Practical Thoughts on Immigration

3/19/15
 
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by Heather Mac Donald,

from Hillsdale College,
2/18/15:

The lesson from the last 20 years of immigration policy is that lawlessness breeds more lawlessness. Once a people or a government decides to normalize one form of lawbreaking, other forms of lawlessness will follow until finally the rule of law itself is in profound jeopardy. Today, we have a constitutional crisis on our hands. President Obama has decided that because Congress has not granted amnesty to millions of illegal aliens living in the U.S., he will do so himself. Let us ponder for a moment just how shameless this assertion of power is.

Article 2, Section 3, of the Constitution mandates that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” This provision assumes that there is a law for the president to execute. But in this case, the “problem” that Obama is purporting to fix is the absence of a law granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. Rather than executing a law, Obama is making one up—arrogating to himself a function that the Constitution explicitly allocates to Congress.

Should this unconstitutional power grab stand, we will have moved very far in the direction of rule by dictator. Pace Obama, the absence of a congressional law granting amnesty is not evidence of political failure that must somehow be corrected by unilateral executive action; it is evidence of the lack of popular consensus regarding amnesty. There has been no amnesty statute to date because the political will for such an amnesty is lacking.

Obama’s executive amnesty is the most public and egregious example of immigration lawlessness to date. But beneath the radar screen has been an equally telling saga of cascading lawlessness that is arguably as consequential: an ongoing attack on the Secure Communities program and on deportation more generally. Because of this attack, the rallying cry of so many conservatives that we must “secure the borders” is a naïve and meaningless delusion.

The erosion of the rule of law is bad enough. But the social consequences of mass illegal immigration are equally troubling. We are importing poverty and educational failure. If you want to see America’s future, look no further than my home state of California, which is a generation ahead of the rest of the country in experiencing the effects of unchecked low-skilled immigration.

Nearly 50 percent of all California births are now Hispanic, and the state’s Hispanic population is now almost equal to the white population. The consequences of this demographic shift have been profound. In the 1950s and ’60s, California led in educational achievement. Today, with a majority Hispanic K-12 population and the largest concentration of English language learners in the country, California is at the bottom of the educational heap. Over a third of California eighth graders lack even the most rudimentary math skills; 28 percent are equally deficient in reading. The mathematics performance gap between Hispanic and white eighth-graders has not budged since 1990; the reading gap has narrowed only slightly since 1998.

California is at the epicenter of the disturbing phenomenon of “long-term English learners.” You would think that an English learner would be someone who grew up in a foreign country speaking a foreign language, and who came to the U.S. only later in life. In fact, the vast majority of English learners are born here, but their cognitive and language skills are so low that they are deemed non-native English speakers. Nationally, 30 percent of all English learner students are third-generation Americans.

To be sure, many illegal Hispanic aliens possess an admirable work ethic and have stabilized some moribund inner-city areas like South Central Los Angeles. But thanks to their lack of social capital, many of their children and grandchildren are getting sucked into underclass culture. The Hispanic out-of-wedlock birth rate in California and the U.S. is 53 percent—twice what it was in the black population in 1965 when Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his prescient warning about the catastrophe of black family breakdown.

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