That is not a rhetorical question. On the contrary, it is a question to which no one–including the eight members of the Gang–knows the answer. There is reason to believe, however, that we are talking about something like 30 million Mexicans moving to (or staying in) the United States. David Grant writes in the Christian Science Monitor:
These may seem like straightforward questions: How many new permanent residents of the United States will there be every year, if the Senate’s bipartisan legislation on immigration reform becomes law? And how many new workers would the plan inject into the American economy, exactly?
The problem, at least for the moment, is that even those involved in crafting the immigration reform legislation don’t know the answers.
“Nobody has a number that is based on the bill right now that’s accurate,” said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice Education Fund, a group that supports the reform effort, in a conference call with reporters. “This bill is extremely sophisticated … it’ll take a bit more [analysis] to get a specific number about how things will change.”
I beg to differ. A bill whose consequences cannot be predicted within the nearest five or ten million individuals is not “sophisticated.” It is idiotic.
Supporters and detractors agree that that, should the bill become law, they expect legal immigration to boom over the next 10 years. …
But the only hard numbers being thrown around are from immigration reform critics like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama and low-immigrant advocacy groups like Numbers USA, who believe the current Senate bill could double the number of foreigners who gain legal residence over the next decade and add scores of low-skilled workers to an economy with persistently high unemployment. …
The bill would also exempt wide swaths of people currently counted against immigration caps from any limits: The spouses and children of legal permanent residents would be allowed to come to the country on an unlimited basis, for example.
Thus, some combination of, perhaps, 7 million DREAMers, agricultural workers, and the newly legalized family members of current US citizens will be able to petition for their family members, further swelling legal immigration by an indeterminate amount.
Polls suggest a high level of ambivalence about the Gang’s proposal, in part, no doubt, because hardly anyone has any idea what it is. But would a majority of Americans support mass importation of low-skill, low-wage, workers and welfare recipients on the scale contemplated by the Senate bill? I don’t think so.
That point is quantitative, but here is a qualitative observation: there is a remarkable degree of obfuscation as to whom, exactly, we are talking about when we discuss these tens of millions of new immigrants. You might not know it by listening to the politicians, but the overwhelming majority of them–essentially all, for practical purposes–will be Mexicans. The tens of millions of immigrants that will flood into the United States under the Gang’s proposal will not materialize magically. Nor are they refugees or asylum seekers. Rather, they live in Mexico and are Mexican citizens. They already have a country: it is Mexico.
I don’t blame any Mexican for wishing he was an American, but that is not the standard that we should apply to our immigration laws. If it were, where would it end? No doubt there are a billion or two people in the world who would like to be Americans, even though the Obama administration is driving that number steadily downward.
Moreover, based on experience, there is good reason to think that many, perhaps most, of the tens of millions of Mexicans who would move to the U.S. under the Gang’s plan would continue to be loyal to their real home, Mexico. Last month, the United States team played Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. The game was played in Phoenix, but the crowd, which consisted mostly of American citizens or legal residents of Mexican origin, overwhelmingly favored the Mexican team. In fact, two friends of mine left the game early because they did not feel physically safe rooting for the American team. This phenomenon has been observed again and again.
Immigration advocates who are insouciant about importing tens of millions of Mexicans say they will be just like immigrants of the past. But that claim is patently untrue. It has been disproved by experience. Today, the leading organization that represents Mexican-Americans is called “The Race.” Such an attitude would have been inconceivable during any earlier wave of immigration. When my Norwegian ancestors came to the United States, they adopted American ways. They refused to speak Norwegian at home, even though their English was usually poor, so that their children would grow up speaking only English. Today, you can’t withdraw money from a checking account without assuring your bank that you don’t want to conduct the transaction in Spanish. As Paul has noted, the assimilationist attitudes and structures that turned prior generations of immigrants into Americans no longer exist.
The bill that Chuck Schumer and Pat Leahy are now trying to rush through the Senate would transform America radically–more radically, perhaps, than anything in our history. And what, exactly, is the urgent need for such drastic change? That is a subject for another day. There is, in my view, no need at all. But for the moment, let’s at least try to force the politicians to be honest about the scale of the transformation they have in mind.