The New Old Debate Over Illegal Immigration
The debate over illegal immigration is mostly fossilized. We know the predictable contours. Despite different realities on the ground, they have not changed much from the 1960s. The narrative for half-a-century has gone something like this: a callous America welcomed in cheap laborers. It treated them not so well and then panicked when their numbers grew and workers did not go home after harvest—changing the very demography of several states. Undeniable racism and discrimination fueled the tensions. That was ironic inasmuch as the American Southwest was once taken by the Yanquis from Mexico.
Readers could add sidebars about the weird open-borders alliance: the corporate Right wanted access to plentiful cheap labor; the therapeutic Left saw constituent advantage in millions of illegal aliens without English, legality, and education—but with apparent need of elite self-appointed representatives in academia, journalism, and politics. If supposedly right-wing American employers had been often predatory, so in response grew a new left-wing grievance industry that enhanced the status of some second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans, who, in salad-bowl rather than melting-pot fashion, now saw their ethnicity as essential not incidental to new more partisan personas.
But time moves on, even if interested groups do not. And now the debate has vastly metamorphosized in often mysterious ways.