Wonderland on the Mississippi

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on March 23, 2011

A recent panel event in St. Louis can only be described as bizarre and mean-spirited. Alice would have felt more at home in Wonderland than a regular American would when several ethnic ideologues and post-American elites convened to decry Missouri's and St. Louis's decline in the share of their populations comprised of foreigners.

A couple of immigrants' rights lawyers, a legal services lawyer, a former governor, and an internationalist advocate sought to reframe the immigration issue. They contrasted St. Louis's 1850 population, which they said was half immigrant, with today's less than 7 percent immigrants in the city population. They hardly noticed that this is up from 2.5 percent in 1970. Nor did they assent to any benefit from or desirability of unity, patriotism, or devotion to one's fellow countrymen. It was all "diversity, good; unity, evil" to these people.

No matter the stark differences a century and a half makes. No matter the fact that 1850 St. Louis was the nation's second busiest port, a commercial crossroads and transportation hub. It was primely located as the nexus of both riverboat traffic and railroads. By then, German and Irish immigrants had to move westward because of the more readily available land than in the longer-settled, more populous acres east of the Mississippi, as well as the jobs the local economy was sprouting in St. Louis.

Panelists had one goal in mind: label their fellow Missourians as racists and xenophobes. Name-call first, sort out facts and the truth later (if ever). One report said, "The panelists blamed xenophobic bills in Jefferson City, a state-wide constituency that's too old and white to relate to multiculturalism, and a dearth of jobs in St. Louis."

The panel bashed the vast majority of Missourians for favoring get-tough policies relating to immigration's consequences. "The panelists spent significant time pillorying some of the bills being proposed in Jefferson City, including bills that would require legal immigrants to carry a specially stamped license, eliminate driver's exams in foreign languages, and outlaw Sharia law in the state."

Reasonable people of good will may differ on whether a driver's license should indicate that the holder is not a U.S. citizen but lawfully in the country. From one perspective, the U.S. driver's license has become the effective national ID card, and indicating that the person with that ID card lawfully holds it could benefit the foreign-born licensed driver by reducing suspicions about his legal status. After all, illegal aliens steal, counterfeit, and manufacture fake IDs, including driver's licenses, and commit ID fraud because of the utility of driver's licenses for many other aspects of life in America. A driver's license or birth certificate is the gateway document to a quasi-legitimate identity, complete with "documents".

Similarly with limiting driver's exams to English. People may disagree on it, but there are completely legitimate reasons for favoring such a policy. For one thing, someone really ought to understand English if they climb into a driver's seat. The road signs are in English, any oral instruction by law enforcement or emergency officials would be in English, and there is a public safety interest in all drivers having mastery over the predominant language of this country.

As for the spread of shariah law, this insipient code has given our European allies fits in terms of cultural disruption. Where shariah law has take hold, it serves to radicalize Muslims, undermine assimilation and necessary cultural unity, and put both the rule of law and Western women's rights, safety, and security at serious risk. The imposition of shariah law confronts our national sovereignty as a self-governing people and independent nation.

If their weird, outlandish complaints (with their inferred insults toward the proponents) weren't bad enough, the panelists couldn't even bring themselves to distinguish between legal immigrants and immigration lawbreakers. Griped one panelist, "We're one of the bottom 10 states in the nation when it comes to our number of undocumented workers."

Whereas mass legal immigration harms the economic prospects of the most vulnerable Americans (minorities, citizens with less education, the unemployed and underemployed, the disabled, recently released prison inmates), illegal immigrants compound the problem – economically, fiscally, and in many other ways. Most states would count it a blessing to number among states with the least illegal alien problems. Yet this panel regarded it as detrimental that Missouri has too few illegal immigrants!

We ought to consider sending such radical figures through the looking glass. They deserve life in the parallel universe of Wonderland, because what they're espousing doesn't resemble mainstream American thought at all.