Amnesty S, Amnesty No

by Fred Reed

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I don’t understand the dispute over amnesty. The fat lady has sung, Latino-wise. It’s over. Seventeen percent of the United States is now Latino. The percentage is increasing, and will increase. You can like it, or hate it, or not care. It doesn’t much matter. You might as well dislike gravitation.

Supposedly there are eleven million illegals in the country. Granting them amnesty will not make them go away. Not granting them amnesty will not make them go away. Amnesty might attract more, if jobs were available. Withholding amnesty will leave them permanently marginalized. Take your choice.

Sealing the border might make a slight difference in the rate of increase, or might not. (Reportedly the net influx now is zero, what with the lack of jobs in the US.) The Hispanic population will grow regardless because their birth rate is higher than that of whites. Most of the Hispanic population is legal. The illegals have children, who instantly become citizens. The seventeen percent will shortly be twenty which, added to thirteen percent of blacks, makes a third of the overall population.

You may think that something should be done about all of this, or you may not. You may think that something should be done about sunrise. The prospects are better for preventing sunrise.

What, precisely, do folk opposed to immigration want to do? Set up extermination camps? It has been done, and got terrible reviews. Will we have the army push fifty-seven million people across the Mexican border at bayonet point – including huge numbers who are American citizens? A fair number of them since 1848?

The political will doesn’t exist. Whether conservatives like it or not, a great many people favor amnesty, and aren’t much concerned about immigration. These may, or may not, be deluded, foolish, or culturally suicidal. It doesn’t matter. They think what they think. Businessmen want the cheap labor, Democrats want the votes, and the rising generations of whites do not seem greatly concerned.

It is not now or never. It is thirty years ago or never. This limits the options.

If one may believe the press – nothing can be more reliable than the press – the number of Hispanics in California just exceeded the number of whites. In Republican Texas, the majority of children in school, and growing toward voting age, are Hispanic. Short of reversing the flow of time, nothing will keep them from getting older. Conservatives think this a disaster. They may be right. But it is going to happen.

Now, if the Latinos are in the US, and are not going to leave, it might be wise to find a modus vivendi, a means of avoiding the breaking of the country into a third hostile camp. What are the prospects of doing this?

I’m not sure. But I can foresee the consequences of not doing it.

Some signs are encouraging, others not. Hispanics are not inherently hostile to whites. They enter the US to work. As a race, they are not innately incompetent. For example, they are perfectly capable of building and operating modern cities, as anyone knows who has walked the streets of Buenos Aires, Lima, or Santiago.

Americans tend to imagine Latin lands as indistinguishable from Zimbabwe. They are not. Latin American countries run from the primitive (Bolivia) to virtually first-world (Chile) with Mexico, the chief source of American Hispanics, being toward the high end of the list.

On the other hand, those who swim the Rio Bravo are not doctors and engineers, gangs assuredly exist, and Hispanic children do poorly in school. Not good, especially the last.

I have my doubts about the irremediable criminality of the immigrants, and I wonder how much Americans really know about these people. Headline: “El Paso: FBI stats deem border city safest in the country 3 years in a row.”

What, not Detroit?

Anecdotes are just anecdotes, but they add up. Vi and I were recently in Manhattan to visit Leticia (I’ll call her), a university friend of Violeta, and her husband Guillermo. She is finishing up a PhD in linguistics at CUNY, he a Puerto Rican pediatrician. They live in East Harlem, sort of 116th and Lexington. Once black, the neighborhood is now Mexican. It is also pleasant. I asked Leticia whether crime was a problem. “No.” She unhesitatingly walked around at night.

Both speak good English, but Spanish at home, which I suppose makes it their primary language, and this conservatives find threatening. I am not sure why.

The neighborhood was one of small stores and restaurants. I asked Leticia who owned them. “Mexicans.” This was certainly true of the various small restaurants in which we ate.

In Chicago we stayed in the vacant condo of a friend living near us in Mexico. Before we left he spoke of Berwyn, a formerly Czech suburb which he said, Czechs being Czechs, was neat, clean and well kept up. Then the Mexicans moved in and now, he said, the neighborhood was…neat, clean, and well kept up. While in the city we got my daughter, in grad school, to drive us through Berwyn. It was as described and, to judge by places called Pedro’s Lavanderia, Mexican. So much for “there goes the neighborhood,” at least in Berwyn.

My daughter lives in Pilsen, also a Mexican barrio and somewhat rougher. You don’t walk around at three a.m. and there are occasional fights. We breakfasted in a Mexican restaurant, absolutely mobbed, with good food and good prices (and waitresses who spoke English). My daughter and I were the only gringos. People were friendly and courteous, which is what I have found in ten years in Mexico. This matters.

I asked my daughter whether the locals spoke English. “Not all. The young ones mostly are learning.” I thought of San Antonio, where Vi had complained that the Hispanics spoke rotten Spanish. As an approximate rule, the first generation doesn’t learn, the second is bilingual, and the third forgets Spanish.

Methinks we should not have allowed massive immigration from Latin America, not because Latinos are bad people but because diversity, racial or ethnic, is so often a horrible thing. In countless instances it causes animosity and frequently bloodshed. Think: Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, blacks and whites in South Africa, Hindus and Moslems in India, Sunnis and Shias in Iraq, on and on.

But you have to play the cards you have dealt yourself. If America permits, causes, or cannot prevent the division of the country into something resembling Shias and Sunnis, with tension already high between blacks and whites, god knows where things will end. Groups exist which would like to promote mutual hostility. It does not seem to me inevitable. It better not be.

Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well, A Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be, Curmudgeing Through Paradise: Reports from a Fractal Dung Beetle, Au Phuc Dup and Nowhere to Go: The Only Really True Book About Viet Nam, and A Grand Adventure: Wisdom’s Price-Along with Bits and Pieces about Mexico. Visit his blog.