Magazine article The American Conservative

Bringing Diversity to the Debate

Magazine article The American Conservative

Bringing Diversity to the Debate

Article excerpt

[Debating Immigration, edited by Carol M. Swain, Cambridge University Press, 316 pages]

Debating Immigration grew out of papers presented at a conference held at Princeton in 2005, plus some additional contributions. The book is thus not animated by a single hypothesis and is therefore perhaps even more difficult to review than is usually the case with collected volumes.

The question becomes, are there enough essays with something useful to say to make it worth reading? The answer is yes.

Given the academy's parochial leftism, such an answer might seem improbable. But the editor, Carol Swain, now at Vanderbilt University, is not your conventional academic. Born in a rural shack without running water, a highschool dropout who married and had children while still in her teens, and a devout Christian, she was never successfully socialized into political correctness. While not quite a conservative, her views are decidedly heterodox, even heretical, in the context of an elite university. She's argued in previous books that black-majority districts are not good for blacks and that affirmative action and mass immigration should be ended in part because they fuel the growth of white nationalism.

The makeup of this volume is more evidence of Swain's heterodoxy. Sure, the open-borders Left is represented, as it should be in a book entitled Debating Immigration, and Swain got some of the top academics of that ilk, including Doug Massey, Linda Bosniak, and Rogers Smith. But if you read the New York Times, you already know what they're going to say.

There are also offerings that don't just regurgitate the elite consensus, and these are not just by immigration restrictionists, who are well represented here, including my own director of research, Steven Camarota. More novel are the essays by those, like Swain, who can't really be counted in the restrictionist camp but whose intellectual honesty forces them to confront reality in a way their colleagues do not.

Swain's own chapter builds on her earlier work on black representation and explores how the Congressional Black Caucus fails to represent the economic interests of black Americans on the immigration issue. As she writes, "In the case of immigration reform, African Americans must look beyond the CBC for effective representation. Ironically, white members of Congress have been more of a voice for working people than the CBC, which sometimes operates out of self-interest and embraces a politics of symbolism." You can say that again.

Along the same lines is an essay by Jonathan Tilove, who has covered race and immigration for more than 15 years. He writes, "indifference to the fate of black America, or in some quarters a passive-aggressive hostility toward African Americans, has become an animating feature of support for a liberal immigration policy." He recounts the angry reaction to his collaborations with demographer William Frey in documenting white flight from immigrants, a reaction very different from the response to his reports about white flight from blacks. His interpretation is priceless:

   My reading of the unspoken, even unconscious thinking at work goes
   like this: Of course there was white flight from blacks. Who
   wouldn't run? But white flight from immigrants? Why would someone
   run away from immigrants? Blacks are scary. Blacks lower property
   values. Immigrants aren't scary. Immigrants rehabilitate property
   values. Immigrants have great restaurants. And so on.

This attitude has been enabled by affirmative action's assumption that "everyone of color is more or less fungible," leading a black activist to tell Tilove, "I was struck by the number of times employers said to me directly, 'We want to phase out our blacks and bring in Asians. It keeps us clear in EEO [equal employment opportunity] and gets us better workers.'"

This example brings to light another aspect of this issue: the speaker, then research director for the Chicago Urban League, supported affirmative action for immigrants anyway. …

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