Victor Davis Hanson

Mexico is also heavily invested in the present system of unmonitored immigration that has ensured it billions of dollars annually in remittances. Millions of impoverished Mexican citizens heading northward serve as a safety valve for political disenchantment over Mexico City's reactionary policies. The Mexican expatriate population in America also seems far more supportive of Mexico when it resides far from it.

So Mexico would object vehemently if U.S. immigration enforcement were to mirror Mexico's own tough immigration laws, which demand strict border enforcement and prohibit unlawful residence or employment within Mexico.

Already we can see immigration compromises evaporating. While many conservatives are now willing to allow working foreign nationals to remain in the country while seeking legal citizenship, many liberals are against finishing the promised border fence. They do not wish to deport those who have committed a felony or a serious offense like driving under the influence. Indeed, some liberal politicians are already horse-trading to allow two or more such crimes before deportation.

They also want to grant amnesties to those who are not working and on public assistance -- despite the common assurance that all foreign nationals supposedly came to the U.S. only to work.

So far, La Raza activists and Democratic operatives do not seem eager to divorce immigration policy from ethnic considerations and preferences. They do not support the idea that all potential legal immigrants be judged equally on criteria such as job skills or education that ensure those living abroad a fair shot at immigrating and more likely a smoother transition to profitable U.S. citizenship.

Instead, "comprehensive immigration reform" is shaping up as little more than another divisive campaign opportunity in 2014 to call opponents all sorts of names rather than to seek real compromise.

Too many special interests have profited from the present mess, which is illiberal and reactionary to the core -- involving a perfect storm of inexpensive labor, ethnic-identity chauvinism, political cynicism, selective enforcement of the law, and de facto discrimination against immigrants who play by the rules.

The obstacles to reform are not bogeymen who want to deport everyone, but the disingenuous who prefer to deport no one. The culprits are not mustachioed villains who want to close the border, but the more sophisticated who want it to stay wide open. And the real reactionaries are not those seeking to make ethnicity incidental to legal immigration, but those who want to ensure that it remains absolutely essential.


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.