Victor Davis Hanson

With the war in Iraq politically on the backburner, illegal immigration is heating up as a campaign issue. The public wants action, and the candidates are scrambling to react.

Sen. Hillary Clinton’s sure nomination was first questioned when she flubbed an easy debate question about driver’s licenses for illegal aliens.

Sen. John McCain’s recovery took off when he backed away from his support of immigration reform that did not first ensure the closure of the border.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani is no longer for “sanctuary cities” that shield illegal aliens from arrest. Like former Gov. Mike Huckabee, he’s now a born-again opponent of illegal immigration.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney assures us that some illegal aliens can be deported within 90 days after he’s elected.

Sen. Barack Obama may talk of “change,” but his relative fuzziness about illegal immigration can’t last forever, and at some point he will have to offer more specific proposals.

Some time ago, supporters of open borders lost the debate. The majority of Americans want them closed — now! They ignore the tired slurs like “anti-immigrant,” “racist,” “protectionist” and “nativist.” And noisy May Day parades with Mexican flags and heated rhetoric from the National Council of La Raza (“The Race”) only turn more people off.

It doesn’t do any good, either, for a Mexico City functionary to cry about how mean we are to want a secure border with Mexico. Most Americans also tuned that out long ago.

They know instead that Mexico cares mostly about sending north those it won’t or can’t feed and house — so it can skim off from them billions in remittances once they arrive in the United States.

Mexico City, of course, could reform the country’s laws and economy whenever it wants. But it changes only enough to draw in tourists or Americans looking to buy vacation homes, not to better the lives of millions of its mestizo poor in the heartland.

The spin masters may think illegal immigration is an issue that pits conservative Republicans against liberal Democrats. But it doesn’t always.

Nowadays, worry about illegal immigration is just as likely to mean that African-Americans are terrified of racist alien gangs in Los Angeles. Asian-Americans are frustrated that their relatives with college degrees wait years to emigrate legally, while thousands without high-school diplomas to the south simply break the law to enter the United States.

And many Mexican-Americans are probably tired of being expected to defend the indefensible of foreign nationals breaking immigration laws simply because they may share an ethnic heritage with illegal aliens.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.


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