Times Taps White Nationalist Organization for Thought-Provoking Perspective on Immigration - 2020-01-17
The New York Times opinion section under editor James Bennet ostensibly aims to challenge the paper's predominately liberal readers by presenting them with thoughtful critiques of their worldview. In practice, it runs pieces like this recent argument that launching a war against Iran would end attacks against American interests in the Middle East—which was written by a veteran of the Bush administration who had predicted confidently in a 2003 piece also published by the Times that launching a war against Iraq would end attacks against American interests in the Middle East. There was no acknowledgment in the new piece of the old one, as an opinion section committed to intellectual honesty might require, nor was it particularly challenging in the sense of being difficult to rebut. But it did make people on the left feel bad, and like they were losing their minds, which is the bar that Bennet's section requires an argument to clear.
The essay "I'm a Liberal Who Thinks Immigration Must Be Restricted," published in the Times Thursday, may represent the nadir of this approach. It makes a familiar argument: that "the left" believes in a "post-national" system of open borders which sacrifices the interests of native-born working Americans to the interests of low-skilled foreign immigrants who drive down wages and disrupt the cultural cohesiveness of their communities. It argues for respecting a distinction between legal and illegal immigration and asserts that Donald Trump's position on immigration can be appreciated, in a non-racist way, as "a patriotic battle to defend common people." It accuses Trump's critics of having had their minds addled by "tribal passions" and a fetish for conflict "between ethnic groups," and it proposes a "conciliatory" policy that would offer amnesty to existing undocumented workers but institute a crackdown regime of visa enforcement that would prevent future undocumented individuals from finding jobs.
The familiarity of the article's arguments is matched by the familiarity of its flaws. While large-scale immigration is, in fact, believed by some non-racists to flatten wages at the bottom of the pay scale, it's also known to accelerate rather than retard economic expansion overall, and tends to be supported by progressives who advocate for other means of increasing working-class wages and sharing the benefits of GDP growth. The distinction between "legal" and "illegal" immigration is not some ancient, race-agnostic pillar of global affairs, but rather a concept that was instituted in the United States in the early 20th century to explicitly discriminate against Asian, southern European, and eastern European individuals and expanded in the 1960s to explicitly discriminate against Mexicans. Trump's support is strongest in areas where there are fewer undocumented immigrants, not more, and he lost four of the five states that have the highest undocumented populations per capita. Many of the most immigration-heavy and ethnically diverse cities in the U.S. are also the safest and wealthiest and are considered so desirable to live in by migrating native-born Americans that they are experiencing housing crises.