Tag Archives: immigration

Book Review: The Camp Of The Saints

The Camp of the Saints, by Jean Raspail (full text PDF)

Yes, it’s racist. But we’ll get to that later.

I read this book a while ago but withheld review until I got through Michel Houllebecq’s Submission. I figured they would be topical reads, given the refugee and immigration crisis in Europe (and, more recently, the terror attacks). Now an even more notable coincidence inspired me to finally post the review: a Greek boat allegedly attempted to sink a boat of Syrian refugees, eerily similar to a Greek boat plowing through survivors of a sunk boat in The Camp of the Saints.

The plot of the novel is not a secret, so I’m not spoiling anything by summarizing it here. During a famine in India, the Belgian government suspends its policy of adoption of local children, prompting a riot that ultimately leads a million or so of India’s most backward citizens to seize a hundred ships and set sail toward, ultimately Europe. On the way, they’re redirected by the guns of Egypt and South Africa (who want no part of the Last Chance Fleet) around the Horn or Africa. During the two-month voyage, Europe shakes. The self-proclaimed liberalism of its elites – media, government, church – has left them without a way to say “we don’t want you here” even though no country wants to receive the undifferentiated mass from India. Those opposed are quickly denounced as racists, while the most idealistic on the left actively wish for the arrival of the comers. The non-white underclasses of Europe begin to rise in anticipation of the change, rebelling in France, the US, and the UK against the perceived domination by the white natives. The military, castrated by soft leadership, bails. It’s no secret that the ship arrives, its masses spill onto southern France, and slowly European civilization is destroyed. (No character is worth singling out. They’re all types.)

In many ways, Raspail has correctly predicted many aspects of the current refugee crisis. There is a certain subset of social-justice-warriors that finds Europe guilty and thus responsible for accepting hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of refugees. There is a media elite that is quick to denounce as racist anyone who mentions that refugees are Muslim and that ISIS has announced plans to use them to infiltrate the West. There is an imbalance of judgment and moral agency assigned to different groups (“Now, it’s a known fact that racism comes in two forms: that practiced by whites — heinous and inexcusable, whatever its motives—and that practiced by [non-whites]—quite justified, whatever its excesses, since it’s merely the expression of a righteous revenge, and it’s up to the whites to be patient and understanding.”). There is the assumption in public discourse that Western wealth is stolen, not earned or created. There is a softer, nicer Catholic church asking for accommodation.

There’s also a barely-mentioned subplot involving Chinese mass migration into Russia (that didn’t age well) and the story of the white state of South Africa (ditto). Asia, in general, doesn’t get nearly enough attention in this story, and even Africa, which presents the most demographic pressure onto Europe, is an aside.

Most importantly, Raspail has underestimated the European response, as we are seeing the closing of borders, the rise of isolationist parties, and general resistance to increased immigration flows. Those messages filter to potential migrants (not refugees, necessarily, but fellow travelers) and present a bulwark against the unlimited migration that could overwhelm European institution. (Say what you want, but post-Enlightenment European institutions work really well.)

Raspail, however, seems to care much more about the white race than European institutions, which is why I started this post the way I did. His portrayal of the Indians is in parts disgusting, delving into the details of the “monsters” on board the ships, smelly and engaged in a giant orgy with semen flowing freely. It’s an ugly image, and one that undercuts the message of the book. (It’s much easier to resist such a group than a nicer, friendlier group of immigrants that later votes to curtail women’s rights and free speech.)

In a particularly ugly instance, a woman raped by the mob is impressed into sexual slavery with other girls. Raspail hauntingly notes “A guard fed them and opened the door to all comers,” a phrase that I still think about, but Raspail’s main concern is that only a white woman can make a white baby, and once white women lost their racial pride, they’d lose all resistance.

There are important issues raised here – can an open society defend itself to remain open? – and the language is great in parts. If this were a movie, it could use a remake. Then again, we might be watching the remake in Europe right now.

Highly recommended, obviously without endorsement.

The Importance Of Clarity In US Law

I wrote recently that “clarity [in written laws] is more important in America than in most countries, and in the next few days I’ll explain why.” The answer, and this was probably obvious, is that the US has a more heterogeneous population that almost any country in the world. As a result of a long-standing policy on relatively open immigration, especially in the 19th century, the United States lacks cultural hegemony by a dominant group. Sure, there is an Anglo-Saxon heritage that persists to the present day, and there is something of a national culture reinforced by Hollywood and the media, but given the size of American population and its varied origins, the US has large subcultures with different cultural assumptions.

These cultural differences eventually (now) play themselves out in the legal system out of necessity: individuals from different groups will end up in conflict. Laws, meanwhile, can’t possibly predict all possible interactions that may ensue, so not all rules can be clearly defined in advance. This is a more important feature in common law jurisdictions like the US, but it plays a part in civil law countries as well. As a result, rules sometimes contain guidelines that necessarily involve judgment calls. For example, criminal laws often use different gradations of state of mind, including “purposely, intentionally, recklessly, or negligently.” Similarly, many (too many) statues and common law rules require people to act “reasonably” under some circumstance or another. It’s self-evident to me that “reasonable” can mean very different things to different people, although the legal system has the nerve to refer to this rule as an “objective standard.”*

*Meaning only that something seem reasonable to other people, rather than just the perpetrator. I just find it ironic in many ways.

Now, put groups with different cultural assumptions together, and provide them guidance using words like “reasonable,” and see what happens. The answer is lawsuits. Lots of lawsuits. I’m firmly convinced that the perceived litigiousness of the United States, at least below the corporate level, can be traced to misaligned cultural assumptions. I’d also venture that some other social pathologies like low-level crime have similar causes. Basically, there are many borders between cultural groups in America, and at these borders are no-man’s-lands and occupied territories where people disagree on what’s reasonable. More such borders means more potential for conflict, and more conflict means more fighting or more lawsuits.* This is also true when the dispute is between an individual and the state.

*Ideally the latter, because fighting is bad, and also I’m a lawyer.

I quoted Scalia last time when he pointed out that criminal law must be read against the government, which is not only in the best position to make changes if they’re needed, but also the party seeking to deprive others of life, liberty, or property. Plus, fairness requires that people know in advance what’s prohibited. In America, there is far more potential for misunderstanding, and that puts an additional responsibility on those who seek to enforce criminal laws to make them as clear as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Immigration

The Pew Hispanic Center reports that illegal immigration may be on the rise again after a drop during the recession. This might reignite the immigration “debate” that faded from public view earlier this year.” I say “debate” because no one is really debating (certainly no minds are changing). I’ve posted my own thoughts on immigration before, and I’m summarizing them here. For full disclosure, I’m a legal immigrant in the US, so if you want to read bias into this, start there. I should also note that I’m, at least intellectually, in favor for far more open borders than this plan implies. However, since there seems to be political will to “secure the border” and such, I would at least like to have that done efficiently.

The problem with the alternatives being presented in the current immigration debate is that none of them align the incentives properly. Either they encourage more illegal immigration, or they encourage businesses not to cooperate with enforcement efforts. Except my proposal below. But first, I want to remind everyone that “amnesty” in any degree would not undermine the rule of law in this country, as many have argued. If you are at all familiar with the justice system, plea bargains are offered, sentences reduced, and all kinds of deals cut. The nicest member of a criminal conspiracy, for example, often goes free in exchange for his testimony. So yes, illegal immigrants have broken the law, but there is no reason a payment of a fine and back taxes shouldn’t be enough of a punishment. [If you disagree, think about every time you drove faster than the speed limit – do you think it make sense to fine you and then send you back to redrive the route at a legal speed?] Violent offenders can get away with no jail time and suspended sentences, so there is no need to punish people who came to work any more severely. Of course, this does not apply to illegal immigrants who have broken other laws. Finger-printing and DNA tests of all immigrants who register would be mandatory – this isn’t essential to the plan per se, but it would probably be prudent and would certainly make it more politically viable.

Anyway, my idea for immigration reform is as follows. Illegal workers who immigrated after a certain date, who can show gainful employment and have committed no crimes could become legal if they simply reported. Since it is beyond impractical to deport millions of people, and as I said earlier, a payment of a fine and back taxes should be sufficient a precondition for becoming a legal alien. The reporting period of these aliens should be a few months, at least until the end of this year, to allow for a smooth transition. [I don’t really care if these people merely become legal permanent residents or American citizens. While most of them would prefer the latter, I am not convinced that it is unreasonable to deny them full citizenship. Their children who are born here, however, would be citizens.][I also don’t care what cutoff date is selected. It could be today, or at any point in the last five years. A future date would obviously encourage more immigration.]

The centerpiece of my reform idea, however, is related to American employers. The law should provide that any illegal alien that has not reported by the deadline and that is employed by an American business may report that to the authorities. That alien would then join those who reported during the initial period on the track to citizenship/permanent legal residence, and would also be entitled to a lump sum payment TO BE PAID BY THEIR EMPLOYER. The payment should be a significant one, maybe something like $10,000 to $20,000, perhaps escalating with length of employment. This is the key step. The penalty MUST be paid by the employer because it properly aligns the incentives: essentially, it forces employers to forgo employing illegal immigrants (good) and it encourages illegal immigrants to report themselves and the employers who employ them (fantastic).

There would have to be some caveats, of course. It’s not too difficult to steal a citizen’s identity and work under that name. A business that hires a person it believes to be a citizen should not be subject to the fines above – it would be pointless to punish a company for being defrauded, and to reward the fraudster. As long as a business can show due diligence in confirming a worker’s legal status, they should be able to avoid the fine. Using e-verify or whatever the government’s system is called might be considered a safe harbor that lets businesses avoid liability.

The business community, which prefers hiring illegals at low wages and likes to think that it is not a part of this problem would fight this idea to the death. The country, however, would find it difficult to do better, given budget constraints.

Book Review: Back To Blood

A better discussion of race, ethnicity, and immigration than is generally allowed in polite society, hung on a meager plot. Recommended for our times, but awe-inspiring it is not.

This is a classic Tom Wolfe novel, with all the trademark parts: a sprawling setting & plot with tons of characters, some of which disappear in a hurry and without explanation. There’s the character that gives you the thesis of the piece early (Back to blood! Race! Immigration!), and the occasional exposition hidden in dialogue. Actually, the frequent exposition hidden in dialogue. Did you know that Miami is the only city in the world run by recent immigrants? If you didn’t, at least three characters in this book will tell you so, using roughly the same words. The writing is excessive in parts, and I found myself skipping the long descriptive passages in the second half. The biggest complaint for me was the doctor subplot, an unnecessarily sexualized narrative that means to shock but instead only bores.

The message in this one is a little more overt than most, and will probably rub many people the wrong way in that it’s easy to read it as anti-immigrant, but there is a certain sophistication in Wolfe’s thinking. He’s not wrong on many views held by his characters, and in particular the group-based thinking that pervades immigrant and lower-class communities. The book is at its most incisive when it contrasts such group-based views with the traditional American ideals of melting pots and individual rights.

Overall, despite the books 9750 pages (or whatever it is), it still feels incomplete, since it introduces so many characters in great detail only not to do much with them. Wolfe’s messages are a little too explicit and devoid of subtlety. The book is, and should be, part of the conversation on the role of immigration in 21st century America, but its flaws will also be apparent.