Divided We Fall

Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster

Peter Brimelow, Random House, 327 pages, $16.74


Reading Alien Nation, I could not help but notice the kind of folks that author Peter Brimelow has attracted to his anti-immigrant cause: old-guard WASPs, population controllers, hard-core-environmentalists, and nativists of all stripes. These are, to put it mildly, among the last kind of people I’d like to get stuck with in an elevator. But Mr. Brimelow’s impressive treatise deserves to stand or fall on its own merits as a depiction of present reality and as a projection of the American future.

Brimelow claims many things. For one, he argues that immigration – both legal and illegal – presently is out of control, a direct result of a tragic, irrational, and misconceived 1965 Immigration Act along with its subsequent amendments. Combined with the present white birth dearth, massive Third World immigration is fast pushing America into an unprecedented and tumultuous period of racial and ethnic transformation. Her original Northwestern European foundations are being left far behind. Second, Brimelow calculates that immigration is not economically necessary for the American nation and not beneficial when the economy is high tech and the immigrants aren’t. He asserts that contemporary immigrants, compared with the native population, are disproportionately underskilled, under-educated, hard to assimilate, crime-prone, disease carriers, susceptible to welfare dependency and to the creation of non-indigenous underclasses.

For Brimelow, then, immigration cannot be defended on the utilitarian grounds of meeting the needs of the American economy or nation. Nor is it a civil right. Nor is it a matter of historical destiny. It is the result of a quite reversible social policy. Very importantly, however, he holds that the motivation for opening up the floodgates since 1965 is not solely or even primarily altruistic in nature. Rather, he claims that the motivation takes root in the psychological and political needs of “alienists,” that is, the anti-American new class. Borrowing an argument from the neo-conservative play book, he calculates that the overthrow of white, Protestant America will provide much emotional satisfaction to new class multicultural elites, who are either non-WASPs, screaming and pushing their way to the top,or traitors to their own class. Indeed, Brimelow foresees the grim possibility, in the not-too-distant future, of nothing less than the balkanization and dissolution of the United States of America.

It is not quite fair to state, as pro-immigrationists want to do, that Brimelow’s anti-immigration arguments have all been heard before and that the sky didn’t fall and isn’t falling. Brimelow claims that there are four important differences between the massive turn-of-the-last-century immigration and our equally impressive contemporary one. First, today’s immigrants are mostly from the third world and, therefore, not capable of assimilating easily into America’s basic Northwestern European heritage. Second, immigrants are not urged by our present-day cultural elite to assimilate as were prior foreigners. Third, unlike in the past, there is a massive welfare state that leads immigrants into dependency; failed immigrants today stay, Brimelow argues, and do not go back from whence they came. And, fourth, earlier immigration was consciously stopped to allow for the digestion of Catholics, orthodox Christians, and Jews; at present there is no sign of an impending lull.

Playing devil’s advocate, let me add to Brimelow’s list a fifth argument: our social institutions (or potential “mediating structures”) are in no shape to help absorb a massive influx of immigrants given the demonstrated failure of these institutions to meet the intellectual, moral, and practical needs of America’s native population. As a Catholic who enthusiastically accepts his religion’s stated mission to evangelize, the introduction of millions of third-worlders to this country theoretically provides a wonderful opportunity to spread the faith and, derivatively, strengthen America by mooring her better on Catholic principles. Empirically, however, the present leadership of the Catholic Church in America can’t even teach middle-class kids the Ten Commandments, never mind leading third-worlders into the warm waters of the faith. Moreover, the failure of the American Catholic hierarchy to evangelize successfully among Hispanic immigrants is nothing less than scandalous and is indicative of a basically bankrupt institution. Likewise, following Brimelow’s logic, what is the purpose of exposing immigrant children to an educational system corrupted by Marxists, feminists, deconstructionists, and their ilk? Brimelow, in this regard, notes the overt racial hostility towards whites exhibited by significant sectors of the contemporary Puerto Rican community.

The eminent sociologist Peter L. Berger may be right when he stresses that the problem is with the multiculturalists and not with the immigrants. The latter, in the main, fully accept the culture of middle-America, which essentially reads, following George Gilder, “work, family, and faith breeds a successful life.” Put another way, the assumption is that the average contemporary immigrant rejects both cultural endpoles of American life, the degeneracies of both underclass and, more culpably, new class life.

The problem, however, is that there is also some fragmentary evidence of immigrant students being coopted by the multiculturalists that control so many contemporary educational institutions. Is this evidence a harbinger of things to come? Under sustained multicultural tutelage, will immigrant students eventually become as alienated, angry, and “demanding of their rights” as have some other sectors of America’s college population?

I am thus forced to take seriously Brimelow’s call for a brief moratorium and a thorough and fair national debate about immigration. It is a debate that, thus far, cuts across ideological lines as neo-conservatives and neo-liberals have willingly joined forces against the bizzare coupling of a Ralph Nader with a Ross Perot and a Eugene McCarthy with a Pat Buchanan. Brimelow is right on target when he aims at the elitist bypass that ignores the views on immigration of a concerned citizenry. In sum, let me suggest the following advice: buy the book, and join the national debate.


This review originally appeared in the November 1995 edition of Crisis Magazine.

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