- - Tuesday, November 13, 2018


By Reihan Salam

Sentinel, $27, 213 pages

Reihan Salam, executive editor of National Review and the son of immigrants from Bangladesh, is co-author with Ross Douthat of “Grand New Party: How Conservatives Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream” (Doubleday, 2008), a well-thought-out conservative program for the political revitalization of a party badly in need of new ideas, new approaches, new constituents and new leadership in 2008.

In 2018, the task Mr. Salam sets for himself is to come to grips with immigration policy, a subject so deeply divisive and politicized that it’s difficult to remember how basic and essential it is to our history and to our future. And today, with the new anti-deplorable elites leading the push for uncontrolled immigration, the subject has become even thornier. Their credo is open borders, although they’re careful never to address the ramifications in any detail.

But as the borders open and immigrants are increasingly allowed to circumvent established procedures, there’s little or no thought given by the open-borders proponents to what they’ll do here — how they’ll be employed, for instance — or indeed, if they’ll be employed at all, given the steady automation of previously available and often vital jobs that no longer exist.

The result, writes Mr. Salam, could be the ghettoization of the children of immigrants and the ultimate creation of a new and permanent underclass at a time of rapidly declining demand for unskilled labor. This in turn would intensify political tensions, especially if organized groups were to play to the grievances of these alienated ethnic communities for political gain, as many accuse the open-borders advocates of doing today. For their purposes, the more caravans and confusion and grievances, the better. In the end, identity politics thrive on ethnic alienation.

Clearly, there’s an urgent need to design a coherent and comprehensive program to replace the current jerry-built system, rendered incoherent by decades of political indifference or spurts of politically expedient meddling. And Mr. Salam has strong ideas about the principles that should inform that policy redesign.

“To turn things around,” he writes, “we need to craft an immigration policy that serves our long-term interests; we need to think not just about the people we bring to this country, but about their children, too.”

The best solution, according to Mr. Salam, lies in adopting a skills-based policy about which, he writes, there is already widespread agreement — a policy prioritizing the admission of well-educated English speaking immigrants capable of holding down well-paying jobs. He believes that the need for the special treatment of humanitarian cases should always be a prime consideration.

But by adopting a points system for processing applicants for green cards on their ability to provide for themselves, immigrant families — and especially their children — would feel socially secure and confident in their ability to make the most of our nation’s economic opportunities. Nor would there any longer be the well-founded fears of great numbers of immigrants becoming permanent drains on American taxpayers.

Finally, there’s the matter of principled national commitment: “We should admit immigrants only if we are fully committed to their integration and assimilation. Our number one priority should be ensuring that new arrivals can flourish as part of the mainstream, not turning a blind eye as millions languish in poverty-stricken ghettoes.” And that, in the end, is the most telling argument against open borders.

In the end, the ultimate objective of a coherent immigration process should be to inculcate a shared belief in nationhood.

“Over time,” he writes, “nations united by a common destiny tend to evolve into nations united by common descent. Inherited ethnic and cultural distinctions fade, and new hybrid ethnicities and cultures emerge.”

“Not too long ago, we Americans referred to this process as ‘the melting pot.’ And we need it back, badly.”

• John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley).

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