June 14, 2013


Right on Immigration : President Reagan signed the 1986 amnesty, mocked 'the illegal alien fuss' and frowned on barricading the southern border. (JASON L. RILEY, 6/13/13, WSJ)

To find its pro-immigration soul, Mr. Vargas Llosa argues, the party of the right need look no further than Ronald Reagan. The Gipper today is as popular as ever in the GOP, except for when the topic turns to immigration. Reagan signed the 1986 amnesty, mocked "the illegal alien fuss," championed guest-worker programs and frowned on barricading the southern border. Mr. Vargas Llosa, a veteran journalist and senior fellow at the free-market Independent Institute, explains why the same president who won the Cold War was right about immigration, too.

Since the beginnings of the republic, those who came first have felt unease about those who followed. The English, Scottish, Dutch and Germans wanted to keep out the Irish and later those who came from Southern and Eastern Europe. Some of the descendants of these groups now want to slam the Golden Door on Latinos. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin both expressed nativist sentiments. John Adams even opposed high-skill immigrants, arguing that French economist Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours should be denied entry because America "had too many French philosophers already." Du Pont ultimately immigrated to Delaware in 1799, and his son, chemist E.I. du Pont, would go on to start one of the most successful business dynasties in the world.

In our time, America's nativist strain found expression in Samuel Huntington's 2004 best seller, "Who Are We?" The late Harvard political scientist updated the "past immigrants were good, current immigrants are bad" argument for the 21st century, writing that immigrants from Europe "modified and enriched America" but that the post-1965 immigration wave, most of which is from Latin America, "poses a fundamental question: will the United States remain a country with a single national language and a core Anglo-Protestant culture?"

Mr. Vargas Llosa is having none of this, and "Global Crossings" presents considerable evidence to counter the claims that America isn't absorbing new immigrants as it absorbed old ones. Latino immigrants are assimilating just as past groups did, he argues, even though their progress is sometimes difficult to detect because Latino immigration is continuing. 

Posted by at June 14, 2013 5:22 AM

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