Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

American Ideal of Hard Work, Self-Reliance Eludes Many Immigrants

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

American Ideal of Hard Work, Self-Reliance Eludes Many Immigrants

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton, who can be relied upon to be all over the map, has endorsed changes in immigration law in response to recommendations from the Commission on Immigration Reform. It's difficult to guess why the president endorsed the minor adjustments in numbers and eligibility that the commission proposed - but c the debate over immigration will not end here.

Like all of the important intellectual debates currently engaging serious people, the debate over immigration is being waged not by conservatives against liberals but by conservatives against other conservatives.

That is not to say that there isn't a liberal position on immigration. There is. It amounts to this: If people do not have a constitutional right to move to America, they are entitled to all of the benefits of our welfare state the minute they arrive. Further, immigration is good for America because it promotes diversity.

Among conservatives, the debate looks a little different. Most conservatives, like House Majority Leader Dick Armey, are energetically pro-immigration, believing that immigration adds a constant fuel of economic vitality, patriotism and energy to the American mix. Immigration enthusiasts point out that immigration is self-selecting - that is, the indolent and stupid don't have what it takes to get here. And they cite the brilliant heritage of this country as a haven for the oppressed.

Carrying the anti-immigration standard is National Review, the conservative flagship magazine, and Forbes editor Peter Brimelow, author of "Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster." Both Brimelow and John O'Sullivan, National Review's editor, are British-born, and though it may seem cheeky for immigrants to criticize immigration policy, Brimelow's response is that immigrants always do the dirty work in America, and today, the dirty work amounts to challenging ill-founded assumptions about immigration.

Few Americans recognize that, even leaving illegal immigration aside, we are now in the midst of the greatest wave of immigration in our history. The last great peak, 1,285,349, came in 1907. …

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