[H/t to D.K. aka The Kvetcher]
The Kvetcher has been exploring some interesting and controversial territory regarding immigration. Reading his discussions with the people at the Nativist, paleocon VDARE website is like stepping into some strange yet familiar nexus where the tropes of radical left and extreme right meet.
Here is DK’s original post (Jewish Unease Towards Mass Immigration from Islamic Countries Spreads Left):
For a long-time in the mainstream Jewish community, it seemed only Stephen Steinlight was brave enough to publicly declare it wasn’t in the Jewish community’s interest to support mass immigration from Islamic countries. (In fact, Steinlight went further, questioning the wisdom of accepting mass immigration from Mexico, because he is a fearless and principled man, who treasures his country and his community more than being popular).
Well…it’s over seven years later, and finally the hawkish Left is coming round.
Marty Peretz writes on TNR,
As it happens, jihadism has less deadly manifestations than murder. As the Ku Klux Klan had less deadly manifestations than lynching. This morning I watched a frightening episode in the public life of America. It was a demonstration by, say, 200 Muslim immigrants in Fort Lauderdale against the Israeli air strikes over Gaza. Now, the first amendment protects such demos, and I would not for a moment want to curb them. But I ask each of you to pay attention to the details of what was being shouted. Especially by the young women screaming, “Jews to the ovens.” No jihad in America, huh? Do we want such immigrants in our country? Well, John, do we?
Most Jews on the social Left will continue to denounce our concerns as “fascist” and “racist” and will continue to give space-cadet reasons why we shouldn’t be concerned AT ALL about little inconveniences like terrorism, harassment, and a loss of power from say, an additional ten million religious Muslims immigrating to the U.S.
D.K. posted a follow-up titled “Jews and the Larger Mass Immigration Issues” where he notes:
I would ask the question like this: Is this a good time for mass immigration?
The answer is an unequivocal “no.” We are in a period of massive unemployment. Seeking a greater labor supply at this time is absolutely absurd, and cruel to our working-class countrymen. We already suffer from an acute and increasing labor surplus. And it is probably only going to get worse, perhaps much worse.
There are plenty of other reasons to object to mass immigration. The list is so long…but employment issues alone in today’s devolving economy suffice to warrant something approaching a moratorium on mass immigration, or at least, it presents an opportune time for reevaluation of current policies.
And that is legal immigration. That defense offered for amnesty or amnesty-like policies for illegal immigrants is a mind-blowing chutzpah. Maddeningly, there are Jews and Jewish groups who actually claim on our communal behalf that illegal immigration somehow parallels are own legal immigrant past.
So I posted some comments and questions at The Kvetcher, and, lo and behold, DK devoted a blog post to me. Here are my comments, condensed in some places and somewhat elaborated in others:
The labor economist Isaac Hourwich (Immigration and Labor, 1912) argued close to a century ago that American assumptions regarding immigration and the labor market are not correct i.e. that too many people were chasing too few jobs and this was driving wages down. The solution for critics of immigration was to limit or ban it altogether. However, rather than overcrowding the labor market and driving down wages, Hourwich contends the expansion of the economy far outpaced the pace of immigration. He supports his claims with economic data complied by the federal and various state governments.
The bottom line is immigration flows in open, free, capitalist economies respond to labor demand. As labor demand increases, immigration will increase. As labor demand decreases, immigration will decrease. Increases and decreases in labor demand result from the boom/bust cycles of the broader economy. Stated very simply:
↑Economy →↑Labor Demand →↑Immigration
Or, as as Hourwich notes:
The supply of immigrant labor is determined by free competition, like any other commodity. It may sometimes exceed the demand and at other times fall short if it; in the long run, however, supply adjusts itself to demand.
Regarding “own legal immigrant past,” the notion of “legal” and “illegal” immigrant is a fairly recent invention and our borders were much more porous in the past than they are today. It was actually much easier (politically and economically) to immigrate to the U.S. in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries than the twenty-first. Travel by steamship back then was more dangerous than airplane today, but it was much less expensive.
Another critique is the language used by contemporary Nativist outfits like VDARE is almost identical to that used by Nativists in the eighteenth century, nineteenth century and twentieth century. The claims made back then were as false (Russians, Italians, Poles, etc. do not want to learn English, they are clannish and stick to their “own kind,” they do not want to assimilate, etc.) as they are today.
Given my familiarity with the radical (baroque, faux, rococco, leftover) left, I was also puzzled by one poster (“Jenny”) who claimed:
[T]here has been an alliance formed between the corporate elites and the far left.
I suspect Jenny has not been to any demonstrations over the past say, fifteen or twenty years or read much, if any, far left literature. The far left–anarchists, communists, etc.–are definitely not in alliance with corporate elites. They are against NAFTA just like the paleocons at VDARE. They even use similar (anti-capitalist) rhetoric. Extremists on the left and right both rail against what they call globalism (hard right) or globalization (hard left).
I read an article today that stated that even among Mexicans, three out of five aren’t religious any longer. There is a strong movement of radical Marxists in the pro-illegal alien community, and they are indoctrinating them. That’s the reason why there is such a huge antisemitic tendency in the illegal alien community, and no amount of ADL huckstering on their behalf is going to change that.
If you follow the link above Jenny’s arguments and the rhetoric she uses are almost identical to those used against Jews, Italians, Catholics, Russians and others who were part of “new immigration” wave in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These arguments were rehashed from the critiques made of those who arrived as part of the “old immigrantation” wave (Dutch, Germans and Irish) in the eighteenth century.
I recommended DK and Jenny (and readers, if interested) have a read of Isaac Hourwich’s “Immigration and Labor” (link below). It is eye-opening, if depressing, to see how little the arguments have changed.
The idea that immigrants of the past did not flock to communities dominated by their countrymen and countrywomen, that they did not create media in their own languages (newspapers, books, etc.), is simply not supported by the evidence. Take a look at the images of early American cities with storefront signs in Yiddish, Polish, Italian, Russian, etc. (not English) take a look at the names of the newspapers that were popular in immigrant communities, take a look at the languages they were published in.
This process of assimilation has been going on for a long, long, time. Critics of immigration said Jews would not assimilate. They said we were not interested in becoming American, we were only interested in making a “quick profit” and that increasing numbers of us were not even religious, instead informed and guided by foreign ideologies like Marxism, anarchism and communism. Sound familiar?
While not in favor of open borders, I am generally in the pro-immigration camp. I am also in favor of free trade as opposed to protectionism. Nevertheless, D.K.’s overarching concern with radicalism is something that concerns me as well. While worries of Europe turning into Eurabia are often overstated, there has been an alarming increase in political violence and anti-Semitism on the continent.
On a more subjective note, I have long felt that Jews, as the people who coined the term Diaspora and spent so much of our collective existence as outsiders in others’ lands, should be sensitive about the situation of immigrants. Remember, we were strangers in the land of Egypt (Leviticus 19:34):
The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
One last thing, I know they would probably prefer not to know, but DK’s positions are not very far from Sultan Knish’s…
AFL-CIO page on Immigrant Workers
Center for Migration Studies NY
Change to Win Coalition on Immigrant Workers’ Rights
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
Immigration and Labor by Isaac Hourwich (1912) via Google Books.
Jewish Labor Committee
New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)