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A Rhetoric For Restrictionists

by Martin Ford

Editor's disclaimer: This Article intends to be a parody of restrictionist writing.

Here are a few modest proposals to strengthen and refine restrictionist rhetoric so as to defeat the open borders crowd in the 2010 debate over immigration reform or 'shamnesty.'

Opportunity in Inaction

Despite President Obama's campaign promise to push immigration reform during his first year in office, his administration's preoccupation with health care precluded any fix to America's dysfunctional immigration system in 2009. Without the president's leadership, many Democrats in Congress will be hesitant to tackle this controversial issue in 2010. Scott Brown's surprise win in Massachusetts adds resonance to Nancy Pelosi's prediction that November's midterm elections will be "the toughest…Democrats have ever faced." Yet, congressional deadlock need not foster restrictionist lockjaw. As Obama and Co. lick their wounds from the health care brawl, the patriotic right must sharpen its rhetorical skills on immigration. If we raise our voices, we can delay so-called comprehensive reform until after congressional elections. With the seats we are sure to gain, we can anticipate once again defeating any bill that promises a path towards citizenship for 12 million illegal aliens, even as immigrant arrival numbers decline.

A Rhetoric of Attrition

Some would credit our floundering economy, notably our growing unemployment, for decreasing the immigrant numbers, but we know that it is "attrition through enforcement," which is sending them home. By vigorously applying existing laws, we make it ever more uncomfortable for illegal aliens to ensconce themselves here awaiting their next amnesty. As we allow the wheels of justice to turn against illegal immigrants, we can use a "rhetoric of attrition" to wear down our open-door opponents. The immigration debate of 2010 will be a battle for the hearts and minds of an American public too long enamored with the idea of immigration, but quickly tiring of immigrants. In the pages that follow, I propose a brief rhetoric for argument against those who advocate mass immigration (hereafter "the treason lobby," "open borders crowd," "Liberal do-gooders," et al). To illustrate substantive and stylistic points, I borrow heavily from the works of restrictionists past and present, tapping into a venerable tradition of patriotic Americanism.

First, it is important to set the proper tone. When speaking about immigrants, particularly about how they get here, keep two words in mind, liquid language. The font of all restrictionist wisdom is hydrological. Immigrants come in great waves and unprecedented flows. They're a deluge pouring across our borders, a torrent inundating our communities. In short, the flood gates have been opened, and America is being swamped. The trick is to make your readers feel as if they are drowning and that their only recourse is seal the border. More than 100 years ago, restrictionist pioneer Braughton Brandenburg observed that "if a water pipe breaks in one's house, the first thing to do is to turn off the water." Thus, "the streams of undesirable immigration pouring into the United States can and should be stopped." While the flood was really only a trickle then and the flow less murky, the same language retains its homely practicality. Once again, our tub is overflowing. Before we pull the plug or pick-up the mop, we must first turn off the tap. As our friends at Borderwatch insist, "We need to secure our borders and then we can talk about the details of people who are here." Simple enforcement must come before any "comprehensive" reform.

If plumber's language gets tedious, take a page from the exterminator's manual. We tap another tried and true tradition in describing immigrants as a swarm, host or plague against which we must "slam…", "lock…," or otherwise "close… the door." Cop talk also works, particularly in light of our enforcement first stance, which has gained such popularity in recent years. Remember that those who transgress our borders without permission are criminals. Let the liberals speak of them as "struggling" to come here. We must depict them as "sneaking," "skulking" or "scuttling" across our southern border. No need to mention the hundreds who die trekking the desert nor the million or so apprehended each year. Better to note the litter they leave behind in making their illicit passage (Tons!). Of course, do-gooders will argue that these invasions-each and every one a violation of American sovereignty!-are a victimless crime. They will whine that the invaders merely come to work. To this, we must reply that in working, illegals steal jobs. It is the American worker who is victimized!

By eschewing empathy, the restrictionist pundit creates for the reader a feeling of social distance, an "Us vs. Them" contrast so essential in helping the public see illegal aliens as truly alien, and not-as the bleeding hearts would have it-as men and women striving to make better lives for themselves and their families. Indeed, some of America's most fervent immigration critics have never spoken to an immigrant. But from the restrictionist perspective, this is one of the simple virtues of the immigration debate. One need not actually know an immigrant to abhor immigration. In fact, the opposite is often the case. When Americans actually know immigrants first-hand they are far more likely to empathize. Therefore, it pays to alienate the alien and in doing so assure that people don't talk with each other.

Always Refer to "the Problem"

So much for style. As for substance, long established custom demands that any intelligent person who speaks of immigration must refer to it as "the problem." From the earliest days, every wave of immigrants to our shores has been derided as unfit by those who came before them. While the tyranny of political correctness may prompt us to use for today's immigrants less vigorous descriptors than were used for their predecessors ("scum," "dregs" and "vermin" were once the bon mots of the restrictionist lexicon), we need not resort to such blunt instruments when we have at our disposal far more subtle tools. As we see from virtually any opinion poll on the topic, the American public continues to believe immigrants are a problem. We can exploit this perception by stressing the myriad negative aspects of today's immigration.

For starters, we can hardly overemphasize how many of today's immigrants are illegal aliens. In fact, there's little need to use the term "immigrant." "Illegal alien" will do just fine. After all, Americans think that most immigrants are illegal. Disabusing them of this notion would weaken our case for reforming the system, particularly reforming it through enforcement. Americans also envision the average illegal alien as a young Mexican male, a "wetback," someone who has snuck across the border. While millions of other immigrants play by the rules and wait their turn to get in, this guy and his amigos have jumped the line. Granted, there may in fact be no line for the unskilled immigrant worker, but the line jumping metaphor works. It offends Americans' sense of fairness in simple, clear language that appeals to the mind's eye.

By contrast, the reality makes one's eyes glaze over. First of all, only a third of the immigrants today are actually illegal. How boring is that? Worse, around 40 percent of that number came here by following the rules. No smuggler, no desert trek, no "Entry Without Inspection," as the INS used to say. Instead, they "overstayed" legitimate visas, often simply to remain with family, from whom the byzantine system would otherwise keep them separated for years. And so, more than 40 percent of illegal immigrant families are "mixed status," consisting of legal and illegal members. This is the kind of trivia that interests your readers not at all. It is enough to tell them that in the old days, immigrants were legal, they waited in line and played by the rules. Today, they refuse to do so. Thankfully, we are aided in this depiction by the Open Door policies of the trans-Atlantic immigration era. For many decades, there were no laws against entry except for idiots, prostitutes, lepers, Chinese and the like.

Third World Immigration

It is also wise to remind Americans that immigrants are no longer from Europe. Instead, they come from Latin America and Asia, in other words, the Third World. While perhaps not a precise label, "Third World" is an excellent one. It evokes images of poverty, war, famine and corruption, making it indispensible shorthand for those places to which most Americans would prefer not to go, and from which they would prefer no one came. For a hint of the term's suggestive power, one need look no further than the furor former Arizona Congressman Tom Tancredo aroused awhile back when he said, "Look at what has happened to Miami. It has become a Third World country."

I will leave it to others to debate whether Miami belongs to the "Third World," but the term should always be applied to Mexico. Never mind that our southern neighbor has in a strict economic sense divested itself of Third World status. Who would believe that in 2008 Mexico ranked 12th among nations in GDP, ahead of such countries as Spain, South Korea and Canada, its North American sister economy? Certainly not the average American. The average American doesn't even know that Mexico is part of North America, and we should not feel compelled to correct this impression. Better to stress Mexico's connections with its poorer Latin American brethren than to invoke North American commonalities or the historical ties that bind Mexico to the American Southwest (except vis a vis Reconquista, as discussed below).

An added benefit is that "Third World" provides a ready contrast to "Western Civilization," which, as Patrick Buchanan indefatigably reminds us, is imperiled by the arrival of foreign invaders (Witness his 2006 book, State of Emergency: The Third World Conquest and Invasion of America). How many times has Buchanan compared contemporary America to the Roman Empire besieged by barbarians?! In doing so, he breathes new life into 19th century rhetoric and revives the exhortations that rallied generations of true Americans against foreign interlopers. For example, in 1855, Governor Henry Gardner compared the Irish Catholics then invading Massachusetts to the "horde of foreign barbarians," who had overrun Rome. In the 1885 bestseller, Our Country, Josiah Strong warned against a similar invasion of East and Central Europeans, whose numbers he estimated as "over twice as vast" as the hordes of Goths and Vandals who swept over Rome. Some twenty years later, that most percipient prognosticator, H.G. Wells, made similar allusions to ancient Rome and predicted a "huge dilution of the American people with profoundly ignorant peasants." Of course, some would say that these reports of demise were greatly exaggerated. After all, where would the Catholic side of the Buchanan family be, had Know-Nothing Gardner had his way? But, just as Rome was not built in a day, so immigration will not destroy America overnight. Such predictions are best understood as "before their time" and their authors appreciated for their prescience.

Reconquest Revisited

Dire warnings of "overnight invasion" may be less effective than predictions of insidious, peaceful infiltration. Here perhaps less antique allusion is best. A natural referent is "La Reconquista," a term that harkens back more than 500 years, when Ferdinand and Isabella led the people of Spain against their Muslim oppressors, reconquering the Iberian peninsula and ultimately driving out the Moors. Never fail to remind your readers that parts of such states as California, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah once belonged to Mexico. With its defeat in the Mexican-American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, the Mexican Government ceded to the United States this vast territory. To this day, Mexican intellectuals nurture a grievance against us gringos, allude to the "War of North American Invasion" (La Intervención Norteamericana) and become agitated when referring to the hand-off. The collective memory squirms like the worm newly dropped in tequila. They want these lands back and are apt to describe immigration to El Norte as a kind of crypto-colonization or stealth invasion. While thoughts of conquest may be far from the minds of the vast majority of Mexican immigrants, this makes little difference to the average American.

For us, the demographic implications are clear. Mexicans come, have babies and stay. We must portray them as the instruments of re-conquest. As Lothrop Stoddard observed in The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy (1920), Western civilization is not likely to be destroyed "by the sudden onrush of invaders (but rather) gradually subdued and absorbed by the 'peaceful penetration' of more virile races." Stoddard, of course, was a founder of the Immigration Restriction League, precursor of today's Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Note how FAIR founder John Tanton today conveys the same message in more prosaic language, observing that, "perhaps this (Mexican migration) is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down!"

Although each uses innuendo differently, for both patriots the implication is clear-with growing immigration, real Americans get screwed! And so, as can be readily appreciated, the term reconquista is an effective buzzword, guaranteed to get an anti-immigration rise out of any self-respecting farmer, range holder or townsman in the rural southwest or most anywhere else that Americans are feeling displaced. Remarkably, and to our great advantage, Americans are feeling threatened by immigration even in areas where there are few immigrants. Like the loaves and fishes of the Gospel, a mere handful of foreigners can feed the fears of a multitude. We must appeal to this sense of impending displacement and take up the rallying cry of patriots of yore, "America for the Americans."

Apocalypse Soon

To the self-proclaimed progressives who yelp that Buchanan merely recycles the tired tropes of a bygone era, as false now as they were in the 19th century, the true restrictionist need only point out that this veteran of the culture wars is a conservative in the true sense of the word, one who will speak out to preserve all that is right and just and fitting in America. To paraphrase a great American politician, "hyperbole in defense of our borders is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of restriction is no virtue" or, as pro-reform provocateur Peter Brimelow warns us, "The wages of moderation turn out to be worthless."

Brimelow's own musings are admirable models of hyperbole. The aspiring restrictionist will profit by perusing, where Brimelow and his estimable colleagues have amassed a treasure trove of supercharged anti-immigration rhetoric. Incidentally, this website honors the memory of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America, yet another iconic figure lately and lamentably omitted from the classrooms of a nation with a fetish for "diversity"-a virgin sacrificed on the altar of multiculturalism, a martyr to open-borders!

In critiquing immigration, Brimelow refuses to mince words, using what he describes as "sledgehammer style" to ring home uncomfortable truths. Because of the "relentless accumulation of foreigners…and the consequent inexorably-mounting problems…" America is in the midst of an "epochal immigration disaster…" that will ultimately destroy the country. Note how Brimelow predicts-nay, asserts-the future. He brings a talk-radio edginess to the printed page and blogosphere. He and his colleagues eschew the mealy-mouthed pundit's vacillation in favor of certitudes testifying to the simple and clear truth that immigration is ruining America now and forever.

Overly thoughtful readers may respond that Brimelow's rhetoric echoes the cock-sureness of Chicken Little. They may ask, "Can we do without the 'inevitable,' 'inescapable' and 'inexorable'? The short answer is "no." Part of our job, perhaps the most important part, is to put Americans in touch with their vague fears and inchoate anger about immigration and to crystallize those feelings into firm conviction in the disastrous consequences of mass immigration. In the words of another Vdare columnist, "The best thing we can do is make more Americans more angry." Thus, Vdare follows in the venerable rhetorical footsteps of the Immigration Restriction League, which pledged a century ago "to arouse public opinion to the necessity of a further exclusion" of immigrants.

In the struggle to stoke American anger, we must also praise a newcomer to the fray, Pat Boone. Mr. Boone is best known as a recording and television personality. While his performing career may have peaked nearly fifty years ago, he has more recently assumed the mantle of political commentator. As a social conservative and born-again Christian, Boone stands firmly against the gay lifestyle, radical feminism, absurd evolutionism, rabid multiculturalism and other modern social pathologies. In 2008, this stalwart pillar of traditional values proposed, "A Fair Solution to Illegal 'Immigration'," in which he blames illegal immigration for "just about every other problem in our country," calling the current influx "one of the most alarming and unprecedented catastrophes ever to happen" to America, and attributing to it "unprecedented trespassing," "astounding crime" and "approaching anarchy." Note the vivid use of hyperbolic adjectives and the essay's hyperventilating tone, both sine quibus non of the robust restrictionist jeremiad.

Also notable but more subtle is Boone's use of mass nouns. You may recall from grammar school days the distinction between "mass" and "count" nouns, the former indicating volume, the latter individuality. While we all know that the invasion Boone condemns consists largely of gardeners mowing our lawns, nannies minding our children, housekeepers making our beds, and laborers picking our veggies and fruits, and while a few of us may even know an individual immigrant or two, we must allow no room for the personal story in our writing (unless it is criminal). The invasion remains truly ominous only when left faceless and collective.

Before turning to other rhetorical models, I would be remiss in not calling attention to Boone's conclusion, which relies on the vivid use of simile:

It's not 'immigration,' which implies something done legally. It's outright invasion, just as surely as if 14 million Middle Easterners poured off a nightly flotilla of boats on our East Coast and swarmed into the countryside."

This particular comparison is twice ingenious, first, for being a rhetorical "bait and switch," whereby Boone replaces Mexican invaders with the even more nefarious "Middle Easterners," and second, by apparently alluding to Jean Raspail's 1973 novel, Camp of the Saints. Among culturally conservative cognoscenti, this cautionary tale is considered an "oracular account," "stunningly prophetic" and a must read for budding restrictionists. The plot traces the passage of the "Ganges Armada," a flotilla of rusting ships crowded with dirty and destitute Indians, towards the coast of southern France. When these "grotesque little beggars from the streets of Calcutta" eventually land, they overwhelm the effete French, just as the dusky denizens of the suburbs of Paris threaten to do today.

In exotically evocative language, Raspail captures the procreative threat of the Third World as perhaps no one else has ever done. Take, for example, his description of the deck of a single vessel in the 100-ship armada:

Everywhere, rivers of sperm. Streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts, and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers. Bodies together, not in twos, but in threes, in fours, whole families of flesh gripped in gentle frenzies and subtle raptures. Men with women, men with men, women with women, men with children, children with each other….

One can only imagine the goings-on in steerage! And all this, Raspail reminds us, takes place amid a pervasive stench that "smelled just like shit"!


Such language has provoked the predictable cries of "racism." One must concede that so-called people of color do take on a jaundiced hue under Raspail's withering gaze. Indians are fatalistic, slothful brutes, Chinese are compared to dogs, and the Arabs and Blacks of Paris are "a swarthy rabble…trogolodytes…who muck around in filth." And yet, whites-including a liberal Pope!-also earn Raspail's ire, especially those who welcome the arrival of the Third World flotilla. Indeed, among the few individuals to escape Raspail's scorn are an indomitable Greek ship captain who refuses to rescue drowning refugees and a courtly literature professor who sees himself as scion of a proud lineage of defenders of the West, extending from Charles Martel to the Ku Klux Klan.

Racism? In his own defense, Raspail claims that during his lifetime he has seen the meaning of the word "racism" change, from what "I always understood to be a simple expression of the races' inability to get along together" to "a crime against humanity." Just because one believes that there are irresolvable, immutable differences between Whites, Blacks, Browns and Yellows does not make one a racist, does it? To paraphrase that great Liberal rhetorician, Rodney King, why can't we just all get along…, separately? In any case, we must concede that Raspail's powerful narrative does seem quaintly anachronistic today, when we are more likely to be overrun by nerds from Mumbai than beggars from Calcutta.

Strategic Selectivity

Some patriotic restrictionists would welcome a sequel to Camp of the Saints. They protest that we talk too much about Mexico as a bogeyland, setting our sights too narrowly on the southern border, when we should, like Raspail, take a more scattershot approach, attacking immigration generally. But long-time veterans of the immigration debates may recall how we used to stress the harmful impact of unbridled diversity. We protested the indiscriminate import of myriad alien cultures, bizarre religions, tangle-tongued languages and incomprehensible norms and behaviors. We complained that the balkanization resulting from the disparate immigrant flow threatened the very fabric of American society. "The US is becoming too diverse!" was our cry. Yet, in this age of diversity idolatry, such arguments fall on deaf ears. We must concede, as did Nathan Glazer some years ago, "We are all multiculturalists now," whether we like it or not.

Well, we don't like it, but sometimes we must go with the flow rather than swim against the tide. Rather than continuing to attack all immigrants, we should advance a strategic selectivity and focus our attention on Mexicans. Let us call this the strategic synecdoche. In high school English, we learned that a synecdoche uses part of something to refer to the whole, as in "field hands" (the illegals who pick our vegetables), "mouths to feed" (their families on welfare), "bleeding hearts" (those who would legalize them), "stupid assholes" (everyone who disagrees with us). You may once have thought this quaint abbreviation a tiresome point of style. In the current immigration debate, such selectivity is an essential tool.

For example, let us examine how the Federation of American Immigration Reform uses "Mexican" as a synecdoche for "immigrant." Once wary of ethnic diversity, FAIR now warmly assures visitors to its website that, "we want to ensure that this diversity continues." Why? Because "diversity is undermined when one country, i.e., Mexico, dominates the flow of newcomers." FAIR tells its readers that it will "work to ensure that people throughout the world have equal opportunity to come to the U.S." Given that FAIR also calls for a moratorium on new immigrants, something that even the Immigration Restriction League of old did not demand, we can be sure that "equal opportunity" is the right opportunity, in other words, a kind of Hobson's Choice, any diversity you want, so long as it's none.

Like FAIR, while we recognize that immigration from Mexico may only be part of the overall problem of immigration, we do well to point out that it is too large a part. Given Mexico's current troubles, we do better to exaggerate the part it plays, and best to make it seem that all immigration is from Mexico. In this way, we color our discussion with broad brush associations to wetbacks, anchor babies, drug dealers and coyote-traffickers. This motley cast of characters begs for attention in ways the quotidian busboy, nanny and construction worker cannot. Of course, immigration from Mexico, at some 32 percent of the total, is not significantly higher than was immigration from Germany, Ireland or Italy in their peak times, but this is an historical nicety of little concern to our readers. Nevertheless, conflating Mexican immigration with all immigration, letting the part stand for the whole, adds value to any restrictionist argument.

Mexican associations also detract from the awkward impression that an altogether inconvenient number of immigrants are professionals-doctors, engineers, chemists and the like. Some pundits say that the immigrant economy is like an hourglass, with a broad top, made up of affluent professionals, and a broad bottom, consisting of poor and ill-educated laborers. As conscientious restrictionists, our job is to delve every recess at the base of this hourglass, to plumb its murkier depths. Fortunately, the ne'er-do-well immigrant is more likely to be the "visible minority" than his successful counterpart. The latter speaks English, sits at a computer terminal or wears a stethoscope, lives in the suburbs, generally fits in, and is manifestly not our concern. Instead, we must focus on the drop-out, the single mother, the drunken driver, the gangbanger. The less said about the Silicon Valley entrepreneur, the medical researcher, the piano prodigy, the Nobel Laureate (only three U.S. immigrants this year!), the better.

Necessary Lip Service.

For laudable examples of this kind of selectivity, one need only look to the prolific efforts of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). In recent years, CIS has become the most quoted institutional voice on immigration. Describing itself as "nonpartisan" and "independent," the Center implies that it is unencumbered by special interests, intellectually free to pursue wherever the facts on immigration may lead. CIS also claims to be "animated by a pro-immigrant, low-immigration vision, which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted." Thus, the callow reader may be forgiven should he expect from CIS an occasional mixed message, an erring from a rigidly restrictionist line. And yet, a quick review of CIS's many backgrounders, reports and editorials reveals a rock-ribbed, hard-headed consistency, an exclusive focus on the myriad reasons why we should exclude immigrants. The CIS oeuvre is an extended argument against immigration, stressing that, legal or illegal, the newcomers drag America down by dispiriting the native poor, exacerbating urban sprawl, increasing crime, worsening global warming, waving foreign flags, flouting motor vehicle laws, becoming pregnant-and all the while speaking Spanish! In sum, the litany of ills that CIS traces to immigration makes one wonder why we should welcome immigrants at all, rather than booting them out unceremoniously.

As it makes its case for fewer immigrants, CIS never says anything remotely related to the actual practice of welcome, unless perhaps the "warmer welcome" of its vision statement is simply to remind us to turn up the heat on illegal aliens via the "attrition through enforcement" that CIS so insistently champions. For the ardent restrictionist, there is a valuable lesson here, and that is, you may couch your argument in concern, without actually having to care. And if you profess concern, remember, your solicitude need not be directed towards newcomers. An even more effective device is to plead sympathy for our own native-born, those Americans who suffer in competition with foreigners, particularly those African-Americans who must compete for low-end jobs with foreign interlopers. Of course, many of you may be unused to advocating for this particular constituency-and it may take getting used to!-but do keep in mind that expressions of concern need not run deep. They are merely the lip service needed to disarm our critics, to prevent them from impugning us with racist motives, while we keep to the business of keeping the brown masses out.

For we must always remember, "The only good immigrants are the dead immigrants!" Lest I be perceived as encouraging our Minutemen brethren in overzealous enforcement efforts, let me be clear, I do not speak literally. I would never condone killing immigrants. Rather, I take a metaphorical cue from Isaac Hourwich, himself a dead immigrant. Nearly a century ago, Hourwich pointed to a perennial aspect of immigration-just as the prophet is never recognized in his own land, so the immigrant is never recognized in his own time. Today, we must endure the Liberal do-gooder mantra that, "America is a nation of immigrants!", but this is entirely a retrospective notion. The truth is that Americans have never been comfortable with immigration as it is happening. Only after immigration has been stopped-by war, recession or outright restriction-should we feel good about it. Thus, in the wake of WW I, the founders of the Immigration Restriction League (that "great generation," according to Vdare) were able to arouse popular opinion against the Ellis Island immigrants and promote passage of the Johnson-Reed Act (1924), halting the sad parade of peasants from Southern and Central Europe.

It is only in recent decades that the Ellis Islanders have been rehabilitated, so to speak, allowed to join the ranks of the colonists who founded and settlers who built up America, rather than being accused, as they were in their own day, of being completely "unassimilable"-huddling together in filthy slums, speaking an incomprehensible babble, despoiling local politics, and otherwise taking advantage of what they found here, while contributing to the "mongrelization" of America (to borrow a term popular at the time).

Nostalgia and Invidious Comparison

In large part, this transformation has taken place because more than 40 percent of Americans trace ancestry to an immigrant who arrived at Ellis Island.[i] These otherwise sensible folk are apt to lapse into maudlin sentimentality, becoming downright misty-eyed, when conjuring the shade of some vaguely remembered Grandpa who came with nothing, lived on little and achieved so much. Of course, this is all sepia-tinged prattle, proving that even Americans are prone to ancestor worship. Lord knows where this country would be had we not slammed the door in 1924 and cut the flow of newcomers for nearly fifty years! The architects of this Great Lull were far-seeing reformers. Such stalwart patriots as Madison Grant, Prescott Hall, and Harry Laughlin understood that the numbers were too high and the quality too low. While they have been accused of racist inclinations, we know they were simply men of their time. Yes, in the early 1930s, a young Hitler may have written Grant and colleagues fawning fan mail. Hitler may even have claimed that The Passing of the Great Race was "his Bible." And yes, the University of Heidelberg may have awarded Harry Laughlin an honorary doctorate for his research on eugenics, research that shaped the national-origins quotas. But racist? As Vdare sage James Fulford has said in defending these high-minded heroes, "Who wasn't racist then?"

Once again, we must keep in mind that, when writing about immigration, it makes little sense to invoke history, as the immortal Van Ranke said, wie es wirklich gewesen ("as it actually happened"). Instead, just as we now pay homage to the idol of diversity, we must ennoble the Ellis Island immigrants. In doing so, we engage a corollary to the so-called straw man argument. Whereas in any debate, caricaturing our opponent's position helps us to tear it down, in this debate, idealizing the immigrants of yesterday helps us to diminish the immigrants of today. Thus, we must depict the Great Wave of immigration as a Golden Age and the Ellis Islanders as empyreans of Americanization. The reality, of course, was quite different, but no matter. The more we praise the old immigrants, the harder it will be for the new ones to measure up! Infuse your language with nostalgia for the immigrants of yore, and every comparison with today's newcomers becomes an invidious contrast. They will always be the losers!

According to this mythologized vision, the immigrants of old leapt headlong into the American Melting Pot, anglicizing their names, mastering English in record time, embracing Yankee ways. Their successors refuse our language, defy our laws, mock our culture, deride our values and mispronounce their names! As Samuel Huntington said, they are "often contemptuous of American culture," or, as Pat Buchanan succinctly puts it, "They hate us!" Of course, some research, notably surveys conducted by think tanks like Public Agenda, suggest otherwise, to whit that more than three out of four immigrants believe, "The United States is a unique country that stands for something special in the world," or that nearly nine out of ten (87 percent) are pleased with life in the United States, but what is the word of a sample of immigrants against Vox Buchanan?

Inventing Tradition

Related to nostalgia is the notion of tradition. For our purposes, tradition may be defined in its simplest-nay, most simplistic form-as keeping life "the way it used to be." Needless to say, were we to have no immigrants at all, America would still be having a devil of a time maintaining tradition, but we need never concede this, because the arrival of foreigners in large numbers makes them useful scapegoats for the demise of American tradition. Once again, Patrick Buchanan is the master of invoking an idyllic past, a bygone era that might spring to life anew if spared the immigrant threat, but others echo his refrain. Brimelow fears destruction of "the historic American nation and its founding culture." Rush Limbaugh is concerned that the U.S. "remain…the country we were all born into and reared and grown into." Yet, our country is destined to be transformed beyond recognition unless immigrant numbers are drastically reduced.

As Rosemary Jenks of Numbers USA says, "The current levels of immigration are about five times higher than our tradition." By "tradition," of course, Jenks means the four decades or so after the National Origins Act of 1924 choked off immigration to a feeble gasp. The Great Depression and WW II ensured that immigration, even from favored countries, did not recover in the 1930s and 1940s. In some years, immigrant departures actually outnumbered arrivals. Meanwhile, many of the Ellis Islanders had begun to pass away. One result of this conjuncture of events was a Census that in 1970-the annus mirabilis of restrictionist chronology-recorded for the first time a foreign-born population below 5 percent! While some might say this was an historical anomaly-an unusual, perhaps unique, episode in our past-we call it tradition!

Fortunately, 1970 falls within memory for some 78 million baby boomers. For them, this low point in immigration history comprises formative years fondly remembered. In a very real sense, the Baby Boomers are children of the Great Lull. We must remind them of these halcyon days, when diversity was black and white, when everyone spoke English, when "Oriental" worked for most any Asian and "Hispanic" for hardly anyone at all. So, when we call for a moratorium on immigration, a break from today's insanity, we must allude to this unusual time as normal, and we must style anyone who opposes us as "an enemy of traditional America."

Arguing from Authority

When speaking about the controversial issues related to immigration, a good rule of thumb is to stay away from the polls and surveys that seek to capture how the typical immigrant feels. This is dangerous, for although the surveys are usually humdrum statistical affairs, they make it clear that immigrants generally want no more than to be average Americans. Yes, the overwhelming majority of Hispanic parents may want their children to learn English, 90 percent may agree that assimilation is "very important," quite a few may not like affirmative action and some may even crave apple pie, but it makes little sense to cite the polls that depict "the average immigrant."

On such sensitive subjects as bilingual education, benefits for illegals, criminalizing immigration violations, it's always advisable to argue from authority, and remember that authority takes many forms. The so-called ethnic leader looking to make a name, the testy Chicano Studies professor at Eastern Arizona State, the zany public information minister from the Nation of Aztlan, the obscure mayor of some podunk border hamlet, or virtually any Mexican politician up for re-election are all excellent choices. Remember, the world is full of useful idiots seeking their fifteen minutes of fame. Who are we to deny them? Conversely, you must avoid the so-called experts, notably, university researchers who are almost certainly infected by liberal bias, and in any case are mind-numbingly boring. Seek instead the outrageous sound bite, the impolitic quip, the asinine comment, which you can attribute to an entire political movement. And if the enemy is tight-lipped or, worse, well-spoken, you may be forgiven in choosing to abandon the argument from authority.

Argument by Anecdote

Certainly the most popular restrictionist alternative is argument by anecdote. For solid examples of how this can be done, one can do no better than to consult FAIR's website. Look no further than Examples of Serious Crimes of Illegal Aliens. Rather than cite boring statistics on crime rates among illegals, FAIR offers a select list of criminal acts perpetrated by illegal aliens over a five-year period. These range from the usual "hit-and-run while drunk" to such truly heinous acts as child molestation and pick-ax murder. Demonstrating its unflappable interest in fairness, FAIR prefaces the list with a caveat-"even though these cases are not representative of the illegal alien population in general," these crimes highlight how illegal immigration is nevertheless a "public safety issue." After scanning the horrific litany, who could disagree?

This list of mayhem may lack quantitative rigor, for it says next to nothing about the overall incidence of crime among illegals, and it does tend towards the sensational, but who cares? What the restrictionist writer strives for is to create an impression akin to leaving the proverbial "bad taste in the mouth." FAIR's cogent argument by anecdote overcomes a lack of science with a superabundance of suggestive power. One instance of "aggravated abuse of a corpse" trumps a whole lot of dry statistics and will leave the average reader spitting mad!

And when all is said and done, mad is what we want. Let us not forget, the average American is apt to look favorably upon immigration if he thinks the newcomers have come legally and will work hard, learn English and play by the rules. For our opponents, the cornerstone of immigration reform-so-called comprehensive reform-is blanket amnesty for the millions of illegals who simply don't know how to play by the rules. They may call it "earned legalization" or "regularization" or some other mumbo jumbo, but we must always call it amnesty (Well, maybe not always-"Obamnasty" and "shamnesty" are serviceable variants). It's no accident that "amnesty" comes from the same root as "amnesia." Stronger than "pardon," it implies repressing all memory of the offense. This is something we cannot do. Sure, the immigration apologists will say that this is no giveaway, no free pass, that illegals will have to pay fines and back taxes, undergo background checks, learn English, have employers vouch for them and so on ad nauseum. But this is the weakness of their comprehensive reform. It is a machine with too many parts. Americans are suspicious because it is too complicated.

By contrast, everyone understands enforcement. We must remind our audience that illegals are criminals. How can we place them on a path towards citizenship when, with their first step into the US, they broke our law? Sure, they may have worked hard, sure they may have kept their noses clean, sure they may even have birthed little citizens. This is not our concern. Why should model behavior after entering the US remove the original sin? We cannot reward law-breakers. Better to persist with the policy of attrition, enforcing current law, making life even more difficult for the offenders than the recession is doing on its own. In short, we must stay the course, wearing down the will of these 11 million illegals, keeping them in the shadows until they flee to those sunny climes from whence they came! Surely, this can be done. Already, we see hopeful signs. Apprehensions at the border have fallen. Joblessness among immigrants is worse than for natives, and some immigrants are actually going home. Self-deportation on a massive scale cannot be far behind!

In the weeks to come, despite the Democratic majority in Congress, we can defeat the enemy within and take our country back from the treason lobby. If health care did not quite become Obama's Waterloo, as Jim Demint predicted, we can make immigration his Stalingrad! As I have sought to show here, the committed restrictionist has always had a simple message. Immigrants are too many, too different and too illegal. If we repeat this message often enough with selective, hyperbolic, doomsday language, we will win the debate. And should we get our way, that is, should we achieve comprehensive immigration enforcement, a moratorium on immigration for a new America, the day won't be far off when electioneering politicians who speak on immigration will no longer seek the clichéd photo-op before the Statue of Liberty. Instead, they will have been replaced by secure incumbents standing proudly before a completed Border Fence, cameras catching the glint of their smiles and the razor wire atop the fence.

About The Author

Martin Ford is a cultural anthropologist who speaks and writes on immigration history and policy.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.