It’s good to feed the hungry. All other things being equal, few would consider such charity to be ignoble. Unfortunately, things are not always equal, and even ordinarily benevolent actions can either fall short of true charity or be twisted into wrongdoing. Perhaps the corruptions of charity most familiar to conservatives occur when people are generous with others’ goods instead of their own, or when they think voting for politicians is a substitute for actually helping the needy they encounter.
However, charity can just as easily go off the rails through a failure of practical wisdom. It would, for example, be foolish to try and feed the hungry with seed corn—the grain reserved for planting next year’s crops that will ultimately continue to feed the hungry for generations. No matter how badly one might feel for the hungry, it would be wicked to impose starvation on everyone to feed a few for a day.
Such an action would be sentimentalism rather than compassion—more about making one feel good than actually helping the hungry. Although it might feel loving at the time, it would be detrimental toward all those who would be deprived of sustenance as a result. The kind of abundance of food that can broaden the reach of generosity is not accidental. To disregard the established patterns of sowing and reaping for the whims of sentiment is to wind up without a crop.
Many Value Our Wealth, But Not the Ideas that Create It
It is unfortunate that such logic—so obvious when it comes to agriculture—has been lost among both the Left and the Right regarding mass migration. Like an abundance of food, the kind of prosperity that attracts people to the West is not accidental. It grew out of our traditions of placing restrictions on the reach of government, allowing relatively broad personal freedoms, and the sensible morality of Christendom that ultimately separated such freedom from chaos. This is the seed corn of Western civilization, and we dare not consume it.
Merely moving a human being from one location to another does not teach him those traditions—not to uphold them, value them, or even know them. The large subset of migrants who come simply to benefit from the prosperity that our traditions have created do so immediately; and for the narrower subset who are truly in dire straits, this is not only understandable but right and proper.
Nevertheless, even if they may benefit, they are usually not initially equipped to contribute to the West’s traditions of prosperity. They are more likely to weaken them. Different cultures have different customs, along with different expectations of neighbors, communities, and governments. Many of these will be at odds with those that made the West a desirable destination, and many of them will be the very same customs that made their own society a place they wanted leave.
Most Immigrants Are Accustomed to Socialism
For example, tens of millions of migrants from countries such as Mexico, where two of the three major political parties belong to Socialist International, are bound to impact a country like the United States, where the leftmost major party still has to be cagey about its socialist tendencies. Whether one views that impact as positive or negative depends on his view of socialism, but the patterns are undeniable.
Taking all Hispanics in America as a group in 2012, the Pew Research Center found 71 percent identify with or lean Democrat as compared to only 21 percent Republican (with the rest not choosing a side for various reasons.) While legal status was more likely to result in a leaning per se, it did not appreciably affect that disproportion.
The Cuban preference for the GOP is very much the exception among those from our south. Most overwhelmingly vote for the political party that has been most effective in destroying our way of life—and barely restricted immigration means they do so in election-swinging numbers.
It should likewise be unsurprising that American traditions that seem peculiar to the global community are not suddenly lauded when members of that community relocate. Take, for example, our right to bear arms. The University of California at Los Angeles’s Adam Winkler argues at the Washington Post that demographic shifts mean the end of this freedom. When 75 percent of Hispanics prefer “gun safety over gun rights” and 80 percent of Asian American voters want stricter gun control, things will inevitably change when these demographics become the new majority.
In many places in the world where authorities restrict access to firearms, experience with guns is uniformly negative—looking down the barrels of criminals, drug dealers, warlords, or authoritarian regimes. Here in the United States, many still realize that by criminalizing guns we will ensure only criminals will possess them. However, in places where guns have long been criminalized, that is already the accepted reality, and guns are perceived primarily as tools of evildoers. That perception does not make the Second Amendment less essential to America’s freedom from tyranny, but importing tens of millions who have it does weaken our grasp on that freedom.
We Can Teach—If Immigrants Want to Learn
To be sure, different people come for different reasons, not just jobs and wealth. Some do so specifically because they love the traditions that make us prosperous—many of those who fled to us from communist oppression, for example. Others come because they love one particular feature of the West—such as religious freedom—that trumps other concerns. In some cases, they may even appreciate them far more than the average American, because we take them for granted.
Nevertheless, appreciating a freedom is not necessarily synonymous with maintaining it. After all, plenty of fools among us believe the freest speech is only possible in the comfort of heavily thought-policed safe spaces or that religious freedom is only possible by expunging religion from the public square.
Maintaining the traditions that make us prosperous depends on culturally entrenched ideas and know-how that will frequently be alien to migrants. Although any given newcomer may or may not be hard-working or possess universal virtues like courage in abundance, circumstance forces most to be cultural freeloaders for a time when it comes to Western particulars.
How long a time depends on many factors, not the least of which is whether the migrants actually want to learn. Open contempt for one’s host is hardly uncommon, particularly among those who depart Dar al-Islam for Dar al-Harb (the House of Islam for the House of War.) However, even apart from that can of worms, there are many other powerful factors.
Perhaps the clearest example is just how many people are migrating at once. Humans from all tribes tend to seek out those most like themselves. The larger the migration, the more they will be able to relocate geographically without becoming part of a different community. If one requires an example, he need look no further than many European cities whose sub-communities seek to self-impose Sharia law over and against the secular authorities.
Another hugely consequential factor is the hosts’ willingness to teach. In other words, how comfortable is the contemporary West with the idea that its own culture is worth imposing? We are, unfortunately, in the middle of our own identity crisis. Far too many among us believe, against all evidence, that all cultures are basically equal—except for our own, which is of course less equal than others.
The cultural self-loathing with which many of us have been inculcated since childhood in the name of welcoming others has led to a generation that often cannot distinguish between passing on their best traditions and oppression. Likewise, recognizing and addressing any barbarism that may exist among those we encounter has become more horrifying to us than barbarism itself.
We Don’t Value Our Civilization Enough to Transmit It
This was not always so. When the British encountered the practice of Sati in India, its practitioners defended it as customary. Nevertheless, General Charles Napier was bold enough to reply:
Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.
My point is not to defend British imperialism, but to recognize the value of cultural self-esteem grounded in natural law. One need not approve of the British presence in India to recognize that their attitude toward Sati was entirely appropriate. Meanwhile, when our own military encounters pedophilia in Afghanistan, our bureaucrats-in-chief are too pusillanimous to offend the locals by doing anything about it.
Again, whatever one thinks of our presence in Afghanistan, we might as well save some children from being raped while we’re there. If we are too scared to even enforce a matter of basic humanity, how much less fit are we to pass on our unique traditions to new arrivals? Ironically, our infection of multiculturalism makes us less capable of embracing those who come to us.
As Aristotle wrote in “Politics” (before listing numerous revolutions unchecked immigration brought on), “A state is not the growth of a day, any more than it grows out of a multitude brought together by accident.” Even in the best of circumstances, assimilation requires generations, not years or even decades. As something that plays out over the long haul, it needs to be done with deliberate care.
Allowing disordered immigration on the kind of scale we’re seeing today in these worst of internal circumstances is utterly foolhardy. Consuming the West’s seed corn in this way is cruel—not only to Westerners, but also to those coming to us in the hope that their children’s children will have a better life.
Of Course the Left Doesn’t Recognize the Consequences
That the Left would have no misgivings about the situation is unsurprising. Many of them deliberately seek to tear down the West because they imagine it will be replaced by a secular utopia akin to what one sees in Star Trek. What is truly sad is the way that conservatives—those who supposedly seek to conserve what is precious—are taken in by the rhetoric of false compassion just the same.
We tend to recognize the phenomenon of “Californization.” When liberals begin leaving states their own policies have ruined, they tend to vote for those same policies in their new homes, continuing the cycle. It’s curious they do not recognize this same tendency when those from far more different cultures migrate.
Some have no doubt bought into the arguments of political pragmatism—that liberal immigration policies can win them points in the media and eventually buy them votes among immigrants. Unfortunately, they are too out-of-touch to realize that following the lead of a media that absolutely loathes them is self-defeating.
Nor do they seem to realize they will never beat Democrats at promising handouts. The Left will always promise whatever the people let them get away with, and the willingness of many neocons to follow their lead over the past few decades has done nothing but let them get away with more and more.
Some will go on about how those coming from the south tend to be part of the Church of Rome, which would supposedly make them natural conservatives if only American conservatives are careful to avoid offending them. Nevertheless, one would think that at the very least, the current pope would be a pretty clear indication this not necessarily the case. Such pragmatism has been anything but pragmatic. Its only success has been to convince many principled conservatives that their future does not lie in the Republican Party.
Sentimentalism Isn’t Compassion
For other conservatives, supporting mass migration is a religious matter. I’ve lost count of the number of conservative Christians I’ve heard quoting Deuteronomy 10:18-19: “[God] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
To be sure, Christians ought to be compassionate to migrants. God was compassionate to us, and we therefore ought to be compassionate to all. However, feeding the sojourner with seed corn is not true compassion. Being compassionate to all is a thoughtful task—not a matter of reflexively giving people whatever they want in all circumstances.
For instance, too many Christians think it compassionate to disrespect even the incredibly loose immigration laws we already have. However, doing so leads directly to companies exploiting illegal immigrants in hiring them for illegally low wages. It also leads to the loss of gainful employment for all who would do those jobs if they didn’t exist in a black-market economy operating with very different rules. Such disrespect for borders may make Christians feel compassionate, but that is merely sentimentalism at work.
Compassion for all also requires being cognizant of all those who are not sojourners. Consider how more than 1,400 young girls were raped and forced into prostitution in Rotherham—all while the “compassionate” officials covered for them lest there be any negative opinion about the Pakistani immigrants who were carrying all of this out.
Or consider how Sweden’s immigration policy led to a 1,400 percent increase in rape in the country. The Christian would do well to consider the many and various ways false compassion affects their families and friends. We generally condemn Abraham’s brother Lot for offering his own daughters to be raped by the men of Sodom in an attempt to protect his guests—and we are right to do so. It’s sad to see so many of us inadvertently turning such action into a heroic example of loving the sojourner among us.
Broad-Brush Immigration Policies Are a Failure
Some will say that all of this paints migrants with too broad of a brush. However, the broadest brush of all is an immigration policy composed of extremely loose rules combined with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink attitude about abiding by them. Rose-tinted though its paint may be, America’s extremely rare policy of birthright citizenship is an incredibly broad brush.
So is the disjointed quasi open-borders approach taken by our politicians who catch vapors at the thought of actually enforcing even the lax laws we currently possess. Confirming millions of illegal migrants in their open disrespect for our country’s laws by joining them in it is hardly conducive to passing on our traditions.
Narrower brushes require considering the many different cultures that come to us—some of which are closer to our own than others. In the past, when we absorbed large numbers of Irish, Germans, Italians, and many others, they were coming from cultures far more familiar to us than those of the global south. Even then, these had a significant impact.
The English who provided most of our founding fathers have also given the world a disproportionate number of philosophers who advocated limited government. I do not believe America’s move towards strong central authority is entirely unrelated to historical immigration patterns from cultures that do not value such limitations to the same extent. How much more of an impact will even greater numbers from even more divergent cultures have? Will the good changes outweigh the bad? These are questions we have largely stopped asking ourselves since our immigration policy changed so radically 50 years ago.
Showing Discrimination Isn’t Discriminatory
If we need a narrower brush, then that means being discriminating—yes, discriminating—about who we welcome, how many we welcome at a time, and whether we are actually willing to do the hard and deliberate work of instilling our culture among them. If doing so requires blunt tools like walls and repatriation, then so be it—even narrower brushes can only be so narrow in matters of national policy.
Stricter policies do not mean hatred towards friends and neighbors who have come from abroad. If a host is throwing a small gathering for a dozen friends and one of those friends brings a hundred people with him, that changes the character of the gathering into something very different than the host intended. If the host does not want that, it does not indicate a special animus against each of those hundred individuals. It’s the sheer volume that’s the problem.
Accordingly, if that host decided to protect his next gathering by, say, requesting that his friends ask before inviting anyone else and by turning down some of them, it does not indicate some kind of hatred. If done with care on a reasonable scale, immigration can be win-win for the West and its guests.
On the other hand, if we cannot or will not be deliberate about immigration, then the rest of our so-called compassion will ultimately be a dead letter—even for true refugees who need help the most. If the West fails to become deliberate about both receiving and rejecting those who come to us, it will cease to be a culture to which anyone would want to come.
This is particularly difficult for Americans to accept, given our own history and its idealization of immigration. The United States is often called a nation of immigrants, and so we are. However, one would do well to consider exactly what this meant for the natives who were here before us. A nation of immigrants cannot help but supplant a nation of natives. Although it would be an historical irony that we fall victim to the same kind of invasion our forebears carried out all those centuries ago, compassion does not oblige us to skip merrily into it.