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Who Gets In

And what happens once they're here.

Sep 15, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 01 • By PETER SKERRY
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The New Case Against Immigration

Both Legal and Illegal

by Mark Krikorian

Sentinel, 304 pp., $25.95

The New Case Against Immigration lives up to its title. Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, Washington's most respected restrictionist voice, has produced a radical but constructively provocative case for the fundamental incompatibility of mass immigration with mature modern societies. Arguing that America has outgrown mass immigration, he mounts a frontal assault on all its forms-legal as well as illegal, skilled as well as unskilled.

One does not have to agree with Krikorian to see that this is no screed by a neo-Malthusian doomsayer, or nativist zealot. Neither does it bear any trace of the outraged naiveté that characterizes so much restrictionist commentary. The grandson of Armenian immigrants, Krikorian has produced a well-researched, policy savvy book whose comprehensiveness and verve ought to embarrass Washington's major think tanks, which veer between narrowly technical and evasively high-minded approaches to the topic.

At the core of Krikorian's analysis is his refrain: "It's not the immigrants, it's us." He explicitly rejects the view that immigrants today, especially Hispanics, are unwilling or unable to assimilate. Rather, he argues that they are not assimilating because multicultural elites are encouraging them not to, through such misguided policies as foreign-language ballots, bilingual education, ethnic studies programs, and dual citizenship. He also emphasizes how Spanish-language electronic media and easy air travel back home similarly retard assimilation.

Yet these familiar points do not represent Krikorian's strongest suit. In fact, he ignores abundant evidence that, despite such multicultural efforts, Hispanic immigrants and their children are learning English and adopting American values. And while he correctly highlights the potential problems posed by huge concentrations of immigrants from one social, cultural, linguistic group (Hispanics), Krikorian goes too far when he asserts that its largest component, Mexican immigrants and their offspring, is "marginalized from the American mainstream."

Nevertheless, Krikorian dismisses restrictionist nightmares about Chicano radicals bringing about a reconquista by Mexico of territory lost to the
United States in 1848. Readily acknowledging "the genuine American patriotism of millions of Hispanic citizens," he prudently chooses not to obsess about Mexican flags at street demonstrations and soccer games. "There will be no secession of the Southwest from the Union," he concludes. Yet he does insist that the loyalty of Hispanics "doesn't change the fact that Mexico is already actively involved in American domestic politics ostensibly on their behalf." He argues persuasively that, while Americans are not paying attention, Mexico is advancing its own national agenda based on its sense of historical grievance, demanding for Mexican citizens in the United States, and even for Mexican Americans, prerogatives and rights that are not enjoyed by Mexico's own foreign nationals, and even naturalized citizens. Yet again, Krikorian pushes the point too far when he concludes: "In a modern society there are two choices: mass immigration accompanied by a progressive loss of sovereignty, or protection of sovereignty through limits on immigration."

Similarly strained is Krikorian's perspective on immigration and national security. He is certainly correct to dismiss the foolish rhetoric that "there's no relationship between immigration and terrorism." Usefully, he shows how Homeland Security is overwhelmed by the monitoring of the entry and exit of millions of individuals every year. Emphasizing the customer service mentality that seeks to keep the traffic moving with minimal delays, he again stresses that the problem is not immigrants, but us. Focusing on America's failure to grasp the full implications of today's asymmetric warfare, he argues that immigrant communities are potential staging areas for terrorists.

This is undoubtedly true, but is that the end of the story? For example, he never considers the evidence that Muslim Americans can be valuable assets in the struggle against Islamist
terrorists.