All right, perhaps Mr. Wilkinson wasn’t saying that Ross dislikes Mexicans.  That is certainly how it came across, but no matter.  Not to worry, then–Mr. Wilkinson is just accusing Ross of holding repugnant and deeply immoral views that endorse the trampling of the human rights of millions.  That’s much better. 

Mr. Wilkinson was saying, and says again, that he thinks Ross wants a “less Mexican” America.  In one obvious sense, I suppose it is true that Ross thinks that preserving a common “core” culture in America (as Huntington might put it) to which immigrants assimilate is preferable to a hodgepodge society in which there are fewer and fewer shared traditions, habits and assumptions and little shared history.  Societies deeply divided along deep cultural and ethnic lines are not all together as successful as those that possess a common national and/or cultural identity; many multiethnic and multicultural societies are catastrophically unsuccessful.  These seem to be matters that can be tested empirically, so why are we disputing Ross’ relative affection for Mexicans or his concern about the Mexicanitas of America?  Why, indeed, bring up this question except as a way of trying (unsuccessfully) to undermine Ross’ position on immigration policy? 

To the extent that assimilation means that Mexican immigrants cease consciously embracing their Mexican national identity and replace it with an American one, then I guess Ross wants a “less Mexican” America, which is to say that he wants immigrants to assimilate.  {Cries of horror erupt from the audience; women faint; children begin to cry.}  The clear implication of this phrase “less Mexican” is nonetheless that Ross wants to get rid of the Mexicans here and that he singles out Mexicans in particular in his alleged populist nationalist enthusiasm.  Perhaps Mr. Wilkinson did not intend to conjure this idea with his phrase, but since the entire discussion of a ”less Mexican” America comes from his interpretation of general remarks made in a book review it is difficult to see how the phrase was not supposed to be accusatory.

Even though he does not find Ross ever saying any of this explicitly about his own views, Mr. Wilkinson thinks he has sussed it out from Ross’ review of Who Are We? by Huntington.  This is curious, since the only sense in which this seems to be true is that Ross regards the lack of present-day assimilation and the abandonment of assimilationism by American elites as very bad things for cultural and national unity.  Manifestly, these are very bad things for cultural and national unity–of course, this matters only to those who think that these are important things to have.  Ross seems to want a “less Mexican” America in the same way that he might want a “less Chinese” or “less Indian” America.  (All of this must remain somewhat speculative, since nowhere has Ross actually said any of this!)  That is, he may think that America actually has a cultural inheritance that has made it what it is and which immigrants have adopted to some degree in the process of becoming American; that process of becoming will necessarily entail setting the old identities in the background.  This may or may not have much connection with his views on immigration policy, since it is possible for someone to be an assimilationist while supporting a fairly liberal immigration policy.  Indeed, assimilationism might encourage a more liberal attitude towards immigration, since this position takes for granted that assimilation is possible.  It may be made more difficult by the new circumstances of mass immigration from Mexico and Latin America, but that does not necessarily mean that an assimilationist believes in drastically curbing the flow of immigrants, except perhaps insofar as he is persuaded that the numbers must be reduced for assimilation to happen properly.  In the end, Mr. Wilkinson has proven that Ross is an assimilationist and that he believes that immigrants should assimilate.  Had he said this about Ross, I suspect no one would have batted an eye, but this talk of a “less Mexican” America gives the charge an entirely different spin.   

Plainly, Ross endorses–as does  Huntington–assimilationism in the conviction that assimilating immigrants to a common culture is what has worked to integrate them, inasmuch as they have been integrated, into American society.  For some strange reason, he thinks integrating immigrants is a good idea.  He also seems to think that it is something that does not just automatically happen, but must be actively encouraged.  I think Ross takes this view because he thinks cultural identity is meaningful and has political consequences, and he probably worries about this because the political consequences of cultural disintegration and ghettoisation are quite bad.  The post in which he is addressing the cultural consequences of capitalism, including free-trading, pro-immigration economic policy, seems to confirm my interpretation of his concerns. 

If I have followed all of this correctly, Ross criticises a more libertarian economic model because it works in part to undermine national identity and Mr. Wilkinson criticises Ross’ “nationalism” because the policies informed by that “nationalism” obstruct the workings of a more libertarian economic model (and, let’s not forget our “moral right to cooperate”!). 

In other words, Mr. Wilkinson’s entire argument with Ross boils down to Ross’ criticism of policies that by Wilkinson’s own admission and according to his own assumptions must be antithetical to national identity, inasmuch as “nationalism” is antithetical to a libertarian, open borders arrangement.  This tells us that Ross is a cultural conservative and Mr. Wilkinson is a libertarian.  This has ultimately illuminated nothing about the merits and flaws of different immigration policies, but simply restated that Ross thinks national identity is important and Wilkinson thinks it is an arbitrary and even immoral form of control.  Put that way, I don’t think Wilkinson’s side of the debate comes off as being very persuasive. 

Quibbling over whether Ross wants a “less Mexican” America is simply a distraction if it isn’t intended as a slap–we may as well say that Mr. Wilkinson wants a “more Mexican” America and assume that this has somehow forever discredited his position and ended the debate.  Happily, we don’t need to do that, since there are so many other ways for his position to be discredited.