Skip to comments.Immigration and Usurpation: Elites, Power, and the People’s Will
Posted on 07/19/2006 9:28:43 AM PDT by AppleButter
Americans are aware that their political class may not always act in their best interest. This belief is enshrined in the American character, its laws, and the very philosophy underpinning the U.S. Constitution. The Founding Fathers crafted things so that the "knaves" will be forced to abide by the will of the people, but they warned that their "natural progress" is to find ways to remain in power and increase that power at the peoples expense. They therefore also urged eternal vigilance, spiritedness, and the occasional revolt of the people.
Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others got it rightthe knaves have, by and large, behaved, and their actions largely reflect in some way the will of the American people. Americans do not need to engage their politicians in an uncivil wayas happens most elsewheresince the ballot box, the media, and other constitutional tools largely suffice. Indeed, the American political system works remarkably well. However, there are a handful of topics where the elites do not act in the interests of those they govern. Of these, the most notorious is the contentious issue of immigration. Why are politicians so keen on mass immigration while the common American is not? This has perplexed analysts.
When I aided the foreign relations of presidential candidate and president-elect Vicente Fox back in 1999 and 2000, I met with almost 80 U.S. congressmen and senators during numerous trips and at several events. With just over 50 of them, my colleagues and I spoke about immigration in some depth, as it is one of the important bilateral topics. My findings were reported in a Backgrounder published by the Center for Immigration Studies called "Politics by Other Means."1 It is a dense and academic paper, but the basic finding was: Indeed, American politicians are overwhelmingly pro-immigration, for a variety of reasons, and they do not always admit this to their constituents. Of those 50 legislators, 45 were unambiguously pro-immigration, even asking us at times to "send more." This was true of both Democrats and Republicans.
These empirical findings seemed to confirm what some analysts without that level of access termed as a political "perfect storm" of widespread political-elite support for immigration despite its general unpopularity with the average American. The paradox is that immigration is the only issue (perhaps besides trade policy) that represents a notorious discrepancy between elite and popular opinion in the United States.2 But this contradicts the established conventional wisdom of a representative democracy such as the United States. If mass immigration from Latin America has debatable benefits for the United States as a whole, if a majority of the American people is against it, and if immigrants cannot vote until they become naturalized (which can take years after their arrival), why would nine-tenths of the legislators we spoke with be so keen on increasing immigration?
Before these encounters, I believed that it was a problem of either diffusion of responsibility, "creeping non-decision," or collective rationalization with those legislators, but that was dispelled the more of them we met. Most of them seemed to be aware of the negative or at least doubtful consequences of mass immigration from Latin America, while still advocating mass immigration.3
The familiar reasons usually discussed by the critics were there: Democrats wanted increased immigration because Latin American immigrants tend to vote Democrat once naturalized (we did not meet a single Democrat that was openly against mass immigration); and Republicans like immigration because their sponsors (businesses and churches) do. But there were other, more nuanced reasons that we came upon, usually not discussed by the critics, and probably more difficult to detect without the type of access that we, as a Mexican delegation, had.
Their "Natural Progress"
Of a handful of motivations, one of the main ones (even if unconscious) of many of these legislators can be found in what the U.S. Founding Fathers called "usurpation." Madison, Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and others devised a system and embedded the Constitution with mechanisms to thwart the "natural" tendency of the political class to usurp powerto become a permanent elite lording over pauperized subjects, as was the norm in Europe at the time. However, the Founding Fathers seem to have based the logic of their entire model on the independent character of the American folk. After reviewing the different mechanisms and how they would work in theory, they wrote in the Federalist Papers that in the end, "If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America "4 With all his emphasis on reason and civic virtue as the basis of a functioning and decentralized democratic polity, Jefferson speculated whether Latin American societies could be governed thus.5
While Democratic legislators we spoke with welcomed the Latino vote, they seemed more interested in those immigrants and their offspring as a tool to increase the role of the government in society and the economy. Several of them tended to see Latin American immigrants and even Latino constituents as both more dependent on and accepting of active government programs and the political class guaranteeing those programs, a point they emphasized more than the voting per se. Moreover, they saw Latinos as more loyal and "dependable" in supporting a patron-client system and in building reliable patronage networks to circumvent the exigencies of political life as devised by the Founding Fathers and expected daily by the average American.
Republican lawmakers we spoke with knew that naturalized Latin American immigrants and their offspring vote mostly for the Democratic Party, but still most of them (all except five) were unambiguously in favor of amnesty and of continued mass immigration (at least from Mexico). This seemed paradoxical, and explaining their motivations was more challenging. However, while acknowledging that they may not now receive their votes, they believed that these immigrants are more malleable than the existing American: That with enough care, convincing, and "teaching," they could be converted, be grateful, and become dependent on them. Republicans seemed to idealize the patron-client relation with Hispanics as much as their Democratic competitors did. Curiously, three out of the five lawmakers that declared their opposition to amnesty and increased immigration (all Republicans), were from border states.
Also curiously, the Republican enthusiasm for increased immigration also was not so much about voting in the end, even with "converted" Latinos. Instead, these legislators seemingly believed that they could weaken the restraining and frustrating straightjacket devised by the Founding Fathers and abetted by American norms. In that idealized "new" United States, political uncertainty, demanding constituents, difficult elections, and accountability in general would "go away" after tinkering with the People, who have given lawmakers their privileges but who, like a Sword of Damocles, can also "unfairly" take them away. Hispanics would acquiesce and assist in the "natural progress" of these legislators to remain in power and increase the scope of that power. In this sense, Republicans and Democrats were similar.
While I can recall many accolades for the Mexican immigrants and for Mexican-Americans (one white congressman even gave me a "high five" when recalling that Californian Hispanics were headed for majority status), I remember few instances when a legislator spoke well of his or her white constituents. One even called them "rednecks," and apologized to us on their behalf for their incorrect attitude on immigration. Most of them seemed to advocate changing the ethnic composition of the United States as an end in itself. Jefferson and Madison would have perhaps understood why this is soenthusiasm for mass immigration seems to be correlated with examples of undermining the "just and constitutional laws" they devised.
One leading Republican senator over a period of months was advising us, through a mutual acquaintance, about which mechanisms to follow and which other legislators to lobby in order to ensure passage of the amnesty proposal. In the meantime, he would speak on television about the need to "militarize" the border. This senator was recently singled out by a taxpayers advocacy group as a leader in "pork"-related politics.
Bill Richardson, who had served in Clintons cabinet and later became governor of New Mexico, kindly stopped to speak to our delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. He commented favorably to us: "What do Hispanics want? Fully funded government programs!" The Economist mentioned about his state:
New Mexico is a poor place, with one of the highest proportion of people living on food stamps Its political tradition also long had a Latin American feel, based around a padrón system of clients and bosses. The bosses ran grocery stores, gave you credit, helped you if you needed a job. And all you had to do was vote for the Democrats New Mexican politics is still about jobs, contracts and personal loyalty, not ideology. And Mr. Richardson personifies this.6
Trailer-park poverty combined with a cult of personality, where government initiatives regularly bear the governors name, as they would with some Latin American potentate (the governor is half Mexican himself), prevails in a state that is 40 percent Hispanic, including Hispanics already many generations in the United States.
Those that have come out supporting amnesty are also associated with other attempts to undermine the Jeffersonian and Madisonian model of democracy. Sen. Arlen Specter, for instance, a leading supporter of amnesty, years ago proposed another bill that would have changed the outcome of elections based on quotas, whereby electoral outcomes could be changed by a federal judge.7
The author's impression seems to be that, among other reasons, politicians of both parties are using mass immigration, especially of Latinos, in order to obtain a population more accomodating of government's agendas. It's a good read.
These things are not equal, the question is why do Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians support policies that are suicidal to their beliefs.
While I can recall many accolades for the Mexican immigrants and for Mexican-Americans (one white congressman even gave me a "high five" when recalling that Californian Hispanics were headed for majority status), I remember few instances when a legislator spoke well of his or her white constituents. One even called them "rednecks," and apologized to us on their behalf for their incorrect attitude on immigration. Most of them seemed to advocate changing the ethnic composition of the United States as an end in itself.
While personal profit and class interest are important and shouldn't be dismissed, in this paragraph is the main answer. The chief identifying characteristic of the dominant modern left is white-hating racism. One of the main short-term benefits for Republican leaders not mentioned by the author is that supporting mass third world immigration is a shield against being called racist by their liberal masters. And that fear can't be separated from the 24/7 hate spew against whites that comes from the media and academia.
It should be said that anti-immigration is mostly a political loser, it has no short-term benefits for most politicians and you can't get most of its opponenets to vote for it when it really counts. Why is that? One reason is that the consequence of many radical political and cultural decisions are delayed for years, decades, or even centuries and it's easy to procrastinate on them. The full effect of today's immigration won't kick in until the immigrants start taking political power, and that's manana. Another reason is that because America is such a huge country Americans believe they can always flee to another part of the country if local conditions get too bad, the "white (and other) flight" option that allows them to escape their inaction. But mostly it is a matter of Pavlovian conditioning on the issue of race that makes people fall on the floor, curl up into a ball, and start sucking their thumbs. No one wants to be thought of as a "redneck" racist, as the Congressperson above so generously put it, and the pro-immigration forces play on that conditioning whenever immigration comes up for a vote.
I agree that this is the current state of affairs. My hope is that this will change, and change soon. Otherwise, the Great Experiment that was the United States of America is over.
Nothing perplexing about it. CHEEP LABOR.
This election cycle does not support that thesis. We, the American voters, elected a whole new class of "knaves."
Yup, that is the plan alright, both parties want to turn us all into surfs. And went the new Congress is seated the "plan" will take a gaint step forward when Bush finally gets his Amnesty.
went = when
Thanks for posting a link to this article in the other thread. It's shameful that this article only had 22 responses from its initial posting!
It is a real eye opener isn't it? pretty much explains exactly what is going on and why. Maybe other will posts links too, I think this is a must read.
Not only that but those that live in gated communities with tons of security could care less about the peons. We're replaceable. The more illegals, the cheaper the wages. Its a win/win for the rich and semi rich, republicrats.
I think this article puts a finger on it. I was going to insert a comment on some folks starting a program to build up a resistance to lead poisoning, but...no.
I want to know who represents the rights of the natural born taxpaying citizens? What redress do 'we the people' have when all the branches of government are in cahoots against them? There's the question for the 'conservative think tank'.
Makes sense. They don't want Americans that are self reliant or think for themselves.
Republicans seemed to idealize the patron-client relation with Hispanics as much as their Democratic competitors did. Curiously, three out of the five lawmakers that declared their opposition to amnesty and increased immigration (all Republicans), were from border states.
They've seen first hand what's going to happen.
Figures. Just another group to keep on the plantation.
Self-ping to read later.
I beleive you will find your answer by carefully reading The Declaration of Independence.
You're right. Meanwhile our troops are over in other countries fighting for democracy for other people, while ours is eroding beyond repair.
I think its also mentioned in this second portion of the article:
Some legislators had also mentioned to us (oftentimes laughing) how they had "defanged" or "gutted" anti-immigration bills and measures, by neglecting to fund this program or tabling that provision, or deleting the other measure, etc. "Yes, we passed that law, but it cant work because we also " was a usual comment to assuage the Mexican
In light of what we learned from speaking to them privately, it is surprising that many legislators have gone public recently with their pro-immigration views, as opposed to simply adding their votes discreetly and imposing a fait accompli. This is another conundrum, but may be explained because legislators also suffer a collective-action problem. My feeling is that if the vote on granting amnesty to the illegal migrants was up for a secret vote, then perhaps we would see a 90 percent vote in favor, coinciding with my random sample from six years ago.
One such example of "natural progress" that legislators attempted to impose with no debate was when Pennsylvania state legislatorsin the middle of the night before a recess in July 2005 passed a bill giving themselves a modest pay raise. The civic reaction and spontaneous popular mobilization was such (with effigies of pigs carried by demonstrators calling their legislators "Harrisburg Hogs"), the legislators recanted and, with only one dissenting vote, repealed their pay raise weeks later.
To Govern Is to Populate
A group of Argentine statesmen in the 19th century sought to populate their country with immigrants from certain parts of Europe, believing that they were more politically mature and more propitious for a stable state than the criollo and mestizo populations in their country at the time. One of those statesmen, President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, had a slogan: "To govern is to populate," perhaps because Argentina traditionally has been both under-populated and ungovernable.
What could be motivating U.S. legislators to do the opposite, that is, to see their constituentsalready politically mature and proven as responsible and civic-mindedas an obstacle needing replacement? In other words, why would they want to replace a nation that works remarkably well (that Sarmiento was hoping to emulate), with another that has trouble forming stable, normal countries?
Mexicans are kind and hardworking, with a legendary hospitality, and unlike some European nations, harbor little popular ambitions to impose models or ideologies on others. However, Mexicans are seemingly unable to produce anything but corrupt and tyrannical rulers, oftentimes even accepting them as the norm, unaffected by allegations of graft or abuse.8 Mexico, and Latin American societies in general, seem to suffer from what an observer called "moral relativism," accepting the "natural progress" of the political class rather than challenging it, and also appearing more susceptible to "miracle solutions" and demagogic political appeals. Mexican intellectuals speak of the corrosive effects of Mexican culture on the institutions needed to make democracy work, and surveys reveal that most of the population accepts and expects corruption from the political class.9 A sociological study conducted throughout the region found that Latin Americans are indeed highly susceptible to clientelismo, or partaking in patron-client relations, and that Mexico was high even by regional standards.10
In a Latin environment, there are fewer costs to behaving "like a knave," which explains the relative failure of most Spanish-speaking countries in the Hemisphere: Pauperized populations with rich and entrenched knaves. Montesquieus separation-of-powers model breaks down in Latin America (though essentially all constitutions are based on it) since elites do not take their responsibilities seriously and easily reach extra-legal "understandings" with their colleagues across the branches of government, oftentimes willingly making the judicial and legislative powers subservient to a generous executive, and giving the population little recourse and little choice but to challenge the system in its entirety.
These pathologies are already evident across the border. For example, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when even President Clintons strongest backers such as Rep. Richard Gephardt were distancing themselves from him and calling on the president to "tell the truth," the Hispanic Caucus in the U.S. Congress lent its support to the president. Rep. Esteban Torres stated "Were going to stand by him to the end no matter what!"11 The case of the "unconditional support" by the Hispanics in Congress to their patron demonstrated why the Montesquieu-Madisonian model had difficulty functioning in the Latin American context. This type of unconditional support seems to be what professional politicians of both parties expect from their Hispanic constituents and allies.
When thinking of populating as a way of obtaining power, perhaps these U.S. legislators, rather than from the statesman Sarmiento, took an unconscious cue from another Latin American leader who used migration and ethnic policy for less laudable goals. Mexican President Luis Echeverría (1970-76), who began the cycle of political violence and economic crisis from which the country has yet to recover, pursued a policy of moving hundreds of thousands of impoverished people from the countrys south to the more prosperous and dynamic northern states, where they remain to this day, mostly in shantytowns. His goal was to neutralize those states more active civic culture that threatened his poweras these states were at the time the main source of opposition to his dictatorial ambitions. These pauperized and dependent migrants and their offspring would provide a ready source of votes for the ruling party along with a mobilizeable mass to counter (politically as well as physically) the more civic-oriented middle classes of those northern states and "crack" their will to challenge his corporatist regime. Along with other extra-constitutional tools (he almost succeeded in canceling the constitution to remain indefinitely as president), migration from undeveloped areas was used by Echeverría as "politics by other means." Echeverría, in other words, was the ultimate knave.
Do the U.S. legislators have an overt and well thought-out "plan," as Echeverría did? That is unlikely.
Unlike Echeverría, these 45 U.S. legislators (especially the Republican ones) may simply be following a string of what can be called "rational short-termisms," that seem beneficial now even though they may unwittingly lead to adverse outcomes for them in the end. Like a diet rich in fats and sugar brings a jolt of energy and pleasure in the short run but causes health problems in the longer term, these congressmen still have incentives to allow and encourage mass immigration because of its low political cost for them and the perceived short-term benefits it brings (for them and the special interests that fund them).
If these "rational short-termisms" exist within a given individual (where he assumes both the benefits and the costs, such as with an irresponsible diet), they are more prevalent in a country, as those accruing the benefits are not those who pay the costs, and have an incentive to organize themselves to pursue the behavior leading to those outcomes. Because of collective-action problems, those benefiting from mass immigration are better organized, even if they are in the minority and even if they are vaguely aware that "someone else" pays for their largesse. These groups only see the assets, not the liabilities. By nature, legislators should prefer these short-termisms, since the payoffs are immediate and directly attributed to a political figure, whereas the costs can be pushed into the future. The payoffs and benefits of more long-term policies are unlikely to be associated with a particular political figure and become, essentially, public goods. Just as there is a large body of literature on "economic failure," we should begin to explore a related concept"political failure," which could be the Achilles heel of the American and other models of representative democracy. In the end, the result of mass Latin American immigration will not likely present the stark choice of democracy versus non-democracy for the United States, but the quality of democracy may indeed be affected.
Acción Directa as a Double-Edged Sword
What awaits the United States when a critical mass of the American people realizes the immigration issue is little different than what happened in Pennsylvania with the pay-raise issue? What if they decide to organize?
These legislators are probably correct that, by acquiescing to mass immigration, they will eventually "crack" the immigration-control advocates. They do not need to win or even engage in a debate if they can change the terms of the game so decisively. However, they have only taken into account the legal or civilized resistancefrom those who write in the papers or volunteer peacefully at the border. In Latin America, people engage in un-civil direct action because they have come to realize that attempting to convince their elites that their antisocial behavior has adverse consequences for the countryand expecting that this will dissuade them from engaging in itis largely a futile exercise. But in the United States as well, once immigration-control advocates realize they cannot reach their goals through legal means, this could breed a form of resistance that has not occurred yet, but cannot be discounted offhand.
The degree of usurpation and neglect of their fiduciary duty by legislators could provoke immigration-reform advocates to engage increasingly in civil resistance, so that instead of influencing political institutions through civic engagement (as Americans traditionally have), they may attempt to politicize individual institutions. Their direct actions are already being reported: local officers taking it upon themselves to detain illegal migrants, sit-ins at immigration offices, vandalizing of Mexican restaurants, threatening calls to the Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles, etc. Once these types of mobilizations begin, they will be difficult to stop.
Some Americans may take a cue from Spanish/Latin American culture itself and engage in what Spaniards call acción directa, or "direct action." A Spaniard once lamented that "In this country, nobody votes, but everyone protests." Immigration advocates should not be surprised if Latin American immigrants and their offspring continue their tradition of direct action and ignoring laws and institutionsas the recent mass protests in cities across the country demonstrate. But they should also not be surprised if Americans also learn to pursue acción directa. An interesting test for the U.S. political class will be how they respond to Americans utilizing direct action, since they seem to tolerate and even encourage it for Latin American immigrants and their offspring. So far, their reaction has been predictableaccusing peaceful volunteers of being "vigilantes" and labeling critics as "racist," while backing down in the face of mass protests by the illegal immigrants. There were even reports that the U.S. government had handed over to the Mexican government the names of the "Minutemen" critics and border-control volunteers.