To The New York Review of Books, 12/17/81:
“John M. Crewdson’s review of Miller’s On the Border and Hansens’s The Border Economy, though lengthy, provides little essential information on the illegal immigration problem, and misinterprets what information it does provide. Those of us who actually live in the U.S.-Mexican border region owe it to other readers of the NYR to correct Mr. Crewdson’s misunderstandings and fill in his lacunae.
“It is absurd, for example, for Mr. Crewdson to repeat Tom Miller’s facetious ‘calculation’ that it would take two and a half million men, standing shoulder to shoulder, to close the Mexican border to illegal aliens. In fact most of the border runs through flat, wide open, sparsely vegetated desert country. Except for the far-scattered towns and cities, most of the border could be easily patrolled and easily ‘sealed’; a force of twenty thousand, or ten men per mile, properly armed and equipped, would have no difficulty – short of a military attack – in keeping out unwelcome intruders. In and near the few towns and cities a physical barrier is obviously needed, of the type routinely used everywhere else to restrict and control access. People do not cut holes through fences when the fences are watched and guarded.
“Furthermore, there is widespread popular support for closing our southern border to the Latino invasion. A recent NPR [National Public Radio] broadcast (the All Things Considered program) cited various national polls indicating that 80 to 90 percent of Americans now object strongly to these mass immigrations from Mexico and other Hispanic countries. A poll by Arizona’s Senator DeConcini revealed that 79 percent of his constituents (and this in a state with a large and rapidly growing Hispanic population) want the illegal aliens deported and the immigration laws strictly enforced.
“No doubt there is an element of ethnic chauvinism in this hostility to Mexicans et al. – and that element will grow violent and much larger if the influx continues – but the sentiment is based on the clear awareness that these aliens do indeed take jobs away from American citizens and that the estimated ten billion dollars remitted annually from Mexican aliens to their relatives still in Mexico is money that should be going into the pockets of American workers.
“To say, as Mr. Crewdson does, that the presence of these foreign millions ‘creates’ employment for American workers is [in line with] the magical economics of Reagan & Co., that wondrous world wherein food is produced in supermarkets and rabbits are born in hats. If, as Mr. Crewdson seems to believe, the proliferation of human bodies somehow ‘creates’ new wealth for all, then Mexico would be a rich nation without need to push its surplus population northward, and India and China would be the richest nations on earth.
“The actual reason why our immigration laws are not enforced is simple, obvious and well known, (though seldom mentioned in polite print): there are small but powerful groups on both sides of the border who benefit from this expanding northerly migration.
“Cui bono? Is now as always the appropriate question, and the answer is, first, American employers in all fields, from industrialized agriculture to factory manufacturing, who thrive on this unlimited supply of cheap, docile, non-union labor. One simple way to halt the alien incursion would be to penalize employers, with jail sentences if necessary, who hire illegal aliens. Simple but politically unlikely to be enforced; no doubt it will be easier to militarize the international border.
“The second group of beneficiaries are the merchants on the American side of the border towns, who do a brisk trade in selling American goods to Mexicans. A third group are the Mexican-American politicians in the Southwestern states, eager to expand their power base. The fourth group are the wealthy and dominant classes in Mexico itself, who require the safety valve of emigration in order to postpone for as long as possible the next, and inevitable, revolution in their desperately overpopulated nation.
“American ‘interests’ (the term ‘ruling class’ is now taboo, right?), anxious to secure access to Mexico’s oil, must therefore appease Mexican ‘interests’ by overlooking illegal immigration while at the same time offering at least a token response to the popular demand for a halt to it; thus we have the cosmetic but ineffectual proposals of the Carter and Reagan administrations.
“These are harsh, even cruel propositions, but in fact the American boat is full, if not already overloaded; we cannot allow further mass immigration. The American public is fully aware of this truth even if our ‘leaders’ prefer to attempt to ignore it. We know what they will not acknowledge, that the tendency of large-scale immigration is to degrade and cheapen American life. Anyone who has made a recent visit to Mexico, to East L.A., or even to Miami, Florida, knows what I mean.
“When the call for compassion is raised (a word now hopelessly corrupted by its use in the mouths of such as Nixon, Carter, and Reagan), we must answer that the most compassionate thing we can do for nations such as Mexico is to encourage them, somehow, to commence the policies of radical internal reform and vigorous population control that are clearly necessary.”
(Quoted in Postcards From Ed - Dispatches and Salvos From an American Iconoclast, pps. 109-11)