Like Satan in Dante’s Inferno, the forces threatening the integrity of the American nation and its culture have three faces. The “global economy” and political one-world.ism jeopardize the historic character, independence, and the very sovereignty of the United States. The third threat, the mass immigration that this country has endured for the last fifteen years or more, is no less a danger to the cultural norms by which American civilization has identified itself throughout most of its history. Nevertheless, like the internationalization of our economy and government, the internationalization of our population is consistent with the interests of the elites that welcome and encourage it.

Some 600,000 legal immigrants and refugees and as many as one to two million illegal aliens enter this country every year, most of them from Third World countries. Actually, no one knows how many illegal aliens are here. Some experts guess as many as ten million. The New York Times reports the presence in the United States of some twenty million Mexican nationals whom the Mexican government is trying to manipulate to influence US foreign policy. Most authorities now acknowledge that the immigration to this country in the last decade rivals the size of the last influx of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Americans who live on the periphery of the United States in the East, South, or West are familiar with the commonplace results of the invasion: clerks, waiters, and cabdrivers who can’t speak English and can’t make change in dollars and cents; stores, churches, and whole shopping districts where the signs are in languages or scripts that most of us can’t even identify, let alone read. But these are mainly just irritants. Eventually they will be resolved as the newcomers and their children are “assimilated”—i.e., pick up televisionese and adopt the sartorial splendors of K-Mart.

When defenders of mass immigration talk about “assimilation,” that’s the kind they usually mean. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help, unless you believe (as many defenders of mass immigration do believe) that American culture consists merely in what can be purchased at the nearest shopping mall. But Third Worlders who eat at McDonald’s and wear Adidas T-shirts are no more real Americans than a 19th-century British proconsul who bought his daily bread at an Indian bazaar was a Hindu.

Those who believe a deeper American culture still exists and ought to be conserved (they used to be called “conservatives”) have good reason to worry that the new throngs of foreigners among us will not assimilate to it in any enduring way. Not simply language and clothing but also less tangible qualities such as the unspoken assumptions of political culture, art and literature, entertainment and religion, education, morals, the family, and concepts of work and property together create the set of common norms by which Americans know themselves to be different from Canadians, Mexicans, Europeans, and other cultures. Those who ignore such cultural particularities or deny they exist will readily believe that immigrants from across the globe can become Americans in pretty much the same way that Pepsi-Cola can market its products in Asia and Africa. But the process of becoming a real member of a living society is somewhat more complicated than translating advertising slogans into Japanese or Swahili.

It is especially complicated when, as today, there are major obstacles to assimilation. Sociologist Nathan Glazer, a supporter of immigration, points out that the discrimination and prejudice that in earlier eras helped accelerate the acculturation of new immi grants is today largely illegal. Civil rights legislation, equal opportunity codes, and court decisions have weakened the power of private and social institutions, no less than that of public authorities, to induce immigrants to conform to American norms. Today’s “cultural authorities” legitimize and instigate “alternative life-styles,” es chew stereotypes, scorn WASP ethnocentrism, and indulge every known form of deviation and idiosyncrasy from the religious exotica of Santeria to the perversions of the National Man Boy Love Association. Restaurants where once only the coated and tied dared enter now beg their customers to wear shirts and shoes. “Popular opinion,” writes Mr. Glazer, “now questions the legitimacy and desirability of forcefully imposing a common identity on immigrants and members of minority groups.”

But it’s less “popular opinion” perhaps than the interests of the elites that run the country and refuse to take the minimal steps to restrict immigration, which actually serves to enhance their power even as it promotes the decomposition of a common culture. The uses to which the millions of new immigrants may be put go well beyond the cheap labor they provide to Western agribusiness and Southern construction firms.

The elites that prevail in the United States today are bureaucratic and technocratic, gaining power by their ability to manage and manipulate social change through the fused apparatus of the state, the economy, and cultural organizations in the form of mass media, foundations, schools, and churches. In the past, these elites have been able to ally themselves with the American underclass—first, with the industrial working class in the early 20th century; more recently, with the urban black lumpenproletariat—to dislodge rival elites in private, social, and local institutions and jurisdictions and to exploit the middle class. But as the underclasses of the past graduate to middle-income status, the elites need new proletarians as allies to help sustain their dominance.

Third World immigration allows for the importation of a new underclass and provides unglimpsed vistas of social manipulation in the form of new opportunities for managing civil rights, ethnic conflicts, education, health, housing, welfare, social therapy, and assimilation itself. In 1988, state officials in California were bickering over who would control their state’s 55 percent of $3.4 billion in federal aid intended as welfare, education, and health care aid for immigrants; and other state; also were contending for their fair share of the booty. Last year, The New York Times reported, “Two recent surveys of newly legalized immigrants in California have found such low levels of education, employment and fluency in English that . . . current levels of federal and state assistance will be inadequate for them.” Nor, of course, will they be adequate for the politicians and bureaucrats who can expect to administer the funds and run the programs.

Government elites thus anticipate using immigration as a new fulcrum of bureaucratic power, and they will have allies in other elites, public or private, that can advance their own agenda of managing social change and displacing traditional cultural institutions through the care and feeding of immigrants. “Hate crime” laws, racial sensitivity courses, and anti-Western Third World curricula are among the instruments for imposing a new cosmopolitan cultural hegemony and plowing under Euro-American patterns of culture on behalf of the nation’s new populace.

In Washington, a private foundation, the International Counseling Center, thrives on providing psycho therapy and counseling to Third World immigrants apparently driven to the brink of madness by their encounter with American civilization. The center also offers what it calls “cultural aware ness training programs” to social service workers, school guidance counselors, corporate executives, and local government officials who have to deal with immigrants. The idea seems to be that if the aliens don’t adapt to American folkways, the folkways must adapt to the aliens. Local “fire and rescue squads,” says center associate Linda Camino, an anthropologist, “are called upon to supply services to a culturally diverse population. Cultural misconceptions [among the Americans thus “called upon”] can be insidious and can lead to unwanted outcomes.”

One “unwanted outcome,” also useful to American elites, is the political exploitation of the immigrants, legal or not, who constitute a new elector ate as well as a new underclass. Liberal Democrats are demanding “instant voter registration” laws, to be enforced and supervised by federal officials against local and state jurisdictions, that are thinly disguised mechanisms for allowing illegals to cast ballots. The proposal was imbedded in the 1988 Democratic platform—this explains why Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen went around chattering in Spanish all the time—and is currently being peddled in the Senate by California Senator Alan Cranston, who stands to benefit from the alien vote. But Republicans are not far behind, and in 1988 neo-conservative idol Jack Kemp gaily predicted that “in 10 years, one-quarter of the Republican Party will consist of conservative blacks, conservative His panics, conservative Asian-Americans—or else the Republican Party will resign itself to permanent minority status.” Which party will take care of traditional Americans no one seems to know, or care.

Mass immigration is also perhaps the most useful instrument by which the very idea of nationality can be liquidated, and it thus fits well with the forces of economic and political global ism and with the interests of the emerging transnational elite, into which our own technocrats are fusing. As national populations and the cultures they carry become interchange able through migration, the concrete meaning of citizenship, political loyalty, sovereignty, and other elements of nationality will yield to a new supranational regime over which the emergent elite presides.

Caught between the new underclass and the new elite, plain old Americans can look forward to subsidizing through their taxes not only their own cultural dispossession but also the eventual disappearance of the nation itself, to the advantage of an elite that has disengaged itself from the body of the society it manages. If the Americans at the heart of that body are serious about preserving their nation and their culture, they will have to escape from the vise the new elite and the new proletariat have constructed by freeing themselves from the new comers above and below them.