John Derbyshire On The Origins Of The Amnesty/Immigration Surge Bill: Getting To Treason
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Now that the Amnesty and Immigration Surge Bill has been voted up by the U.S. Senate, it is instructive to step back and take a look at its origins.

The sheer amount of legislative effort here has, after all, been tremendous. At twelve hundred pages, the bill is almost as long as War and Peace—sixty times the length of the original U.S. Constitution. Such heroic labors! Why? What have been the motivations of the bill’s authors and movers?

I thought I might gain some insight into this from a close reading of Ryan Lizza’s piece “Getting to Maybe: Inside the Gang of Eight’s Immigration Deal” in the June 24th New Yorker.

Lizza is the magazine’s Washington correspondent. His article gives all the personal dynamics of the Senate’s taking up the bill and passing it through the Judiciary Committee. (It does not of course take us all the way to this week’s final passage.)

“Getting to Maybe” is written with flawless professional objectivity, the writer himself almost invisible, offering no commentary, no opinion, and no sign of any engagement with the underlying issue.

Even when the protagonists in the story are at their most mendacious or obnoxious, Lizza resists the temptation to add any critical or ironic coloring to his narrative, allowing their words to speak for themselves.

He writes for example of the first bonding between John McCain and Chuck Schumer, in meetings last fall to preserve the Senate’s filibuster rule:

McCain agreed that the meetings built trust between him and Schumer. “The reason why I enjoyed working with Ted Kennedy is because Ted was always good to his word,” he said. “And so is Chuck.”

Any regular reader of, recalling Ted Kennedy’s bare-faced lies about the 1965 immigration bill he championed, would have sprayed coffee over page 47 of the New Yorker at that point, but Lizza passes on without comment.

Likewise with Lizza’s coverage of the Heritage-Richwine flap last month.

McCain could hardly contain himself as he recited the story of how the Heritage report backfired. “Ka-boom!” he yelled. “That was a gift from God . . . But, yeah, those low-I.Q. Hispanics, I’ll tell ya, that was really revealing to me, I had no idea.” McCain, who is of Irish heritage, added, “We’ve always known that about the Irish.”

Ha ha ha ha! Never mind that a young scholar’s career was destroyed for having, in a Harvard doctoral dissertation, tried to introduce some quantitative facts about human capital into the immigration debate.

Politics proverbially ain’t beanbag, but I don’t think politicians are supposed to take quite so much pleasure in inflicting collateral casualties. On Lizza’s account, John McCain really does seem to be an extremely unpleasant person.

The passage in Lizza’s piece that got everyone’s attention was the quote he included from a Rubio aide that: “There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can’t cut it. There shouldn’t be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer.”

When Rubio’s people pushed back indignantly against that quote, Lizza quietly released the full transcript of his notes, according to which a second Rubio aide had chimed in:

Rubio Aide 2: But the same is true for the high-skilled workers.

Rubio Aide 1: Yes, and the same is true across every sector, in government, in everything.

Mickey Kaus summarized the Rubio aides’ view of American workers:

There’s a reason unemployed Americans are unemployed. They aren’t star performers. Screw ’em. We’re bringing in workers from abroad!

No news to anyone on this side of the issue, but nice to see the truth aired by writers closer to the mainstream.

There are one or two soft brown spots in Lizza’s piece, where he takes conventional immigration cant at face value. This I think is only ignorance, though, not any propagandistic intent on Lizza’s part.

H-1B visas . . . allow companies like Google and Facebook to bring highly skilled engineers from abroad to work for them temporarily in America.

As if “abroad” were the only place where such engineers could be found; as if there were anything “temporary” about their residence here.

These minor lapses aside, Lizza’s cold, neutral prose works very well, impressing on the reader better than any polemic could the shallow motives of the players, their pathetic innumeracy, and their near-total ignorance of immigration realities.

Republicans looked at the [2012] polling results: “a steady decline from Bush to me to Mitt,” McCain said.

The actual decline in Hispanics voting for Republican presidential candidates, 2004-08-12, has been from 40 percent of 6.0 percent of the electorate to 27 percent of 8.4 percent. That is to say, from 2.4 percent of the overall electorate, to 2.3 percent. As we’ve been saying for years, it’s nothing that could not easily be swamped by modest increases in the non-Hispanic white vote.

Nobody expects U.S. Senators to be philosopher-kings—well, I don’t—but it is very depressing to see how little of the real, fact-based discussions on immigration policy conducted here and elsewhere has penetrated senatorial heads.

As it happens, I sat down with Lizza’s piece just after reading all through that epic, much-circulated comment thread on Tyler Cowen’s website. Peter Schaeffer is the, ah, star performer here:

The Economic Report of the President (EROP), Table B-35 gives total employment at 143.305 million. Table B-47 gives hours worked at 33.7 per week. A little math gives total hours at 251.127 billion. That’s rather close to the Conference Board data.

National Health Expenditures appear to be in the $3 trillion range. [Peter goes into some critical discussion of this number. Then:] If $3 trillion is the correct health care number, then $12 per hour is about right. You can tweak the number up and down a bit by changing your estimate of health care spending, but it’s going to be in that range.

That’s key quantitative data. Total hours worked per annum in the U.S.A.: a quarter trillion. Total healthcare expenditures: three trillion. Healthcare costs per hour worked: $12. (Other commenters raise objections: Schaeffer fields them very deftly.)

The minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. If a minimum wage worker paid 100% of his income in taxes (or health care premiums), America would still lose $4.75 on health care costs alone.

Did anyone ever think to do this rather straightforward piece of arithmetic before?  In particular, did any of the researchers attached to any of the Senators named in Ryan Lizza’s piece think to do it? If one of them had, would he have been able to hammer it through a thick senatorial skull?

By contrast we get this from Chuck Schumer, on illegal immigrants:

I’m not saying they’re bad people. I would do the same thing if my mother and children were starving in Oaxaca Province.

So far as I can discover there has been no famine in Mexico since the 15th century. Life expectancy in Oaxaca, according to Wikipedia, “is 71.7 for men and 77.4 for women, just under the national average,” while: “Ninety five percent of Oaxaca’s population receives health care from one or more government programs.” Modern Mexico is a middle-class country, with per capita GDP $15,300, twice that of Ukraine and three times Syria’s.

Quantitative facts like these—on voting percentages, the external costs of “cheap” labor, living standards in people-exporting countries—are easy to find. Why are they so easy to ignore?

I return to my opening question: What is driving this stupendous legislative effort? There is money, to be sure: When George Soros, Sheldon Adelson, Mark Zuckerberg, and Michael Bloomberg are all pushing hard on one side of an issue, things will happen. Immigration romanticism? Probably, given the prominence in the Gang of Eight of Chuck Schumer, an Ashkenazi huddled-masses romantic from Central Casting. The Cold Civil War—one great section of U.S. whites seeking to marginalize and crush another section? Undoubtedly: listen to them crowing at the prospect of whites becoming a minority.

There is something else, though, that I think comes through clearly from Ryan Lizza’s article.

Back in the 1970s I had a colleague who was a hi-fi buff. He talked about hi-fi a lot; he subscribed to hi-fi magazines, and read them in his coffee break; he spent much of his disposable income on hi-fi equipment. In the fullness of time we got sufficiently friendly that I was invited to his apartment. Riding the cab over there, I naturally wondered what I would hear on the hi-fi buff’s hi-fi. Mozart’s 19th String Quartet? The Dallas Callas? The Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

What I heard was Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass, along with some similar easy-listening elevator music. Thence the life lesson: For some people, process matters more than result, form more than content, the container more than what is contained.

The overwhelming impression given by Lizza’s account is of a group of men (there seem to be no gyno-American Senators involved with immigration) obsessed with legislative process over any concern for national interest or any desire to engage with quantitative data.

In Schumer’s case, this is no surprise. The senior U.S. senator from my state boasted when campaigning in 1998 that he had “a passion to legislate.”

That’s your problem right there.


John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. His most recent book, published by com is FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle). His writings are archived at

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