"But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special."
-- Dashiell Robert Parr
This morning, somebody from the Manhattan Institute was speaking with Bill Bennett on his radio show about a 'second underclass' being formed if immigration from Mexico continues apace. She wasn't exactly breathless but she did ring the alarm. I have to tell you, I agree but I'm not alarmed, but there are some interesting ways to look at a 'second underclass'.
Legal Slavery vs Voluntary Slavery
My main position on immigration is that it must be legal, after that, I am not concerned about the disposition of Americans so long as the rule of law is maintained and the economy is strong. In other words, I'm not particularly concerned about a second underclass, so long as it is not legally enforced. I see that legal enforcement in the breach in considering the fate of the 'undocumented worker'. It is essentially true that a illegal immigrant has no rights a citizen is bound to respect echoing a similar sentiment of the Jim Crow era. The difference is that race discrimination was legally sanctioned and contracts with blacks were not enforced. Today no such legal barriers are in force. So that is why I strenuously argue against illegal immigration, especially when people exclaim about Mexican 'rights' to be here.
Mexicans who disabuse their Mexican citizenship at the risk of running afowl of American law and society are volunteering to be second-class citizens in a country which may or may not honor their rights. This is a calculated risk that I respect, and so I shed no tears for the victims of abuse. I think of illegal labor as indentured servitude. From a moral perspective I find it appalling to have a nation with two separate societies and rules. I would much prefer a society with a clean floor and citizenship should be the bright line.
The Rich Get Richer, The Poor Get Poorer
As I thought about this situation of income inequality the other day, I neglected to put in the population of the US. I think everyone knows that we're somewhere north of 300 million. So 12 million illegals may be a drop in the economic and political bucket, but that's not so much the issue as the principle of two sets of rights. Even so, as the caller noted on the Bennett show, it wreaks havoc on the public schools, jails and hospitals in the most affected areas.
According to the Manhattan Institute caller, the high school dropout rate is about 50% for Hispanics in California, which is roughly what it was for blacks in the 1940s. So in one way it can be said that Mexican immigrants are 60 years behind the black curve. In another way, it can be said that the poor get poorer. I mean that in the following way. If the poor are say 10% of America (30 million) and the poorest of the poor are illegal immigrants making below minimum wage, then the overall poor are poorer than they ordinarily would be. The poorer are not the same poor, they are a larger poor. They include the poor of the Internal Third World who crept across the border because it's better to be dirt poor in America than dirt poor in Mexico (or anywhere else for that matter).
In 1940, by the way, there were only 132 million Americans, less than half of the number we have today, about 15 million were black. In 1960s there was no such thing as credit cards. Financial instruments of that sort were simply not available to the middle class, nor were there things like e-Trade, and most people had never read a word from the Wall Street Journal. Today we talk about the Investor Class all the time. That is because there are a number of new classes of people in America. A great deal has changed in 60 years. America has new upper classes and new lower classes. The question is, how should an American be treated like an American if they are dirt poor?
Double Standards & The Nanny State
I just had to use that subtitle, it's so appealing don't you agree? But if the tally of the foot-vote of California Hispanics say that half don't value a high school education, what part of the American dream are they chasing? I think it is obvious that they are chasing a middle class American dream, but the fact that they do so in the ways that perhaps blacks did back in the days when George Washington Carver was still alive should tell us something. Namely that Hispanic achievement in 2000 shouldn't be measured against what people with an ideological agenda might think, but what is realistic from the class perspective of a people who don't graduate from highschool and are not fluent in English. If that is the flavor of our internal Third World, sobeit. Let's not pretend otherwise. Moreover let's not pretend that this is out of keeping with American or world history.
A path to citizenship is the right way for illegals who touch base and proceed legally according to the 'Pence Provision', but that is not a magic carpet ride to the American middle class. We should not be persuaded that some lack of progress by such folks as constitute an internal Third World is America's fault or the fault of some racist agenda. America's ghettos will slowly turn over, and they are better today than they were in the 40s. There's no Jim Crow at work keeping 'them out of our schools'.
But we should also think about the kind of economies that make sense for the inner city schools of today. They are not all going to be college prep. They shouldn't be, and the idea that they should be serves nothing but the wishful thinking of activists without a grip on reality. The reality is that people from anywhere around the globe whose ambitions end with a high school education (if they go that high) are destined to work in Third World economies, Second World if they are fortunate. But the American education system should not only be for the fortunate, but for a nation of 300 million, and that means we have to accept millions upon millions upon millions of dropouts as productive citizens - NOT as illegals and guest workers and otherwise temporary and disposable people who ultimately constitute a second underclass.
Cotton Picking Hands
Too much is being made of the 'culture' of Mexicans, their language and heritage. There is nothing to be said in support of a 'culture' of poverty, illiteracy, illegitimacy and other such dysfunctions as are the endemic plague of the Mojado. Even today, thoughtful people decry the association of African American culture with the depravity of hiphop. Why should Mexican Americans be saddled with such essentialist burdens as are the identifiable hallmarks of the Internal Thirds? There is nothing inherently Mexican about picking crops by hand. Sure there is a Mexican subculture that supports that way of life that most Americans forgot. But that is the point of American social mobility, to allow citizens to achieve and forget the culture of menial labor. Mexicans should not be considered grape-pickers any more than blacks today are considered cotton-pickers. It is merely a stepping stone.
American law is not going to be rewritten in Spanish, just the labels on garden tools and janitorial supplies. That is what 'Hispanic' means today, but it is not and should not be considered permanent. But so long as there is an Internal Third World and unskilled labor is going to be part of our economy, we need to make space for it and peace with it. That means we are going to need towns, rural areas and small cities that function well within the American legal framework and yet supply and service America with the low cost labor our economy demands.
I say cheap goods can be and should be made in America. I say cheap services can be and should be provided to our cities and suburbs. I say there should be no second class citizenship, but that America must learn once again how to embrace those members of society who are not educated and not going to be educated. It is a terrible shame that there is now a language barrier and something of a culture barrier between us and them while the law keeps us in an 'equality-like' proximity. I think things were better for Aunt Jemima and Old Joe, because at least we sung the same old spirituals. (I bet a nickel Thomas Sowell makes much of this in his 'Black Rednecks' book). But I seriously worry that some racial rules and radical multiculturalism will undermine the direct relationships Americans form with the lower classes of today and tomorrow. We can't allow such fictions to hold sway. People are who they are, just let them be Americans.
The Inevitability of Segregation
I'm not talking about legally enforced racial segregation. I am talking about what I will just basically call the natural order of things, or technically the social implications of Dunbar's Number. To use another cliche, good fences make good neighbors. We ought to maintain some healthy respect for the differences that allow us to have our circles of friends and associates. We should take our class roles a bit more seriously in the context of our citizenship and our industry. Unless and until we can do that well, we are going to allow the ideology of a classless society set us against each other demanding equality of results and destroying the possibility of ever maintaining high standards. Until we can respect our richer and our poorer, our talented and our unskilled for whom exactly we are in God's eyes, then we will destroy this country by taking it to the lowest common denominator. And if we don't fix our immigration policy and enforcement, that denominator won't even be citizenship under Constitutional law.