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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Costly Immigration



Costly immigration
Paul Craig Roberts

November 13, 2002

What does immigration cost us? At a recent debate in Arlington, Va., Harvard professor George Borjas said economists put the net cost of immigration at $70 billion a year. He noted, however, that the cost is not evenly distributed. Some communities are heavily impacted, with swollen welfare budgets and hospitals on the brink of bankruptcy. Immigration is estimated to cost Californians $1,300 per household annually in additional taxes.

A different view was expressed by Cato Institute libertarians. Steve Moore argued that immigration is a form of reverse foreign aid that invigorates the United States with "new blood." Libertarians also see open borders as a freedom issue and value unrestricted immigration as a rare example of minimal government.

Both in terms of believing that the cost of immigration is economic and in associating immigration with more freedom, the debate has shortcomings. A strong case can be made that the price we pay for Third World immigration is our freedom.

Consider the case of Manistee, Mich., housewife Janice Barton, who was convicted and jailed for using the word "spics" in a private conversation with her mother.

I was a teenager when I first heard the word "spic." I asked its meaning and was told that it was slang for Italians, like "frog" for the French, "limey" for the British, "kraut" for German and "yank" for American. (If anyone had a right to be offended, it was southerners known as "yanks," but that was a time before sensitivity training.)

This definition of "spic," I learned recently, was incorrect. The word is slang for Latino or Hispanic. Barton used it when, passing a group of Hispanics chatting in their native tongue, she expressed her wish to her mother that these "spics would learn to speak English."

It is possible to empathize with Barton without being a racist. Many Americans feel that their communities, which give them identity, are being overrun by peoples from different cultures speaking alien languages. Manistee is a long way from warm, sunny Mexico, and yet, Barton, out with her mother, found multicultural diversity thrust upon her.

Barton expressed an annoyance, hardly a criminal action. Yet a Hispanic off-duty deputy sheriff overheard the private remark and noted down her car license, and Barton was arrested and convicted for committing a "hate crime."

Something has gone badly wrong when native-born Americans cannot express private thoughts to their own family without being put in jail. In no previous wave of immigration did immigrants have such a powerful upper hand over the native-born population, the very people who permit immigrants to come into their country. Today, it is native-born citizens who receive hostile treatment. On Nov. 1, a Michigan appeals court reversed Barton's conviction. The reversal, however, was on the very narrow grounds that Barton was convicted for "conduct she could not reasonably have known was criminal."

Note that the appeals court did not say that in America the Constitution guarantees free speech and that no American under any circumstances can ever be arrested, charged and convicted for expressing his or her thoughts and feelings privately to another person.

This fundamental right has vanished in Michigan and also in New York (as we will presently see). A right once synonymous with America has been trumped by the superior right of the newly, and often illegally, arrived immigrant to find offense wherever he wishes in the manner in which the native born receive him. On Nov. 4, Linda Alberti, a supervisor of a government agency in Nassau County, N.Y., was fired for using racial slurs in a private telephone conversation that was secretly recorded. Not content merely to eavesdrop on employees (a privacy violation?), Nassau County executive Thomas Suozzi went public in order to humiliate Alberti, who had just won a promotion. "This is a sad day for Nassau County," declared Suozzi, to have an employee show such "a very ugly and sordid side of human nature." Suozzi expressed his hopes that discharging Alberti will "send a message to others that racism in any form will not be tolerated." This episode could have been copied straight out of George Orwell's "1984," in which an all-intrusive therapeutic state monitors private thoughts and expressions and punishes "offenders" severely in an effort to reconstruct humans as the government would have them.

What is the explanation for the Orwellian experiences of native-born Americans? Is it the massive immigration of Third World peoples, every one of whom has been declared by federal civil rights enforcers to be a privileged "preferred minority" (an official designation) by virtue of skin color?

Immigration is stripping Americans of their civil rights and their national identity. Some Americans, not yet aware of their perilous position, still wave the patriotic flag. But neoconservatives set on conquest of the Middle East had best reassess the fighting stamina of a people whose civil rights and national identity are under full-scale assault at home.

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