked up in the morning and I looked down at the corner, there’s somebody who’s in violation of all the zoning laws of a one-family home. They have about four family members, they have a menagerie, a Noah’s ark, call it Jose’s ark, it’s got about 100 animals, pit bulls, goats, sheep, donkeys. You go to the next house, across the street from me, they have four Winnebagos, five Winnebagos, where there’s – the school bus stops there and it literally fills up the entire school bus, that one – you go to the third house down and there’s four homes that are serving – they’re not homes, they’re Winnebagos, back in a Persimmon Orchard, that’s a house of prostitution, so we get constant traffic. And then in between these we have a resident here from Mexico who has built the most beautiful small house, and he and his wife are working constantly to improve it, with the smells from animals coming one way and the traffic from prostitution coming the other.
So, it’s a very mixed bag when you look at this. But if you call the county and you say to them everybody across the street in Mountain View Avenue is in violation of zoning laws, there is no such thing as mosquito abatement, there is no such thing as licensing of dogs anymore with these pit bulls. All the things that we strived for in the ‘50s to create civilization they’ll say to you on the phone, why do you hate Hispanic people? I don’t hate Hispanic people. I like Hispanic people. I just want these rules to be applied without regard to race or ethnic background.
That’s the liberal position. So really what I’m getting at is we don’t have illegal or legal immigration so much as illiberal or liberal immigration. What we’re under now is an illiberal regime and one of the components, I said, is the question of the law.
Second reason I’m really upset about it is it’s discriminatory. How strange of being in your house and about every couple of months somebody from the Punjab knocks on the door and says I hear that one time you talked to a politician or you know a congressman. Can you help my cousin? He is an engineer from India or he’s from Pakistan and he’s waited seven years in line to come to the United States, and I said, is he stupid? And he said, no he’s brilliant and I said, well why doesn’t he just go to Mexico City and fly in and come across the border? We’re going to have amnesty any day and I’m serious, and he writes everything down. I say, okay you fly to Mexico City, you cross the border illegally then you’ll become amnestied and I said for purposes of amnesty can he just change his name from Gil Karsing to Gilbert Lopez for a couple of years and he will get amnesty. The point I’m making is of course that if you’re a Nigerian architect, you’re a Serbian ophthalmologist, you’re, I don’t know, a South Korean dentist. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to wait in line for a long time. So it is a discriminatory practice, illegal immigration, because we are privileging a group based on two criteria: proximity to the southern border and ethnic background.
This gets to the third problem that you and I have with illegal immigration, is that although the vocabulary of disparagement smears and slanders always go against the people who call for classically liberal immigration, and legal, they’re the ones that are called nativists, xenophobes, racists, but if you look at the situation very carefully it’s predicated on one principle. That people that look like me and speak like me and have my culture should be privileged. That’s the Hispanic leadership, most of it.
I didn’t really understand this until I debated the consul from Mexico in San Francisco. In the middle of this very acrimonious debate I said let’s just stop. If people from China were coming into the United States at the rate people are coming in, excuse me, to California at the rate they are coming into California, in some years 2,000 a day, would you object if a freighter docked at Port Lobos and 2,000 people from China got off the freighter and came in and then within ten years we had to have everything translated into Chinese, we had to have phone messages in Chinese, we had all of these – he said of course I would object. That would be illegal. So I said then what is the difference? And he said something I’ll never forget. He said because we have prior claims on this land, and I said, well, can I ask you another thing? The reason Pew poll said, International Poll of Public Opinion, 57 percent of people in Mexico wish to immigrate to the United States and 56 percent thought that the part that they wanted to immigrate to was still Mexican. Think of the dichotomy in that way of thinking. I want to leave my home country and go to another place called the United States, but once I get there I want it to be like Mexico. So why would you leave in the first place? It doesn’t make any sense. So what I’m getting at is there is an emotional and illogical impulse here that a lot of the debate is framed in the idea that it’s called immigration, it’s called legal or illegal immigration, but it really isn’t. It’s about a social movement to privilege on particular group of people who feel they have historical advantages, premises, superiority over other immigrant groups, at this time and at this place in the American southwest. I don’t like that. It’s discriminatory. Discriminatory.
There’s a fourth reason besides the fact that it’s illegal and it undermines the law. It’s a slippery slope. I don’t like the discriminatory aspect of it, but I also don’t like the idea that it really hurts the working class. When I was growing up, we did have people called landscapers and we did have people in agriculture and I remember so well when I was a senior in high school the left was so in favor of what Cesar Chavez did. I grew up in the Selma Park. The UFW was there. I don’t know how many times I went to Selma Park and listened to Cesar Chavez. The chief tenant of the UFW was we have to close the border and finally people were surprised that Chavez went down to the southern border and helped the Border Patrol not let in illegal aliens because the Teamsters were trying to let in, along with employers, to let in illegal aliens to crash wages and defunct and it worked. That’s pretty much why the UFW, besides its own malfeasance and corruption, why it imploded, but the point I’m getting at is that if you have minority second and third generation Mexican Americans, African Americans, poor white and they’re trying to get into the workforce and they’re trying to find work, the employer will always undercut them. In a state like California there’s anywhere from 4 to 6 million illegal aliens who will work for much less money and usually for cash off the books. It’s not just me editorializing to you. If you look at the Department of Commerce’s figures and exegesis of why wages had stagnated from 2000 to 2010, they cite illegal immigration as one of the great reasons that eroded the bargaining power of the lower classes and lower middle classes. So it’s illiberal in every aspect.
So we get to the next question: Why is it so popular? The answer is it’s not. No matter how you phrase that question in any poll, and believe me the liberal pollsters try their best to make it look like you’re a racist if you doubt it, it always is between 60 and 70 percent of the American people do not want open borders and amnesty. So what’s happening? And the answer I think is there are six or seven groups that facilitate illegal immigration for their own perceived reasons. I’ll start with a combination of all of this, and that is sometime around 1990 there were so many illegal immigrants in California, which is half of all the population of illegal immigrants in the United States. We don’t know whether we have 11 or 20, we see 16, 14, but let’s just say we have 15 and 7 million are here. People began to embrace the aristocratic lifestyle of the wealthy. So if you were a middle class person living in Fresno for the first time in your life you had somebody who mowed your lawn. I’d never seen that happen growing up and I thought this is very strange because the new Honda lawnmowers are so much better than the old Tecumseh engine that we had to take part. I have two Honda lawnmowers. They’re so easy to use. Why is everybody having somebody mow their lawn, and then I never had seen people hire cooks that were teachers. I would be talking to professors at Fresno State and they had a cook. I would see people who worked for the DMV and they had a maid. I saw people who had a nanny. I mean that was okay if you had capital, but suddenly that type of socalled “help” was accessible to millions of new Americans and because these people were very hardworking people developed individual relationships and they would say, I don’t like illegal immigration, but Maria’s different. I give all my old clothes to Maria or my secondhand car I gave to Juan and so people got invested in the idea in the American southwest that even though they were not aristocratic they could be a figure out of Downton Abbey themselves and it worked pretty much. If you take a drive through a neighborhood in Los Angeles, upscale or middle class. You can go to Selma and you can see Mexican American second and third generation people that have illegal aliens cutting their lawn every week. So it’s a very strange phenomena. That’s one thing.
The second is Mexico. If we just had a public relations outfit running the United States as Mexico did we would not be unpopular anywhere in the world. They are the most brilliant propagandists in the world. You turn on any television, if you see a Mexican spokesman, a consul, governor, anybody on Univision or even on mainstream TV, they always have a furrowed brow and they will tell you how disturbed they are about the treatment of Mexican people in the United States.
Getting back to my story about the consul, he said to me, Mr. Hanson you guys in America ripped my heart out. I said, why? You’ve taken all of our best citizens and I said, well, what do you mean we took them? The average education of an illegal immigrant is eighth grade. He said yes we invested eight years in your education and you ripped them from us and believe me in the commonwealth in San Francisco is not a conservative audience. They, the liberal audience though they be, laughed him out of the room at that, but nevertheless can you imagine the audacity because what Mexico is really telling us is we want 50 billion dollars in renumerances. That’s what they get, 50 billion dollars a year. Think of the logic of that. Somebody comes here and washes dishes and toils and lives at minimum wage or sells flowers at the corner or comes to your house and cuts limbs for cash and he scrimps and saves and sends on average about $600.00 or $700.00 a month back to Mexico, and what basically the Mexican government is saying is we didn’t offer our people adequate social services. We don’t really care about the interior provinces where indigenous people live who don’t speak Spanish. So we’re going to send them up to you and then adopt them as a cause celeb and make them work under very harsh conditions so they can send money back and support their families in a way that we wouldn’t dare do and we’re going to call you racists if you question that. That’s pretty Orwellian. That’s what the Mexican government does. That’s not the only reason why they’re big drivers. They have over 50 consulates in the United States now.
Second reason of course is that the United States is Frederick Jackson Turner’s safety valve, like the American West was for us once and you can really see it. People get frustrated, they get angry and they leave and then Mexico likes that because supposedly it diffuses tension. I’m not sure it does because Oaxaca Province is the great feeder of illegal immigration and in terms of political violence and stability it’s the least stable. It’s not very stable to have the males of a family leave in mass, but the Mexican government is not concerned with that.
And finally and most cynically of all the Mexican government has discovered something. That the longer and further away one of their citizens is from Mexico, the more they like Mexico. One of the strangest things is to drive into Selma and look at Ringo Park and see a Mexican candidate politicking for office in Mexico and all the people in my neighborhood are yelling and screaming with Mexican flags how wonderful he is and I always say to one of them would you do that if you were actually in Mexico? The answer is no, but he does not have to live in Mexico. So everybody has a Mexican flag on their car and Mexico’s a great place because you don’t have to be there. Bruce Thornton and I created a classics department of mostly Hispanic students and I had one during the 187 protest, a student, and I saw him outside and they were burning the American flag on Fresno State campus and they were waving it. I said I can’t understand this. Why would you burn the flag of the country you so desperately want to stay in and you’d wave the flag of the place that under no circumstances you’d ever want to return to, and he says something I’ll never forget. He says it’s emotional, it’s emotional, but Mexico is cynically manipulating that and this administration does more harm to us I think than any other government in the world today, but besides us and Mexico there’s at least three or four other groups and they divide along the political line. You could never have 15 million people in this country if one party alone was responsible for it. There would have been a political backlash, but both parties are. If you take the left, there’s two large groups. There’s one, the most blatant. That’s Representative Gutierrez, the La Raza group, the Hispanic activists and they’re not a majority of the support for illegal immigration, but they’re the most vocal and they really do believe that there had been an injustice done in the 19th century and they can redress the injustice demographically and it’s very, very hard to follow the logic because in the midst of all the Mexican flags flying and all the love of America you don’t get ever in a Chicano studies class any expressions that they like the country they want to stay in or, I should be more candid, that they love the country that they demand you let them stay in when all of the public sloganeering is anti-American or at least anti-government, but they’re a very strong group and I’ll say one other thing about them. They’re a very illiberal group because their idea of illegal immigration is not illegal or legal. It’s immigration from Mexico and Central America and nowhere else.
Barack Obama meets often with the National Council of La Raza. Does anybody know any political group that has a word that means race? The National Council of a Race? La Raza is one of those rare words in European language that denotes something other than your language and where your feet are. There’s not very many languages that have it, however, German is one, a volk. Remember when Hitler took that 19th century common word. It’s an old world in the German language, but volk to a German under Hitler meant not just that you could speak German or you lived in Germany. Jews did that. In 1934 there was a great compendium of all the Jews who won the Iron Cross in World War I and it was several thousand. It meant nothing. They were not part of the volk because they did not look a particular way. So the Nazis said. That’s what Raza is. If you go to Mexico and you are Chinese or you are blonde and you say I want to become a citizen of Mexico and speak Spanish, you’re not part of the Raza community. Where did the term come from? They say it means community. There’s many words in Spanish. Pueblo means community. It comes from Latin radix. Radix means root or race. Where was it popularized? It was popularized in the 1930s. Where did these idiots in the ‘60s in the La Raza movement get the term? They got it from Francisco Franco and fascist Spain. He wrote a novel and had a movie made. What was the title? “La Raza” and then people in Portugal emulated that, in Portuguese Raza, and then even Mussolini added a Z and had two Zs and he got on Raza and if you look at the literature it’s always on the idea that the Iberian spirit, the Italian spirit, is superior to anybody because of the race.
So we have this movement whose pedigree is entirely racist, its origins are racists and yet we’re considered if you question it that you’re racist. It’s lala-land but that’s part of the left-wing support. The other part is entirely cynical. That’s Barack Obama. That’s John Kerry, that’s Hillary Clinton and that idea is old states that were red – New Mexico, Colorado – are now purple or they’re flipping blue. And because of the anchor baby policies of the U.S., interpretations of the U.S. Constitution, somebody comes here illegally, has children and they are nursed on the idea that the federal government owes them something; the entitlement, the Democratic Party that facilitated that, the right-wing, the Republicans are against me, and they create familial traditions that vote Democratic.
When I talk to all my friends who are Mexican-American, they’ll say I don’t like anything in the Democratic Party, but I won’t vote for Republican. Why? Because my grandfather told me never to vote for a Republican because the Democrats let us in, they let us stay. Think about California politics. Where I live, everything that comes out of the legislature is antithetical to the aspirations of the Mexican-American citizen. Do they care about transgender restrooms? No. Do they want the water in the San Joaquin River diverted from agriculture where many work to be sent out to the bay for the fantasies of some Silicon Valley Grandee who wants the smelt? No. Could care less. Do they care whether there’s famine or not in the San Joaquin River particular? No. They want jobs, they want water, they want more dams, they want reservoirs. Do they want high-speed rail when the 99 Freeway you can’t even go on it without being killed? It’s only two lanes and nobody rides Amtrak and to spend $200,000,000,000.00 next to it? No, especially when they know that everybody in the Bay Area who thought up high-speed rail cancelled the first phase where it would go through their back yard in Palo Alto to Pacheco. Everybody in LA didn’t want it. They wanted it one place to start out, Fresno to Corcoran. We really needed to go to Fresno at 300 miles an hour to see Charles Manson in Corcoran. That’s what it is. And it goes right through farm land and through Hispanic communities.
Did Hispanic communities want to pay the highest electricity under Southern California rates in the country so that we would have these mandated solar and wind programs that were thought up by whom? People in Palo Alto? I have an office in the tower of the Hoover Institution. You know what I have? I have no heater or air conditioner. It’s 65 degrees all year round. I can’t afford to turn on my air conditioning. When I got to Walmart in Selma there’s Hispanic people who sit there all day because it’s the only place in town who has cool, cool temperatures and they can’t afford to turn on – and yet they vote for that type of ideology and you ask them why, because of Medi-Cal, da-da, da-da, da-da. And, and that alliance is very hard to break. So that group on the Democratic Party and also, the ethnic activists. One wants voters and collective constituencies, looks at people as groups rather than individuals, so you vote for somebody like Mr. Gutierrez who says I’ll deliver or Hillary tries to speak Spanish, and then you’re supposed to be for them ‘cause they’re for open borders and more entitlements. In the case of California we have this, people in Mississippi vote for people in Massachusetts on the coast because they give them what they want. It’s absolutely bizarre but it’s undeniable.
If we move to the Republican side of the equation, which again we’re trying to find out why something that’s so illiberal and absurd is now so institutionalized. And on the Republican side there’s two types. There’s a small minority who are what I call purists, ideologues. I’ve debated five or six of them. To tell you the truth the first person I met in 2002 when I entered the Hoover Institution, 2003, was Milton Friedman and he said, you’re the guy who wrote that awful book called “Mexifornia.” I said, I sure am. And he said, you’re a restrictionist. You want to impede the work of the free market. I said no I don’t. And he says well if you would just let the border be open then the market would adjudicate. I said would you explain, Dr. Friedman? Well, wages are $7.00 an hour now. We let in 5,000,000, it’ll go to $2.00 and then people won’t want to work for $2.00 and then they’ll stay in Mexico. And I said, the problem is that they won’t go by you in Presidio Heights, they’ll go by me or they’ll go by Juan Hernandez in Parlier, we’ll have to deal with the undealable. And he said, well, what would that be? And I said, I can remember this conversation word for word. I said, we pay the highest sales tax, we pay the highest gas taxes, we pay the highest income taxes. We’re rated 49th in the United States in roads. We have, we’re rated 48th, thank God for Alabama and Mississippi in school test scores. I said, I could go on but you understand why that is. Because we are trying to do the greatest social engineering experiment in history. We’re trying to take millions of people from Central Mexico and give them parity within a generation and where we used to spend 25 percent of the state budget on engineering and infrastructures, highways, bridges, airports, we’re spending 3 percent because of the social cost of Medi-Cal. We have one-sixth of the United States that’s on welfare living in the United States and in California. We have the highest poverty rate, 22 percent.
I went through the whole statistics with him. And he said, well, that’s a temporary phenomenon. And that feeling is shared by most of my colleagues. They believe that basically it’s a economic issue and that borders impede the iron laws of Adam Smith. I think in theory they may be right, but in fact they’ve never been bitten by a dog that nobody knows, can’t speak English and the owner doesn’t speak English, has no license and no rabies vaccination and when you call the county and say I just got bit by a dog and I don’t know what to do and whether or not it came from Mexico and has rabies or not. And they said, why do you want to cause trouble and hurt those people? And so Milton Friedman never had that happen to him. So what I’m saying is, there is a group in the Republican Party who are immune from the ramifications of their own ideology. It’s true of the left as well, but it shouldn’t be true of the right. If you go to Palo Alto and Silicon Valley, reminds me of Mississippi in 1965. Remember when integration took place and all the sudden these so-called liberal white people started having private academies sprout up everywhere to take their children out of the public schools? Well most of my associates all, when I was in Stanford, Castilleja was a weird little girls’ school. Not now. Castilleja, Parker, Sacred Heart, every private school is just expanding for the children of the elite, both left and right but a lot of conservative. Why? Because Menlo, Atherton or Palo Alto High School, a flagship, public high schools now have 25 percent Hispanic and there’s gang problems and you can’t have AP Chinese anymore and there’s remedial classes. Join the club. But this libertarian group has all these ideas about the market and yet you look at their lives, how they live, they do not live the life they advocate for others. It’s the most condescending and in some ways racist idea I know.
The other larger group of the Republicans, what I call well-meaning George W. Bush, the mainstream establishment and their idea is we cannot lose the American southwest like we lost California. California will never have a Ronald Reagan again because it’s 42 percent Latino and they vote 70⁄30 and they turn out. There’s two problems with that. There’s three. Let me say the third first and that is it doesn’t matter whether that’s politically true or right. It’s disingenuous, it’s dishonest and it’s illegal. And if you had any commitment to the Constitution then whatever the political realities, you should live and die by the Constitution and not for cynical political purposes should you pull back. That’s the real reason.
But let me give you the two more obvious problems with that view of the mainstream political establishment that we see in Washington. Number one, it’s false. The only way you’re going to have a Latino community that votes 50⁄50 and that when a man is named Hernandez or a woman is named Martinez, you have no idea who they’re going to vote for just like if a man is named Cuomo Giuliani, you don’t know whether they’re Republican or Democrat is for one reason. There’s not a million people coming from Sicily every year right now. If there were the Italian-American population as it was in 1930, you couldn’t have convinced them to forsake the New Deal. In other words if you stopped illegal immigration and you had legal immigration come in, in management numbers, the processes of the melting pot, integration, inter-marriage and simulation would work on the Hispanic community just like it did the Italian-American community and 20 years from now they would be politically inconsequential. They would be people in other words, not blocks. The Republican Party then could appeal to them if they really do believe that they believe in family values, they’re against abortion, they’re skeptical of gay marriage, all of these things that we’re told then that would resonate because they wouldn’t vote in a collective sense because they would be intermingled and if I see a Mexican-American person then it’s happening. And if you stop the illegal immigration it would happen even quicker.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been at a party and somebody’s talked to me and she’s said, what background or what do you think I am? I have no idea whether Portuguese, Armenian, Greek, Italian, they look like Bruce Thornton. I don’t know. Nobody knows if Bruce, does anybody here know that Bruce Thornton is half Sicilian? No, Italian, Southern Italian. Nobody knows, nobody cares. Yeah. My mother who was not a big fan of Scandinavians said, she repeated the old Scandinavian phrase “Swedes are Danes with their brains blown out.” Nobody cares, I don’t really care. I had a, we had a Swedish journalist come and he wanted to come and talk about notable Swedes in America. After ten minutes with this guy, I thought who wants to spend their time with a socialist from Europe? I mean just because he was Swedish, had no, I had no resonance with him. All my Mexican-American friends that live near me, I like them much better than this guy, but yet I’m, I’m supposed to now develop a white identity and especially a white Swedish identity because what? I’m supposed to buy Electrolux vacuum cleaner or a Volvo? It’s absurd! It’s absurd and if you want to end that then you go back and follow the law and people will integrate and it will be just like the Italian-American Southern Cal – it has many of the same characteristics. Largely Catholic, largely Mediterranean type of culture and it can be assimilated and integrated very quickly. And it’s happening and it’s, but it’s not happening fast enough because of the numbers and the fact that we don’t believe in the melting pot, we believe in the salad bowl. And that’s what the Republican Establishment does not like.
So when they say we need to pander to amnesty, we need to do all this, all they’re going to do is fulfill the Democratic agenda. When the Democrats, our people at Univision said, hey, you Republicans, we really want to help you, you guys need to get that vote up from 30 percent to 40 percent. Would anybody believe that? They’re basically saying open the border so that 30 percent will go down to 10 percent. The final thing is that the Republicans never understood that the minority vote in particular, but particularly the Asian and Latino vote, was predicated a lot on the unique candidacy of Barack Obama. I know that mid-term elections are different in the participation rate but if you look at the latest mid-term election the Hispanic vote was judged to be about 43, 44 percent for Republican candidates, not just 30. The Asian vote went from 70⁄30 to about 50⁄50. In other words when the Democratic Party makes this appeal to the skin color of a person rather than content of their character and when every day you have to listen to Eric Holder, “my people,” “cowards” or Barack Obama, you know my son would’ve looked like Trayvon. All this ethnic division, it turns off the voter. In this case it turns off the white, working class and what they are doing, they don’t know what they’re doing; for the first time they’re creating a collective white identity. I don’t mean, I’m not naïve enough to say it didn’t exist, but there were such things as Italians and Armenians and now it’s sort of white and that’s the alternative identity.
And what the problem is, if anybody else runs and it’s not Barack Obama, who alone can get these fantastic rates of participation in the African-American community, 78 percent of the registered voters, 94 percent of those who vote. Hillary Clinton is not going to get that number. She’s not going to get that number of Hispanics. She’s not charismatic like Obama, she doesn’t resonate. She’s not going to do it. But she is going to turn off one voter that Barack Obama turned off. We found that out in 2010 and 2014. He didn’t care about the Democratic Party. In fact, he destroyed it. He came in with super majorities in the Senate. He had a big majority in the House. He had the most compliant media in recent political history. The short space of six years, he destroyed that. And how’d he destroy it? Doing what I just said. And he didn’t destroy himself, but he was not able to transfer that magnetism and charis, charismatic appearance and speech to other candidates that shared his ideology. Because he had turned off so many so-called quiet Americans. So it’s not a winning combination for the Republicans to be in favor of mass amnesty.
So what, let me just conclude, and what should we do? Everybody here I think understands what we should do. We have about 15,000,000 people. We need to first close the borders. Just close them and finish the fence and have some type of employer I.D. and biometric identification and find employers and you could close it pretty quickly. And then, second, you would have to deal with the people who are here. You would not have to give them amnesty for citizenship, but you could say to people who had been here under certain criteria that we will give you a pathway to residency. You can pay a fine and you can wait through all the other people who waited in line legally, got green cards and then you can. This idea that everybody’s going to get citizenship is absurd under the Simpson-Mazzoli Act of ‘86 only 31 percent of the people eventually got citizenship. Everybody I talked to said I don’t want to be a citizen. I’m too old. I don’t want to go through all that. I just want to be a resident. My kids are already citizens. Who cares? Not everybody wants to be a citizen but they do want to be here legally and we should have three criteria and this is why we’re never going to see it happen.
Number one, if you just came on the scent of amnesty from Central America or Mexico, you should be sent back home. We can have a residency requirement. Two, three, five years. If you’ve been here for five years, you’re eligible to apply for permanent residency, if you fulfill two other criteria. One, you can’t come and be on public assistance. You have to have some work record. Now maybe we can have people on disability, but if you come and you immediately went on public assistance then you’re not an undocumented worker; you’re an undocumented welfare recipient. We have enough of that in the United States without importing people. So is that a small number? No. One quarter of all California recipients of welfare are illegal aliens. I just said a word that would get me fired from the Chicago Tribune. They told me that if I ever use the word illegal alien again I’m not going to be able to have my syndicated column. So I have to say “undocumented workers,” but I say they don’t have documents and they’re not all working, so now I think it’s undocument, um, I don’t know what the other word is. They do it now. I don’t know it. But what I’m getting at is we could very easily say if you have no work record and you’re on public assistance, we suggest you go return to the country of origin. Would we get buses and would it be the division of Pakistan and India and send people en mass? No, it would just simply say that we’re going to require everybody on public assistance to have some work record as well. That this was a temporary phenomenon. If not, when you come into the radar, you’ll have to go home.
And finally and most controversially, you can’t have broken the law. I’m not saying you can’t run a stop sign once, but if you have a felony conviction or a DUI then we have enough good people from Mexico that we don’t need you here. What would that number entail if we said we want everybody to be eligible for residency if they pay a fine, if they learn English, if they apply at the back of the line? However, if you just came here, you weren’t here three to five years, however, if you’ve committed crimes; however, if you have no work history, return. That could be a sizable minority. It could be 20 percent. The estimates I see, say 20 percent. Well out of 15,000,000 people that could be 3,000,000 people and that’s where the controversy comes.
The controversy right now with illegal immigration is not some mythical House Republican insurrection as to the xenophobes. It’s on the liberal Democratic aristocracy. ‘Cause every time the House Republicans start to say we want first to secure the borders, they say, oh, yeah, we can do that, but let’s do amnesty first. Each time they say we want some criteria about arrest, they say well how about two DUIs? Three? They start bargaining over two or three DUIs. Every time they say, well, we can’t have people live here two years, look at the kids here. They just got here. They have to be let in. In other words what I’m getting at is when Barack Obama says I had to use a pen and a phone and resort to an executive order because the House Republicans would not cooperate and were obstructionists, what he means is they didn’t agree with my particular idea of amnesty and therefore they didn’t sign onto it and therefore we couldn’t have a law because they wanted some minimum requirement that people who broke the law did not commit a crime and had come here for a long time and came here to work and then they would be given an opportunity for residency and that was beyond the pale for Barack Obama and Democrats. And that’s where we are.
Is it going to change? I don’t think it is. I don’t think that anything will change until you have the present Republican Senate and House and you have to nominate a candidate and he has to be elected that can do two things. He’s going to have to support this type of immigration agenda and he won’t be easily caricatured like a Mitt Romney or John McCain as an aristocratic white guy who’s a nativist and that has to be either somebody on terms of class or ethniticity that is immune from that type of cheap demagoguery.
If we don’t have immigration reform what we end up, I think we’ll end up something like Selma, California where I live and I don’t mean that in a completely apocalyptic manner. It’s just different. What do I mean by different? It’s not assimilated. There’s no diversity. The school that I went to is 99.9 percent Hispanic, Eric White school. Every school in Selma School District flunked the No Child Left Behind standards. We’re on our third recall of city council. We just fired the superintendent because somebody alleged that he was insensitive to Hispanics and it violated the Brown Act. We had a big epidemic of manhole covers being stolen out of the streets by city employees because we wanted to have them recycled. We have all of these strange things. Is that because of one ethnic group? No. It’s because of one idea that a particular law, a federal law, has no enforcement and you’re immune and you’re exempt from it and once you create that in the mentality of anybody, you, me or anybody, then it’s an open book to violate all sorts of law.
And it’s a feeling that for some reason my host is afraid to enforce its own law. Mexico enforces its law. South America enforces its law. The United States is afraid to enforce the law and therefore they must feel that way because they’re either guilty or they’re weak. And if they’re guilty they’ll commit another law another crime and if they’re weak then I have nothing but contempt for them. Believe me, if we enforced immigration law and we deported law breakers and people on public assistance and people that just got here, we would be so admired by the Mexican-American community. We really would. And if we wouldn’t pander to La Raza and we’d stand up for them as Republicans and conservatives, eventually we would get 50⁄50 vote and if we follow the prescription of the establishment Republicans, we’re going to lose the next election and the one after it and the one after it. Thank you very much.
Audience Member: I have a theory on immigration and I’d like to have your expert analysis on what’s right and what’s wrong with my theory. The incentive for people to come from Mexico to here has to do with the greatness of here being better than the greatness there and it’s an attraction. And we can modify the rules here to make it less great for them by reducing benefits or things like that. Or maybe raise the standard of living in Mexico as one solution. So my question, a lot of the badness in Mexico has to do with the drug cartels and all the problems there. So my question, or my theory is that the instant solution to the immigration problem would simply be to legalize drugs in this country, end of story.
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, we could legalize everything. We could legalize a lot of things that are cumbersome as well. We could get away with Cal/OSHA or things, but I don’t think it’s incumbent upon us to change our value system so that guests feel more comfortable or don’t feel more comfortable. I mean we have a border with Canada and about 25,000 people come across the border to live here and about 20,000 cross the border to go there. And the reason that is is that economically, socially, politically, culturally, there’s some type of parity. So I understand your point. It would be to achieve parity. In fact the birth rate of Mexico has gone down from about 4.2 to about 3.1. There is some opening of the Mexican economy. There’s some effort to deregulate the oil industry. In theory when Mexico reaches parity with Canada, the United States then immigration will be irrelevant in theory. But I don’t see why we have to change our attitude about law enforcement. If we feel that drug laws, especially for marijuana are archaic, ossified, counterproductive then let’s make that decision based on our own values, not whether that’s going to attract foreign nationals or not. That’s my idea.
Anytime we start to worry about what Mexico says or worry about what they’re doing in Mexico or, well, if we legalize drugs and the cartels – the problem is not that there’s a law against using heroin in the United States. The problem is Mexico has created a culture that allows a drug kingpin to buy a federal judge or to kill somebody he doesn’t like and the public doesn’t stand up and say shame on you. That’s the problem. It’s a cultural problem. And I don’t want to blame our culture because we won’t legalize heroin for a million people coming across the border.
Audience Member: Hi, could you please run down the list of Republican candidates for president who are in agreement with your point of view on this issue?
Victor Davis Hanson: Well let me start with the ones that I’ve heard that are, would be aghast at it; that would not agree with me and that would be first and foremost, uh, George Bush, um, excuse me, Jeb Bush. He, I heard him give a lecture at the Hoover Institution and although he’s going to modify that, he’s basically an open borders, amnesty to citizenship guy. So that, that’s one. I don’t know what Rand Paul, I think he’s sort of massaged his message because I think he’s a libertarian and most libertarians feel that the federal government has no – the less the federal government interferes in the economy the better and let the larger economic forces achieve parity and then the problem will disappear. I think he might have cleaned that up but I’d say essentially that’s, that’s what he believes.
The people who would be strongly in favor of what I’ve just said would, I think Scott Walker may not initially have, but I think now he’s on record that he is. I think Ted Cruz probably is. Marco Rubio understands that although he wouldn’t agree with me, he wouldn’t be nominated unless he did, so he’s changed. So basically of the major people, people like Perry and Cruz and Walker would favor that position and people I think like Rand Paul and Jeb Bush, I’m talking just about the major contenders, would not. I think that’s a fair estimation. And I have no preconceived candidates so I’m not just saying that because – yes. Okay.
Audience Member: Yes I, I think that’s a terrific overview you gave us of the issues. I would say that I think as Republicans and as conservatives though, our party is conceding something that we don’t have to because they view the Mexican-American community as monolithic and they really aren’t. They share so many more of our values. For example most of them oppose gay marriage. Most of them oppose abortion. Many of them realize that the illegals are going to be getting their jobs. So there are really reasons that I think we should be more affirmative than on the defensive.
Victor Davis Hanson: There are and I agree with you. I’m thinking, I have an older brother who’s married to Vici Espinoza from Mexico and my twin brother’s kids are Matthew and Emily Campos-Hansen. Bruce Thornton’s grandkids are half Mexican-American. His son’s married, it happens, it’s wonderful. But what I’m saying is that that issue of illegal immigration is so demagogued that what you say, though it’s true, will be trumped by the Democratic liberal ability to demagogue Republicans.
The only reason that, the only way you’ll stop it, the only way you’ll stop it is to close the border to make legal immigration meritocratic. So you say to the Hispanic community, i.e., La Raza, you say to them the political leadership, we don’t believe in ethnic superiority of any one group. We want to make it meritocratic so we want to have ethnically blind criteria for 250,000 legal immigrants. We don’t care whether they’re black or they’re Asian or they’re Mexican. Just like we don’t care who goes to UC Berkley. We don’t believe in reverse discrimination of Asians. We just want to have people have skill sets, education and we’ll take the top 250 and if they’re all Mexican, we don’t care. If they’re non-Mexican, we don’t care.
Audience Member: I totally agree, I just would add one last thing and that is I have read Mexico’s immigration laws and they are three times as tough as our laws which aren’t being enforced and I would recommend that everybody here just Google Mexico’s immigration laws. They are not only harsh but they’re racist.
Victor Davis Hanson: Well they have a, in the Mexican Constitution it says, it says explicitly that immigration shall not alter the ethnic essence of the Mexican people and then it says it’ll be a two-year felony for any foreign national to work without permission in Mexico, automatic jail sentence. So they understand what they’re doing, but all my point is, again, to reiterate it, is if you close the border and you stop illegal immigration you’re absolutely right, then people, that won’t be a hot-button issue. The Republican Establishment in their folly thinks, well, I agree with you and these family values will then trump the immigration because it won’t, we’ll just give everybody amnesty and we’ll let them come in. Each time they come in they’ll like us. No they won’t, they’ll think you’re weak and corrupt and pandering. If you stop illegal immigration, again, the forces of the melting pot will turn Mexican-Americans into Italian-Americans. Twenty years from now there won’t be 22 professors in the Chicano studies program at Fresno State because there won’t be a Chicano studies program just like there’s not an Italian-American studies program, just like there’s not a Swedish-American program.
Audience Member: Thank you, Dr. Hanson. For your work all these years and your presentation today. In the whole immigration debate it seems like there are two groups that I think stand to lose the most from unchecked illegal immigration. As he mentioned legal Hispanics and black Americans, African-Americans. It seems like there’s absolutely no voices, no African-American leadership, no advocates for legal Hispanics that are speaking out on this. I would think Al Sharpton would be shouting from the rooftops how unchecked illegal immigration is going to hurt African-Americans. Deafening silence. What’s your take on that?
Victor Davis Hanson: Well it’s absolutely right. Anybody who studied even superficially the LA gang situation realizes that LA gangs, many of them illegal aliens, are one of the most racist groups around. They target African-Americans. The African-American communities are shrinking in Los Angeles, they’re shrinking in Fresno for a variety of reason. Not all immigration, but one of the problems is that if somebody is a contractor, they always will hire somebody from Oaxaca other than an African-American teenage youth or a poor white or even a Mexican-American entry level.
I’ll give you an example of what I mean. I had a concrete patio poured two or three years ago, four years ago and I said to the contractor, licensed contractor, because I didn’t want the author of “Mexifornia” to be caught hiring illegal alien. But I noticed that the employees, none of them spoke English and when they spoke to each other, they spoke Mexo-Techa-Baja, a very, it’s a derivative from Aztec, and they were very hard working. So I said to the contractor who was Mexican-American, why do you hire these guys when the unemployment rate is 16 percent? What do you pay? I pay them $14.00 an hour. I said you could get – he said no I can’t. And I said well what’s your criteria? He said I have a very easy criteria. If they speak English, I don’t want them. If they have a tattoo I don’t want them. If they’re at all obese, I don’t want them. And I said, yeah, but by just hiring illegal aliens, you think that these people who live, are being promoted over citizens are not going to have children and you won’t want the children because they’re going to fall into the same patterns of behavior unless we approach the – see what I’m getting at is I can’t stand this take somebody and throw them away attitude that agriculture, meat packing and the hospitality, landscape, all these industries, Wall Street Journal mentality have. Their idea is basically we’re going to take somebody 18 named Juan Ramirez, we’re going to bring him up here, he’s going to be so desperate that Juan and Ricardo, they’re all going to live in this little trailer and they’re going to work for me really hard and then when they hurt their shoulder, they get old, they get heavy, they have diabetes, anything, then we’re going to throw them onto the social network. They’re going to be part of the one-sixth of the nation on welfare in the United States or they’re going to be on Medi-Cal or they’re going to go into the office. When I had a knee operation a month ago and I watched this train of people come in with ObamaCare. I never paid my premium. Do I have to? I don’t know what a deductible is. Do I have to pay it? I don’t know what a co-pay is. Abject, poor people that have been hurt on the job or aged and then the employer says ah, they’re not good anymore, I’ll go get another one.
And you want to say to the employer, well, why don’t you work with the African-American teenager? I know if there’s a social problem, let’s work with them, let’s give them jobs, let’s frack. If we were fracking or we had another reservoir with more agriculture, let’s work with the people we have first before in our high and mighty arrogance, we think we can go into another country and bring people in. And then the worst thing about this is the architects of this policy of open borders in Silicon Valley – I’ll give you one example, Mark Zuckerberg goes down to the estate of Carlos Slim in a foreign country, violated every principle Churchill said was the sign of a defective character, a man that goes into a foreign country and trashes his homeland. He goes to Carlos Slim, he says I am ashamed of American immigration law. That’s what he said, because he wants to bring in labor or he’s so fond of the illegal aliens who do the help in Palo Alto. He feels bad. And then he has a house in Palo Alto not too far from my studio apartment, which I pay $2,200.00 for 600 square feet at Stanford, and he bought six houses around it so he could determine who his neighbors were because he was afraid that he might get a family that might do something, maybe shoot a gun off in the air or roast a pig out the front door or have some chickens that’ll fly over the fence so he could adjudicate who was living around him. Think of that. And that sums up this coastal mentality in this state whether it’s high-speed rail or water or power, any of these issues; foremost among them, illegal immigration, is based on people who do not want to be subject to the consequences of their own utopian fantasies. They’re really a despicable bunch. I hate to be that mean to them, but the more I’m around them on this issue of illegal immigration, they’re racist, they’re elitist and you make a really good point.
Audience Member: Just two quick points. The first is I don’t know if you’ve read Jonathan Hyatt’s book The Righteous Mind. It applies in two ways to what you are talking about, one of which is he, it’s worth reading all the way through because the reviewers don’t get to the last two chapters, but it explains why he’s no longer a liberal, which is that as he walks through it, he suddenly has the epiphany that liberals have a really bad track record of the capacity to see the second and third order consequences of their ideas. But when I spoke with him, because he’s now a professor at NYU, the group that comes second in that is libertarians. They do not see the consequences of certain policies and ideas in terms of his research. So you can talk to him about that further if you want to explain Milton Friedman.
The second thing that he talks about is caring and compassion and how that is the huge driver for people; that emotional response far more so than any intellectual policy argument, and I saw that when we did research in the black community in New Orleans. If you talk in terms of politics, Republican conservative the antipathy was extraordinarily high. There were no redeeming features that they could see. But if you turn, talked in terms of actual policy issues and where they came out, for example, every single one of these lower-income, for the most part, women were opposed to minimum wage increases. They were appreciative of the Republicans having stopped the extension of unemployment benefits. But when they were asked why they wouldn’t still vote for a Republican the answer was because they don’t care about people like us. They never show up, they never do anything. So my question is when you’re talking to your Hispanic friends, what is it that you think that Republicans could do and conservatives could do to start showing that they care?
Victor Davis Hanson: I would just say one thing. It’s honesty. And they have to feel familiar. When I have a Mexican-American guy come over to my house, when I say why in the world did you vote for Obama, and he says because he’s not white, and I’m quoting liberally, then if I’m a liberal I’m going to say, oh, that hurts me so much. If I’m going to be honest, I’d say screw you, you’re a racist and you want me to vote against Obama because he’s black? You like that? We’re not going to run the country like that. And so what we have, Republican and Democrat, we have a white, elite class who in some type of medieval philosophy of exemption, remember the Sodomite in the middle ages felt so bad of his practices that he wanted to go to Heaven so he went out and bought one block for St. Peter’s Dome and they wrote a little remittent, said you get to go to Heaven and you can still commit sodomy. Well, we have all these libertarians and liberals as you say that feel so great about it but they can vote for Obama and get remittance, but they do not want to get around somebody and treat them as a person. Instead they’re all so guilty. But they’re not really guilty. They just, they’re afraid of people that are not like themselves. They don’t live with them, they don’t work with them, they don’t eat with them and they’re condescending and I think that’s racist.
And the Republican Party, if Scott Walker say, just to pick one, would say you know what? I want to frack. I want to get a million jobs and I want to have a job corps going to Detroit or Milwaukee or Oakland. I want to get a bunch of African-American kids and get them skills and get them $30.00 an hour. Not because they’re African-American, but because they have a higher unemployment rate and I want to make, when I’m done with them I want to make sure that they’re so successful and they’re so skilled that being African-American is about the fourth thing they think about. And they can’t do that because I guess they’re scared or they’ve been called racist, but until you check – if somebody were to be on television, say Al Sharpton, you’re a racist, say whatever you want about it. It doesn’t – when I was at the University of Oregon, I had all these people with a little target with my face on it, bullseye, and they walked in. I said you, people are pathetic. You’re a bunch of middle-class Hispanic kids on affirmative action who would never live where I do and now I’m supposed to feel racist because you’re offended? I could care less. Is anybody going to give me the check and I can leave. And that’s, you have to say that and the Republican Party, that’s why I’m so scared of Jeb Bush. It’s that mush mouth, oh, I’m so good because I’m for amnesty, but you know his kids didn’t go to public school. You know he doesn’t, he doesn’t care. We need a guy who’s a working-class guy who feels comfortable with people of all classes.
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