With the media outrage about separation of families still running hot, the hysterical manipulation and hypocrisy could fairly be described as Peak Crying Child, with even the Washington Post calling out Time magazine for that absurd cover.
To listen to the media and their obedient audiences, the only thing that should be done is to admit these poor souls—all desperate, needy people—to the land of free milk and honey. This, and only this, is supremely and consummately moral.
If you have been following this column for any length of time, you know that whenever the Cathedral and the Left start talking about compassion and empathy, the bite of the Empathy Worm is not far behind.
While the forces of the Left and the Cathedral Right—establishmentarian Republicans, “proposition nation” civ-nats, etc.—will almost invariably reduce their arguments to emotion and personal feeling, and to vicious attacks on anyone who sides with Orange-Hitler’s incarceration of brown children in dog cages, they will sometimes attempt to appeal to history.
Here we encounter two standard arguments: If you’re not Native American, your ancestors were immigrants and European settlers stole the land from the Native Americans.
Both of these claims are of course factually true, but as we’ll see, there is a rhetorical tension between them. For now, let us boil them down to the famous words from the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, which adorn the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
You can read The Atlantic’s take on the whole thing and what it means here (never let it be said that we at Republic Standard do not empower dissenting voices).
Where is the compassion and the empathy for the citizens of the Western nations whose national resources, borders, and identities the open-borders activists are so happy to hand-wave away?
So, what we have is in essence two leftist arguments: Crying Child, and Statue of Liberty. We have three distinct arguments if you count Europeans stole the land from the Native Americans as a separate argument—we’ll call this one First Thanksgiving for now.
Let’s start with Crying Child. The first problem with Crying Child is that it is based on emotion rather than logic. In fact, it erodes critical thinking. Let me be clear: if you believe Crying Child, you are making yourself dumber.
There are indications that the migrant flow to the United States is discretionary, consisting of economic migrants who would rather live in the United States as opposed to desperate, needy people (who we simply have to help because Crying Child).
Writing for National Review, Rich Lowry explains that the underlying issue is a previous policy of failing to enforce the border with regard to adults traveling with children:
“The Trump administration isn’t changing the rules that pertain to separating an adult from the child. Those remain the same. Separation happens only if officials find that the adult is falsely claiming to be the child’s parent, or is a threat to the child, or is put into criminal proceedings.
“It’s the last that is operative here. The past practice had been to give a free pass to an adult who is part of a family unit. The new Trump policy is to prosecute all adults. The idea is to send a signal that we are serious about our laws and to create a deterrent against re-entry. (Illegal entry is a misdemeanor, illegal re-entry a felony.)”
There’s a great deal more to it, and the whole article is worth a thorough read, but our focus here is the weaponization of emotion. The short version is that if an adult claims asylum, the government will probably detain the adult longer than they are legally allowed to detain the child, although this is fixable.
Failing to enforce the border has also resulted in an influx of unaccompanied minors, notably back in 2014. Writing for NPR in July 2014, John Burnett explained that human smugglers had helped to smuggle in “the 57,000 unaccompanied immigrant children who’ve been apprehended in South Texas since October .”
Illegal aliens have been using other people’s children to enter the border, and here it should be noted that the border crossing business is dangerous and fraught with abuse for the illegal aliens who attempt the journey.
If your only concerns are humanitarian, there is still a perfectly good case for enforcing the border so that fewer people attempt to make the journey with children who may or may not be theirs—or worse, send their children north with human smugglers to be intercepted by the Obama administration and handed over to human traffickers.
By the way, on the subject of being humanitarian, is it only the U.S. federal government and various state governments which must be humanitarian? For all that the Cathedral media and their creatures are happy to practically defend the good name of MS-13’s violent animals (tongue planted only partially in cheek), would it be too much to question the good judgment or parenting skills of the parents who either show up at the border with kids in tow or who send them on their way with smugglers?
Fifty-seven thousand unaccompanied kids intercepted in South Texas from October 2013 to July 2014. Asylum requests up 1,700 percent from 2008 to 2016. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announcing that 80 percent of asylum seekers at the southwest border are not eligible to enter the country. Is there no point at which one can begin to question the backstories, honesty, and basic decision-making skills of the people flooding the southern border of the United States?
A more fundamental point, of course, is what about the citizens of the United States? This same line of inquiry applies to European nations afflicted with mass migration encouraged by the cosmopolitan, trans-national elites in Brussels and in Berlin.
Where is the compassion and the empathy for the citizens of the Western nations whose national resources, borders, and identities the open-borders activists are so happy to hand-wave away?
The advocates of mass migration brandish the rhetorical Crying Child from the Third World, but are only too happy to hand-wave away any question of the costs of illegal immigration, in terms of crime and government spending.
Granted, illegal immigration is also linked to mildly cheaper produce, but this is taking us far indeed from Crying Child.
If we care about the citizens of a country—in the reactionary view, if a power-strategy of fairness prioritizing the citizens of a country prevails—then should immigration not be in the national interest?
A practical problem with Crying Child is that once the principle is established, the only real question is “How many millions?” In other words, if the principle is established that any denizen of a Third World country can show up at the border, claim asylum with a rehearsed script about a credible fear of persecution, then how many millions should we take?
If immigration to the United States is to be driven by Crying Child, by anyone from the Third World with a hard lunch story, how many millions must we accommodate? Let’s try to find a few numbers.
Mexico is the country most prominently associated in the American mind with illegal immigration, although many migrants are from Central American nations—Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras. Now, Mexico ranks as the world’s 68th richest country, out of 189 assessed, according to Global Finance’s 2016 rankings.
For a bit of context, number 1 is Qatar, and the U.S. is number 13. If we follow Crying Child “logic,” shouldn’t we seriously consider most people from the 121 countries poorer than Mexico? Who cares about that stupid gumball video from 1996, anyway?
One hundred twenty-one countries poorer than Mexico is a lot of people, so let’s start adding them all up. We’ll start with number 69, Lebanon:
69). Lebanon: 6,229,794
70). Iran: 82,021,564
71). Azerbaijan: 9,961,396
72). Belarus: 9,549,747
That’s four places, and we’re already looking at over a hundred million. These are fantasy numbers where immigration is concerned.
But c’mon, we’re all really interested in the “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Immigration from these countries, much of it illegal, has increasingly become the focus of media and public policy attention.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, as of 2015 there were about 3.4 million Central American immigrants in the U.S., making them 8 percent of the 43.3 million total immigrants. Of that 3.4 million, 85 percent were from the Northern Triangle countries, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted “nearly 46,900 unaccompanied children and more than 70,400 family units” from those same countries in fiscal year 2016 alone.
So, going back to our handy Global Finance list, we hop around until we find El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and we order them not alphabetically but by their ranking (which coincidentally puts them in the same order):
113). El Salvador: 6,172,011
119). Guatemala: 15,460,732
135). Honduras: 9,038,741
So long as we’re tossing around air-castle numbers, according to the World Bank 10.7 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90/day, as of 2013. By the numbers, that’s 767 million people. This is actually an improvement: in 1990 the number was 1.85 billion.
Living in abject poverty in the Third World—in any part of the world—is surely ample grounds for a hard lunch story. Once we have affirmed the principle of Crying Child as the deciding factor in whether someone is admitted to the United States or other Western country featuring a lavish welfare state, the only question left is how many of those 767 million people we are going to take.
But what about America’s history of immigration? Aren’t we a nation of immigrants? If Crying Child won’t work, perhaps Statue of Liberty will provide a different emotional attack vector for tearing down borders.
A little history: early immigration from the British Isles and to some degree the European continent to the American colonies and then the fledgling United States occurred during the age of sailing ships, when the Atlantic crossing was relatively costly. As a result, for the period from ca. 1600-1800, many people paid for passage through indentured servitude.
In the 19th century, however, steam power began to replace sails, and between this and networks of migrant finance, the costs of migration from Europe to America plummeted. The resulting Age of Mass Migration from Europe lasted from the mid-19th century until a literacy test was imposed in 1917, followed by quotas in 1921. America was not the only destination of the 55 million migrants who left Europe during this period, but the country did absorb nearly 30 million of them.
This history is rich and complex, not least because of the shift from Northern and Western Europe, which accounted for more than 90 percent of migrants in 1850, to Southern and Eastern Europe, which accounted for 45 percent of migrants in 1920, compared with only 41 percent from Northern and Western Europe. These diverse migrants had diverse skills: some were comparable to native-born Americans, while others were disproportionately poorer.
Overall, there were broad-spectrum similarities between the levels of development of many of the European countries the migrants hailed from, and the United States. Indeed, the immigrants played a very important role in the development of the burgeoning industrial economy in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. From 1880 to 1920 alone, the American manufacturing sector underwent a four-fold expansion of employment.
All of this expansion had positive effects: by 1913, American industrial output accounted for one-third of global production, more than the United Kingdom, France, and Germany put together. Living standards and purchasing power increased.
There was also a frontier until 1890, when the Census Bureau officially announced that it had ended, meaning that in addition to jobs there was cheap land—the more since rural-to-urban migration is another feature of this period.
The contemporary U.S. faces a far less rosy situation, as rents that rise faster than wages push an increasing number of Americans into homelessness. In 2017, Zillow found that 79 percent of American renters who had moved within the last 12 months had experienced an increase in rent, with 57 percent citing this as a factor.
Some 30 percent of households nationwide report either financial struggles, or that they are merely getting by. And 51 percent of Americans do not have sufficient savings to last them three months.
With so many Americans struggling financially, how can one justify immigration? There are already an estimated 43.3 million immigrants, with an estimated 10 million of them illegal aliens.
How can the open borders advocates be so callous, so utterly lacking in compassion toward their fellow citizens who are already struggling, that they would want to invite millions more people into the country to compete for the limited pool of lower-skilled jobs and drive up the costs of housing? (And how does that medicine taste, open borders advocates?).
This very point, that mass migration and open borders would impoverish the United States, was recognized by none other than Bernie Sanders during his campaign in 2015. There’s a fun irony here, given this column’s previous dismissal of the “Kingfish of Burlington’s” many economically illiterate ideas.
Economically and demographically, America has long since ceased to be the country that it once was, a developing country in a position to reap massive dividends from European migration beginning in the mid-19th century and lasting down to the early 20th century. In that period, immigrants were rocket fuel to the economy. In our own time, they are more likely to be a drain on the welfare state, as Steven Camarota explains:
“A further area of contention in the immigration debate is its economic and fiscal impact. Many immigrant families prosper in the United States, but a large fraction do not, adding significantly to social problems. Nearly one-third of all U.S. children living in poverty today have an immigrant father, and immigrants and their children account for almost one in three U.S. residents without health insurance. Despite some restrictions on new immigrants' ability to use means-tested assistance programs, some 51 percent of immigrant-headed households use the welfare system, compared to 30 percent of native households. Of immigrant households with children, two-thirds access food assistance programs. Cutting immigrants off from these programs would be unwise and politically impossible, but it is fair to question a system that welcomes immigrants who are so poor that they cannot feed their own children.
“To be clear, most immigrants come to the United States to work. But because the U.S. legal immigration system prioritizes family relationships over job skills — and because the government has generally tolerated illegal immigration — a large share of immigrants are unskilled. In fact, half of the adult immigrants in the United States have no education beyond high school. Such workers generally earn low wages, which means that they rely on the welfare state even though they are working.”
To the extent that we are carrying these people on our backs, whether in part or in whole, the debate can stop there: this is a fundamental difference with the immigrants who came through Ellis Island and built a prosperous industrial economy even as the frontier was settled.
In fact, the Statue of Liberty argument is another iteration of Crying Child: another argument based on emotion and (selective) empathy rather than reason.
From the reactionary perspective, these “arguments” are both too silly and childish to be taken seriously.
Historic immigration from Europe built America. Modern immigration from the Third World, some of it illegal, imposes many costs on America. Once this is understood, sentimental appeals to the notion of a “nation of immigrants” carry no water.
Of course, leftists are fond of invoking America’s history, when it can be used to guilt-trip white people. This brings us finally to the First Thanksgiving argument.
I’m fond of pointing out that leftists’ focus on the European colonization of the Americas is spectacularly selective, as anyone who has read of Alexander’s conquest of Achaemenid Persia or Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul can attest. Migration, invasion, and conquest have been major themes in human history for a very long time, not only in Europe but across Eurasia, Africa, and everywhere else.
Steven Pinker has gone to great lengths to document humanity’s history of violence, and how it has declined in recent centuries thanks to the advance of modern civilization and many civilizing processes. To hand-wring over the Europeans’ seizure of the Americas while failing to acknowledge humanity’s universal history of violence is a tremendous exercise in special pleading.
There’s also a tremendously funny tension between the argument that the Europeans stole the land from the Native Americans, and therefore the United States is not legitimate, and the argument that if you’re not Native American, your ancestors were immigrants too—and therefore you should let in the next set.
These two arguments are supposed to reinforce each other—stolen land plus immigrant ancestors equals open borders and demographic replacement—but by invoking the fate of the various Native American cultures variously swamped by European conquistadors, settlers, miners, rubber-tappers, etc., the leftist actually provides an excellent argument for halting immigration.
From the reactionary perspective, these “arguments” are both too silly and childish to be taken seriously. Throughout history, tribes, city-states, nations, and kingdoms have acquired territory through the law of adverse possession, which is simply a fancy way of saying “They took it fair and square.”
When a polity is confronted by immigration, it may find the immigration to be a net benefit or a net cost. In the case of the former, it may well encourage immigration. In the case of the latter, it may seek to control it. If it fails to do so, the amount of immigration is likely to exceed the amount desired by the government.
Note that none of this is contingent upon ultimately fatuous questions about who can be said to be the true, original, or genuine owners of land X, Y, Z, or the other one. Now of course, once a polity acquires a land, it has a vested interest in establishing a stable set of arrangements governing who has access to, and ownership of, which parts of that land. This arrangement may change over time for any number of reasons having to do with the dynamics of the polity; it may also be torn down through migration and invasion, such as the migration of the mostly-Germanic tribes north of the Danube and East of the Rhine into the Roman Empire in the late 4th-5th centuries.
Emotion is no substitute for reason. Once Crying Child is invoked, as we have seen, the only real question is How many millions—and who pays?
It is perhaps the ultimate irony that those invoking empathy and compassion as a basis for allowing unauthorized mass migration from the Third World are happy to hand-wave away national borders, identities, and resources, imposing costs on their fellow citizens in order to feel better about themselves.
This very willingness to put emotion before reason, to burden others with weighty practical considerations in order to thoughtlessly unburden one’s own keenly-honed feelings of moral distress, is precisely why the Crying Child argument is so contemptible.