Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disasterby Peter Brimelow
The controversial, bestselling book (37,500 hardcover copies sold) that helps define the debate about one of the most important and hotly contested issues facing America: immigration. See more details below
The controversial, bestselling book (37,500 hardcover copies sold) that helps define the debate about one of the most important and hotly contested issues facing America: immigration.
Read an Excerpt
The View From the Tenth Circle
These population dynamics will result in the "browning" of America, the Hispanization of America. It is already happening and it is inescapable.
former mayor of San Antonio, Texas; Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration
My grandparents came from Lebanon. I don't identify with the Pilgrims on a personal level. DONNA SHALALA,
Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration
We are transforming ourselves . . .
Commissioner, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in
the Clinton administration (who approves)
Dante, the great poet of medieval Italy, would have been delighted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service's waiting rooms. They would have provided him with a tenth Circle of Hell to add to the nine degrees of damnation he described in his most famous work, the Inferno.
There is something distinctly infernal about the INS spectacle. So many lost souls wait around so hopelessly, mutually incomprehensible in virtually every language under the sun, each clutching a number from one of those ticket-vending machines which may or may not be honored by the harassed INS clerks before the end of the civil service working day.
The danger of damnation is lowsort of. A Scottish friend of mine did once find himself flung into the deportation holding tank because the INS misunderstood its own rules. Andtoward the end of my own ten-year trek through the system, I whiled away a lot of time watching confrontations between suspicious INSers and agitated Iranians, apparently hauled in because the Iran hostage crisis had inspired the Carter administration to ask just exactly how many of them there were enrolled as students in U.S. universities anyway.
(The INS was unable to provide an answer during the hostage crisis's 444 days. Or, as it turned out, at all.1)
You can still get a pretty good blast of brimstone, however. Try suggesting that it might be another of those misunderstandings when, having finally reached the head of the line, you are ordered by the clerk to go away and come back another day with a previously unmentioned Form XYZ.
Your fellow huddled masses accept this treatment with a horrible passivity. Perhaps it is imbued in them by aeons of arbitrary government in their native lands. Only rarely is there a flurry of protest. At its center, almost invariably, is an indignant American spouse.
We are looking here at something crucially significant: the Great American Immigration Paradox. Just as New York City's government can't stop muggers but does a great job ticketing young women on Park Avenue for failing to scoop up after their lapdogs, U.S. immigration policy in effect enforces the law only against those who obey it.
Annual legal immigration of about I millioncounting the 100,000 refugees and the 100,000 applying for political asylumis overwhelmed by an estimated 2 to 3 million illegal entries into the country in every recent year.
Many of these illegal entrants go back home, of course. In fact, some commute across the border every day, But, year by year, the number of illegal immigrants who settle permanently in the United States grows. Here's how to think about it: if you balance the gross illegal immigration against gross departures of illegals, you find the net increase in the illegal immigrant population. A cautious INS estimate: this net illegal immigration has been running at about 300,000 to 500,000 annually.2 No one, however, really knows.
The INS bureaucracy still grinds through its rituals. But the reality remains as President Ronald Reagan described it in 1983: "This country has lost control of its borders."
"And," Reagan added, "no country can sustain that kind of position."3
Indeed, the loss of control is even more complete than Reagan suggested. Much of the current legal immigration can't be kept out either. The majority of those lost souls in the INS waiting room will find salvation, in the form of U.S. residence, in the end.
This is because most legal immigrantsusually between a half and two thirdsare accepted more or less automatically under the various family-reunification provisions of current U.S. law.
Then there are refugees, who apply for admission while they are still abroad, and political asylum seekers, who apply once in the United States. And, similarly, the weird workings of the American legal system have made it virtually impossible to expel asylum seekers once they land on U.S. soil.
In fact in early 1993 another immigration scandal erupted: it emerged that foreigners were getting off planes at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport at an annualized rate rising rapidly through 15,000, applying for asylum and, because of lack of detention space, being released into the United States on a promise to present themselves at a future hearing, which not more than 5 percent ever did.4 (Not that it matters if they do. An unofficial INS estimate is that eight out of every ten asylum applicants end up staying in the United States quite regardless of whether or not their applications are approved.5)
This inability to expel asylum seekers once they set foot in the United States is why both the Bush and Clinton administrations were forced to order the interception of boats carrying would-be illegal immigrants from Haiti on the high seas. And it's why the Clinton administration had to beg humbly that the Mexican government halt and return home shiploads of smuggled Chinese.
As invariably happens with immigration policy, what was intended (or at least alleged) to be kind turns out to be cruel. We will be returning to this theme later.
Naturally, I take a deep personal interest in these immigration idiosyncrasies. After all, as it turned out I could have avoided my INS decade simply by ignoring the law and staying here after I graduated from Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1972.
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