In today’s Star Tribune, Katherine Kersten has the first of two columns devoted to the subject of immigration: “Start immigration reform with those who follow the law.” Kathy writes:
In recent days, our TV screens have been filled with pictures of vast crowds, demanding more “rights” for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Religious groups have championed their cause. Adoring reporters have shoved microphones in front of them — falling head over heels again for raucous ’60s-style demonstrations.
Jaco van Rooyen, a 22-year-old South African immigrant worker, hasn’t been out there waving a sign. He’s a legal immigrant playing by the rules. In short, he’s a forgotten man.
Bob Webber, an Edina immigration attorney who works with immigrants like Van Rooyen, says, “My clients ask, ‘Why isn’t anyone talking about us?’ They can’t understand it.”
Van Rooyen’s story mirrors that of thousands of other legal immigrants, whom the media have largely ignored in their romance with “undocumented workers.” He is a general farmworker and mechanic for Kristie and Marlyn Seidler on a 9,000-acre farm 55 miles north of Bismarck, N.D. “There’s nothing he can’t fix,” says Kristie Seidler. “He’s vital to us.”
The underlying problem — ignored in the voluminous discussion related to this subject in the mainstream media — is the irrationality of current immigration law itself. The current law, a byproduct of the immigration reform act of 1965, places a priority on “family reunification” of citizens and resident aliens. As Peter Brimelow writes in Alien Nation:
The details get complicated, but U.S. citizens and Resident Aliens are variously allowed to import spouses, adult children with spouses and children, brothers and sisters with spouses and children…All get preferences over immigrants with skills but no relatives.
The framework of the 1965 act has survived subsequent reforms, such as the 1990 immigration act. Senator Edward Kennedy, coincidentally, was the floor manager of the 1965 act. Has anyone in the press or elsewhere noted that the guy who helped bring us the reform of the system of legal immigration in 1965 is the same guy out leading the charge for illegal immigration/amnesty in 2006?
UPDATE: Michael Barone noted Kennedy’s hand in the 1965 act in his Tuesday Wall Street Journal column “The Newest Americans” (subscribers only). Barone writes (in part):
I watched the Senate debate the immigration issue the last two weeks with a certain sense of déjà vu, for I can remember sitting in the Senate Gallery more than 40 years ago and watching Sen. Edward Kennedy floor manage what became the immigration act of 1965. It was the first major piece of legislation Sen. Kennedy managed, and he did a good job, though the debate was little noticed, coming after the rush of Great Society legislation enacted under the stern direction of President Lyndon Johnson.
What’s interesting when I look back at the debate is that almost no one anticipated what would happen as a result of the act — the vast flow of immigrants, most of them legal but many illegal, from Latin America and Asia. “Our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually,” Sen. Kennedy assured the Senate. “Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same.” His brother Robert, when attorney general, predicted in 1964 that abolishing the restrictions on Asian immigration would result in a net increase of “approximately 5,000” and as a senator in 1965 said that “the net increase attributable to this bill would be at most 50,000 a year.”
There was, I think, no intentional deception here…
But immigration after 1965 did not look like immigration before. The family reunification provisions authorized what turned out to be massive “chain migration” far above the quotas. Immigration from Latin America, a trickle when it was relatively unrestricted before 1965, increased vastly afterwards. Asians proved far more interested in immigrating than Robert Kennedy expected. Why? Because by the 1960s Latin America and Asia were modernizing, with vast numbers moving off the land and into cities, just as Southern and Eastern Europe had been doing when they produced so many immigrants from 1890 to 1924…
A reader writes to add that for the past two two weeks Rush has also been making the same point about Kennedy that I did here.