Bret Stephens, former editor of the Jerusalem Times, former columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and current columnist for the New York Times, is a valuable figure because he’s more artless than many other pundits in revealing some of the sources of the sentiments behind the new received opinion on immigration. For example:
Because I’m the child of immigrants and grew up abroad, I have always thought of the United States as a country that belongs first to its newcomers …
I’ve given a certain amount of coverage to Stephens’ opinions on the deeper meaning of immigration policy, such as:
I highlighted Stephens’ last column of Ellis Island schmaltz and inherited resentment over slights to great-grandpa under the heading “What It’s Really All About.” Today, Stephens makes his motivations in calling for mass immigration more explicit: relitigating his relatives’ admission to the U.S. in the Ellis Island era:
Jan. 18, 2018
… Here’s a thought experiment: Would the United States have been better off if it had banned Jewish immigration sometime in the late 19th century, so that the immigrant parents of Rosenberg and Sobell had never set foot here? The question is worth asking, because so many of the same arguments made against African, Latin-American and Muslim immigrants today might have easily been applied to Jews just over a century ago. …
Yet imagine if the United States had followed the advice of the immigration restrictionists in the late 19th century and banned Jewish immigrants, at least from Central Europe and Russia, on what they perceived to be some genetic inferiority. What, in terms of enterprise, genius, imagination, and philanthropy would have been lost to America as a country? And what, in terms of human tragedy, would have ultimately weighed on our conscience?
Today, American Jews are widely considered the model minority, so thoroughly assimilated that organizational Jewish energies are now largely devoted to protecting our religious and cultural distinctiveness. Someone might ask Jeff Sessions and other eternal bigots what makes an El Salvadoran, Iranian or Haitian any different.
Why not ask Bibi Netanyahu that question? Israel could admit a huge number of economic immigrants any time it wanted to, but instead it has built extremely effective border fences and is deporting Africans back to Africa.
On the other hand, here is a Haitian billionaire
My guess is that Stephens feels, deep down, that the American WASPs of 1900 were chumps for admitting his kinsmen, as shown by how his kinsmen in Israel, where he used to live, aren’t making the same mistake of giving citizenship to high-IQ immigrants from, say, India or China who might someday challenge their descendants for power and influence in Israel.
But, overall, it strikes me as nuts to feel that the most important consideration in shaping immigration policy in 2018 was what was good for your ancestors in 1900.
We should be focused instead on making good laws for the future welfare of current American citizens, not in relitigating foggily-remembered resentments of 118 years ago.
But then I’m a wacko extremist, and Bret Stephens is a major voice of Respectable Thinking. So I would say that, wouldn’t I?
Commenter William Middleton notes:
The craziest thing about all of this is that no one seems to realize that the population of Earth is now 7.5 billion people. Forget about ethnicity, I just can’t seem to understand why people can’t grasp that basic fact and that they all can’t come here.
Wikipedia says world population has grown from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7.6 billion in 2017. Plus transportation and communications are vastly easier.
One basic reason for why we often don’t have the same laws in 2018 as in 1900 is: Times changed.
But, when it comes to immigration policy, the purveyors of respectable are living in the past.
UpUpdate: A reader points out that maybe Bret Stephens was thinking of Haitian billionaire Gilbert Bigio. You have to be awfully smart and/or ruthless to make a billion dollars in Haiti.