Clinton on Immigration: Holding the Country Together
Gary North’s REALITY CHECK
March 21, 2000
If it were not for the World Wide Web, I would not have stumbled across this document: “Remarks by the President at Portland State University (June 13, 1998).”
OPENING THE DOORS
The President spoke on immigration and its possible effects on the United States. This is a controversial topic. It seems odd that the press did not report it.
Well into his speech, he made a startling admission. I have never seen anything quite like this in a Presidential oration. He said this:
But mark my words, unless we handle this well, immigration of this sweep and scope could threaten the bonds of our union.
Before he got to this amazing admission, he praised the immigration policies of this country. Actually, these are the policies that have been in effect since 1965, when immigration from Europe was tightened, but immigration from Latin America and Asia was opened wider than at any time since 1924.
The President began his speech with an optimistic introduction. He said that he had been giving speeches on the future of America. The first topic was on threats to national security. The second was on the challenge of the information age.
Today, I want to talk to you about what may be the most important subject of all — how we can strengthen the bonds of our national community as we grow more racially and ethnically diverse. (Applause.)
It was just a year ago tomorrow that I launched a national initiative on race, asking Americans to address the persistent problems and the limitless possibilities of our diversity. This effort is especially important right now because, as we grow more diverse, our ability to deal with the challenges will determine whether we can really bind ourselves together as one America. . . .
The driving force behind our increasing diversity is a new, large wave of immigration. It is changing the face of America. And while most of the changes are good, they do present challenges which demand more both from new immigrants and from our citizens. Citizens share a responsibility to welcome new immigrants, to ensure that they strengthen our nation, to give them their chance at the brass ring. (Applause.). . . .
The President raised the question of challenges. As he got into the speech, it became clear what these challenges are: welfare expenditures. He made it plain that he wants every legal immigrant to have full access to the welfare system. “We must protect immigrants’ rights and ensure their access to education, health care, and housing….”
Another problem is the cost of local public schooling. The President wants more schools, newer schools, and smaller classes. “And with more children from immigrant families entering our country and our schools than at any time since the turn of the century, we must renew our efforts to rebuild our schools and make them the best in the world. They must have better facilities; they must have smaller classes; they must have properly trained teachers; they must have access to technology; they must be the best in the world.” He did not indicate which branch of civil government should pay for all this, but there is no question who will pay: taxpayers.
Then there is the question of racial diversity: Today, largely because of immigration, there is no majority race in Hawaii or Houston or New York City. Within five years there will be no majority race in our largest state, California. In a little more than 50 years there will be no majority race in the United States. (Applause.) No other nation in history has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time. . . .
I believe it’s wrong to deny law-abiding immigrants benefits available to everyone else; wrong to ignore them as people not worthy of being counted in the census. It’s not only wrong, it’s un-American. (Applause.). . . .
We should treat new immigrants as we would have wanted our own grandparents to be treated. We should share our country with them, not shun them or shut them out. But mark my words, unless we handle this well, immigration of this sweep and scope could threaten the bonds of our union.
We must protect immigrants’ rights and ensure their access to education, health care, and housing and help them to become successful, productive citizens. When immigrants take responsibility to become citizens and have met all the requirements to do so, they should be promptly evaluated and accepted….
Today, too many Americans, and far too many immigrant children attend crowded, often crumbling inner city schools. Too many drop out of school altogether. And with more children from immigrant families entering our country and our schools than at any time since the turn of the century, we must renew our efforts to rebuild our schools and make them the best in the world. They must have better facilities; they must have smaller classes; they must have properly trained teachers; they must have access to technology; they must be the best in the world. (Applause.)
I keep thinking of Little Red Riding Hood. “But, Grandma, who will pay for all of this?” But grandma, looking very well fed, just smiles. And a famous smile it is, too!
THE 14TH AMENDMENT AND CITIZENSHIP
My views on immigration restrictions are the same as my views on zoning laws: governments should not tell people where they can legally live. I do not trust the bureaucrats’ judgment on this and just about everything else. So, my attitude is favorable to open immigration. My reasons have to do with my views on welcoming strangers. How ancient Israel treated strangers was a test of national obedience.
But strangers did not vote in ancient Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3-8). (If they are Arab immigrants, they still don’t.)
There is a big difference between Houston, which has no zoning laws, and the immigration policies of the United States. It has to do with voting. The Supreme Court has interpreted the 14th Amendment to mean that anyone born inside the geographical jurisdiction of the United States is automatically a U.S. citizen. This means that he or she will be able to exercise voting rights at age 18. This law applies to one-day old babies of visiting immigrants. When the child becomes an adult, he or she must be allowed re- entry into the U.S. Once residency is established, the immigration laws favor the admittance of close relatives.
This is why there are late-pregnancy women on board planes flying to the U.S. daily from Latin America. They have their babies inside the U.S., and then they fly home, babies and birth certificates in hand. In Texas/Mexico border towns, they merely walk across the border. (Max Mofflett, “Border Midwives Bring Baby Boom in Texas,” WALL STREET JOURNAL [Oct. 16, 1991], p. 1.)
Citizenship is more than economic productivity. It is a matter of shared beliefs. Today, one of these shared beliefs is the right to receive support from taxpayers. The President made it clear in his speech at a tax-funded university that he shares this belief. The immigration laws favor those immigrants who will take advantage of these welfare laws, and who will vote to extend them to themselves and their relatives in the future.
This nation was built by immigrants, but the immigrants who built it were not generally supported by taxpayers. The closing of our borders in 1924 took place before the modern welfare State became universal. Immigrants did receive free grade school education in the early years of this century, but instruction was in English. No other language was used in the public schools. They had to learn English, just as my father-in-law did — now the author of three dozen books. But the President does not accept this degree of linguistic compulsion.
Now, it’s all very well for someone to say, every one of them should learn English immediately. But we don’t at this time necessarily have people who are trained to teach them English in all those languages. So I say to you, it is important for children to retain their native language. (Applause.) But unless they also learn English, they will never reach their full potential in the United States.
He is correct: they will not reach their full potential. A great motivator is necessity. Remove it, and it is easy for students to let proficiency in English slide. This is the threat to Spanish-speaking students who are taught, by law, in Spanish. What will happen to them? They will vote, using ballots in Spanish, also by law.
With open borders and citizenship by birth, the United States cannot retain its present political order. We do not have open borders, but they are far more open than other industrial nations’ borders. We are seeing the transformation of this country, yet this is not discussed in public. Even the President’s admission that “immigration of this sweep and scope could threaten the bonds of our union” received no publicity.
OPEN DOORS TO CHURCHES
Rarely do churches exclude anyone on racial or linguistic lines. Membership is open to anyone who will affirm the basics of a church’s faith. But the confessional screening is sufficient to keep most churches from being taken over by people who hold different views. And the economic responsibilities of membership usually outweigh the economic benefits.
What if every person wanting to join were allowed to? What if there were no confessional screening? Then church property in high-rent districts would be at risk. Members of a group with a hidden agenda could join and then vote to sell the property to another organization at a cheap price. Or consider the fate of the deacons’ charity fund unless every voting member is required to tithe (10%).
I use the example of a church because we can easily see what is involved in open doors coupled with open voting membership. The situation is worse with civil governments. A church member can quit if his money is used for purposes he does not approve of. It is not equally easy to get out of paying taxes.
By opening the doors of a nation and also opening citizenship by birth, a wealthy welfare State has voted its treasury into future bankruptcy. As immigrants looking for a free ride stream in, the national character will become very different in two or three generations. Citizens will hold very different values from those whose politicians opened the doors in the first place.
We have experienced one generation of partially open doors and a wide open treasury. Another generation will create second-generation immigrant voting blocs that will be too powerful for regional politicians to resist. Immigrants always have higher birth rates than the average third-generation citizen.
We are going through a major demographic transition. As the President said, “No other nation in history has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time.” I’m not so sure. The United States did, 1870-1910. But the political rules were different. There was no welfare State back then. There was no welfare State mentality among the voters. Immigrants came for an opportunity to make a better life with their employment skills, not their political skills.
Competition for a job is among individuals. Competition for government welfare money is among voting blocs. There is a big difference. An employer decides who gets hired in the first case. It’s his money. The government decides in the second case. It’s the taxpayers’ money. The political battles will escalate.
Today, political alliances are built in terms of getting one’s hands into the government’s cookie jar. This is why open doors threaten to break apart the nation. The politics of plunder will create divisions that will put groups at each other’s throats. Some of these groups will be identified by language. Different languages reflect different first principles. Irreconcilable political divisions will become far more likely. Multiculturalism means the multiplication of political blocs. Meanwhile, the President speaks of “the limitless possibilities of our diversity.”
What’s coming? If the welfare State survives the pressures of massive Medicare and Social Security deficits, we will see the Balkanization of American politics. Remember Yugoslavia? Before that, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The center did not hold.
What agency best represents America’s center today? What agency inculcates the moral vision of the center? It used to be the local public school. No longer. How about the TV networks? Not with cable and satellite. Ozzie and Harriet are no more. Hollywood? Not since the G, PG, R, and X rating system arrived in the late 1960’s. Where will the next generation get its values? From MTV? This is small comfort.
The President is an optimist. When he says, “unless we handle this well, immigration of this sweep and scope could threaten the bonds of our union,” he assumes that his successors will handle it well. How? At what price? And who will pay?
We must recover the missing center. By “we,” I mean immigrants, too. I mean all of us.
Residents of the North American colonies first began to think of themselves as residents of a nation during the religious revival known as the First Great Awakening (1720- 50). The most famous preacher of that revival was Jonathan Edwards, who is generally regarded as the greatest theologian in American history — a unique combination. Because so many people had shared a powerful religious experience, they began to think that God had a special role for them. This optimism spilled over into politics. (See the book by Nathan Hatch, THE SACRED CAUSE OF LIBERTY.)
Three decades ago, I studied sociology with the conservative sociologist (yes, there was one), Robert Nisbet. In 1980, his book on the HISTORY OF THE IDEA OF PROGRESS appeared. In the Epilogue, he wrote that no society can survive if it loses its optimism regarding the future. Modern intellectuals have begun to lose their optimism. This pessimism is spreading to the common man. Western civilization will not persevere, he said, unless it recovers its former optimism. He believed that this may take place in the 21st century. It is likely to be launched by some sort of religious revival, he speculated.
Let us pray that he is correct. We need another Great Awakening. We need another Jonathan Edwards. We need a recovery of hope — and not just hope in the stock market or faster computers. Computers surely will not save us.