The defeat of the so-called immigration "reform" bill in the Senate last week was a stunning blow to the powerful coalition backing it, but opponents had better not break out the champagne just yet. The odds are better than even that the coalition will simply regroup, try again, and this time roll over the opposition like a Sherman tank.
The coalition is simply too powerful for anything as unfocused as mere American public opinion to resist for long. For one thing, it includes the entire Democratic Party, minus only a leftist fringe that cannot stand even small and temporary concessions. The Democratic strategists realize that if they can only put the 12 million or more illegal aliens already here on a track to eventual citizenship, two-thirds of them can be depended to vote Democratic when they get there. (That is the record to date of the Hispanics who are already citizens.) That's a net gain of 4 million votes in every national election after roughly 2020, and that figure will only grow as more Hispanics flood in under the other provisions of the "reform."
The other wing of the coalition consists, paradoxically, of people who mostly vote Republican. But they are businessmen who depend on cheap immigrant labor to fatten their profits, and who are willing to do whatever it takes to keep the current influx of Mexican laborers coming. Their spiritual ancestors were the pre-Civil War slaveowners, who really knew about cheap labor. The businessmen in question are hugely influential in the Republican Party, and have persuaded a surprising chunk of it (including the current president) to support the "reform" bill, even though every sensible Republican strategist realizes that in the long run they are risking party suicide.
Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with immigration, or with Hispanic immigration. It is perfectly true that America has always welcomed immigrants, and has prospered hugely from their contributions. But the flood of Hispanic immigration in the past three decades, both legal and illegal, has simply overwhelmed the normal assimilative capacities of American society, and if continued much longer (as you can bet it will be, as long the aforementioned coalition has a breath left in its body) it will transform the United States into a bilingual, bicultural hodgepodge with quite possibly fatal internal divisions. The result would be no different if we were suddenly inundated with 20 or 30 million Poles or Turks.
The supporters of the "reform" bill are fond of pointing to various provisions (e.g., the pitiful fines illegals would have to pay) that are supposedly tough, and of challenging its opponents to come up with something better. But the truth is that their "solution" is so bad that even the status quo is better. Far better to have 12 million illegals doing cheap labor for businessmen willing to defy the law than giving them all citizenship and welcoming the next twelve million. "Border enforcement" has been a standing joke for 20 years.
And bear in mind that when the "reform" bill is finally passed (as it very probably will be), its enforcement will be in the hands of the Democratic party, which seems likely to sweep the 2008 elections to spank George Bush for Iraq. How much of that "fence," do you suppose, will actually be built on the Democrats' watch? How long will it take Nancy Pelosi to reinstate the current preference for admitting the distant relatives of Hispanics already here, as she has already called for doing in the high name of "family values"? How hard will the immigration enforcers be told to look for, and deport, the new workers brought in for two years, if they don't go home for a year (as required by the "reform" bill) after that?
Above all, who -- if anybody -- is looking out for the long-range future of this country? In a column published in April 2006, I warned those who wanted true immigration reform that "We are at least 20 years too late." We have put up a mighty fight this year, but if the current "reform" bill is ultimately passed, that gloomy assessment will be vindicated. We are in the grip of a coalition of businessmen without foresight and politicians without scruples. And anyone who lives through the next fifty years will see the United States transformed from a proud English-speaking nation in the West European tradition into a polyglot multicultural mess.