Consider a somewhat different case, a stylized representation of history. Say instead of “low-skill” Mexican workers migrating in large numbers to the United States we were instead talking about Scots-Irish United Statesians migrating from the American South into hospitable regions of northwestern Mexico [sic]. And let’s say these women and men were relatively “high-skill” as compared to the relatively sparse indigenous population. A group of Mexicans, determined Rawlsian nationalists, are concerned about the long-term consequences of this “high-skill” influx. Some hysterically conclude that the Americans have long-term irredentist designs, and that the “Texicans” are bent on secession or filibuster.

Now, my strong suspicion is that Will Wilkinson, as an active and vocal participant in Mexican public life, would forcefully argue that the Texicans have every right to settle in northwestern Mexico, and he’d have a strong case. (Moreover, I sense he’d be firmly opposed to an armed Mexican intervention designed to prevent the “Texicans” from seceding, particularly if a majority in the relevant region endorsed independence.) Of course, this migration is taking place in a context that raises a whole host of non-obvious questions.

Now, there is a powerful rejoinder to this fairly silly example, namely that Mexican immigrants in the United States do not have the relative power or influence they’d need to have as consequential an effect on, say, the territorial integrity of the United States. I mean, as we all know Mexican immigrants come to the United States to work and succeed, and they come because they are mostly supportive of U.S. institutions and even mores, which more or less allow them to work and succeed. ~Reihan Salam

Reihan’s monster post written in response to Will Wilkinson is worth a look, though it is as vast as the open spaces of Texico itself (I’m one to talk about long posts!).  This discussion of Texicans is interesting, since it reminds us of a few things.  First, it reminds us that political culture is an important factor for determining how well immigrants and natives will get along, and may be the source of future conflict or separatism if the rival cultures are sufficiently at odds.  The Texicans believed that they were defending their rights under the Mexican constitution by rebelling: they had a tradition in which there was a well-practiced right to rebel that they had inherited from the early republican American generations, while their counterparts on the other side took a less enthusiastic view of conservative revolution.  The actual causes of the Texan War of Independence also remind us that immigration into marginal lands or border territories of a large state can, over a period of time, lead to increased friction between center and periphery that can lead to outright rebellion in the event that the center seeks to (re)assert control over the borderlands.  This is what happened in the actual rebellions of the 1830s, which occurred not only in Texas but in Rio Arriba in New Mexico and in California.  Where the local rebels in the latter two cases failed, the Texicans succeeded because they were better organised, had a coherent political inheritance that informed the structure of their rebel government and enjoyed a supply of men and materiale from U.S. territories to the east.  Centralist policies were the proximate cause, but fundamentally divergent political cultures were ultimately the reason for the conflict. 

Today few are really contemplating the rise of Aztlan or anything comparable, but then again forty years ago no one supposed that Kosovo would ever be majority Albanian or in any danger of breaking away from Serbia and being recognised as an independent state.  Demographic and ethnic changes actually do matter to political life, since they remake the nature of the polity by transforming who the citizenry is. 

It is perhaps a little easier to acknowledge this and recognise it as a problem when it is happening elsewhere, but the same processes occur all around the world.  We are not immune from history; our so-called “melting pot” is not some cauldron for cooking up magical recipes that free us from the consequences of mass lawlessness. 

In the end, armed struggle may not be necessary at all for the new settlers.  Secession and/or irredenta may be unnecessary as well, since the means for advantageous political transformation are readily within reach for those who become citizens here.  There is no need to take forcibly what you can vote in your own control.   

A future citizenry may have absolutely no interest in any of the freedoms we still attempt, however ineffectively in many cases, to preserve, or a sufficiently large number of citizens will be willing to endorse the worst in demagoguery and authoritarianism if it gets them what they want.  This is always a danger in democracy, but it seems particularly unwise to engineer things so as to maximise the likelihood of this outcome.  This is what open borders advocates seem willing to see created–for the sake of so-called “rights.”