Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Competing views on liberalizing immigration - which will prove more accurate?

Back in May I had planned an immigration follow-up that would have picked up with the Progressives' successful realignment and transformation of American politics. Their major legislative accomplishments included the passage of four Constitutional amendments: the 16th initiated an income tax; the 17th (and most dreadful) provided for the direct election of Senators; the 18th instituted Prohibition; and the 19th which gave women the right to vote. 

I had planned on going into some detail on each of the four (all finalized while professor Wilson occupied the White House) came into being. But with the recent Immigration bill passed by the Senate and its imminent arrival in the House, I thought I'd revisit (and update) some thoughts I had on the issue back in 2006.  

At that time I was reading Samuel Huntington's 1996 "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order." Huntington's book was a response to his one-time student, Francis Fukuyama, and his 1992 tome, "The End of History and the Last Man."  Fukuyama, energized by the fall of the Soviet Union, felt that the result indicated an "unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism" - a victory that would be repeated throughout the world. 

Both books stirred considerable interest and controversy. Fukuyama's thesis opined that civilization had reached a point where "there will be more and more governments that use the framework of parliamentary democracy and that contain markets." Specifically, Fukuyama stated "I believe that the European Union more accurately reflects what the world will look like at the end of history than the contemporary United States."

Huntington's contention was that, while certain ideological issues might be agreed upon, it could only be accomplished through political order and that only through an "authoritarian transition." Without this transition, conflicts would always exist and the primary disputes would revolve around cultural and religious conflicts. Huntington's "modernizing dictatorship" would only rule until political order and a rule of law, resulted in successful economic and social paradigms. Then, like Cincinnatus, the dictatorship would withdraw leaving the resulting community to its own devices. 

To simplify then, "Fukuyama wants to see America actively promote democracy abroad [and at home]. Huntington, on the other hand…warns about the potentially disastrous effects of an arrogant and naive democratic imperialism [at home and abroad]."

One of Huntington's chapters (and one which is relevant to today's effort) is is his  chapter on "The Hispanic Challenge." In it he attempts to demonstrate that this is not just another immigrant group ready for American enculturation, but a high a hurdle that will severely test contemporary America. He stated his reasoning clearly:

"No other immigrant group in U.S. history has asserted or could assert a historical claim to U.S. territory...History shows that serious potential for conflicts exists when people in one country begin referring to territory in a neighboring country in proprietary terms and to assert special rights and claims to that territory."

A major change in immigration law is one of those and consideration should be given to whose scenario is more likely to play out: Huntington's or Fukuyama's. What kind of communities would develop? We have been told repeatedly of the "strength" that accompanies diversity. Maybe, does it also bring with it comity, brotherhood, and mutual trust...essential traits in a vibrant community? 

Harvard's Robert Putnam has studied "civic engagement", most notably documented in his best seller, "Bowling Alone." His studies revealed neighbors in greatly diverse communities were much less likely to trust one another, were less likely to volunteer, less likely to work on community projects, and found that virtually all measures of civic health were lower in more diverse settings.

And, quoting the 2007 New York Times: "…there is little reason to believe that the racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic antagonisms that have eroded support for social welfare programs in the United States are likely to abate any time soon. Indeed, the arrival of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants a year from Latin America seems to be sapping support for public welfare."

Currently, there has been a clear pattern of newcomers adopting a form of self-segregation in the big cities of Florida and California. This also occurred toward the end of the 19th century and the early 20th as European immigrants flooded the big cities of the Northeast and Midwest. It took time (more in some places, less in others), but there was a gradual assimilation among those who wished to attempt it and those willing to consider it.

The important factors were, first, that the immigrants wanted to become part of the larger community and, second, that although their traditions, religions, and folkways could remain in tact, they were expected to embrace the American ethos: "a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment."

Among the Hispanic communities there are those who don't easily buy into the Franklinian view. Among them are MEChA and the Mexica Movement. MEChA (Chicano Students Movement - established in the '60s), envision the repatriation of most of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. 

MEChA, an organization with members on high school and college campuses, boasts among its membership, some politicians of note. Best known is Cruz Bustamante who finished second to Arnold Schwarzenegger in California's gubernatorial recall election. Another former member is Antonio Villaraigosa, one time Speaker of the California State Assembly and, until recently, mayor of Los Angeles.

The Mexica Movement came into being in the '90s and rejects all European borders as being false. The group lays claim to the land mass stretching from Central America north up to, and including, Canada. Therefore, anyone of European descent living on the North American continent is an illegal alien and trespasser. 

The Movement "is committed to a long-term liberation-by-education methodology which seeks to "change hearts and minds" by educating people of the civilized achievements of Indigenous people before 1492, and of the genocide and land/resource thefts committed by Europeans since that date."

Once the transition of power has taken place, and following a period of "civilized negotiation," the remaining white population, in addition to making reparations, would be repatriated to Europe. Subsequently, the national language and alphabet would be re-codified to more closely represent those embraced by earlier indigenous cultures.

Many of these issues were raised in 2006, although they never really became part of the debate. For those who claim that the current bill is "tougher" than its predecessor, the case is clearly made by noting that the current proposal stipulates a wall will be built. 

The 2006 legislation, favored by then Mexican president Vincente Fox (also the former president of Coca Cola's operations in Mexico and Latin America), contained a stipulation that no wall could be built without prior consultation with the Mexican Government (on various occasions, Fox referred to the U.S. as "the 'northern territory' or 'united North America'").

(To demonstrate some of the existing disparities in perspective that will have to be accommodated, Fox's latest endeavor is to have the U.S. legalize marijuana, at which point he would consider entering the business. His efforts are, of course, humanitarian: "This country's incredibly serious problem -- violence, crime and drugs -- can be solved by legalizing drugs. Trying to solve it with repression or violence just fosters more violence.")

It could be argued that, relatively speaking, these are small organizations with little "clout" and little hope of seeing their goals achieved. However, there is little dispute that many of those goals are shared by large portion of the several  Hispanic communities. 

These is no doubt at all that their combined numbers are significantly larger than those of the gay community. Yet that group has been notably successful in gaining support, mainstreaming their positions, and seeing them passed into law. Those groups originally pursuing same-sex marriage was even smaller, yet they, too, have prevailed. 

It may have once been true that it took significant numbers marching in the streets or creating civil unrest to get the public's and the politician's attention. It was evident in the pushes for Prohibition, Women's Suffrage, Civil Rights, and to End the War. Things move faster now - while the internet is given much credit, it should also receive much disdain. The "net" can be (and is) used by truth tellers and propagandists alike. 

And while much, much more is written, there are fewer and fewer original sources. Both the print and electronic media have fewer and fewer "feet on the ground." Organizations like Snopes are essential to provide a modicum of restraint on some of the blatant misrepresentations that crop up daily. Almost every blogger, myself included, depends on multiple sources (which we have come to rely on) to provide material for our scribbling. If our sources are tainted, so, too, are our posts. Therefore, the importance of checking the veracity of advocacy blogging.

At one time controversial initiatives that entail major societal realignments might have taken many years to work through the system…as well they should. Laws of longstanding can't be cavalierly dismissed because a new generation, or an emerging constituency feels they are "outdated" or contrary to those embraced by a dissimilar society. For the most part, existing laws have a robust history of consideration and debate. Because of that, laws, good and bad, have a tendency to remain on the books for years. It is important, then, that suggested changes, especially those of major proportions, merit careful consideration. 

The current debate on this proposed legislation appears to be less about principle and national and societal impact, and more about currying the electoral favor of the petitioners.