The best speech I ever heard on immigration was delivered by the late Terry Anderson at the Reform Party Convention in Long Beach in 2000. Anderson, a black native of Los Angeles, described how his livelihood as an auto mechanic and small-business owner, as well as the livings of blacks in the building trades and manufacturing shops were being swept away by the torrent of illegal immigration. Contractors who wouldn't employ illegal immigrants lost ground to contractors who did, to the point where the majority of those working in certain trades in Los Angeles weren't supposed to be working in America at all. He then described how his neighborhood was destroyed by illegal immigration, how people came to feel like strangers in neighborhoods they had lived in their whole lives, and how kids who grew up in those neighborhoods couldn't get jobs working there—even flipping burgers at McDonald's—unless they spoke Spanish, to the point where most of the people living in those neighborhoods ended up being those who weren't supposed to be living in America at all.
The advantage Terry Anderson and his neighbors enjoyed over those competing for their jobs—American citizenship—should have counted for everything. In the end, it counted for nothing, because Republicans desirous of cheap labor and Democrats desirous of new voters and multiculturalists desirous of more "diversity" put no value on American citizenship, preferring instead a de facto open border that only harmed ordinary Americans like Terry Anderson. But, unfortunately, few of those with power in today's America care much about ordinary Americans. Indeed, they often view them with contempt. An example of this contempt was neocon Max Boot's recent bon mot, retweeted by the Washington Post's house conservative, neocon Jennifer Rubin: "If only we could keep the hard-working Latin American newcomers and deport the contemptible Republican cowards—that would truly enhance America's greatness." (So much for gratitude to the Republicans who supported and even fought in the pointless, endless Mideast wars that Boot and Rubin are forever hectoring the rest of us to wage.)
I thought often of Terry Anderson and the people he described in his speech these past few weeks, when all the great and good lined up to denounce the policy of separating children from their parents as the latter are subject to prosecution for seeking to enter America illegally, with the aim of taking American jobs the law says they cannot hold or of receiving American welfare benefits supported by taxes they've never paid. We must never separate children from parents, we were told by people who often regard abortion as a Constitutional right, cherish no-fault divorce as a guarantor of personal freedom, and praise out-of-wedlock births as the mark of a society that has come to cherish sexual freedom, even though abortion and divorce always separate children from parents and out-of-wedlock births generally happen when the father is absent.
Of course, as many have noted, incarceration routinely separates parents from children, as does pre-trial detention for those who can't make bail or who are deemed flight risks—as those seeking to enter America illegally certainly are. Indeed, America has numerous child-snatching bureaucracies ready to separate children from parents whenever a social worker is offended, to the point where the Utah legislature recently felt the need to pass a law specifying that practices that were routine when I was a kid—such as allowing children to walk alone to neighborhood schools—could not be the basis for taking custody away from parents. One needn't wonder too long about how those bureaucrats would react to any American parent who took his children on a perilous, thousand mile quest in the company of smugglers as those trying to enter America illegally often had.
Also overlooked was the reason many of the children were showing up at the border: they are often seen as a ticket to get into the United States. This was brought home by an AP story that was the lead article in Saturday's Cleveland Plain Dealer. According to that article, "The federal public defender's office for the region that covers El Paso to San Antonio said in an email that prosecutors will no longer charge parents with illegally entering the United States if they have children with them." There is, in other words, a tremendous incentive for those seeking to illegally enter the United States to have children with them, which is also why at least some of those showing up at the border come with children who are not theirs but who were supplied by the smugglers who get paid thousands of dollars to help people enter America who have no legal right to be here. Look for even more children to now show up on our border, as word filters down to Central America that all you need to do to get into America is to make it to the Rio Grande with a child in tow.
The entire controversy over the border is the logical culmination of a decades long, bipartisan refusal to defend the border and thereby devalue American citizenship. We should have built the Wall years ago.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.