Immigration as a reverse election: our leaders get a new people

Summary:  This campaign season has seen many demands for political change.  Our elites are responding, but perhaps not in the ways most people want.  Large-scale immigration over decades will greatly change America.  Given our high degree of inequality of wealth and income plus our low degree of social mobility, an underclass might result.  Given that many of them will be from Latin American societies, a client-patron system is a likely result in our southern and south-western States (at the very least).


To better understand the impact on America, I strongly recommend reading these two papers by Fredo Arias-King.  Now a businessman in Mexico City, he served as an aide in relations with the US to the Vicente Fox presidential campaign and the National Action Party of Mexico. A Harvard MBA and MA in Russian Studies, he is also the founding editor of the U.S.-Russian academic quarterly Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization.

  1. Politics by Other Means – The ‘Why’ of Immigration to the United States“, Fredo Arias-King, Center for Immigration Studies, December 2003
  2. Immigration and Usurpation — Elites, Power, and the People’s Will“, Fredo Arias-King, Center for Immigration Studies, July 2006.

Chapter II in this series contained excerpts from “Politics by Other Means.”  This chapter looks at “Immigration and Usurpation.”  It is just an introduction to this important work, which I strongly recommend reading in full. Excerpt:

Americans are aware that their political class may not always act in their best interest. This belief is enshrined in the American character, its laws, and the very philosophy underpinning the U.S. Constitution. The Founding Fathers crafted things so that the “knaves” will be forced to abide by the will of the people, but they warned that their “natural progress” is to find ways to remain in power and increase that power at the people’s expense.

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others got it right—the knaves have, by and large, behaved, and their actions largely reflect in some way the will of the American people. Americans do not need to engage their politicians in an uncivil way — as happens most elsewhere — since the ballot box, the media, and other constitutional tools largely suffice. Indeed, the American political system works remarkably well. However, there are a handful of topics where the elites do not act in the interests of those they govern. Of these, the most notorious is the contentious issue of immigration. Why are politicians so keen on mass immigration while the common American is not? This has perplexed analysts.

When I aided the foreign relations of presidential candidate and president-elect Vicente Fox back in 1999 and 2000, I met with almost 80 U.S. congressmen and senators during numerous trips and at several events. With just over 50 of them, my colleagues and I spoke about immigration in some depth, as it is one of the important bilateral topics. My findings were reported in a Backgrounder published by the Center for Immigration Studies called “Politics by Other Means.” It is a dense and academic paper, but the basic finding was: Indeed, American politicians are overwhelmingly pro-immigration, for a variety of reasons, and they do not always admit this to their constituents. Of those 50 legislators, 45 were unambiguously pro-immigration, even asking us at times to “send more.” This was true of both Democrats and Republicans.

These empirical findings seemed to confirm what some analysts without that level of access termed as a political “perfect storm” of widespread political-elite support for immigration despite its general unpopularity with the average American. The paradox is that immigration is the only issue (perhaps besides trade policy) that represents a notorious discrepancy between elite and popular opinion in the United States.2 But this contradicts the established conventional wisdom of a representative democracy such as the United States. If mass immigration from Latin America has debatable benefits for the United States as a whole, if a majority of the American people is against it, and if immigrants cannot vote until they become naturalized (which can take years after their arrival), why would nine-tenths of the legislators we spoke with be so keen on increasing immigration?

… Most of them seemed to be aware of the negative or at least doubtful consequences of mass immigration from Latin America, while still advocating mass immigration.3 The familiar reasons usually discussed by the critics were there: Democrats wanted increased immigration because Latin American immigrants tend to vote Democrat once naturalized (we did not meet a single Democrat that was openly against mass immigration); and Republicans like immigration because their sponsors (businesses and churches) do.

But there were other, more nuanced reasons that we came upon, usually not discussed by the critics, and probably more difficult to detect without the type of access that we, as a Mexican delegation, had.

Their “Natural Progress”

Of a handful of motivations, one of the main ones (even if unconscious) of many of these legislators can be found in what the U.S. Founding Fathers called “usurpation.” Madison, Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and others devised a system and embedded the Constitution with mechanisms to thwart the “natural” tendency of the political class to usurp power—to become a permanent elite lording over pauperized subjects, as was the norm in Europe at the time.

While Democratic legislators we spoke with welcomed the Latino vote, they seemed more interested in those immigrants and their offspring as a tool to increase the role of the government in society and the economy. Several of them tended to see Latin American immigrants and even Latino constituents as both more dependent on and accepting of active government programs and the political class guaranteeing those programs, a point they emphasized more than the voting per se. Moreover, they saw Latinos as more loyal and “dependable” in supporting a patron-client system and in building reliable patronage networks to circumvent the exigencies of political life as devised by the Founding Fathers and expected daily by the average American.

Republican lawmakers we spoke with knew that naturalized Latin American immigrants and their offspring vote mostly for the Democratic Party, but still most of them (all except five) were unambiguously in favor of amnesty and of continued mass immigration (at least from Mexico). This seemed paradoxical, and explaining their motivations was more challenging. However, while acknowledging that they may not now receive their votes, they believed that these immigrants are more malleable than the existing American: That with enough care, convincing, and “teaching,” they could be converted, be grateful, and become dependent on them. Republicans seemed to idealize the patron- client relation with Hispanics as much as their Democratic competitors did. Curiously, three out of the five lawmakers that declared their opposition to amnesty and increased immigration (all Republicans), were from border states.

Also curiously, the Republican enthusiasm for increased immigration also was not so much about voting in the end, even with “converted” Latinos. Instead, these legislators seemingly believed that they could weaken the restraining and frustrating straightjacket devised by the Founding Fathers and abetted by American norms. In that idealized “new” United States, political uncertainty, demanding constituents, difficult elections, and accountability in general would “go away” after tinkering with the People, who have given lawmakers their privileges but who, like a Sword of Damocles, can also “unfairly” take them away. Hispanics would acquiesce and assist in the “natural progress” of these legislators to remain in power and increase the scope of that power. In this sense, Republicans and Democrats were similar.

While I can recall many accolades for the Mexican immigrants and for Mexican-Americans (one white congressman even gave me a “high five” when recalling that Californian Hispanics were headed for majority status), I remember few instances when a legislator spoke well of his or her white constituents. One even called them “rednecks,” and apologized to us on their behalf for their incorrect attitude on immigration. Most of them seemed to advocate changing the ethnic composition of the United States as an end in itself.

… Some legislators had also mentioned to us (oftentimes laughing) how they had “defanged” or “gutted” anti-immigration bills and measures, by neglecting to fund this program or tabling that provision, or deleting the other measure, etc. “Yes, we passed that law, but it can’t work because we also…” was a usual comment to assuage the Mexican delegations.

{end excerpt}

{The remainder of the essay discusses how Americans might take action to reassert control over our borders through legal or extra-legal action}

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14 thoughts on “Immigration as a reverse election: our leaders get a new people”

  1. I agree with a future that will see an electorate with dramatically different demographics, I fear that discussion of this topic will be obscured in the future with the controversy of racism. That and nativism are too inherently wrapped up in this issue to really allow significant large-scale discussion of it.

  2. Excellent articles.

    I tend to agree that both parties are trying to use Hispanics to replace their working class white constituent bases and to please their corporate backers who love the pool of low cost disposable labor that illegal Hispanics provide.

    However you don’t import tens of millions of impoverished, uneducated 3rd world people without incurring a serious cost in social and monetary terms. Which is now being borne by the citizenry of this country not by the elite that benefits from the mass of illegals.

  3. One thing missing from the discussion is wages. More immigrants depress wages. As an engineer, I was forced to compete with foreigners who were willing to work for 25 – 30% less. Guess who they hired. Our elected officials depend on the generosity of wealthy people donating lots of money. Those wealthy folks make more profit if they can hire a cheaper immigrant than an American native born. Favoring more immigration is, in large part, about expanding the labor pool so that wages can be kept down. It seems our politicians listen to their patrons more than they do their constituents.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I strongly agree. Esp note technology companies crying about the shortage of high-tech talent, while they pressure the government to allow floods of immigrants under programs like the H3 Visa, which depress their wages to absurdly low levels.

  4. The anti-immigration bill demonstrations of a year (?) ago were not what you’d expect of a passive clientele. In fact, they were the largest spontaneous underclass protest in the US in quite awhile. You’d think the elite might recognize a ceretain risk in expanding this population.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Great point! Our elites might get more than they bargained for. People from third world societies have adapted to outright oppressive governments. They might find out elites relatively easy to push around!

  5. Thanks again for the excellent materials/references you offer on this blog.

    Another example of classic disconnect between rulers and ruled.

    After this last US election and the announcement that the first ‘hire’ by Obama not three hours after winning the election was an Israeli partisan, to be followed no doubt by yet more ex-Goldman Sachs types in Treasury, who can doubt that the entire democratic process in the US as currently processed is a charade designed to give people the illusion that their government represents them. I still have no idea as to whether or not Obama himself is a)sincere b) aware of what is going on or c) both and trying to do something about or d) a classic puppet, but within only a day it is clear that nothing essential in the power structure will ‘change’. If he plans substantive internal changes by gradually reorienting the US domestic economy in ways he has laid out and hopes that from that ‘bottom-up’ approach he can later start to shift the ruling elites a little, good luck to him. Chances of this happening have to be in the 1-5% range. If that.

    I was not surprised that so many congressional officials support something that is clearly not in the interests of their citizens, but I was surprised to see it spelled out in this way by an informed source. Thanks again.

  6. “a client-patron system”, “controversy of racism” I am dismayed by the level of pessimistic comments here. Looking in from afar and watching in admiration at your achievements (US), the anti-immigration and prediction of doom does not sound right. The rule of law is important and that is the balance for the race issue.

    It is not racist to breathe and as such, concerns about significant large-scale discussion of future different demographics must be taken on. Those issues must never be swept away because they sounded racist. For example, what are the root causes of the current tsunami of immigration from Latin America? What US policies are stopping those people developing their countries?

    In a lot of these discussions, have people forgotten that GWB was not really on the ball and his IQ? That one man is the reason US became the object of hate everywhere. Your new chief is different, just ask the rest of the planet! Has anyone that has left comments here seen the youtube video campaign for Obama by Tom Peters? It is compelling reason that change is coming your way and you all must chip in.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I find it fascinating that folks like “Beauty” dismiss analysis of problems so lightly as “predictions of doom”. Not only do I say nothing like that, what is the alternative? “All is for the best, in this the best of all possible worlds.”

    Other than perhaps a campaign pitch, I donot know what the point of the remainder of this comment is trying to say. Tom Peters is IMO not someone worth watching.

  7. Beauty, I don’t think immigration has much to do with racism. That card is played to distract from the underlying issue which is flooding cheap labour into a population that already has the highest degree of truly poor people of any developed country in the world.

    GWB has the same level IQ as Clinton, btw, i.e. in the top 5%. At least that’s what I read somewhere (maybe not true?). I suspect it is.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I read that GWB scored higher than Kerry on the DoD intelligence tests. He certainly is not dumb in any conventional sense of the term.

  8. “All is for the best, in this the best of all possible worlds is a reason” to bring all the information to the table but dismissing Tom Peters(TP) is IMO not taking on valuable contribution. “Does Obama know what he is going to achieve?” was one of TP’s questions. In the end most Americans voted Obama as the enabler of Change.

    I agree with #8 that the race card should be replaced with better law enforcement. “Employers are still hiring the illegal immigrant day laborers because they’re cheaper, no need for company benefits, no need to provide health care, no need to provide anything but a pick up in the morning and a return home in the afternoon. The immigrants are paid in cash so there is no record which results in no taxes being paid.” Isn’t the above an issue of law enforcement?
    Fabius Maximus replies: At one level many widespread social crimes (“victimless”) are matters of law enforcement. They would just go away if the police would arrest the miscreants. After all, we passed a law!

    But these crimes are rooted in powerful social constructs, and ineffective police enforcement is a symptom — not a cause. Powerful and widespread human drives create a market for prostitutes. Powerful policital and economic interests support illegal immigration. The power of police is smal vs. such things.

    A high level of social resolve is necessary to overcome such things. It is not just a matter of government commitment — as the long-standing failure of the War on Drugs proves.

  9. Rampant population growth threatens our economy and quality of life. Immigration, both legal and illegal, are fueling this growth.

    I’m not talking just about the obvious problems that we see in the news – growing dependence on foreign oil, carbon emissions, soaring commodity prices, environmental degradation, etc. I’m talking about the effect upon rising unemployment and poverty in America.

    I should introduce myself. I am the author of a book titled “Five Short Blasts: A New Economic Theory Exposes The Fatal Flaw in Globalization and Its Consequences for America.”

    To make a long story short, my theory is that, as population density rises beyond some optimum level, per capita consumption of products begins to decline out of the need to conserve space. People who live in crowded conditions simply don’t have enough space to use and store many products. This declining per capita consumption, in the face of rising productivity (per capita output, which always rises), inevitably yields rising unemployment and poverty.

    This theory has huge implications for U.S. policy toward population management, especially immigration policy. Our policies of encouraging high rates of immigration are rooted in the belief of economists that population growth is a good thing, fueling economic growth. Through most of human history, the interests of the common good and business (corporations) were both well-served by continuing population growth. For the common good, we needed more workers to man our factories, producing the goods needed for a high standard of living. This population growth translated into sales volume growth for corporations. Both were happy.

    But, once an optimum population density is breached, their interests diverge. It is in the best interest of the common good to stabilize the population, avoiding an erosion of our quality of life through high unemployment and poverty. However, it is still in the interest of corporations to fuel population growth because, even though per capita consumption goes into decline, total consumption still increases. We now find ourselves in the position of having corporations and economists influencing public policy in a direction that is not in the best interest of the common good.

    The U.N. ranks the U.S. with eight other countries – India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Uganda, Ethiopia and China – as accounting for fully half of the world’s population growth by 2050. The U.S. is the only developed country still experiencing third world-like population growth, most of which is due to immigration. It’s absolutely imperative that our population be stabilized, and that’s impossible without dramatically reining in immigration, both legal and illegal.

    Pete Murphy, Author, “Five Short Blasts”
    FM Note: Go here for a description, excerpts or to buy it. Go here to see the author’s blog}

  10. “Rampant population growth threatens our economy and quality of life. Immigration, both legal and illegal, are fueling this growth.”

    You cannot rein in immigration. It is not doable! Pete, look up at night and what do you see? I see empty galaxies (not verified), there is so much room out there. When are we going to innovate and populate those places? There is so much work undone. Migration is life and education but defending yesterday is not going to help much. It will only fuel wars.
    Fabius Maximus replies: You might be correct, but it must be noted that the US successfully and substantially did “rein in” immigration from the 1920’s through the 1970’s. Summary (source):

    A tight national-origins policy was instituted in 1921 as a temporary measure {the Emergency Quota Act}, and total immigration was limited to about 350,000 per year, with immigration from each country in a given year limited to 3 percent of all nationals from the country who were living in the United States during the 1910 census.

    The system was made permanent with the National Origins Act of 1924, now based on the ethnic composition of the United States as reflected in the 1920 census, with entry limited to 2 percent of the number of people living in the U.S. (Chan 55). The law thus reduced the total number of immigrants each year to 150,000. The object of the law was also to favor certain kinds of immigrants and to keep out others. More immigrants were permitted from western Europe and fewer from southern and eastern Europe, and Asians were totally excluded, primarily to prohibit Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos from acquiring U.S. citizenship.

    For more information see: List of United States immigration legislation

  11. Bring Us Your Tired, Your Poor but they must be Highly Qualified seemed to be the theme for the travelers Visa News on Destination USA, SecureBorders.OpenDoors website as I trawled for information. It is still a beacon of hope to people but it will be impossible to try and repeat the “rein in” of 1920s – 1970s. The successes of that period was brutal to many groups. May I quote William Shakespeare – “Pity is the virture of the law, and none but tyrants use it cruelly.”

    Are we in danger of repeating Samuel F. B. Morse who in 1834 wrote a series of articles for The New York Observer — later published in a best-selling book titled “A Foreign Conspiracy Against the Liberties of the United States” — and in hysterical prose detailed an alleged papal plot to flood America with Roman Catholic immigrants and overthrow the republic. My concern has always been that of education and the rule of law.

    Welfare Use by Working Immigrant Families by The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) is another report that makes grim reading but IMO, the common denominator is education. The differential cost implications of policing a closed border or educating the immigrants are debates that history will fondly remember. The rule of law via taxation is a must and since the dollar job is Latin American immigrants’ main attraction, it would make sense to control that, controlling people (nature) is folly.

    English Language is today’s language and the beauty of it is in prose and poetry. I live in Spain where most people are hell bent on learning and speaking English. But how does one help educate the Latin American immigrants? I do not have a great answer but the story of Marcus Tullius Cicero is a good one. During this period in Roman history, if one was to be considered “cultured”, it was necessary to be able to speak both Latin and Greek. Cicero expressed extreme pride both in being a novus homo (“new man”) who became consul though none of his ancestors had ever served as a consul, and in having become consul. My question is this, how do you create “a learned man/woman immigrant who loved America”?
    Fabius Maximus replies: This reminds me of George Bernard Shaw’s mockery of innoculation. Elegent dismissal without any actual analysis.

    I see no report by the CIS (or anyone) with the title “Welfare Use by Working Immigrant Families”. They have several reports that discuss this, such as “Back Where We Started – An Examination of Trends in Immigrant Welfare Use Since Welfare Reform” (March 2003, 20 pages, link). Like most of their work, it is both clear and exhaustively researched.

  12. Beauty : I haven’t any good solutions either, amigo. What Pete said ’bout population growth has a point. Maybe what is essential is that gov’ts start doin’ somethin’ PRACTICAL (i.e. : bein’ RESPONSIBLE for their poi molloi) ’bout the problems in their states. Widespread poverty, corruption, gangs & lawlessness, along with lack of proper EDUCATION (concur with you FULLY on that) & skilled jobs are just some of the afflictions in many of these troubled regions. I seriously doubt that the US of A can continue to issue green cards to everyone who’s desperate to live the “American Dream” (I for one am VERY INTERESTED). Just a matter of time before every major city in the US becomes a ghetto for more crime due to the LACK of proper jobs for immigrants, skilled or oterwise.

    Low Opportunity + NO Legal Citizenship = Really Major Screw Up

    (MHO, I ain’t god. Haven’t got all ’em answers.)

  13. The age-old pesky U.S.-Mexico border problem has taxed the resources of both countries, led to long lists of injustices, and appears to be heading only for worse troubles in the future. Guess what? The border problem can never be solved. Why? Because the border IS the problem! It’s time for a paradigm change.

    Never fear, a satisfying, comprehensive solution is within reach: the Megamerge Dissolution Solution. Simply dissolve the border along with the failed Mexican government, and megamerge the two countries under U.S. law, with mass free 2-way migration eventually equalizing the development and opportunities permanently, with justice and without racism, and without threatening U.S. sovereignty or basic principles.

    Click the url and read about the new paradigm for U.S.-Mexico relations.
    Fabius Maximus replies: First, why is the border a problem for Mexico? Second — about your solution — why not just say “the Blue Fairy waves her wand and makes everything wonderful.” And gives everybody a pony, too.

    As a test, ask some members of the Mexican elite about your “solution.” What will they say?

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