America’s Immigration Daydream Is Coming to an End

The Atlantic, one of the most prestigious and reliably liberal publications in America, has a new article semi-frankly acknowledging the downsides of the last half century of unrestricted immigration. Author David Leonhardt, a regular columnist for the New York Times, confronts – or rather, politely circumambulates – the “unintended” consequences of the landmark 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which fundamentally remade America’s immigration process by opening the floodgates to the Third World.

Leonhardt focuses chiefly on the economic impact of mass immigration on working class wages and rising inequality between the poor and the middle class. There is nothing groundbreaking here, as any disciple of Patrick Buchanan (or anyone with a working understanding of supply and demand) could tell you. But it is always a little surprising to see common sense in the pages of a magazine like The Atlantic, even if it comes in the usual milquetoast packaging. Leonhardt even takes apart the quietly elitist “jobs Americans won’t do” talking point that liberals love: “Immigrants typically work in jobs that native-born Americans do not want at the wages that employers are offering. One reason that employers can offer such wages….is the availability of so many immigrant workers.”

But one can only expect a respectable liberal writer to take things so far. Leonhardt tempers “the hard truth about immigration” with the usual sentimental mush about its intangible benefits. To quote Mary Poppins, a “spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

According to Leonhardt, the 1965 Act was flawed but nevertheless a “monumental achievement.” For who? For millions of newcomers, it undoubtedly changed life for the better. What about the American people? For them, it was a swindle of historic proportions.

The 1965 immigration revolution was sold to the American people as a modest shift, as Leonhardt points out. But he omits a striking quote from famous liberal Ted Kennedy, who pledged the bill “will not upset the ethnic mix of our society.”

In the end, the reform was a strike at the heart of democracy. The people were misled on the most political of questions – who gets to be part of our community? America entered the late 20th century as a prospering, majority-white country. In the span of a few generations, whites would become an untouchable minority. They now face the prospect of spending the remainder of their natural lives under hostile, one-party rule. The majority party, the Democrats, grows stronger, and more hostile to the nation’s historic majority, with each wave of foreigners. Under President Biden, this process of demographic replacement and marginalization has accelerated like never before.

It was Kennedy’s brother John Kennedy who stamped the nation’s conscience with pablum about America being a “nation of immigrants.” President Johnson made that sappy vision into a reality. If the America of 1965 could see the effects that mass immigration would have in the ensuing decades, it is doubtful Johnson’s reform would have passed at all. At the time, a bare majority favored scrapping country quotas, and only 7 percent wanted immigration to increase, a preference that remains to this day (not that it appears to have influenced policymakers).

Many Americans who grew up during the Kennedy years look back on the post-war boom as an idyllic dream. Their yearnings can’t be written off as mere nostalgia bias. Compared to the present, the early ‘60s must have been like paradise: the single breadwinner was the standard, the country had a real sense of identity, and people trusted their neighbors enough to leave doors unlocked. That’s all gone now. As a result of the monumental demographic change unleashed over the past half century, America is more divided than it has ever been since its greatest crisis in 1865. The country is Balkanizing, and politics have become radical and violent.

Leonhardt is more concerned with how diversity can be exploited by the right than its actual disintegrating effects on society. To liberals, immigration can only be conceived as a problem (if ever) when framed in terms of class. But immigration is not only an economic question, as current events have shown. With the war in Israel, reality has come crashing into the daydream of multiracial utopia. America’s rapidly browning youth is sympathetic to Hamas. It is likely that some Atlantic readers are having doubts about immigration for the first time in their lives. The issue can be avoided for a while longer, but not forever.

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About Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a Mt. Vernon fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a staff writer and weekly columnist at the Conservative Institute. His writing has also appeared in the Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter @matt_boose. ‏

Photo: Volunteers distribute provisions to migrants ranging from food and medicine to clothing at the US-Mexico border in San Diego, California on October 10, 2023. More than 200,000 migrants have crossed the San Diego sector of the US-Mexico border this year from January to August, the highest number in two decades. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)