Interview: CAPS's Jo Wideman explains why "immigration control has become such a lightning rod"

Published on March 27th, 2017

Joseph Ford Cotto
March 27, 2017
San Francisco Review of Books

After several years on the back burner, serious talk about enforcing immigration law finally returned – thanks to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. With his election, executive-level action was at long last taken.

Do not expect Congress to follow suit, however.

The last time a bipartisan consensus formed on immigration policy was in the then-majority-Democratic U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, it was centered around a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. Mercifully, this legislation did not get through the Republican-led U.S. House.

Among the GOP ranks, opposition to amnesty has solidified since Trump's victory and the 2014 midterm elections. Not long before Trump launched his bid, House GOPers rejected defense legislation because it would have provided for citizenship should an illegal serve in our military.

This move was met with strong criticism, including from center-right voices, which is what made it so commendable. When the rubber met the road, typically spineless politicians chose the more difficult, yet civic-minded, path. "The Honorable" gentlemen and gentlewomen indeed.

Still, kicking the can down the road no longer works. Illegal immigration has grown too vast and far too expensive. The time for legislative action is now, but it must be asked if said action will help or harm the situation.

Before anything else is mentioned, we must realize that the idea of rounding up and deporting illegal aliens en masse is unrealistic. The social consequences of this would surpass imagination, and there simply aren't enough law enforcement officers to do the job.

However, making citizens out of illegal aliens is a plan for abject failure. Not only would unlawful immigration be encouraged, but competition would soar for even the most menial of employment opportunities.

If one thinks it is difficult to build a good career in post-Great Recession America, just wait and see how hard it will be to make ends meet in post-amnesty America.

All too many illegal aliens have minimal interest in assimilating to our country's cultural norms and earn a substantial – yet illicit – salary through public assistance and/or government-funded private charities. Amnesty is not going to bring the average American any fortune whatsoever. Mitt Romney was onto something when he spoke about self-deportation.

Scores of Democrats support amnesty for building a permanent political majority. No small number of Republicans want a first-class seat on the gravy train as well; especially those whose constituents utilize illegal alien labor.

Few people understand this incredibly complex situation as well as Jo Wideman does. She is the executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization, a group which stands at the forefront of productively dealing with America's immigration quagmire.

"Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) works to formulate and advance policies and programs designed to stabilize the population of California, the U.S. and the world at levels which will preserve the environment and a good quality of life for all," its website declares, later mentioning "that CAPS does not advocate blaming immigrants. We don’t blame people from other countries for wanting to come live here. We are pro immigrant – we strive to meaningfully uphold and nurture the American Dream for people who wants to come to the U.S. through legal channels in numbers that our environment and resources can reasonably accommodate (approximately 300.000 a year). We were founded on and conintue be focused on all aspects of population growth."

Wideman recently spoke with me about many issues relating to American immigration policy. Some of our conversation is included below.


Joseph Ford Cotto: Immigration control is a concept with which most of us are familiar. Why, in your opinion, has it become such a political lightning rod?

Jo Wideman: Most political issues have become more polarized in recent times; immigration is no exception and immigration control has become such a lightning rod because it is the main fault-line or frontline in the epic clash between those who believe the nation-state is obsolete and those who do not, between those who are cosmopolitan and globalist in their leanings and those who are patriotic and nationalist. The former are now “citizens of the world,” and feel little or no special allegiance or attachment to their homeland; indeed some often seem embarrassed or incensed by its alleged shortcomings and sins.

The latter are still first and foremost citizens of the USA and love their homeland in spite of its flaws because it is their home, and because for all its faults it is still a good place, perhaps the best country on earth. And while there is always room for improvement, many have sacrificed much and worked hard to make it what it is. To these folks our country is like an extended family. They can wave the flag or sing the national anthem or recite the pledge of allegiance with pride instead of embarrassment or disdain.  To them, mass immigration and the blatant disrespect for our country’s immigration laws are an affront akin to a slap in the face.  

All of this is playing out against a background in which immigration has expanded to become the dominant force in driving U.S. population growth and forcing profound demographic changes that rank-and-file Americans never sought. Rates of legal and illegal immigration combined have quadrupled since the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which opened the floodgates with legislation that would either flood our cities with massive, unassimilable numbers of foreigners or substantially change the ethnic and racial composition of the country.  

There are now over 40 million foreign-born residents in the United States, up from under 10 million in 1970. The number of illegal aliens residing without authorization in the U.S. appears to be at least 12 million, but may be much more because the numbers are notoriously difficult to count. Many of these are fine, hard-working folks – others are not – but they have no official permission to be here, and they defied American sovereignty when they crossed the border without authorization or overstayed their visas.  They said, in essence, that “it is our right to decide whether or not we want to cross your border and remain in your country. You Americans have no sovereign right to determine who and how many will join your ranks.” This outrages ordinary, patriotic Americans because at the end of the day it’s like telling a homeowner that he or she has no right to close the door and keep strangers from wandering into their house.    

Millions of American workers are either unemployed or under-employed or face reduced wages and working conditions because of mass immigration, legal and illegal. The beneficiaries of mass immigration and the lack of immigration enforcement are mainly the immigrants themselves, their friends and family, their apologists, and the cheap labor lobby, not Americans at large. The upshot of a recent National Academy of Sciences study of recent immigration trends is that businesses benefit while workers and taxpayers lose out.

Immigration control has become a contentious issue for other several reasons, as well. One is that immigration laws have not been truly enforced for several decades. This has allowed increasing numbers of illegal aliens to enter America, easily evade capture at our border, and live and work in our country. As the number of illegal aliens has grown, so has their influence as a political identity group. There are good conservative reasons for supporting reduced immigration flows, and, as any cursory examination of history will show, there are good liberal reasons for supporting reduced immigration. As politics has become more combative and less bipartisan, individuals are less likely to express positions that do not line up with the majority of their colleagues, fearful of the charge that “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.

As a result, a myriad of political and special interests want continued immigration – both legal and illegal. Very few are concerned about the consequences of such levels of immigration on Americans and their descendants – of all races, creeds, and colors.

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