The immigration debate is often framed in terms of ethnicity, and the arbiters of permissible expression are appalled that anyone would approach the issue in terms of cultural identity and a reasonable desire for homogeneity. Permit me, however, to raise a quite different objection to the unchecked flood of immigrants who have been deluging our borders: the danger it poses by strengthening the lobby of the Hyphenates, who ceaselessly agitate for Washington’s intervention in their home countries’ affairs.
Whether it be Kosovars with green cards who run pizza parlors in the Northeast or refugees from this or that Middle Eastern autocracy lobbying for the “liberation” of their homeland, the influence of foreign-born constituencies in the United States has always been a problem for anti-interventionists of the modern era—and today, the problem is acute.
In the run-up to U.S. intervention in the Balkans, the Albanian lobby was hyperactive, funneling money to such top Republican politicians as Bob Dole and John McCain, and greasing the axle of their p.r. machine with the largesse of the international drug trade, which is to Albanians what the derivatives trade is to Goldman Sachs.
In the period leading up to the invasion of Iraq, the infamous Ahmed Chalabi and his American interlocutors served as the spark plug of the War Party: Chalabi and his “heroes in error,” as he famously averred, were the source of most of the lies that made up the administration’s case for war, and many Iraqi-Americans actively urged U.S. intervention in order to oust the tyrant they had fled.
This poses a real problem for a polity such as ours, in which everyone has a voice, albeit some louder than others. In the foreign-policy debates that confront a multicultural empire, very often the most vocal and active are those Hyphenates who, having brought their ethnic grudges and ancient quarrels with them when they came here, create lobbying outfits to make the case for the motherland.
But of course the interests of the motherland and their adopted fatherland may be antipathetic. This hardly deters our Hyphenates from going all out—often supplied with ample resources from abroad—to frame the debate in terms favorable to their cause. The Haitians, the Cubans, the Nicaraguans—all have made their appearance in the court of American public opinion. And their success is almost preordained, since most unhyphenated Americans are completely indifferent to the conduct of foreign affairs, unless and until it affects them on a personal level.
In the Haitian case, the ties that bind African-Americans to the poorest country in the Western hemisphere are more intimate than mere racial solidarity: There are familial ties to the immigrant community here, too. This diaspora wields a certain amount of political clout in the urban centers of the Northeast, and, in alliance with the Congressional Black Caucus, has urged on serial American interventions in that perpetually troubled island.
For more than half a century, the Cuban-American lobby has prevented us from having any relations with Castro’s regime, even long after the Soviets absconded and the Cold War became a fading memory. Which means that a native-born American who wishes to travel to Cuba—perhaps to take advantage of the spectacular beaches and cheap prices—is forbidden from doing so, thanks entirely to this obnoxious, volatile, and politically powerful group of Hyphenates.
Refugees from the Soviet bloc fatally distorted U.S. foreign policy for generations and made any sort of common-sense rapprochement with the Soviets politically impossible for an American politician with national ambitions—and this at a time when humanity teetered on the brink of nuclear self-immolation. And who can forget the power the China lobby—i.e., the Taiwan lobby—held over Republican politicians (and movement conservatives) in the 50’s and 60’s, and still wields to some extent? That influence has been wholly malign, in that it has distorted the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy in a way that was (and is) profoundly opposed to the national interest. The Cold War might have ended 20 years earlier but for the political power exercised by this particular group of Hyphenates.
Of course, it isn’t a straight-line projection of immigrant power that gives the Hyphenates their clout: They must ally with an indigenous pressure group, one with which they share some of the same goals. In the case of the Iraq war, the Iraqi exiles teamed up with Big Oil and the neoconservatives to set in motion a juggernaut of publicity and provocations, which precipitated war.
Limiting or even completely halting immigration won’t stop the War Party, but it will put another obstacle in their path—and that’s all to the good.