- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2007

Are you a fine upstanding member of the Undocumented-American community? That’s to say, are you (if you’ll forgive the expression) an illegal immigrant?

Great news. Being illegal is now perfectly legal. Just for being one of the about 12 million people who shouldn’t be here, you can now be here indefinitely. If you were living and working in America illegally before Jan. 1, 2007, you’re now entitled to one of the new Z-1 “probationary” visas. And your parents and spouses are entitled to one of the new Z-2 visas, and your children to the new Z-3 visas.

Don’t worry, it’s not an “amnesty.” Every politician in America opposes amnesty — if not the concept, then at least the word.

That’s why the visa starts with the letter that’s furthest away from the one “amnesty” begins with. “Z” stands for zellout… no, hang on, zurrender or Zapatista, or some other word way up the other end of the alphabet from “amnesty.” But the point is, at a stroke there will be no more illegal immigrants. Because being illegal means you’re now legal.

Unless, of course, you came to America after Jan. 1, 2007, and thus aren’t covered by the zamnesty. But in that case why not apply for the Z-1 anyway? After all, you’re here illegally so how would U.S. Immigration know when you arrived? Especially with 12 million to 15 million or 20 million urgent applications tossed in on top of what is already a multiyear backlog. They’re won’t exactly be doing a lot of in-depth background checks, especially not for a visa category whose only entry requirement under U.S. law is that you broke U.S. law when you entered.

By the way, when I said “came to America,” if you’re visiting Toronto for a weekend break from Yemen or Belarus, don’t be deterred by the fact Canada is not technically in America. Why not just head down to Buffalo and apply for the old Z-1, too? After all, it’s not such a stretch to regard every single person on the planet as a Z-1-in-waiting. This being America, pretty soon — a court decision here, a court decision there — the presumption of every school district and hospital and welfare administrator will be that they’re obliged to treat everyone who walks in through the door as if they were a Z-1. You zee one, you’ve zeen ‘em all.

As for the notion that dumping a population the size of four midsized European Union nations into the lap of America’s arthritic “legal immigration” (please, no tittering; apparently there is still such a thing) bureaucracy will lead to tougher enforcement and rigorous scrutiny and lots of other butch-sounding stuff, well, if that were the case, there would be no problem in the first place. You can declare that “illegal” now means “legal” very easily; to mandate that “incompetent” now means “competent” is a tougher proposition.

But, as John McCain declared, “This is what the legislative process is all about” — and in the sense that it’s a sloppily drafted bottomless pit of unintended consequences on a potentially cosmic scale whose sweeping “reforms” will inevitably require even more sweeping reforms of the reforms in a year or two, he’s quite right. Also, as Mr. McCain says, “This is what bipartisanship is all about.”

I’m not a fan of “bipartisanship” for its own sake. This is a very divided political culture in which bipartisanship is all but nonexistent on everything else, starting with war and national security. So, when the political class is in lockstep bipartisan mode, that’s sufficiently unusual all by itself. When it’s in bipartisan mode on an issue on which the public is diametrically opposed, that looks less like bipartisanship and more like the lockstep myopia of an out-of-touch one-party state.

America is not Europe, which is being transformed by a fast-growing Muslim population profoundly alienated from the broader society. Nonetheless, fast-moving demographic shifts are always a huge challenge. Last year, National Review’s John Derbyshire noted the enrollment statistics for his school district on suburban Long Island, 1,400 miles from the southern border:

High school: 17 percent Hispanic

Intermediate: 28 percent Hispanic

Elementary: 31 percent Hispanic

Those figures would have stunned any Long Island school superintendent 40 years ago. Mr. Derbyshire’s numbers suggest that at some point not far away every school board in America will have to factor in bilingual education programs and ever-swelling Special Ed budgets, making one of the highest cost-per-pupil/lowest scores-per-pupil education systems even more expensive and less educational.

At some point, it’s worth trying to climb over the rubble of the 2007 Z-1s and the 1986 amnesty and the 1965 immigration act, and going back to basics: What is immigration for? In the modern Western world, to question immigration in even the most cautious way is to risk being demonized as a racist. Most of us like to see ourselves as nice people, and so even to raise the subject of immigration — even illegal immigration — feels like an assault not on distant foreigners so much as on our self-image. Yet whatever the virtuousness of immigration for the host society, a dependence on it is a sign of profound structural weakness, and, when all the self-congratulation about celebrating diversity has died down, that weakness should be understood as such. The unspoken premise behind this bill is that the socioeconomic order in America now so depends on the vast apparatus of a giant shadow state of illegal immigrants that it can not be dismantled but only legitimized and thereby expanded. If true, that is a basic structural defect that should be addressed honestly.

Meanwhile, Washington’s reluctance to be seen enforcing its own borders is very perplexing. From the “Washington sniper” to September 11, 2001, there has been for a generation a clear national-security component to the illegal immigration issue. To present it only as a matter of “the jobs Americans won’t do” is lazily reductive. The economists may see the vast human tide as an army of much-needed hotel maids and farm workers and nurses and plumbers, but to assume everyone on Earth sees himself as primarily an economic entity is complacent and (post-September 11) obtusely deluded. The political class’ urge to capitulate on the integrity of the national border sends as important a message to the world about American will as their urge to capitulate on Iraq.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Mark Steyn, 2005

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide