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David Brooks and the shape of things to come

I respect the work of David Brooks even though I often disagree with it. But this Brooks column on immigration reform leaves me shaking my head.

Brooks argues that “immigration opponents are effectively trying to restrict the flow of conservatives into this country.” What does he mean by this?

First, I assume that Brooks isn’t talking about restricting the number of conservatives “flowing” into the U.S., but rather restricting the number who are here legally and able to vote. The Gang of Eight legislation purports to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S., not to increase it, and most opponents of that legislation don’t object to increased legal immigration per se.

Thus, both supporters and opponents of Gang’s proposal purport to take basically the same stance on the “flow” of immigrants into the U.S. Where they differ is on the rights and benefits that should be conferred on those who have “flowed” here illegally.

Second, I assume that Brooks means that the (alleged) restriction on the number conservatives is an unintended consequence of opposing pending immigration reform. Otherwise, it would seem to follow that Chuck Schumer intends to increase the number of conservatives in the U.S.

Even with these clarifications, Brooks’ claim that opponents of pending immigration reform would effectively limit conservative participation in our society lacks merit. Brooks bases this claim on the view that immigrants have “more traditional ideas about family structure and community than comparable Americans. . .lower incarceration rates. . .higher emphasis on career success [and] stronger work ethics.”

But Brooks does not show that illegal immigrants possess these characteristics to a greater extent than the rest of us (I’m not sure what he means by “comparable Americans”).

Moreover, a conservative isn’t properly defined as a family man (or woman) who stays out of trouble and craves success. A conservative is more accurately defined as someone who, in general, favors limited government.

Brooks provides no evidence that illegal immigrants fit this definition to an appreciable degree. Nor would such a claim be justified. The former illegal immigrants who took advantage of the last amnesty overwhelmingly support the Party of big government.

Their successor illegal immigrants would almost certainly follow suit. This low skilled, poorly educated cohort perceives little interest in limiting the government’s ability to intervene on its behalf.

Brooks concedes that “immigrant areas” sometimes “go bad.” But he blames this on “America” for having “infected [immigrants] with bad values already present.”

I suppose, then, that if we toured Mexico City or San Salvador we would find no bad areas.

Brooks’ “blame America first” approach is a sign of things to come. The law-breaking immigrants formerly known as “illegal” will be romanticized (heaven help those politically incorrect souls who dispute the characterization) and their woes will be blamed on “America.”

The remedy will not be a call for the restoration of traditional assimilationist American values. That would be an offense against multiculturalism.

The remedy will be a stream of government programs and policies that confer advantages on these immigrants — programs and policies that Republicans will be too squeamish effectively to oppose, just as they are too squeamish now effectively to oppose amnesty and a path to citizenship.

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