Wow. If the people that are paying thousands of dollars to coyotes, risking their lives crossing the desert on foot or in trucks, working hard at our low-wage jobs, harvesting our Christmas trees, our tomatoes, our vineyards in back-breaking work, standing in our parking lots hoping for one more day of labor to support themselves and their families, starting their own businesses, etc., are Mexico’s REJECTS then the country should have a more kick-ass economy than we do. It’s an offensively outlandish notion. ~Joanna, Fey Accompli

It is a pity that my offhand conclusion of this post with Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s observation about immigrants became the focus of her response, since it would have been much more interesting to have her explain why someone would go from voting for Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in Mexico to voting for Bush once here. That was the core of my earlier post, and the part most relevant to her original statement, but I suppose we can go down this road if we must.

There must be a misunderstanding here somewhere. As Joe Sobran rightly points out in his latest, there are at least two huge structural reasons why Mexicans are coming here in droves: Mexican misgovernment and the high value of the dollar relative to the peso. These are not the only reasons, of course, but they are significant forces that push people to want to leave and pull them towards the U.S. It is an ugly system down there, and I can’t say that it surprises me in the least that anyone would want to get out from under it.

Many immigrants today do take great risks to come here, which is why I qualified my earlier statement very clearly by saying “historically immigrants have not exactly been the highly industrious risk-takers of legend.” (Of course, there is always a certain amount of risk in any new undertaking, but presumably the immigrant assumes the risks of remaining are greater than those of leaving, or do we suspend rational choice theory when immigrants are involved?)

The quote was from my paraphrase of an idea from K-L, himself an immigrant from Austria and a far more knowledgeable man than I will ever be, where he was trying to explode a certain mythos of immigrants as the cream of a society, who had been forced for one reason or another to leave. There is probably some connection between this mythos of our immigrant ancestors as a society’s best forced to flee because of repressive political systems and the embarrassing habit of every American tourist in Europe seeking his coat of arms, as if the aristoi of Europe were ever in such dire straits that they needed to get on a rickety, disease-ridden boat and go to points unknown.

Typically, it is exclusion from the opportunities available in a society because of religion, status, ethnicity and so on that forces people to seek a different country. To note that someone is from among the oppressed or marginalised groups of a given country is not exactly a slight against the person, but it is a statement of his condition and his motivation for leaving. It does seem reasonable to point out that many Mexican immigrants are coming here because they simply cannot make it in Mexico–I would have expected someone to berate me for stating the obvious. Mexico’s economic problems, as I would expect a libertarian to point out at the drop of a hat, are not for any lack of industrious people, but are the product of a stifling, highly corrupt racial caste system and a legal system (also highly corrupt) that has no fundamental respect for property rights.

These Mexicans are coming out of necessity, not because they have a bold pioneering vision of a new world (indeed, I would think everyone already knows that most immigrants move out of necessity, not out of idealism). If I stated that unclearly, perhaps this will serve as a clarification. I brought up K-L’s remark in the context of a facile “Mexican immigrants are natural Republicans” argument, both because it happened to come to mind and because this “natural Republican” argument is a variation on a theme of idealising immigrants out of all proportion. The paraphrase of K-L’s remark seems to make sense. But if he and I must be considered offensive, it is surely better to be outlandishly offensive.