The Complete Brimelow Letter

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Note:
I’ve bolded what was cut out — the attack on
the neocons and a parallel with Pickett’s Charge [!] They made some
minor word changes which I represent with brackets — including
cutting out the reference to National Review, oddly.

To
The Editor, Commentary

Irwin Stelzer is to be congratulated on a remarkable review of a
remarkable book: George Borjas’ Heaven’s
Door: Immigration and the American Economy
(Commentary,
September 1999). Borjas’ research has led him to astonishing findings:
that the immigration wave accidentally unleashed by the 1965 legislation
has not benefited Americans in aggregate; that lower-skilled workers
in particular are being hurt; that the current system’s paradoxical
selection process is producing lower-skilled (and overwhelmingly
Third World) immigrants; that these immigrants are disproportionately
failing and going on welfare; that Americans are actually paying,
through fiscal transfers, for the transformation of their society.
Dr. Stelzer’s handsome acknowledgement that “many of these
findings are now uncontested” is entirely appropriate —
but only for economists. In public debate, the conventional wisdom
is still entirely the opposite.

I must gently point out that this unfortunate situation is, in a
small way, Dr. Stelzer’s fault. In 1995, I published Alien
Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster
.
It anticipated Borjas’ conclusion that U.S. immigration policy
is broken and must be fixed — although reasonable people can
certainly disagree on how to fix it — for the simple reason
that my book
[a book that was] in large part an explicit popularization
of Borjas’ work. But Dr Stelzer, in his New York Post column
(April 13, 1995), brushed aside the very evidence that he now finds
so compelling as a “narrow-minded statistical compendium.”
He completely ignored my exposure of the paradoxical selection
process that he now describes as “one of the besetting sins
of the present system.” Instead, his point was purely emotional:
that my argument was rightly “falling on deaf ears in the neo-conservative
community” because “they well remember their parents’
tales of the contempt in which they were held by earlier immigrants
and nativist WASPs…”

Naturally,
I rejoice at the return of the Prodigal Stelzer. Needless to say,
I look forward to being enlightened by him, in the best tradition
of Commentary’s correspondence columns, as to which of my personal
failings so blinded him, happily for a mere four years, to the facts.

But
ideas, and emotions, have consequences. The year 1995 was a brief
shining moment of hope for immigration reform. The landslide victory
of California’s Proposition 187, cutting off certain tax subsidies
to illegal immigrants, had gotten the attention of the Washington
elite. The bipartisan Jordan Commission, appointed by Congress and
headed by the late black Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan,
had provided perfect political cover with its recommendation of
significant immigration cutbacks. Legislation embodying these proposals,
the Smith-Simpson bill, had the support of the leadership of the
Republican majority in Congress.

It
took a ferocious campaign of special-interest lobbying to intimidate
the Republican leadership and derail the Smith-Simpson bill. Playing
a critical fifth-column role in that campaign were the neoconservative-dominated
media ? notably the Wall Street Journal editorial page and
Dr. Stelzer’s own Weekly Standard magazine. They amply demonstrated
that he was right to predict they would have “deaf ears”
to facts and logic about immigration. Sadly, however, he had helped
stop those ears. Today there is no immediate prospect that the present
system, with all its “besetting sins,” will be reformed.


I think the failure of Smith-Simpson was disasterous for the American
nation. Apparently this unit of analysis makes Dr. Stelzer uncomfortable.
But perhaps he could be interested in the fate of the American conservative
movement, and of the Republican Party, to which the neo-conservatives
have allied themselves.

One
part of Alien Nation that Dr.
[What Mr.] Stelzer still
has not reckoned with is its discussion of the level at which immigration
should be set. I pointed out that because Americans of all races
have brought their families down to replacement level, the demographic
impact of immigration is much greater than it was during the last
great wave in 1890-1920, when the native-born population was still
growing rapidly. Combined with the system’s paradoxical selection
process, which has favored the Third World and choked off Europe,
this means the U.S. racial balance is being shifted rapidly. Thus
whites have gone from being about 90% of the population in 1960
to 75% in 1990. They are projected to go below 50% in the mid-21st
century.

Ethnic
identity and partisan affiliation are closely correlated in American
politics, changing only slowly if at all. Elsewhere [National
Review, June 16, 1997], Edwin S. Rubenstein and I have shown
that, if this racial shift continues, the Republican Party can reasonably
hope to win just two more Presidential elections. After 2008, they
will go decisively into a minority. After 2025 or so, even a sweep
among whites of Reaganesque proportions will not outweigh the effect
of imported Democrats.

The
inexorable logic of the situation is that, If the present U.S. political
order is to survive, either immigration must be made proportionate
to the racial groups already here, or it must be reduced low enough
not to disturb the racial balance. I think the latter is more practical.
But, again, I await enlightenment from Dr. Stelzer — when
he decides to think about it.
But he had better not take another
four years.

It
has been said that the catastrophe of Pickett’s Charge, and the
loss of the decisive Battle of Gettysburg, was the price that the
South paid for Robert E. Lee. The contribution of the neoconservatives
to American conservatism is an oft-told tale. Tragically, their
price — missing the chance to reform immigration — may
prove equally fatal.

December
1999

PeterBrimelow
is Senior Editor of Forbes.

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