Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Who will tell Orrin?

Mark Krikorian debunks a popular social conservative myth, nalemy that increased immigration from Mexico will boost the numbers of family values oriented citizens:
In effect, many on the Right (and elsewhere) see immigrants as vital allies in the culture war, representing a moral booster shot that will help reverse our decadence.

Unfortunately, this is some of the most absurd nonsense in a policy debate bursting with nonsense. A lot of the open-borders malarkey is just mathematically absurd, like the claim that importing high-school dropouts into a modern society can ever be a paying proposition (a claim demolished most recently by Robert Rector, here).

But the immigrant-family-values baloney is actually morally pernicious, because it objectifies the immigrant, turning him into a thing to be used for our convenience rather than a human being like any other. It turns him into a version of Rick Brookhiser’s “Numinous Negro” — the “hallowed Hispanic” or “magical Mexican,” if you’ll pardon the conceit, so brimming with family values that “contact with him elevates us spiritually,” as Rick wrote of the Numinous Negro.

But immigrants are not a people of our imagination, like our grandparents from Sicily or Lithuania frozen in time. They’re real people from real countries that are experiencing all the same stresses of modernity as we are, and reacting in the same ways.

For example: If immigrants arrived here with a magical store of family values, as Fukuyama seems to imagine, don’t you think their rate of unwed motherhood would be notably lower? Well, it isn’t. Heather Mac Donald pioneered the exploration of this topic last year in City Journal in “Hispanic Family Values?” And my Center for Immigration Studies has published a detailed analysis of birth records that backs up and expands on her reporting.
We found that the rate of illegitimacy among immigrants has been climbing even faster than among other groups; in 1980, before the past generation’s surge in immigration, immigrants did have lower illegitimacy, about 13 percent vs. 19 percent for the native-born. But as illegitimacy has risen, the gap has narrowed considerably, so that among both immigrants and natives, about a third of children are now born out of wedlock.

And this is immigrants collectively; Hispanics, who account for most of the births to immigrants, have an even higher illegitimacy rate of 42 percent. And native-born Hispanics have an illegitimacy rate of 50 percent, underlining a point Mac Donald highlights: “The dysfunction is multigenerational.”

And it’s not just a matter of low education. It’s true that illegitimacy becomes less prevalent the more schooling a person has, but even those Hispanic immigrants with at least a bachelor’s degree have an illegitimacy rate of 18 percent, more than quadruple the rate for native-born whites with the same education.

The “immigrant family values” story also presupposes greater piety. But the proportion of Hispanics who told pollsters they have no religion is very similar to the rate for the general public. This is because, as a New York Times headline put it, “For Some Hispanics, Coming to America Also Means Abandoning Religion.”

Dare anyone tell Orrin that Mexican immigration is only adding to the rolls of insufferable ex-Catholics?


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'Family values' is a hard thing to pin down.

Is leaving your wife and children in a slum in Latin America to live as a bachelor in the United States, sending home some money, of higher value than staying home and being a father to your children in difficult circumstances?

I cannot say.

Mormons are vocal about their commitment to 'family values,' with such institutions as family Wednesdays.

I like to think I am not easily shocked, but I was shocked when I learned from my Mormon nephews and neices that during their 2-year missions they are not allowed to communicate with their parents, except for a postcard home twice a year.

Is that a family value or a dominance strategy that benefits unrelated church elders?

Sexual morality is not as high on my list of goods as on Orrin's, but my impression is that the chastity levels of men living away from their wives is always low, no matter what the religion of the home society.

May 02, 2007 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good facts and points made in post.
the logic speaks for itself.

May 02, 2007 6:15 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Thanks Alexandra, and welcome to the DD!

May 02, 2007 6:41 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

A lot of the open-borders malarkey is just mathematically absurd, like the claim that importing high-school dropouts into a modern society can ever be a paying proposition...

Here Mark Krikorian falls into the "next quarter" trap, thinking short-term, and hang the future.

The cost of integrating ill-educated immigrants into a modern society is just the price that must be paid to gain the descendants of those immigrants.

While that might not be an attractive proposition under all circumstances, the looming global demographic crunch makes it a very high-value deal for America, over the next few decades.

Perhaps Krikorian's plan is for the Boomers to work until they're 80.

I learned from my Mormon nephews and neices that during their 2-year missions they are not allowed to communicate with their parents, except for a postcard home twice a year.

That's not exactly true.

Rather, the Mission President makes missionaries write home twice a year, so that their families know that they're alright.
But letters from home are strongly encouraged.

What's discouraged are frequent phone calls home. While on a mission, the focus is supposed to be on the work, and selling religion door-to-door is hard enough without endlessly mooning over what was left at home.

So it's a coping strategy, and for the cynical, a dominance strategy, to bind the missionaries more strongly to those whom with they labor.

But as a practical matter, young missionaries away from home and on their own for the first time are quite similar to college freshmen or young soldiers in their behaviors, just a bit more circumscribed.

Also, the LDS Church isn't monolithic. There might be some places where the popular expectation is that missionaries will be cut off, and some Mission Presidents who push such a policy.
But it's not mainstream.

May 02, 2007 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oro is quite right that immigration must be seen as a long term investment. If our ancestors had been as hung up (or as knowledgable) as we about how immigrants live and behave in the first generation, we would have slammed the doors shut generations ago. Also, immigration is a two way street. If the host country has lost the ability to enforce or even encourage basic levels of assimilation because it doubts its own values or panics about ACLU lawsuits and international law, that is a problem, but not one to blame the immigrants for in a fit of postmodern nativism. It is a particularly acute problem when so many immigrants are coming from one country. High levels of immigration from far and wide can benefit from the fact that the immigrant groups generally have little use for one another.

You guys never tire of bashing Orrin, but among his memorable wisdoms is: "Don't want to have children? Don't want immigrants? Want to keep your generous social benefits? Something has to give."


Your yearning for the pain of the young homesick Mormon missionary is bringing out your inner soccer mom. You can argue about excess, but there are all kinds of vocations where this kind of thing is enforced or encouraged. I wouldn't know, but do grunts in Marine boot camp call home every night? My goodness, even summer camps discourage calls between visiting days.

Family values shouldn't imply an endless postponement of finding your own way, and I'll bet most of those missionaries come to appreciate the protection the rule affords them ("Why do you never call your mother?"). A break has to come sometime and we are paying for the widespread perpetual adolescence our seeing this as cruel has left us with. I'm struck how in modern custody cases the whole emphasis is on the kids spending the maximum number of minutes with the parent. Nobody seems to care much about who pays for the ski lessons or undertakes the transportation. Of course, nobody ever sees the kids in these cases and it has much more to do with parental self-image than any benefit to the children, who after a certain age have very different views on how edifying and fun making muffins repeatedly with dad can be. We are commanded to honour our parents, not emote and share the pain with them into middle age.

I think the fate of the West was sealed when the first modern parent declared he or she wanted to be their child's best friend.

May 03, 2007 2:52 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

The problem isn't immigration per se, but rather its very unevenly distributed costs.

The entire US benefits from, say, lower prices at the supermarket.

Unfortunately, the costs of immigration are highly localized to border states. In Los Angeles, Hispanics are responsible for the majority of gang activity. Beyond that, the magnitude is also unevenly distributed, resulting in areas so heavily Hispanic that they no longer have any need to integrate with the parent culture.

Paris, anyone?

If Orrin would violate his time zone rule, he would get a chance to see these things first hand.

But it is so much easier to dismiss unwelcome evidence and delete contradictory posts.

May 03, 2007 4:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the costs of immigration are highly localized to border states. In Los Angeles, Hispanics are responsible for the majority of gang activity.

Have you read a history of 19th century NYC recently? Those tired, poor, huddled masses were never famous for having mastered the rule of law.

May 03, 2007 7:02 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Peter, you're right about the apron strings, but Marine boot camp lasts only about 12 weeks. Mormon missions last 2 years.

At some point, quantitative differences become qualitative.

On immigration, I have no particular feelings about how many immigrants are enough. I think we get to set the number, at any arbitrary point we like, and if people in, eg, Mexico don't like it, tough tookies.

The cost to us of importing hordes of people with contempt for our laws seems pretty high.

However much immigration from Mexico or the Philippines has benefitted the United States economically, it has contributed to making those two countries the failed states they are.

May 03, 2007 9:20 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

If the US really wanted to benefit from immigration, it would be dramatically expanding H-1B visa availability.

Fruit-pickers don't add much to the bottom line.

May 03, 2007 10:10 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

See, however, my review of 'Flight Capital' at

One policy of ours that rankles with me is luring immigrants how 'have capital to invest.'

First, we don't need capital. We have way too much.

Second, given conditions in countries that supply immigrants, having capital to invest is, often, a sign of bad moral character.

Third, what Oro said about accepting the proles to get the benefit of their clever children and grandchildren. However, talent is distributed, and however you identify it, net assets are not the right method.

May 03, 2007 3:16 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

By the way, Oro, the President who supervised my nieces and nephews may have been Mitt Romney. My brother's stake was under him at one time, though I don't know when.

My sister-in-law was head of the women's auxiliary, though my brother says they didn't have much contact with Bishop Romney.

If Romney gets along in the nomination, will being a bishop of an organization with a women's auxiliary be the Mormon equivalent of belonging to an all-white golf club?

May 03, 2007 3:20 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...


Exactly so. U.S. immigration policy is broken.

The official policy is designed to placate one group of voters, and the unofficial de facto policy is geared towards pleasing another constituency.

The result is that America sharply limits official immigration from among the most logical groups worldwide, and allows essentially unlimited immigration from nations that happen to be geographically close.

But that'll change fairly soon, when the Boomers retire to find a shortage of people to serve them drinks by the pool, and later on, to feed them and wipe up their drool.



All U.S. stakes, and most worldwide, have a Relief Society, run by women. Since the LDS Church institutionalizes the concept that men are officers and women are NCOs, it's probable that there will be a segment of the voting population that will strongly object.

However, they weren't going to vote for Romney anyhow.

Will it be a big issue, or a small one ?
My guess is small, since most Americans look to men for leadership anyhow, and Romney has proved to be a deft politician in the past. Plus, the Augusta Golf Club contremps blew over without much lasting fall-out, which suggests that the greater American public doesn't much care.

Now, if it comes down to Mitt vs. Hillary, and she plays it right and he stumbles, then it could be big.

May 06, 2007 1:41 AM  

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