At the heart of the immigration debate is the basic issue of the social contract between the governed and the government. The government has broken its side of the contract; now the governed will have to step up and force a solution.
So our bipartisan betters -- President Bush and Sens. Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Edward Kennedy -- are about to get a lesson in the power of small "d" democracy. And all those marchers, parading through downtown Los Angeles chanting mostly in Spanish and carrying, many of them, Mexican flags -- they are about to get the same lesson.
For the past four decades, the government has pursued an open- borders vision of globalism and multiculturalism. At the frontier the cops looked the other way -- if there were any cops. In the cities, governments developed elaborate schemes for welfare benefits, racial quotas and bilingualism. In the heartland new immigrants changed the traditional rhythms of small-town and rural life, pushing in Spanish and pushing down wages.
At every turn, pro-immigration propagandists banished honest words such as "illegal" and "alien," substituting instead such bland euphemisms as "undocumented" and "migrant." Finally, every so often the politicians would engineer an "amnesty," and they would promise that such forgiveness for law-breaking was a one-shot deal -- even as, of course, they prepared for the next amnesty, perhaps under a new guise, such as "guest worker" program.
Those who complained about these trends were dismissed as nativists or racists. And not just by the liberal media. The Wall Street Journal editorial page campaigned for years on behalf of a constitutional amendment reading, "There shall be open borders." In the minds of many capitalists-utopians, an open world would be a peaceful world, as free markets clobbered the real enemy: big government.
Well, 9/11 ended that reverie. The attack reminded us that we need the state to do its constitutional duty: "provide for the common defense." But as with any lumbering leviathan, change comes slowly. Five years into the war on terror, the people who spend tens of billions of dollars a year on "homeland security" haven't quite come to the conclusion that they really are, in fact, supposed to secure the homeland...
But if we are catching these illegals, what's the problem? The answer, of course, is that we are not catching all of them, or even most of them. As T.J. Bonner, president of the union that represents border patrol agents, told The Denver Post, "The borders remain out of control." Since the stakes are so high, let's be honest here: Nations don't survive if their governments fail to guarantee the legal structure for a civil society. Immigrants might mostly want to work, but if the political system that receives them fails at the elementary functions of acculturation, then there's no hope for a unicultural future. Multiethnicity is fine. Ethnic and religious pride is fine. But active multiculturalism, defined as a group's disdain for a country's dominant traditions and institutions -- that's a proven formula for strife.
So if trends continue, there's a direct line from the open- borders marchers in the United States to the ethnic separatists in France, Yugoslavia, Iraq and elsewhere.
These painful lessons, drawn from contemporary history, are so obvious that one must be truly isolated and insulated not to see them. And if our greatest leaders in Washington haven't gotten the message yet, well, that's proof of their isolation and insulation.
But eventually they will come around -- or come to grief at the ballot box. After all, the majority rules.