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Filling in holes

IN FAITH: A priest with Latino children, Tucson, Arizona, 1962. (Robert F. Sisson/National Geographic/Getty Images)


Filling in holes

Author analyzes U.S. immigration history and policy

How much do you know of the history of 20th-century American immigration? Despite or because of our current immigration debate, many of us have factual knowledge as solid as Swiss cheese. Peru native Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a former editor and columnist at The Miami Herald, fills in holes in Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization, and America (Independent Institute, 2013).

He writes that “failure to anticipate unintended consequences is a constant in U.S. immigration policy.” For example, when limits on Japanese immigration were put in place in 1907, U.S. employers began to recruit Mexicans. When the 1965 immigration law emphasized family reunification, Senate immigration subcommittee chairman Ted Kennedy opined, “Our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same.”

Global Crossings also points out that Hispanic hero Cesar Chavez was a vociferous critic of illegal immigration, seeing it as a big-business attempt to keep farmworker wages low. Late-20th-century immigration law changes “had the effect of increasing the number of illegal Mexican residents not because of a surge of entries, but because of a precipitous drop in the number of departures by people who would otherwise have continued to come and go based on seasonal demand for their labor.”

Some facts about religion: 93 percent of Latinos moving to the United States between 1990 and 2003 described themselves as Christians. Three-fourths are Catholics, one-fourth Protestant. More than four out of five Protestants and one out of five Catholics describe themselves as “born-again,” and many Catholics become Protestants once in the United States.

What about values? Hispanic immigrants (like other immigrant groups) have higher-than-average savings rates. Asians and Hispanics believe hard work pays off and that every American has the opportunity to succeed. (While researching Hispanic views on abortion 20 years ago, I heard pro-life views from Mexican immigrants who feared their children would be “Americanized” on this issue and become pro-abortion.) 

Global Crossings also notes the role of anti-immigration views in American history. After all, Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia (Query VIII) warns that immigrants from European countries other than England would bring with them attitudes of servility developed by growing up under absolute monarchies—“or, if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children.” Italians, Poles, Germans, Russians—keep them out!

Vitaliy Prokopets

Exceptional America

American Exceptionalism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013) a collection of essays edited by Charles Dunn, shows how this country is remarkable: essayists include Hadley Arkes, Michael Barone, and William Kristol. James Antle III’s Devouring Freedom (Regnery, 2013) clearly explains the problem of government growth and suggests ways to stop it. 

Elesha J. Coffman’s The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline (Oxford, 2013) narrates the rise and fall of theological liberalism and its magazine flagship. A section on “Liberal Conversion Narratives” shows the impact of Darwinist materialism on young men who “were not entirely sure to or from what they were turning, but all were conscious of trading one religious outlook for another, of making a revolutionary change.”  

Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics, by Steven Ross (Oxford, 2011), provides fascinating profiles of Hollywood leftists (Charlie Chaplin, Edward G. Robinson, Harry Belafonte, Jane Fonda, and Warren Beatty) who bit the hand that fed them, and Hollywood Republicans as well (Louis B. Mayer, George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston, and Arnold Schwarzenegger). The 5-5 equivalence suggests a balance of power that may have existed until 1933 and from 1946 to 1960, but the left has clearly been ascendant for half a century now. —M.O.