Response to Unz
Cause can’t you see
You’re torturing me
—“Torture” by Kris Jensen, 1962
While reading “His-Panic” by Ron Unz in the March issue of The American Conservative, Kris Jensen’s moderately successful 1962 recording of “Torture” kept running through my brain. Please, Ron, you’re torturing me with the most convoluted arguments imaginable; simply admit that you love the cheap labor that illegal aliens provide to employers—but costs taxpayers billions of dollars. Let me also guess that you love the H-1B visa program. This piece by Unz is nothing new. I’ve seen various versions of his theme—that despite all appearances to the contrary illegal aliens are actually a benefit to us—for the last 35 years in California. Forty or fifty years ago, for example, the San Fernando Valley was a paradise for the middle-class white family. Houses were relatively inexpensive, schools were good, and crime was so low that cops stationed at one or the other of the valley divisions called it retirement on the job. Today, most whites have fled the valley floor and live on the foothill fringes. The schools are abysmal, trash and graffiti mark most neighborhoods, and Mexican and Salvadorian gangs roam the streets. The blessings of an illegal-alien invasion!
It would take several thousand words or more to address all of Unz’s arguments adequately, which is not possible in this forum. I’ll touch on a few of his arguments and leave other writers to address the rest. Unz claims that a “perception has taken root in the minds of the American public and many elected leaders that the greatest threat posed by mass immigration is crime.” Notice that Unz uses the term “mass immigration” and ignores any difference between legal and illegal immigration. More importantly, though, while crime is a significant concern among anti-illegal-alien activists, the crushing burden on our social services, especially education and medical care, and the general deterioration of neighborhoods and even entire towns, is of greater concern. With or without any additional crime, the California I grew up in has been radically altered by a flood of illegal immigrants.
Focusing only on crime, though, still leaves Unz with a problem. Hispanic crime rates are far higher than those for whites, and their incarceration rates 150-170 percent higher than for whites since 2000, according to the data that Unz himself uses. Now the real torture begins. Unz tells us to disregard federal incarceration rates because some Hispanics in federal prisons are there only for immigration-related offensives. Evidently, for Unz, immigration-related offensives, which include a wide variety of crimes, are not real crimes. He wants us to believe that there are large numbers—enough to distort the data—“of illegal nannies convicted of illegal nannying.”
By excluding federal incarcerations and using only data from the states, Unz says the Hispanic rate is now only 80 percent above the white rate. Unz further argues that since young males are the most crime-prone segment of the population, adjustment of the data for the disproportionate number of young Hispanic males brings the incarceration rate for Hispanics down to 13-31 percent more than the white rate. Now I feel much better. If there were more young white males, Hispanics would be committing—at least convicted and incarcerated for—only 13-31 percent more crime proportionally. This may be a reasonable extrapolation from the data for use in a theoretical model, but it is nothing more than that. The reality—on the ground, in the streets—is a Hispanic incarceration rate, and presumably crime rate, that is, for whatever reasons, 80 percent higher than that for whites.
Equally torturous is Unz’s comparison of cities, which is meaningless without identifying who is committing the crime in those cities. He uses Indianapolis as one of “the five whitest” cities in America, with a population of more than a half million, to contrast with a Hispanic city of comparable size. Yet, Indianapolis is 26 percent black, and blacks commit more than 75 percent of the murders in the city. Some white city!
Unz concludes his article by declaring, “Conservatives have traditionally prided themselves on being realists, dealing with the world as it is rather than attempting to force it to conform to a pre-existing ideological framework. But . . . some have also accepted the myth that Hispanic immigrants and their children have high crime rates.” It seems to me that Unz has spent an entire article attempting to twist, pound, manipulate, and torture data to convince us that what we see daily is an illusion. In honor of realism I’d like to note that in California, home to Ron Unz and to me, Hispanics are incarcerated at a rate two and a half times greater than that for whites. That’s not myth but simple statistics from the bureau of prisons.