Even seventeen years back the scale of Mexican immigration into the US was apparent the moment we stepped off the plane in Chicago*. The driver who took us to the cheap Des Plaines motel spoke only Spanish (we ended up spending three days there while Pan Am retrived our luggage from Miami). The staff in the bar across the road spoke only Spanish (I'd never expected to need it in Chicago, but how it all came back, from one Spanish holiday - "agua caliente - para el bebe !"). There were lots of Spanish television channels and radio stations - and even Spanish newspapers.
I was a Labour-voting Guardian reader in those days, but it still struck me that the melting pot wasn't quite doing the job it used to - that the newcomers were Spanish speakers who intended to stay that way, whereas a Congolese or Nigerian taxi-driver in New York, intending to become an American, would be fettling his English as fast as he could. The impression was reinforced in Seattle, where even the liberal press (even ? is there any other sort in Seattle ?) was full of unease about the influx of Californians into Washington State and Oregon. Why were they all moving north ? It seemed that, like Londoners, they were moving 'to escape the frantic lifestyle'.
Now we're that much further down the road. Just as in England, immigration levels are such that, as Victor Davis Hanson writes in City Journal, it's noticed by everyone.
He puts his finger on two problems which are exactly those of England - the sheer scale of the influx and the loss of cultural self-confidence in the host community, which both encourages further immigration and makes integration less likely.
In the 1970s, perhaps a few million illegals resided in the United States, and their unassimilated presence went largely unnoticed. Most Americans felt that the formidable powers of integration and popular culture would continue to incorporate any distinctive ethnic enclave, as they had so successfully done with the past generations that arrived en masse from Europe, Asia, and Latin America. But when more than 10 million fled Mexico in little over a decade—the great majority poor, without English, job skills, a high school education, and legality—entire apartheid communities in the American Southwest began springing up.
During the heyday of multiculturalism and political correctness in the 1980s, the response of us, the hosts, to this novel challenge was not to insist upon the traditional assimilation of the newcomer but rather to accommodate the illegal alien with official Spanish-language documents, bilingual education, and ethnic boosterism in our media, politics, and education. These responses only encouraged more illegals to come, on the guarantee that their material life could be better and yet their culture unchanged in the United States. We now see the results. Los Angeles is today the second-largest Mexican city in the world; one out of every ten Mexican nationals resides in the United States, the vast majority illegally.
The whole piece rings so many bells. I often think how much easier a criminal lifetyle - say a VAT fraudster or benefit cheat - would be for a newcomer to enter than for a native. They can pick up the necessary ID and other documents - I wouldn't know where to start. They would find government agencies less likely to ask questions and lift up stones for fear of being accused of racism. And the tab is picked up by the law-abiding. This passage reminds me of the blind eye turned by UK local authorities to infractions by travellers.
The problem with all this is that our now-spurned laws were originally intended to ensure an (admittedly thin) veneer of civilization over innate chaos — roads full of drivers who have passed a minimum test to ensure that they are not a threat to others; single-family residence zoning to ensure that there are adequate sewer, garbage, and water services for all; periodic county inspections to ensure that untethered dogs are licensed and free of disease and that housing is wired and plumbed properly to prevent mayhem; and a consensus on school taxes to ensure that there are enough teachers and classrooms for such sudden spikes in student populations.
All these now-neglected or forgotten rules proved costly to the taxpayer. In my own experience, the slow progress made in rural California since the 1950s of my youth—in which the county inspected our farm’s rural dwellings, eliminated the once-ubiquitous rural outhouse (outside toilet - LT), shut down substandard housing, and fined violators in hopes of providing a uniform humane standard of residence for all rural residents—has been abandoned in just a few years of laissez-faire policy toward illegal aliens. My own neighborhood is reverting to conditions common about 1950, but with the insult of far higher tax rates added to the injury of nonexistent enforcement of once-comprehensive statutes. The government’s attitude at all levels is to punish the dutiful citizen’s misdemeanors while ignoring the alien’s felony, on the logic that the former will at least comply while the latter either cannot or will not.
In an earlier companion piece, another bell rings in the British context - the observation that the descendants of poor incomers, exposed to a cultural vacuum and welfare mix, are less hard-working and less law-abiding than their parents.
"... the second generation has learned how to live, spend, and consume as Americans, but not, like their fathers, to work and save as Mexicans. If rising crime rates, gang activity, and illegitimacy are any indication, many now resent, rather than sacrifice to escape, their poverty. And the rates are rising fast: for example, while 37 percent of all births to Hispanic immigrants are illegitimate, the illegitimacy rate among American-born Mexican mothers is 48 percent.
Census data show us that median household income by the mid-1990s had risen for a decade for all groups, except for the nation’s Hispanics, whose incomes dropped 5.1 percent. Although recent immigrants from Mexico and their U.S.-born children under 18 now officially make up only 4.2 percent of America’s population, they represent 10.2 percent of our poor. When you add in longtime residents, Hispanics account for 24 percent of America’s impoverished, up 8 percentage points since 1985. The true causes of such checkered progress—continual and massive illegal immigration of cheap labor that drives down wages for working Hispanics here; failure to learn English; the collapse of the once strong Hispanic family due to federal entitlement; soaring birthrates among a demoralized underclass; an intellectual elite that downplays social pathology, claims perpetual racism, and seeks constant government largesse and entitlement; and years of bilingual education that ensure dependency upon a demagogic leadership—are rarely mentioned.
They cannot be mentioned. To do so would be to suggest that the billions of public dollars spent on social redress did more to harm Hispanics than did all the racists in America."
Just as in England, the effects of mass illegal immigration impact most upon the poor - who in California are disproportionately black. As FaceRight reports, undercutting wage rates is not the only immigration-related problem poorer Californians face. His post on race killings in LA, complete with links to various LA crime blogs, is worth a read - as is the rest of his thoughtful blog.
UPDATE - commenter Archytas refers me to three pdfs, on crime, economic impacts, and another on crime.
I only had time to check the first crime pdf, but I am not sure Archytas is reading my posts thoroughly.
"If immigrants are likelier than natives to be criminals, then a rise in immigration should be accompanied by an increase in crime". Two points here :
1 - The missing words are : "All things being equal". All things are not equal, the increased use of incarceration over the last 20 years being IMHO the main driver of reduced crime rates.
2 - I do not argue that immigrants are more likely to commit crime, although some from fractured and violent societies may do. It is their descendants who do, as for the UK descendants of the deeply law-abiding Windrush generation of West Indians, and the equally law-abiding Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who arrived in the 1960s.
The pdf shows in fact that native-born descendants of immigrants have much higher incarceration rates than the whole native population - which matches the UK experience.
The exceptions to the rule in the UK are the Indians, Koreans and Chinese - which is exactly what we find with the US figures.
Rumbaut and Ewing have produced a document which, without containing a single untrue statement, manages to be remarkably dishonest. Take page five :
"Myths and stereotypes about immigrants and crime often provide the underpinnings for public policies and practices ... The extent to which stereotypes such as these have permeated U.S. society is apparent in the results of the National Opinion Research Center’s 2000 General Social Survey, which interviewed a nationally representative sample of adults to measure attitudes toward and perceptions of immigration in a "multi-ethnic United States". Asked whether "more immigrants cause higher crime rates," 25 percent said "very likely" and another 48 percent "somewhat likely." In other words, about three-fourths (73 percent) of Americans believed that immigration is causally related to more crime ... The misperception that the foreign-born, especially illegal immigrants, are responsible for higher crime rates is deeply rooted in American public opinion and is sustained by media anecdote and popular myth. But this perception is not supported empirically."
The 'myths and stereotypes' turn out to be nothing of the sort. More immigrants do cause higher crime rates - unless those immigrants are Indian, Jewish or Korean - in which case they may actually lower it. To produce a 'myth' or 'stereotype' from this observation you have to believe that the native born descendants of immigrants are nothing to do with or not related to immigration. Hence the use of weasel words like 'causally' and the slide across to 'the misconception that the foreign-born' - when immigrants and their descendants in the real world don't go about with signs identifying their country of birth.
Reminds me of the ludicrous mental contortions of one Dr Steven Simpson.
"The study also says that immigration is not the reason for increased numbers of non-white Britons over the past decade ... The common myth is that the growth of the ethnic minority population is due to immigration. That's not true - it is more due to the growth of [ethnic minority] people born in Britain."
Ah yes. Poverty and the potato famine is not the reason there are Irish communities in the US, nor is slavery the reason there are black Americans.
I digress. But if the other pdfs are the same standard as Rumbaut and Ewing, the approach will needs be "take the raw data. Then work it out for yourself".
* we Amtrak'd Chicago-Seattle on the Empire Builder, a 3-day trip I can thoroughly recommend - some good cheap pass deals for non-Americans - then down to Oakland after a few days in the cheap'n'dodgy (the taxi-driver warned us off it when we told him where we were staying) old Pacific Hotel. Some day I'll sit in a bar in Shelby, Montana, where the train drivers change over, drinking whisky and listening to 'Old Paint'.