JW Marriot Hotel, Washington D.C.
Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies
Heather Mac Donald, Manhattan Institute
William McGowan, Author
MARK KRIKORIAN: Good afternoon, folks. I don’t want to interrupt your eating. Please feel free to continue eating, but stop talking. How about that? My name is Mark Krikorian. I am executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. Thanks for coming. Don’t be shy about going up and getting more food. I have paid for it all already, so please eat as much of it as you possibly can.
We do this event every year. We give out the Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration. We have been doing it now for more than 10 years. And it is kind of interesting how things have changed. We actually had to skip one year – I think in 2001, we had to skip one year because we couldn’t find anybody worth giving an award to for their coverage of immigration. Luckily it has become easier to find some good writing on immigration, but still – it is still more – the pickings are slimmer than they should be, but not quite as slim as they used to be.
I’ll talk about our reward recipient in due course, but first, I want to introduce our keynote speaker, who is a journalist who has some experience with this issue, with the coverage of immigration and how it is treated in mainstream media. Our keynote speaker is going to be William McGowan. Bill McGowan is author of a book some of you may have heard of. This is his marked-up copy, “Coloring the News: How Political Correctness Has Corrupted American Journalism.” And he is working on a book now called “Gray Lady Down,” about the New York Times and its various vicissitudes, including immigration among other things.
He has been a contributor to the Wall Street Journal. He is a former Manhattan Institute senior fellow, is currently a media fellow at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center. He used to be down here working at the Washington Monthly many years ago, probably longer ago than he would care to recall. And so Bill is going to give us some thoughts of his experience over the years, and some of his research, even, about the coverage of immigration in mainstream media. And then, we will proceed with the award ceremony itself. Bill?
WILLIAM MCGOWAN: Well, thank you very much, Mark, for that lovely introduction. And thank you, everybody, for being here. It is nice to be down in D.C. again. It always impresses me on how dynamic and clean it is compared to New York. And it is an exceptional privilege to introduce my friend, Heather Mac Donald, who I have known, I think since 1992 or around? Anyway, a long time. But I came across a quote recently that just kind of bit into my mind a little bit. And it is from a 19th century British philosopher, Herbert Spencer. And Spencer said that, “there is a principle, which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. That principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
Now, I think this applies to a lot of things in life. I’m not so sure invoking a 19th century British philosopher in association with immigration reporting is probably the first thing you would expect, but especially given the urgency of today’s debate, I think it does apply. I would, however, substitute the word, “contempt,” and I would say rather than contempt prior to investigation, in terms of reporting about immigration in the mainstream media – instead of contempt, there is hypersensitivity, there is solicitude, there is romanticism, incuriosity, and historical shallowness. And in some, this does add up to contempt of a certain sort, a contempt for the people’s right to know how this complex and emotionally charged issue of immigration is affecting our society, our economy, our politics, our culture, and most important, our future. Instead of straight facts and searching reporting, most of the mainstream media gives a shibboleth and clichés, romanticism, and soaring rhetoric. Rather than reporting on the situation as it really is, most of the mainstream media reports on it as it would like it to be with myth overtaking reality, an editorial aloofness, a naïveté, a self-righteousness, and a kind of wooly-mindedness leaking in to reporting, which should be detached, skeptical, and rigorous.
My remarks today have three objectives just very quickly. One is I am going to describe the problems, deficiency, failures, and ideological biases common to most of the mainstream journalism that I encounter both print and broadcast. I will be focusing most on the New York Times just because that is what I am writing about most currently. And the Times really is, despite its problems, I think, still the agenda-setter. I will describe the consequences of these reporting failures. And then, the best part, I will describe why Heather Mac Donald’s work is so important. I will describe that work and describe why it is so important and relevant to all of the above, and how much of a corrective it represents.
One of the first things, I think, when you look at the coverage of immigration reporting, you realize that there is a long history of the public being lied to. Part of my book – the New York Times – I have developed material about the coverage of the 1965 Immigration Reform Act, the Hart-Cellers Act. Some of you in the room were probably not born at that time, others probably remember it. But it was amazing when I went back and looked at the New York Times’ reporting and editorial commentary on that. Just it couldn’t have been more wrong and more righteously wrong. Not only did you have – the two main contentions were that there would not be a great swelling of the immigrant inflow. And number two, it wouldn’t change the cultural composition of the country, both of which were massively wrong. And in addition to maintaining these kind of – accepting a lot of these fictions, most of which were propagated by Senator Ted Kennedy, who was the Senate whip on the floor at that time on this issue.
There was a lot of attitude. I mean, Kennedy charged bigotry and bad faith to anybody who objected. And the Times editorial board basically echoed that and then added some. So that is one thing I think that in terms of the reporting now, we do have a pretty much of a legacy to overcome that most of the public just doesn’t believe what it is being told in terms of immigration reform. And that counts for 1986, the amnesty laws as well. But if you look at the stories that I think are most egregiously misreported or infected with bias, I think we have to look at the story of border enforcement. We have to look at the story of employer sanctions and the total lack of enforcement mostly through the Bush administration. We have to look at a lot of the conflicts of interest in the reporters. Many of the reporters assigned to immigration, writing about immigration are either immigrants themselves or from ethnic groups that are part of this great immigration debate. I personally think that represents a conflict of interest. We have to look at the cost of social services and the magnet effect, the whole – I mean, the New York Times has only recently done a story, where the mentioned the term, “anchor babies.”
Alien criminality is another one that gets approached with kid gloves. The impact of sanctuary laws recently within the last year has been done, but done kind of tepidly. And the editorial page completely dismisses any concern whatsoever as just silliness. We don’t see the Times really examining the failures of the Mexican government and why 10 percent of its workforce is here, and what kind of both official corruption contributes to that and the customs and attitudes of basically a class-bound society. I mean, I would love to see a magazine story, 8,000-word magazine story where somebody goes down and hangs out and parties with some of the Mexican elite, and gets their – (chuckles) – ideas on why everybody is up here north of the border. We don’t get stories about dual loyalty or no loyalty. There was a great front-page story about corruption in the border patrol, day before yesterday in the Times. I think of the 11 names that were mentioned, 10 were Latino, yet that was the elephant in the living room. Nothing was mentioned as far as the cultural factors behind that.
Turning to Islam, Muslim immigrants, we get very airbrushed coverage, very, very tepid, extremely nervous about upsetting what has, you know, become the Islamic image-management industry. And I think we don’t get stories that really deal with the whole problem of cultural geography, the values and attitudes and customs that contribute to a kind of – you know, we are in a period very similar to what we had at the turn of the century. Yet those that were lobbying for Americanization and assimilation then don’t have the counterparts today in the influential parts of the press to really counter some of these values and customs and attitudes, which are not only out of step with most Americans, but ironically are anti-progressive, the very progressive people who champion the idea of diversity and tolerance of a lot of these attitudes and customs don’t really realize that they are kind of hoisting themselves by their own petard.
I would like to turn now to some of the consequences of these reporting failures. I think the biggest one is that we have never really had a vigorous debate about this subject. I think in my memory, the last year-and-a-half, two years since the ’96 bill first got its – some traction on the Hill, that represented the first time that there was actually a real big public debate. A lot of that was fed by the Internet. A lot of it was fed by talk radio. And that is a good thing.
Of course, a lot of the poo-bahs just kind of liked to dismiss that as the uneducated masses or yabos (ph) who have bad racist attitudes or whatever. But I do think it is the vox populi. But back in 1993, Nathan Glazer, writing in the New Republic, said, “It seems we have insensibly reverted to mass immigration policies without ever having made a decision to do so.” And I think some of the responsibility for that has to be borne by major news organizations, which have not sponsored a debate or recognized the legitimacy of the issues that are part of that debate.
Around that time, Alan Simpson said, and this is quoted in Heather’s book, that “Americans have not been able to exercise the fundamental right of a people, and that is to decide who will join them and help form the future country in which they and their posterity will live.” I think a lot of people feel that this right hasn’t been asserted. It hasn’t been absorbed into the framing assumptions of stories and coverage, and simply that there is an American community. And yet, most of the reporting if you look at it, and particularly in the New York Times, will always look at the issue of immigration in terms of how it affects the immigrants. And of course, that is a legitimate angle. But there is a larger community out there. There should be a recognition of both historical and a moral responsibility to affirm that. (Applause.)
I think another big consequence, besides just simply that our borders are in complete disarray and that it doesn’t look like this presidential election is going to do anything – at least, the candidates don’t look like they are going to do anything to really rectify the situation – I think it is important to realize that another consequence of this kind of deficient reporting is that it really does betray the progressive tradition in terms of immigration. If you look at people like Herbert Croly, who wrote “The Promise of American Life,” in which he accented the bargain – basically, immigrants would be absorbed into American society, but would have to behave in a certain way, would assimilate. I don’t see that very much being cited in a lot of reporting.
And the important thing about the progressive tradition at the turn of the century was that it was a triangulation strategy. It basically beat back nativism by saying – nativists said immigrants could not assimilate. On the far other side, there were the transnational Americans, who would be the multiculturalists of the day – Randolph Bourne, who said immigrants shouldn’t have to assimilate. And then you had in the center, you had the progressive reformers, who basically said they should because it is good for them, it leads to economic prosperity, and it is also going to be the thing that is going to beat back true nativism and restrictionism.
So turning to why I think Heather Mac Donald’s work is so important and relevant to the remarks I just made, I would say that she is one of the bravest thinkers and writers on this subject. She dares to ask the heretical questions. She dares to touch the third rails. And she does so in a way – her reporting method is extremely methodological, imaginative, and she talks to people on the ground, the frontline people, many of whom are not quote, quote, “conservatives,” per se. I mean, she talks to social workers, teachers, police, members of the clergy. And I find in her writing and her reporting just a real groundedness, but it is also informed by history and an incredible deftness with statistics. I find her candor and her courage very much of a tonic, both in her City Journal pieces and in her books. I think her work affirms the complexity of the issue and the social, legal, and historical context of immigration, especially illegal immigration. But it also shows compassion. I don’t think – you know, a lot of people who write on this subject can pale into a mean spiritedness. And I think Heather avoids that.
I think she does affirm the primacy of American community in this issue. And I think her work is most importantly infused with a sense that culture matters. And this is why the values, attitudes, customs, patterns of social organization, sexual behavior are extremely important to this issue. And that is why I would say she is working in the vein of turn-of-the-century progressivism – which coming from the Manhattan Institute, which is known as a rightwing think tank, as we hear all the time in the New York Times, I think is something that really should be mentioned and celebrated. I would give you – if I had one article to read or to offer or recommend in her book and in City Journal, there is one called “Hispanic Family Values,” and I think it is her best piece and her boldest piece, and it is an incredible masterstroke of reporting and commentary. And I think it is something that Jacob Reese (ph), something that Helen Keller, something that other reporters at that time, at the turn of the century, would have read with great celebration, happiness that their legacy was continued. So with that, I will turn the mike over to Heather.
MR. KRIKORIAN: I won’t give the mike to Heather just yet. Thank you, Bill. Thank you very much. I wanted to in giving the award to Heather – well, first of all, I wanted to point out unfortunately “Hispanic Family Values” is not in the package we prepared. So you will have to go online to get that article. I wanted to start with a quote, a blurb for one of Heather’s earlier books. David Brooks, now a New York Times columnist said, “If there were any justice in the world, Heather Mac Donald would be knee-deep in Pulitzer Prizes and National Magazine Awards for her pioneering work.” Needless to say, she is not knee-deep in Pulitzer Prizes. She will have to settle for our award. (Laughter.) But she is also the recipient several years ago of the Bradley Foundation Awards, which is kind of the corrective to the MacArthur Genius Grants. So I think by inference, that would make Heather –
HEATHER MAC DONALD: (Off mike.)
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, I don’t know, either a genius of a different kind or something. I’m not sure. I just wanted to say a couple of words, too. I’m not sure if she would agree with this, but I think one of the reasons Heather’s writing and reporting on immigration has been so effective is her academic training. Most people don’t know this, but as an undergraduate and as a graduate student – and she was actually going to start – she started a Ph.D. program in English. And she was a deconstructionist scholar. And I think – and deconstructionism, essentially that words don’t mean what you think they mean is, I think, ideal preparation for the immigration issue because in immigration, temporary means permanent. In immigration, caps, numerical caps are pierceable. In immigration, people are ordered deported and never leave. In a sense, it really is an ideal – studying deconstructionism is kind of an ideal preparation for examining immigration policy.
Heather has written on a wide variety of the many aspects of the immigration issue. Bill mentioned several of them. Family breakdown among immigrants is the article he was talking about. Immigrant gangs, the role of the local police – she has actually driven around in police cars and talked to policemen, something most people who write about this issue just haven’t done. The Mexican foreign ministry’s involvement in influencing American immigration policy, the article she wrote on that for City Journal has been very effective. And the book Bill was referring to is the most recent book, “The Immigration Solution,” which she co-authored with two other Manhattan Institute scholars has had significant influence.
So Heather, if you would come up. I would like to present you the 2008 Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration. All right, wait a minute. This is the tchotchke that goes with it.
HEATHER MAC DONALD: Oh, perfect.
MR. KRIKORIAN: So now I will hand the mike over to Heather. Heather?
MS. MAC DONALD: Well, I don’t know. This has been a brutal afternoon. I am not used to this much praise. And I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed. And to hear words like this from Bill McGowan is breathtaking. And I feel like sort of a world-upside-down experience here, where the natural order of things has been reversed, and I hope only temporarily so because Bill should be here, not me. He has been an absolute trailblazer in virtually every area of journalism, but certainly in immigration. He was at this subject long before I was, and I tried to follow what he had seen as far as in the distortion of the debates. His 2001 book “Coloring the News,” was an extraordinary dissection of the poison of the diversity obsession, the fake diversity obsession in the newsroom. He was so unassailable in his facts that you had publications across – as leftwing as the Village Voice saying that this is an essential book to read. The Washington Post was also – had to be dragged kicking and screaming into acknowledging that McGowan was absolutely correct.
So this is somebody who knows how to get the media to stand up and pay attention. And there is enormous anticipation out there for his New York Times’ exposé. When is it coming out, Bill? (Chuckles.)
MR. KRIKORIAN: Now you are putting him on the spot.
MR. MCGOWAN: It is being edited.
MS. MAC DONALD: All right, good, because anticipation undoubtedly ranges from happy eagerness in some quarters to sheer terror in the other. (Laughter.) And we will hope that people are extremely uncomfortable when it does come out.
I would also like to thank the Manhattan Institute. Some people have noticed over the years that the Manhattan Institute houses a range of opinions on immigration. And I think this is a real testament to their willingness to let their fellows go where the facts, as they see them take them, and to acknowledge that there can be a range of opinions on policy as long as people try and get the facts straight.
And of course, finally, the Center for Immigration Studies, I couldn’t do my writing without their work. Steve Camarota, in particular. They are, I think, my impression is the second most cited source for immigration data in the media after the Pew Center. I think reporters, when they are dragged kicking and screaming into covering immigration, cannot help but use CIS’s data because they are looking at things that nobody else is. However, Steve and other in the brain trust at CIS, their commitment to facts is not something that is necessarily widespread in the political debates about this, even I’m sad to say, among my erstwhile ideological allies in some areas.
Bill talked about the sort of left wing’s blindness to some immigration issues with the New York Times. I am going to take up the other side of that story a little bit and speak about what has been, for me, an odd experience within the conservative movement of the sort of rifts that this large-scale immigration policy has opened up. By and large, the indifference to the facts on the ground that Bill spoke about is, of course, a boon to journalists, like myself, that are willing to go out there. I mean, it just means that there are stories sloshing around just waiting to be picked up. And the one – I am absolutely delighted that Bill mentioned this – the one that I think does illuminate best how odd and distorted the politics are and the taboos in this subject is the issue of the growing underclass culture in second- and third-generation Hispanics.
Now, this is a fact, but it violates what I call the myth of the redemptive Hispanic among open-borders conservatives. And this is the idea that Hispanic family values will save America from itself, will serve as a check on our own cultural decline. Now, there is no question that the majority of Hispanic immigrants are hardworking, making wonderful contributions to this country, are pursuing the American dream with everything they have got. You cannot turn your back on that fact. But it is also a fact that a very significant portion of their children and grandchildren are getting sucked up into underclass culture. And I think that it is reckless to ignore this. And it doesn’t take any effort to find out how widespread this problem is.
You only need to go to schools in heavily Hispanic districts; they can be urban schools, they can be rural schools. This is what you’ll hear – talk to the students – you will hear, teen pregnancy is a norm. There is no more stigma attached. For boys, this is a way to be considered a player, is to have kids out of wedlock. You talk to their teachers, they will tell you about their dismay at the fact that younger and younger Hispanic kids are getting sucked into gangs. In Chicago, they’re seeing this at age nine and 10.
And you talk to social service workers and they’ll say what we’re seeing now is single mothers whose children are themselves single mothers. You’re getting the multigenerational illegitimacy now. You hear this just by showing up, but it is borne out by the facts. The statistics that are collected by the Census Bureau, by the Centers for Disease Control say that the Hispanic illegitimacy rate is growing fastest in the country; it’s now 50 percent, whites 24 percent, Asians 16 percent, blacks have a much higher rate at 68 percent, but they are not a population that is growing in this country and the Hispanic rise in illegitimacy is such that they are on track to catch up with the black-Hispanic rate.
The teen pregnancy rate, however, for Mexican Americans, is higher than any other group in the country and the gang membership shoots up eightfold for Mexican Americans between first and second generation.
Now, I understand why the liberal media by and large doesn’t report on these facts because, generally, they don’t like talking about culture, as Bill mentions, and they’ve only recently started to acknowledge that out-of-wedlock childbearing is the most disastrous thing that can happen to a culture.
But what really puzzles me is why, for some conservatives, to bring up this fact is to guarantee that you will be called a racist. In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a report warning about the crisis in the black family and he was universally reviled and was silenced. And conservatives for the next two, three, four decades have decried this effort to silence Moynihan. They said he was a prophet. Well in ’65, the crisis in the black family that Moynihan was worried about; the illegitimacy rate was 23.6 percent. The Hispanic illegitimacy rate is now twice that and yet, to mention this, is again, to violate some norm that conservatives have created around Hispanics. It’s okay for conservatives to worry about underclass behavior in the black population and to say we need to figure out how to recreate the family, how to prevent kids from getting into gangs, but if you speak about this among Hispanics, somehow this makes you a pariah.
Now, I had a little disagreement with Linda Chavez on this fact on NRO last year and now the baton has been passed to Jason Riley who’s on the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal who has a book that just came out. And he certainly has written about CIS without much affection and about me, and the rhetoric exemplifies what happens in this debate.
I have merely pointed out the facts of the Hispanic family breakdown but this gets translated in Riley’s presentation as saying that I have argued that, quote, “Hispanics are culturally averse to marriage and that they are congenital violent criminals.” Nowhere have I made anything approaching that claim. But, somehow, if you point out that the crime rate goes up eightfold between the first and second generation, that means you’re saying they’re congenitally violent.
This is the sort of name-calling that conservatives love to decry on the part of liberals when conservatives violate various politically correct taboos. But they dish it out somehow on immigration, these sorts of grotesque mischaracterizations.
Now, these facts that I’ve reported are so obvious that the Economist Magazine, in March of this year, wrote a story called “The Bad News: Latino Family is Coming to Resemble the Black Family.” Now, now nobody would accuse the Economist of being restrictionist in its policies, but it is able to distinguish between its policy recommendations and the facts and had the honesty to report the facts that are out there.
I’ve never gotten an answer from conservatives as to why this taboo exists. Other facts that I’ll just briefly mention that I find puzzling, again, on this sort of internecine family struggle among conservatives – last time I checked, conservatives understood that the rule of law was the absolute basis of civilization, without which nothing else matters. And the distinction between legal and illegal behavior is something that we shouldn’t erase casually. But, again, among open-borders conservatives, this is something that you are not allowed to notice.
Also, conservatives tend to believe that we should trust the public over elites, that people that are closest to a problem, that are living with it on a daily basis, have a greater grasp of it than elites in Washington or judges in black robes. But, of course, when communities taking up in response to the failure of the federal government’s responsibility to enforce immigration laws are trying to work out local legislation that would try and give some teeth to immigration, of course, my colleagues on the right accuse them of being nativists and applaud judges who overrule local initiatives. So these are the things that confuse me.
But it is ultimately the facts about family structure, educational involvement – the Hispanic dropout rate is 50 percent – criminal involvement that is going to ultimately determine how the large scale, unprecedented Hispanic immigration that we are seeing for the last three decades affects our country and how the immigrants themselves fare. I think if we turn our backs on those facts, we may end up being quite surprised at the state of our country in a few decades. And I, with Bill, intend to keep researching those facts with the help of the CIS Brain Trust. And I hope, I think, people like Bill and myself and the many other public voices out there have had an effect on the immigration debate. We’ve seen it at a level of enforcement that we haven’t for decades and with any luck we will continue to have – translate words into action.
Thank you so much; this is a great honor.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Heather. Heather has agreed, if anybody has any questions, to take some questions if you have any. Any – somebody must have a question.
MS. MAC DONALD: Steve? Oh. The lady back there? Thank you.
Q: (Off mike.)
MS. MAC DONALD: Well, Asians have a very different profile. They are basically whooping our ass on the education front – (chuckles) – and I think setting a standard that I think all Americans should aspire to. Their criminal rates are very low. I just got a message from a judge saying, you know, he basically has very few Chinese criminals in his courtroom. So I think what matters is the educational attainment that people bring and the cultural values that they bring when they enter the country. Again, Hispanics are, without question – most of them extraordinarily hard working, but it is not a cultural, traditionally, that has placed much emphasis on education as opposed to the Asian culture.
And, whereas in the turn of the 20th century, during the Ellis Island period that gets so often romanticized, we were still largely a rural and industrial economy that had not as great a income disparity between the highly educated and the less educated as we do today. So there was a greater possibility for people with very low-level education to move up the ladder because there was a lot of industrial jobs. We don’t see that as much today. So, to the extent that you believe that income disparity is a problem and something that can be a destructive force, I think our current de facto immigration policy of allowing very large numbers of poor, uneducated immigrants to cross the border is not necessarily the optimal immigration policy.
I and my colleagues in the immigration solution have advocated using more of a skills-based criterion for deciding who gets in. Once, obviously, that’s who comes in legally and stopping the illegal flow is absolutely paramount. And that can only be done through interior enforcement. One of the truths that I learned early on when I started writing about this from Mark, he has, I think, probably seized this idea and has made it – it’s as clear as the light of day. And we see this happening today that a little bit of enforcement has a very large effect with the attrition strategy. Yes, sir?
Q: Two quick points on – (off mike) – I think one of the issues or problems I see with the Latino community is because the international language is Spanish, I see Latinos falling back on Spanish more than other immigrants fall back on their language, even though – (inaudible) – they did not fall back on it, I don’t think, in the same way – (inaudible).
Second, in terms of dual-nationality in immigration, what has concerned me is a lot of people carry two passports. We do not recognize dual nationality. Technically, those people are liable to have their citizenship stripped by carrying dual passports So as far as I know, they don’t enforce it in that area. But my question has to do with the baby – (off mike). I’ve always been concerned about people circumventing immigration laws by coming here illegally on visas, tourist visas, temporary-work visas – (inaudible) – having a citizen child and then using that to circumvent immigration laws. So that is – (off mike) – question to you.
MS. MAC DONALD: This often gets raised in immigration debates, the anchor-baby problem that Bill referred to. And I’m as stumped by it and I don’t have an answer. I have to say, I’m as guilty of it. I haven’t written about this, but there’s no question that the fact that we have this automatic birthright citizenship which was not necessarily – let me amend that – it was clearly not what was intended by the 14th Amendment, to confer citizenship on the children of illegal aliens. The 14th Amendment was about trying to make sure that America’s history of discrimination towards African Americans ended and that we conferred the full privileges of citizenship on blacks.
But, the fact that now this has been extended to give automatic citizenship to the children means that the favorite liberal political ploy of playing the child card can be played against people who believe in enforcing immigration laws again and again because it is the people who stand for the law who are accused of breaking up families if there’s deportation of somebody here illegally. But it’s not the person enforcing the law who has chosen to break up the family. Nothing is preventing that mother from taking her child with her – she’s the one who has decided to break up her family. But as long as this continues, you know, this is going to be a very emotional issue. But, I don’t know why – my impression is people that are in Washington that are observing the political process with much more intensity than I am, that someone it’s a non-starter. I don’t know, but this is the impression that I get, that it’s just not going to happen.
I would say it is essential that it happen, but from what I understand, it’s not. As far as the Spanish media – and I’ll let Bill address this as well – you’re absolutely right. Again, when people say, oh everything worked out well around the turn of the century, there were concerns about immigrant assimilation, so this is no different. The world has radically changed.
For one thing, we have Univision; we have Telemundo. We have the fact that the most heavily watched TV programs in Los Angeles, the top 10, are all Spanish-speaking. So we have now an extremely agile corporate media. In one sense, they are to be lauded, and who can blame them; they’re simply going where the market is, and they are pumping out media products in Spanish all of the time. This means that it is going to be much harder to achieve the assimilation that Americans in the past excelled at. And I’ll let Bill respond as well.
MR. MCGOWAN: To the gentleman’s question about dual citizenship, for my book on the New York Times, I wanted to do the stories that they should have – should be doing about this because we have more dual citizens now than ever in our history. CIS did a backgrounder, I think, on this a couple of years ago, a professor from New York. And I was interested in one of the great engines of assimilation which is service in the armed forces. And I was trying to get statistics, particularly in Middle Eastern countries. There’s great participation in our armed forces and then those countries that have dual citizenship, how much participation there was, and I looked – I tried to get statistics from Egypt, Jordan, Israel.
And I could not get those statistics from the State Department because they don’t keep them. And I found that interesting, that an American citizen could be serving in an Army in another country and there would be no record of that. I did get some records through some big documents through a Defense Department official on certain countries. And it’s interesting. It’s a story that should be done. It has historical resonance.
Now, to the question of 14th Amendment and birthright citizenship, I lived in Germany for a while and, when you compare birthright citizenship and the problems associated with that to a condition where you have Turkish guest workers and guest – (off mike) – who now have been there three generations and they’re not citizens yet, I think it’s food for thought. I mean, yes, there are abuses associated with birthright citizenship, but do we want a situation where we have three generations of literally aliens in the midst without any kind of recourse to an official status.
I mean, I haven’t been able to reconcile it like you.
MS. MAC DONALD: Right. But I would say that one distinction would be, are you here legally or illegally?
MR. MCGOWAN: Right. And your commitment to staying.
MS. MAC DONALD: Yeah, well, people are committed to stay.
MR. MCGOWAN: Stay until they can get the papers to go back and then come back again, if they want.
MS. MAC DONALD: Right.
Gentleman in the back?
Q: Thank you. I wanted to follow up with a question on both citizenship and the law. I also – (inaudible) – have not only not been concerned with some of the laws, but with some of the devaluations of citizenship and especially in citizenship in the enforcement of laws. I don’t know if American citizens, especially black Americans, who have laws that are not strongly applied, but there is breaking entry laws, breaking labor laws. Some of us have had things – law applied to us that aren’t even laws, profile and other things.
But this it seems to me should have been a real concern for the survey (?), but I – one closing question that we don’t often pose, and that is, because there have been these hinderances or, as you pointed out, reluctance to address some of these issues, this is really a deep-down value in American, that pervades many American citizenship has really diverged that legal and illegal differentiation because really, deep down, many Americans really value some immigrants fetched from other places. What do we do about the Americans, you know? It used to be the three I’s: Italy, Israel, and Ireland.
But, you know, the root of it, the “model minorities,” you know, as you point out, they are many Asian minorities – we don’t really have this really fundamental concern in our American values that, you know, really recognizes that we have a black underclass that has really major problems that we really don’t like, that it shows the Republicans because they don’t blame the victim or blame them as somehow, if you’ve been in America, you haven’t achieved, regardless of any kind of practical things; it’s your fault.
So, at the root of this is the fact that we don’t value citizenship that hurts all of us. And we really don’t want to go down. Why? It will decrease supply of – (off mike).
MS. MAC DONALD: Mm-hmm. Well, there’s much in what you say that I agree with. I – you know, talking about structural issues for underclass behavior is something that we may part ways on because I do think that individual responsibility is the most important foundation for our society and that people have, at every point, a choice whether to commit crime or not. The profiling issue, that’s a whole different issue.
But I think, generally, you’re absolutely right, that we should put the interests of our citizens first and the fact that nobody has disputed the effect of massive illegal Hispanic immigration, low-skilled immigration on the wage level of American low-skilled workers I think is something that should give us cause. And the usual response on the economic question is, well, overall, there’s a sort of – immigration is a wash; it helps the very rich because they have very, very cheap menial labor. So it’s a benefit to them, but it is clearly economically disadvantageous to people at the bottom of the economic ladder and I think that is something that definitely should be looked at more and, yet, the Democratic Party is not willing to take this on.
This is an issue that CIS and Mark have been extremely forceful on. And, again, as far as the rule of law, I just think, you know, the distinction between legal and illegal, we should not be apologetic about making that distinction. But it’s – people that do believe that this is a significant distinction are put on the defensive all of the time. And we all know the tricks, you know, the media just refers to immigrants and you’re not allowed to make that distinction. So I would agree with you there that conservatives and liberals should start from the rule of law and see where that takes us.
I’m afraid I’ve been told to close out the lunch so thank you again very much for coming.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Heather.
MR. KRIKORIAN: I’m pretty sure Heather and Bill are available to be accosted afterwards, but since it’s lunch, I want to make sure people can get back to the office, although it’s Friday so maybe you’re not going to bother. (Laughter.) But just for purposes of formality, I want to wrap up the lunch and if you have books for Heather to autograph – I forgot to bring mine – or Bill, feel free to do so. I appreciate everybody coming. The – we’re going to have the transcript and the video of this on our new website hopefully next week sometime. So thanks for coming and we’ll see you at future events.