Prior to the War on Terrorism, immigration policy was a front-burner item for the Bush administration, having been given heightened visibility by the President’s early September 2001 meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox and the floating of various amnesty and guest worker plans. Understandably, the events since 9-11 tabled these proposals temporarily, but concurrently gave immigration policy new impetus and new perspective. Then came Pat Buchanan’s popular book, The Death of the West, around which the issues of assimilation, nativism, and cultural decline received much visibility. Whether or not one buys Buchanan’s complete argument, and I don’t, it is difficult to disagree that our current immigration policy is flawed and that we are trending toward a double standard of citizenship. Serious attention is warranted to the points he raises.
Clearly, President Bush’s vision is based on a determination to recognize U. S.-Mexico interdependence by placing the American relationship with Mexico on a par with the Atlantic Alliance with Great Britain. The centerpiece of this interdependence and this vision is, of course, free trade leading to hemispheric economic prosperity, but it has huge consequences for our culture, not to mention domestic politics. The cultural implications should be of great concern. Buchanan’s thesis that current immigration policy leads to the death of American culture will be true only if it is assumed that assimilation is not possible.
Michelle Malkin has correctly noted that our founding fathers didn’t envision the naturalization process as a means to boost the labor supply or voting rolls. The ultimate end, she writes, the purpose of granting citizenship is to help create one people who share a common allegiance. I would add that this allegiance ultimately is to more than an abstract universal idea, although it may begin there.
In the first half of the 20th century, the primary job of assimilation into the American social fabric was assumed by our public schools. This began with our language and proceeded to our history, our heroes, and the founding ideas that are essential to the sustenance of allegiance to a common sense of the good. Unfortunately, over the past several decades, our schools have lost this sense of the common culture and have taken on a multicultural approach, as though instruction can be adjusted to the ethnic composition of the neighborhood. This is part of the popular notion of “celebrating diversity”, but in fact, is cheating our children and undermining the distinctive American culture.
The War on Terrorism has added a dimension to the immigration issue that transcends Bush’s North-South vision. We should now have in high relief the necessity for clarity in our convictions and the importance of our founding ideals, not only to the sustenance of our republic, but to human freedom throughout the world. In re-thinking immigration policy, let’s not squander the opportunity to re-establish assimilation as a top policy priority.