Amnesty for illegal immigrants is an idea whose time not only has ]3assed but, like Elizabethan collars and virginity, can hardly be imagined—unless what Peter Brimelow calls “immigration enthusiasts” are more fanatical still than the Muslim terrorists who struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11. Then before the strike, a major national poll showed 69 percent of the American public opposed to amnesty; the week previous to the catastrophe. Rush Limbaugh, in a dramatic reversal, devoted two hours of his radio program to attacking illegal and even, by implication, legal immigration. Recent reports, as of this writing, have Presidents George W. Bush and Vicente Fox putting their heads together to discuss how to make the 2,100-mile Mexican-American border less open, not more so.

Almost the first words out of Mayor Rudolph Guiliani’s month after the two hijacked planes collided with the World Trade Center towers were exhortations to New Yorkers to refrain from committing hate thought against “people of other faiths” and colors; before the week was out, the FBI announced it would prosecute harassment of Muslims and Middle Easterners in the United States as a federal hate crime. Having done its best to assure that minorities in America got a good night’s sleep, the establishment dropped the alien issue fast—but not fast enough. Talk-show hosts and their guests had had already taken up the question of how hate-ridden alien criminals came to be here in the first place.

The pro-immigration lobby is naturally concerned for Bush’s Mexican amnesty proposal and Tom Daschle’s universal one. which it fears will come to naught, indeed, it will be lucky if its losses are restricted to the withdrawal of amnesty plans. What I call the wild card (see “The Third Compartment.” Views, p. 14) has been turned up at last, and all bets are off on the direction the immigration debate is likely to take from here on out. Overnight, immigration has been transformed from an ideological luxury, a moralistic indulgence, and a capitalist subterfuge into a black-and-white issue of national security—of national survival, in fact. Whatever limited success Washington’s retaliatory strikes may achieve, nothing is more assured than that the President’s “crusade” abroad will ultimately prove as futile as his grandiose attempt to “rid the world of evil.” There is one way, and one way only, to provide America with a measure of security, and that is to secure its borders tightly (if not to seal them off completely) and prevent more immigrant terrorists from coming in along with all the rest; identify those that are already here; round them up; and deport them. If the events of September 11 have not yet made the truth clear, subsequent and perhaps much worse ones are likely to do so. The issue is no longer xenophobia versus xenophilia, diversity versus homogeneity, generosity versus selfishness, universal nationhood versus the nation-state, libertarian economics versus mercantilism, cabrito versus steak and mashed potatoes. It is survival, pure and simple; and unless Americans have totally lost their minds along with their stock portfolios, they will recognize the prospect of what one commentator has described as “interminable warfare” and make the appropriate mental and political adjustments.

When I learned of the strikes against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, my first thought was that the perpetrators must have arrived in the United States on international flights just hours before they commandeered the doomed planes. The truth, of course, was otherwise: Many of them had lived several years in this country, where they “assimilated” into America so far as to enroll in flight school, attain valuable job skills, participate in the consumer economy, and acquire a Florida or California tan. (I’ve even heard these devoted Muslims developed a taste tor vodka tonics, but perhaps that was just a joke in bad taste.) Maybe we will learn that they acquired stock portfolios of their own—of which they divested themselves at the appropriate split-second, of course—and that they cast votes in the 2000 election. Model immigrants, in short, of the kind Jack Kemp has praised as “entrepreneurial” and Julian Simon called the “ultimate resource.” Except for one thing: While doing well in America, these people hated its—our—guts.

What kind of country accepts immigrants from countries with which it is, effectively, involved in protracted warfare? The kindest word I can think of is “naive.” Anyone who wants to come to the United States (so the assumption goes) must be good; anyone who wants to come here from an enemy nation or a rival culture must be even better. Immigrants emigrate to America because they love us (having watched us on TV); because they want to contribute to the world-epochal American project; because they want to be just like us; because they want to he us.

As Hemingway would have said, “Isn’t it pretty to think so.” Since September 11, few Americans can be thinking prettily—except maybe John Miller, National Review‘s resident immigration enthusiast and chief assimilation strategist. And—who knows?—perhaps not even he. American journalists, like Americans generally, have to grow up sometime—don’t they?