Victor Davis Hanson

Not long ago, the president, in explaining his personal desire for some sort of amnesty, lamented to Hispanic leaders that they needed to "punish our enemies" at the polls. But is illegal immigration always the single most important issue for Hispanics? Some polls show the Latino community divided almost evenly over open borders. That is understandable, given that the presence of 11 million to 15 million illegal aliens masks the national profile of Latino success. In terms of the rates of assimilation, integration, intermarriage and economic ascendency, Latino Americans who legally immigrated to the United States are mirroring past experiences of successful southern European immigrants.

In Southwestern states, American citizens of Hispanic ancestry share in the increased costs associated with spiraling incarceration rates, plummeting test scores and overtaxed social services, which at least in part reflect the difficult efforts to accommodate those who arrived illegally from the poorest regions of Latin America. A cynic might argue that employers and identity-politics elites jointly welcomed in illegal aliens, the former wanting cheaper labor, the latter wanting more constituents. But driving down wages in hard times and increasing government costs is not always beneficial for small businesses and entry-level American workers -- increasing numbers of them Hispanics.

Finally, is it wise to tie our immigration policy so intimately to race and ethnicity, rather than individual merit and circumstances? Presently we equate massive influxes with Latin America and particularly Mexico. But we forget that Asians now comprise the largest group of new immigrants. Almost all come legally, and many arrive with capital, college educations and specialized skills. Following the president's election-year example, are we to expect the Asian community, in the fashion of Latino lobbyists, to demand even more visas for kindred groups? Should we now waive the immigration rules for economic refugees from the collapsing European Union?

The president's decision is politically tainted, constitutionally suspect, cynically timed and poorly thought out. But it did result in one unintended consequence: We are reminded once again that there are millions of foreign nationals dying to reach the United States -- and to stay at any cost after they get here.

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.