Relax: Waves of Mexican Immigrants Aren’t Going to Ruin America
show comments
  • Andrew Allison

    “Mexican fertility rates are following a worldwide pattern have fallen dramatically as the country gets ahead.” Tsk,tsk!

    More importantly, while middle-class Mexicans may be sending their children to English language private Academies; the children of immigrant families, at least in California, are being taught in their native language, thereby being denied the economic opportunity which their more fortunate brethren enjoy.

  • vanderleun

    “Via Meadia doesn’t share them.”

    Well, Via Outhereia thinks that the grandchildren of Via Meadia will seek out thy grave to curse you.

    Let’s review: “Illegal immigration makes a mockery of federal law in a way that would not be sustainable if the law were so assaulted in other areas; it undercuts the wages of U.S. entry level workers; it results in billions of dollars in remittances, often from subsidized senders, that leave the U.S. economy to the Mexico; and it burdens insolvent states with entitlement costs born by the strapped general population.”

    Let’s not go all archbishop of Canterbury on us just because we’re Episcopalian, okay?

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @vanderleun: It’s hard for me to see how you read the post as endorsing illegal immigration. This is an analysis of the long term demographic consequences of immigration from Mexico; not every blog post is going to cover every angle of every subject and the truth is that immigration from Mexico — whether legal or illegal — looks to diminish as a factor in the US given demographic and economic realities. In any case, the honor guards and the crowds of adoring fans weeping around my grave will prevent any nasty brats from spitting on it.

  • Kenny

    Well that’s good to know.

    Mr. Mead says the U.S. won’t be swamped by a horde of Third Worlders from Mexico.

    Of course, the likes of Mr. Mead are pretty much insulated from illegal immigration, and indeed, it can be said that Mr. Mead’s narrow 1-pc class benefits from it.

    Cal me old school, but instead of Mr. Mead’s assurances, I prefer strong border enforcement, employer sanctions, and an active deportation policy.

  • Pincher Martin

    What a waste of a post on such an important topic. Several paragraphs containing over 600 words and yet not one substantive comment on a possible solution as Via Meadia sees it. Instead, we are given a cartload of touchy-feely commentary on the dynamism of the U.S., and Mead’s opinion that an immigration-induced apocalypse isn’t coming to the U.S. Thanks for the valuable insights, professor.

    Mead claims to stand for facts, not fears, but the only facts he cites are a few misleading demographic figures, and he seems quite determined to stir up his own fears by propping up some scary straw figures to do battle against (“…the nattering nabobs of negativism…”, “…Mexico isn’t the all devouring demographic superpower that the fear-mongerers…”, “…the United States will not be submerged by waves of fast-breeding Mexicans…”).

    Mead assures us that while “Mexico is no utopia”, it’s still a middle-class society. I think the professor should leave such childish dualisms for his classroom of uncritical and inexperienced students. The fact remains that many regions in Mexico have serious problems which directly affect the U.S., and this is true despite a generation of deep political and economic engagement by the U.S. NAFTA was nearly twenty years, and several million Mexican immigrants, ago.

    Mexico is also a gateway for many immigrants living in Central America — the second largest source of immigration to the U.S. after Mexico. While Central America is made up of many small and forgettable countries, more than forty million people live in that region, and the vast majority of them are very poor and their numbers are still rising.

    Finally, one can look at this question empirically. The politics of the West have already changed because of immigration. One can see this clearest in California, where Hispanic immigrants have now politically teamed up with white liberals to make a solid blue state where once there was a purple state in which conservatives had a chance to win statewide elections. Many Western states have small populations. It would not take many Hispanic immigrants to change their political orientations from deep red to purple or even blue. Yet Mead appears unable to think on the margins. Hispanic immigrants are already changing the country’s politics in a very radical way. They won’t have to reach Maine to finish the job.

    As California goes, so goes the rest of the West. Via Meadia complains constantly here about the lack of viability in the blue state fiscal model, but he doesn’t seem to realize that this failed model is fully supported by Hispanic voters. Despite all the talk — some of it encouraged by conservatives and Republicans themselves — that Hispanics are potential conservatives, they have consistently voted Democratic since the 1970s. Bush’s attempt to lure them over to the GOP by compassionate conservatism failed. And future attempts by the GOP will also fail. Hispanic voters are not afraid of government dependency. They positively crave it. Their loose family model, high number of single teenage moms, and poor business formation demands it.

  • soren

    You are absolutely right that immigrants adopt (much of) the culture they immigrate too… Mexicans who immigrate to Cali will eventually turn out somewhat different than those who go to Texas… but I think you’re addressing the least of people’s anxieties. People have immediate issues and aren’t so concerned about or future “national character”.

    1.Mexicans are already imposing their language when it comes to many job requirements. For government services, this is based off a absolute perverted interpretation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where not providing services in a language means discrimination based off of “race, color, or national origin”. These language mandates are imposed on all state government services that receive federal money… like public schools.

    2. The children of illegals get free education… and there’s nothing state governments can do to stop it or get reimbursed. Plyler v. Doe is easily one of the top 20 worst decisions the Supreme Court has ever made. It kept Texas from charging a $1,000 tuition fee in order to educate the children of illegal immigrants. That is insane considering how much extra it costs to teach them because they must be taught English too. Free education in American public schools is the biggest “magnet” for Mexican families settling down in the US.

    3. Those illegal children of illegal immigrants will get racial preferences when they apply to college. At least 600 illegal children of illegal immigrants have displaced whites/asians at UT-Austin and much of that was done via racial preferences.

    I’m tired of many commentators on education in Cali and Texas talk about how the “student bodies at so-and-so state university don’t look like Cali and Texas”(meaning they’re too White and Asian) when a such large percentage of the under-performing population of Cali and Texas don’t belong in Cali and Texas.

    4. The census doesn’t count citizenship… which really screws up the racial gerrymandering provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Illegal immigration allows legal Hispanics to demand more gerrymandered representation way beyond which they should receive. This is beyond perverted.

    If you want (lower and middle class) whites to accept becoming a minority then you need to dismantle the racial spoils apparatuses.

  • petty boozswha

    When I was a teenager California was the pinnacle of western civilization. Today it is, at best, Argentina, on a normal day much of the state has become Tijuana del norte. Why are we allowed to notice that Greeks and Germans don’t respond to the same incentives the same way, but it’s completely taboo to point this out while our government is supine during this invasion.

  • WigWag

    Mexican immigrants are, by and large, a boon to the United States just like all immigrants are. The way to solve the illegal immigration problem is to dramatically increase the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States. If the quota of legal immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere was increased even four or five fold it would make the United States an even more prosperous nation than we already are.

  • Emilee

    If “you don’t see it” then I am thinking you don’t live in a border town. I live in San Diego and I’ve seen a fast and extreme change in the culture in the past 5 years.

    I recently moved about 30 miles north of where I was living and the culture is more traditional American. But when I was living closer to the border it seemed that overnight you didn’t hear English spoken when you went anywhere public. I remember being at the mall and the music played was was in Spanish. Most signs and labeling are bilingual, and those that are not are more often in Spanish than English.

    The items in stores and restaurants most often focus on Mexican tastes because that is their client base.

    There are several other observable cultural changes that I personally consider to be a cultural decline. You might feel different and consider the change part of that “dynamic” American culture you wrote about, but regardless — for better or worse — it is DEFINITELY a matter of immigrants (a large percent illegal) Mexicanizing this part of America and showing no interest in becoming Americanized themselves.

  • Jim.

    Past waves of immigrants have been presented with significant (one might even say severe) pressures to assimilate.

    Is that still true today?

    Some statistics, like the number of 3rd-generation Hispanics that still speak Spanish in their homes (single-digit, iirc) give us some hope.

    However, if the Multicult in charge of our universities is actually succeeding in their anti-assimilationist policies, that would mean trouble.

    As I’ve said before — I’m 100% assimilated, and proud of it. Granted, the culture that I’m assimilated to resembles less the America of today than the culture that America pressured its immigrants to assimilate to in previous generations. (Just a thought — we’d probably have more luck assimilating people if we went back to that culture, rather than the today’s depravities.)

  • I take it Mead does not believe there is any credible evidence of substantial differences in intelligence between various population groups around the world? Or that we can attach any significance to the fact that Latin Americans consistently test roughly two-thirds of a standard deviation below Europeans on average?

    These are empirical questions in the rapidly developing field of population genetics and human biodiversity, of course, and are by no means settled. But does he think it will make any difference no matter which way it turns out?

    And does he just brush aside the fact that, unlike all other countries from which we receive immigrants, we share a contiguous border with Mexico, the numbers involved are proportionately much larger, and that Mexico has irredentist claims on the American South West?

  • On the other hand you gotta admit that if Mead took any other position than the one he does here his name would be mud in the mainstream media.

  • This is a controversial topic of course but I wonder if the real issue isn’t one of class rather than race? Mead is definitely upper class — I doubt he will deny it — and may not be completely free of class prejudice. Which is to say he might really not care about lower class people, how they get along, how they live, as much as he does about the members of his own class?

    Not caring is not the same as hating, but it is just as serious of a problem as racism I suspect.

  • Dan

    Sorry to say but everyone is missing a major point here. The “Mexicans” coming to the USA aren’t really Mexicans. Most of the immigrants go through Mexico to come to the USA from central American countries. Correct me if I am wrong but I think the Mexicans are actually annoyed at the wave of immigration though their country bringing with it drugs and criminals.

  • Estragon

    Luke: “he might really not care about lower class people”

    Well, maybe Mead himself can clear that up – but the larger issue is that the elite can insulate itself. They don’t have to deal with the dubious blessings of “diversity”, and also don’t have to compete with illegal immigrants for low-level jobs.

    In this regard, I suspect the elite is out of touch, and likely to receive a nasty surprise one of these days.

  • Of course from our plutocratic elite’s point of view — here I speak of the upper-upper class, not Mead’s more humble estate — a racially stratified lower-class has certain inherent advantages. It can play one off against another in the Great Game of politics, an easy strategy if you are selfish and cynical enough.

    Thus can the ten thousand wealthiest families in America, this donor class “that bankrolls both political parties and sets the tone and agenda of our politics, rest more comfortably in the assurance that the laboring majority beneath them will never be able to unite to alter the existing distribution of wealth and power in their society.

    And of course they are absolutely correct in this surmise. Nothing short of some absolute religious revelation will ever bridge the racial and ethnic divisions being put into place.

  • For cynical racism in action check out Bill Maher:

  • JGreer

    Immigration paranoia is causing conservatives to miss out on what should be a key constituency. These immigrants are hard working, family oriented, and religious. Why conservatives don’t recognize them as birds of a feather and roll out the red carpet utterly baffles me.

    The main gripe is that they are entering the country illegally. As if risking your life to cross a border to pick tomatoes and hang drywall to feed your family is an unconscionable crime. I respect such criminals more than Americans with their hands out waiting for the next government check yet unwilling to stoop to manual labor. Besides, this situation is mostly the fault of our immigration and work visa policy. Which also has the nasty side effect of allowing ‘real’ criminals to hide among the honest workers. Do I detect another conservative corner stone here? Yes, its yet another example of shoddy DC policies causing more problems than it solves. I would love to see a conservative candidate take a stand on this issue (Rubio for VP – Looking at you!). Fix our policies. Legalize the hard working immigrants. Deport the criminals.

    Of course we Americans will pay a terrible cultural price. Mexicans might take issue with Taco Bell misrepresenting their food and open competing restaurants that actually taste good. Oh and then there is the matter of soccer (aka futbol). I mean, do we Americans really need another sport to watch and drink beer on the weekends?? The result may be truly catastrophic.

  • Pincher Martin


    “The “Mexicans” coming to the USA aren’t really Mexicans. Most of the immigrants go through Mexico to come to the USA from central American countries.”

    You must have missed the fourth paragraph of my post #5.

    But your point is not accurate. Mexicans are the number one source of immigration — both legal and illegal — to the United States.

  • Estragon

    JGreer: “Why conservatives don’t recognize them as birds of a feather and roll out the red carpet utterly baffles me”

    They’ve tried that. All attempts by Republicans to pander to the Hispanic vote have failed. They might pick up a % or two, but most Hispanics prefer big gov’t benefits and what the Democrats offer. The Repubs can’t get that thru their heads; their stupidity on this issue appears to be invincible.

  • Some Sock Puppet

    Have any of the commenters here spent time working in the landscaping or construction fields during the 90’s?

    I know I did, and what I witnessed was the most disgusting behavior I have ever seen any group do. Theft, driving heavy duty loaded-down dump trucks drunk or high, making nasty comments to women, drunk on the job, stealing beer from coolers on decks of clients, defecating on their lawn, threatening co-workers, insulting me to my face about 9/11’s victims, etc.

    I had one worker, who was absolutely incredible with building shale walls, but threateneed me with a knife because I didn’t know his routine my second day on the job.

    I know that isn’t everyone, but the cross section of so called better-than legal American college boys and men trying to find work (FOR THE SAME PRICE – with valid drivers licenses) and being ridicuously undercut by people living ten or more to an apartment (I was responsible for dropping them off at their homes after work.)

    You couldn’t find work, you were treated badly when you could and then to add more insult, they demanded you learn Spanish rather than the other way around.

    I have always been a hard worker with a great work ethic. I found out the hard way it doesn’t matter one tiny whit.

    I can’t think of a group I’d want less in my neighborhood, and based on my public defender wife’s stories it sure as [heck] hasn’t gotten any better.

    These are my experiences.

  • The immigration wave of Hispanics is different from prior waves from Eastern and Southern Europe for a variety of important reasons. Perhaps the biggest difference is that immigrants from Latin America have a common language (excluding Brazilians). This was not the case with European immigrants from Italy, Poland, etc.

    There is less of an incentive for Latin Americans to learn English because whether they come from Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica or Honduras, they all speak the same language. English is not the uniting language now as it was in the past.

    As a result, you get signs at Home Depot in Spanish or telephone prompts in Spanish. If Latin America had five different languages, that situation wouldn’t exist.

  • Pincher Martin


    “Immigration paranoia is causing conservatives to miss out on what should be a key constituency. These immigrants are hard working, family oriented, and religious. Why conservatives don’t recognize them as birds of a feather and roll out the red carpet utterly baffles me.”

    Perhaps that’s because you don’t really understand the potential constituency you speak of.

    Mexican immigrants are hard working, but they do not effectively rise through education or by forming their own businesses. What’s worse, their children and grandchildren tend to assimilate downwards to the worse norms in American life. They are less hard working than their immigrant parents and grandparents, but they don’t make up for it by working a lot smarter.

    Mexicans are family-oriented, but their orientation is not fixed on stable monogamous marriages, but rather on larger extended family units. Hispanics have the highest single mother fertility rate in the country, which means they have far more need of many of the social welfare services Democrats routinely trade in.

    Hispanics are very religious, but then so are African-Americans. I don’t hear many people talking about African-Americans being a potential swing vote in elections. Also, many Hispanics are Catholic, and Catholics have never had a problem with a large state sector serving the needs of the people.

    So your point about “birds of a feather” is not accurate. Hispanics vote Democratic because they are a natural Democratic constituency. They don’t vote Democratic because the GOP pushes them to the other party. Hispanics are poor and that’s not likely to change; they have loose family structures which require abundant social services; and their religiosity is too diffuse in meaning for conservatives to rely on at the polls.

  • KFJ

    “125 years ago the country was ridden by fears that new waves of Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish immigrants from eastern and southern Europe, so different from the sturdy northern Protestants of old, would destroy the individualist and “Anglo-Saxon” culture of the United States.”

    And acting on those fears, we severely restricted immigration in the 1920s, which gave us a 40-year lull to assimilate them. An excellent argument for another 40-year immigration moratorium!

  • Kris

    Could there possibly be a less than desirable interaction between immigration and a beyond-generous welfare policy?

  • “On the other hand you gotta admit that if Mead took any other position than the one he does here his name would be mud in the mainstream media.”

    Fair enough.

    “. . . The larger issue is that the elite can insulate itself. They don’t have to deal with the dubious blessings of ‘diversity’, and also don’t have to compete with illegal immigrants for low-level jobs.”

    And accurate too.

  • JasonM

    I was about to criticize this unusually credulous and complacent post, but I see that most of the first 26 comments have already done so.

    It’s common for the Northeastern elite, lacking much direct experience of Mexican neighbors in daily life, to view the issue entirely through the lens of Ellis Island Nostalgia, although Prof. Mead obviously lacks the resentment of “What the WASPs did to Grandpa” that drives most elite commentary on the issue.

    Some issues that need to be addressed:

    1. Mexicans are eligible for racial preferences (unlike 19th-C. immigrants) that perpetuate them as a Special Grievance Group forever

    2. [Racial discussion that Grandmother Mead would never allow is omitted here]

    3. Mexican per capita GDP is less than 50% of the US, so even if middle class there is still a huge incentive to migrate.

  • JGreer

    Pincher: Not sure your basis for these conclusions. Seems to me the same has been said of previous immigration waves – Irish, Italians, etc. It also strikes me that the negatives you describe are more likely caused by the govt hand-out system than by any cultural bias.

    As for my experience, my family farms in upstate NY. Despite proximity to a small city with high rates of welfare and unemployment (predating current crisis) we struggle to hire local workers. For $10/hr we cannot even attract a local to sweep our loading dock, let alone do field work. So, we bring in migrant workers (yes they all have green cards – rural NY isn’t a hotbed of illegals). Then we have to compete against CA farmers who DO hire illegals at a much lower cost. These migrants work their tails off while at the same time polite and thankful for the work. Frankly, I’ll take the chance that their kids turn-out lazy. Because I can guarantee the kids of the locals who prefer handouts will be.

  • Here’s a nice historical summary of the issues surrounding the immigration debate, written by one of America’s most talented and fearless journalists, a George Orwell like figure who almost single-handedly has kept the issue of immigration alive as a topic for seriou, well-informed discussion.

    I’ve learned a lot from Steve Sailer over the years — together with Mead’s his is my only must-read first thing in the morning blog — and a lot of mainstream journalists evidently read him in secret also, occasionally even acknowledging as much. I hope Mead’s minions follow suit:

  • Pincher Martin


    “Pincher: Not sure your basis for these conclusions.”

    Which conclusions? You mentioned three areas for commonality between U.S. conservatives and Mexican immigrants: hard work, family values, and religiosity. I explained why all three are insufficient for common political ground with conservatives.

    The hard work by Mexicans is entirely for low-wage jobs. They show no evidence, as a group, that they or their children can advance to higher things. Mexican immigrants don’t work hard in school, for example, as many Asians students do. Modern societies don’t have growing economies built around the jobs that Mexican immigrants do best. For this reason, Hispanics need government to provide the modern services their hard work alone can’t provide for them.

    Hispanics don’t have family values as most American conservatives conceive of the term. Read Heather Mac Donald for a very revealing look at Hispanic family values and then tell me how their family values can build common political ground with U.S. conservatives.

    Finally, religiosity. Hispanics are admittedly very religious, but as I explained so are African-Americans, and no one really believes AAs are natural political conservatives.

    “Seems to me the same has been said of previous immigration waves – Irish, Italians, etc. It also strikes me that the negatives you describe are more likely caused by the govt hand-out system than by any cultural bias.”

    The previous waves of immigration, as Huntington detailed, differed on a number of fronts from the current tsunami of Hispanics. Those immigrants were also coming to a very different country than Hispanics are coming to today. It was a country with cultural confidence that demanded the immigrants Americanize as quickly as possible, and which avoided using government incentives to encourage their isolation and sense of group entitlement.

    “These migrants work their tails off while at the same time polite and thankful for the work. Frankly, I’ll take the chance that their kids turn-out lazy. Because I can guarantee the kids of the locals who prefer handouts will be.”

    Of course you’ll take that chance. You get to privatize the gains of low-wage immigration and socialize the losses. So why wouldn’t you take that chance? It’s a good bet for you, but a terrible bet for your society. But what do you care, so long as you profit from it.

    I saw many farmers like you in California. They screwed up the state. But it appears their counterparts in the rest of the country aren’t going to learn from their example here.

  • Lisa

    On the high ground of Texas I am surrounded by Mexicans and do not go anywhere in public, ever, where I don’t hear conversations in Spanish.
    Also as Pincher Martin said, Hispanics are not getting married, although they have high fertility rates. George W thinks family values don’t end at the border but what really brings them over the border is our entitlements and our gift of citizenship to anchor babies.

  • LF Montgom

    Mead could be more effective by using facts,not ideology or wishes. Though I’m loathe to appear to endorse or directly engage “conservative” Pincher Martin, I want to introduce the blog to Cubanized South Florida, where “We are a nation of law” is outside the culture.
    Law has no meaning here, especially to the Republican office holders. Dozens, scores even, of pedestrians are killed each month on S. Florida streets and highways by runaway driver, including several police officers in police cars. Many of the drivers are unlicensed, without insurance, and leave the scene of crime.
    “Deregulation” and privatization mania led by the criminal governor, who left the hospital group he created as it was being prosecuted for the largest-ever Medicare fraud, means hotel/motel owners, apartment owners, almost anyone, can get relicensed regardless of their infractions/violations; Gov. Scott has cut state inspection employees and broadcast his “dereg” ideology so that inspectors fear failing a business or they’ll lose their jobs.
    Speak English? You’re outa luck! A high school senior in Miami, testifying in the murder trial of her former boyfriend, had to be provided a translator! At the same time, woman studying for a Bachelor’s degree in nursing at Miami-Dade Community College wrote a letter to The Miami Herald that she was unable to take a require course because it was offered only in Spanish.
    all Latinos that I have asked to tell me about the First Amendment, including several with Bachelor’s degrees from US universities, has no idea what I’m talking about.
    The biggest foreign policy mistake the US had made in my lifetime was the one allowing any Cuban to come to the U.S. without going through the usual limited immigration procedure. We got millions of uneducated, unskilled people who still don’t speak English, many of whom work in the untaxed, unregulated underground economy that includes the multi-billion drug trade.
    This is no longer my US.

  • jm313

    Actually a study showed that by 2050 white’s could be the minority in America. And how about you look at statistics here in America. Look at obesity rates, crime rates, education scores etc. that are based on race and you’ll see Latino’s are doing poorly here in America. Why can’t they stay in there own country if it is turning into a middle class society instead of coming here and dumbing our statistics down? They really water down our rankings in the world.

    And it’s hilarious how the Democratic Party is anti-gun violence yet they support millions of illegal Latino’s entering America and guess what if you look at crime stats you’ll see Latino’s contribute a ton to gun violence! Good job Democrats don’t blame the NRA blame your dumb selves.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.