Roy Beck’s brief against immigration abounds in useful but also familiar statistics: e.g., since the Immigration Act of 1965, 30 million immigrants, mostly from Third World countries, have entered the United States; at least half of our births in the last 30 years are traceable to these immigrants; without them, the current population of the United States would be about 210 million, and within two generations, if present trends continue, our population density may be that of the Indian subcontinent, with even less cultural cohesion. Beck analyzes the damaging effect Third World immigration has on the wages of American workers, and he shows how the combination of cheap imported foreign labor and growing social service costs for immigrants (over 350,000 of whom arrive illegally each year) have hurt the most vulnerable segment of the American working population.
Although Beck discusses the cultural implications of what Wayne Lutton and John Tanton call the “immigration invasion,” he focuses mostly on its material costs. Ecologically and financially, he finds immigration to be a ruinous social experiment, except for the advantages accruing to business interests, public administrators, and social workers. In this sense, it might be compared to late 19th century imperialism, by which small but powerful advocate groups prevailed against the interests of the majority of Europeans.
Unlike imperialists, however, immigration advocates cannot appeal effectively to cultural and national pride since, if successful, their own project may culminate in the destruction of a fixed Western (not to mention American) identity. Beck insists that invasion from the Third World will bring harm not only to America’s workers, but, above all, to our natural environment. The present urban sprawl and depletion of resources will be nothing. Beck notes, in comparison with the ecological effect of another 200 million people, predominantly of Third World origin.
Beck refutes several platitudes featured in the Wall Street Journal and spread by television talking heads and the two national parties. He maintains that immigration since 1965 has not helped our economy to expand more than it might have without this demographic explosion, and he underlines the falsity of the parallel drawn between the high rates of immigration to the United States between 1880 and 1924 and immigration since 1965. The present immigration is numerically far higher than during the Great Wave, and it comes at a time when the country does not need additional labor, particularly of the kind our own unemployed lower class can provide. This new unprecedented immigration, observes Beck, has also contributed to escalating crime rates since the mid-60’s. It has brought us foreign and often organized crime at a time of social dislocation, and it has aggravated violent tendencies among American minorities who have lost job opportunities at the bottom of the income ladder to immigrant competitors.
Two observations regarding Beck’s argument come readily to mind. The first is that it is not the first presentation of its kind. It draws openly from an expanding body of research that has been available for some time. Beck’s associates at the Social Contract, contributors to Chronicles, and authors like Dan Stein, Samuel Francis, and Peter Brimelow have been publicizing the case against expanded immigration for at least a decade. But until Brimelow’s Alien Nation, no major house would publish a book stating this case, though the vast majority of Americans favor significant reductions in, or a suspension of, immigration. Brimelow and Beck, who have found prestige publishers, both take special care to neutralize potential critics: Brimelow by speaking kindly of his opponents, and Beck by championing the environment, underclass blacks, and unskilled workers as the prime victims of immigration. The second is that Beck may have surrendered too much analytically by pursuing his strategy of critical respectability. Are we to believe that “aggressive civil rights programs to benefit the descendants of slavery have been watered down, co-opted, and undermined because of the unanticipated volume of new immigration”? And are we to accept Beck’s judgment that, if not for an equivocating President and a congressional cabal, the majority of Americans would have their way on immigration? One can easily understand why Beck makes such statements, given his interest in creating an inclusive coalition and also his desire to minimize obstacles to the success of his goals. He is trying to anticipate the charge of insensitivity, one that is habitually raised against critics of our immigration policy.
Unfortunately, the advocates of this policy, as Beck occasionally hints, are the political class, public administrators, the two major parties which front for the administrative state, the official right and left, corporate managers represented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, the sensitivity police who command the media and national press, and their mentally feeble counterparts in the academy. The same coalition of forces can be seen favoring immigration expansion elsewhere; in Europe, Canada, and Australia, for example, the immigration expansionists support hate-speech laws and the criminalization of comments deemed detrimental to the self-esteem of ethnic minorities. In France, Germany, and Austria, anti-immigration forces have prevailed to the extent that they have compelled the governments of their countries to reduce immigration and to restrict citizenship to the children of those who are already citizens. But nowhere have the opponents of immigration been able to dismantle the sensitizing and social service mechanisms created to minister to the immigration waves unleashed by the political class. These have remained in place, together with a spreading thicket of laws against what the French euphemistically call “crimes of opinion.” While Beck has written knowledgeably and eloquently about a major social problem, his work would have gained in depth had he ad- dressed the problem of nonaccountable government. If he had followed this course, it is doubtful, however, that Norton would have published his book. And there are occasions when publicizing half a case is better than nothing at all.
[The Case Against Immigration, by Roy Beck (New York: W.W. Norton) 287 pp., $24.00]