Jonah Goldberg

But the most important variable left out is that some unknowable percentage of the new arrivals are, in fact, party-crashers. And that's why the analogy really doesn't hold. If you had a cocktail party and every few minutes you saw people - poor, hungry, desperate people - sneaking into your party, you'd be concerned. As they bellied up to the buffet and availed themselves of your hospitality, you might ask security to find out what's going on.

No doubt most crashers would be well-intentioned and as polite as they knew how to be. Some might start offering to sell services, shine shoes, whatever, to make a few bucks. Many have harrowing stories about how they got to the party. But they simply weren't invited. Oh, and some very small but significant number of the crashers will be criminals or terrorists.

Now, I've been to my share of schnitzy Washington parties, and let me tell you, the response wouldn't be: "C'mon in, the more the merrier!"

For the record, I'm not anti-immigration. Indeed, by the standards of many of my colleagues at National Review, I'm something of a squish on the subject. But I have nothing but sympathy with the mainstream, well-intentioned objections to the immigration status quo.

The United States isn't some inside-the-Beltway moveable feast where revelers make a living by talking to each other as the prols cater to them. It's a specific place, rooted in specific soil and a specific - albeit open and boisterous - culture. But if we must compare America to a party, there's one immutable fact politicians and business interests ignore: It's our party. We - i.e., the American people - get to decide who is invited and who gets to stay. And the American people - or at least lots of them - no longer trust Washington to check for invitations at the door.

Personally, I favor some kind of tough "amnesty" where many of the existing illegal immigrants in the United States can achieve citizenship if they're willing to meet the obligations of it. I favor generous but smart legal-immigration policies, many of them found in the current Senate plan. But until Washington can be trusted to enforce a by-invitation-only policy, lots of us won't care whom they want to invite in the first place.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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