Shortly after midnight on May 24, the ship Pai Sheng slipped into San Francisco Bay. With at least 200 people jammed below deck, the ship docked at Fort Point, at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The 19th-century fort, built to guard the city against invaders and once a Coast Guard station. has long since been reduced to a tourist attraction. But the occupants of the boat, swarming ashore, were not tourists. Mostly citizens of China’s Fujian and Guangdong provinces, these “visitors’ had paid $20,000 apiece to book passage. However, the Pai Sheng was no luxury liner, but a 250-foot freighter, its occupants crammed together below deck like cattle. They were mostly men, but included a few women and children, all of whom had turned over their life savings for what they hoped would be a one-way trip to the United States.

It was a brazen plan, the landing expertly executed in less than an hour, and they almost got away with it. Early reports said that the police “stumbled” on the operation; later news accounts claimed that the ship’s passengers were “practically delivered into the waiting arms of federal agents.” In fact, the Coast Guard had been tracking the vessel for a month; when it showed up near San Francisco Bay, the Coast Guard tried to reach the ship by radio, but there was no response. The captain did nothing, explaining that only Coast Guard and Navy ships and ships carrying military cargo are required to report to the Coast Guard. “It’s not that unusual that a ship would come in and not answer up,” said Captain Win Risinger, commander of Coast Guard Group San Francisco, “because it’s not mandatory.”

A foreign vessel steams into San Francisco Bay and refuses to answer repeated attempts to establish radio contact—but this was apparently not enough to tip off the hapless guardians of America’s borders. It wasn’t until military police happened upon a truckload of Chinese on the nearby Presidio military base that the authorities had a clue as to what was happening right under their noses.

With transportation arranged by local cohorts waiting on shore, about half the boat’s occupants reached land before the feds woke up. The rest, about 170, were rounded up and placed in detention. The absurd aspect of this whole incident is that their detention may be temporary. As a kind of insurance against the possibility of getting caught, the passengers of the Pai Sheng were provided by the organizers of this little expedition with the phone number of a prominent local immigration authority, John Wu. Mr. Wu quickly declared that his newfound clients are fleeing political persecution and thus are entitled to live, work, and eventually vote in the United States.

Wu’s particular spin on this argument was that his clients were fleeing forced sterilization, the supposed fate of those who violate China’s strict birth control measures. That this edict applies only to women, and that all but nine of the ship’s passengers were men, does not phase Wu or the cadre of immigration lawyers who have rallied to his cause. The “right” to alight on America’s shores, and to reproduce one’s kind and one’s culture without sanctions or limit, is unquestioned and unquestionable in this most politically correct of all cities.

Elsewhere, however, this incident may raise a few questions. While the President of the United States nearly goes to war over the territorial integrity of the make-believe state of Bosnia-Herzegovinia, ordinary Americans are beginning to ask why the integrity of our own borders is being massively violated on a daily basis. They read of the Pai Sheng incident and wonder how many other ships have made midnight landings, undetected, and dumped the detritus of uncounted nations on our shores.

In California, the economic consequences of this invasion were dramatized when Governor Pete Wilson asked for three billion dollars in federal aid to pay for the costs incurred in handling illegal aliens. Hospitals, schools, and welfare agencies are deluged, and California taxpayers foot the bill. The cultural consequences are equally grotesque. In San Francisco, where the Board of Supervisors has voted to bar city police from cooperating with INS agents, city officials and parents are engaged in a bitter struggle over which language ought to be spoken in the schools. In the city’s West Portal district, students in the school’s “immersion” program are required to speak Cantonese almost exclusively while they cover the same subject matter as the other students. According to a story in the San Francisco Independent, “the program targets English-speaking children with the goal of making them bilingual.” For the past eight years, the school offered two regular classes and one immersion class for each grade; this year, bilingual proponents demanded that the ratio be changed to two immersion classes and one regular class. A “compromise” favoring the bilingual advocates was worked out. The school board has voted to encourage the growth of immersion programs, on the theory that it would be nothing less than racism to require Chinese speakers to learn English without also requiring English speakers to learn Cantonese. The same goes for Spanish, which has its own immersion program. In the multicultural paradise of postmodern California, linguistic egalitarianism is the order of the day.

As the rising tide of unrestricted immigration threatens to inundate what is left of America’s cultural uniqueness, the political consequences are just beginning to make themselves felt. In avant-garde San Francisco, however, where the future is now, the results are already sadly apparent. Here a corrupt city bureaucrat who happens to be Chinese is fighting his firing on the grounds that to expel him from office amounts to anti-Chinese “racism.” A recent demonstration by his supporters on the steps of City Hall was sponsored by a group known as “Chinese for Affirmative Action.” Such is life in San Francisco, the model city of the new multicultural America.

As an indication of just how loony this city is, we have the situation created by President Clinton’s appointment of city councilwoman Roberta Achtenberg, an avowed lesbian, to a top post at HUD. This opened up a seat on the city council and created a dilemma for Mayor Frank Jordan: Which victimized minority would he appease in filling the vacancy? Latinos demanded the seat because the only Latino on the council had been defeated in the last election. On the other hand, the powerful gay community was upset because it considered Achtenberg’s seat its personal property. In a masterful political maneuver, which displayed his keen understanding of the new urban politics, Jordan killed two birds with one stone and appointed a lesbian Latina.