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Will Immigrants Harm America?

Think Tank Transcripts:Will Immigration Harm America?

ANNOUNCER: 'Think Tank' has been made possible by Amgen, arecipient of the Presidential National Medal of Technology. Amgen,bringing better, healthier lives to people worldwide throughbiotechnology.

Additional funding is provided by the John M. Olin Foundation, theRandolph Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

MR. WATTENBERG: Hello, I'm Ben Wattenberg. America takes in moreimmigrants than the rest of the world combined, but legal immigrationis now under serious attack. An old argument with a new face issurfacing, and it says that the new immigrants are smotheringAmerican culture.

Joining us to sort through the conflict and the consensus are:Peter Brimelow, author of 'Alien Nation: Common Sense about America'sImmigration Disaster'; Peter Skerry, a fellow at the Woodrow WilsonCenter and author of 'Mexican Americans, the Ambivalent Minority,' aprize-winning book; Linda Chavez, president of the Center for EqualOpportunity and author of 'Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politicsof Hispanic Assimilation; and me. As viewers of this program ofcourse know, I am normally the ever objective, completely impartialmoderator. But I have written about this issue, most recently in abook called 'The First Universal Nation.' So this week I am an'immoderator' and a semi-panelist.

The topic before this house: Will immigrants harm America? Thisweek on 'Think Tank.'

America is a nation of immigrants who have always wanted to pullup the gangplank behind them. During the first three decades of thiscentury, nearly 20 million immigrants came to America. Back then,many residents feared the so-called dirty and criminal peoples ofsouthern and eastern Europe would swamp America and the Americanculture. Fortunately for everyone involved, it seemed to have workedout rather well.

These days, immigrants hail less from Europe and more from Asiaand Latin America. Probably not by coincidence, the rate of Americansfavoring cuts in immigration rose from under 40 percent in the 1950sto over 60 percent today.

Until recently, the immigration debate was dominated by illegalimmigration, estimated to be about 300,000 people per year. Buttoday, with just over 800,000 legal immigrants entering the UnitedStates each year, some people are again worried that America isdanger of being swamped.

Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan sees it this way.

PAT BUCHANAN (Presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Americaneeds a time-out, a period similar to the period we had between the1920s and the 1960s, to assimilate the something like 25 millionimmigrants who have come in here since the 1965 legislation. I fearthat with wholesale illegal immigration and unrestricted immigrationotherwise, we are really in danger of losing our country.

MR. WATTENBERG: Others see it quite differently. Presidentialcandidate Phil Gramm has said, quotes: 'I am not ready to take downthe Statue of Liberty. We've got room in America, a lot of room. Ifwe can preserve freedom, we don't ever have to worry about whatAmerica is going to look like.'

That's from a conservative candidate.

If current trends continue, America will look quite different 50years from now. In 1990, 76 percent of Americans were non-Hispanicwhites, 12 percent were black, and only 12 percent were Asian orHispanic. By the year 2050, just over half of America will beso-called Anglos. The question remains: Therefore what?

All right, Peter Brimelow, let's start with you and go around thehorn quickly here. You have written that the United States willbecome 'a freak among nations because of the demographic mutation itis undergoing.' Talk about that.

MR. BRIMELOW: Well, of course, the point about this demographicmutation, Ben, is that it is entirely driven by public policy --public policy, incidentally, which has never been voted on becausepeople were told exactly the opposite in the '65 act, which is whatis causing this.

MR. WATTENBERG: The 1965 Immigration Act.

MR. BRIMELOW: Exactly right. And the point -- the other point isthat immigration in the past has never worked without pauses. Therewas a 40-year pause in the middle of this century, and that allowedassimilation to take place. There were many other pauses.

And finally, of course, the last great wave of immigrants, theyweren't Americans. Forty percent of them went back. They went backbasically because they failed in the work force. Now we haveimmigration and the welfare state. We've never seen the two together.We have net immigration very high. Ten percent -- only 10 percent oflegal immigrants seem to go back, and the result is that immigrantsare disproportionately onto welfare.

MR. WATTENBERG: Okay. Linda Chavez, is America about ready tobecome a 'freak among nations,' as your colleague on the panel says?

MS. CHAVEZ: Well, Ben, I don't buy the demographic argument. Itpresumes, for example, that Hispanics are going to continue to marryHispanics and stay in a separate enclave living these ethnicallyseparate lives. In fact, the data shows that about a third of youngHispanics who are born here in the United States are marryingnon-Hispanic whites; about half of all of the Asians in the UnitedStates marry whites. So I think that when you cite those numbers fromthe year 2050, it presumes that one ounce of Asian or Hispanic blooddoes an Asian or Hispanic forever make, and I don't buy thatargument.

MR. WATTENBERG: Okay. Peter Skerry.

MR. SKERRY: Yes. You will be pleased to hear, Ben, that I don'tagree with either Peter or Linda, quite.

MR. WATTENBERG: That's why you're here, Peter.

MR. SKERRY: Glad to be here. I think Peter raises some importantquestions about immigration that need raising, but I think he takesscintilla of evidence, or scintilla of facts, and runs much, much toofar with them. I think we should be concerned about economic issueswhen it comes to immigration, legal immigration, but I think theevidence is not all in yet. I think we have some disturbing signs.

On the other hand, I think Linda is correct to point toassimilation as a very ongoing reality. Intermarriage rates are quitestunning. However, the American story is that assimilation createsits own discontents. Assimilation does not solve all our problems.The problems are with second and third generation immigrants, thechildren and grandchildren of immigrants, who face all sorts ofproblems about who they are.

MR. WATTENBERG: Not only second and third generation, but you lookat the diversity argument, the multicultural argument, you have in ita lot of people who are the sons and daughters and descendants ofpeople, WASPs who came over here 200 years ago and blacks who cameover here more than 200 years ago. So it's not just second and third.I mean it's something that happens in a pluralist nation.

MR. SKERRY: Well, it does happen in a pluralist nation, but Ithink the problems of the children of immigrants in terms of thevalues that they live by, I mean it's -- there's a human dimension tothis that it's important to point out, that if you're a child of animmigrant, you very quickly become an American and assimilate inthose terms. However, what does that tell you about your parents, whocome here with very different values? That's a classic Americantension -- and tragedy, in many cases, and it leads often to problemswith peer group pressure, gang activity. That's what we saw at theturn of the century. We see it here today. And that's got to do withthe gap between immigrant values and American values that thosechildren have to negotiate.

MR. BRIMELOW: But, Peter, you saw this University of Chicagorecently, which said basically that immigrants, when they come in, dowell in schools, but after that, they seem to sort of assimilate tothe American pattern so that you get the blacks going intoassimilating into the black American patterns and Asian students notworking as hard.

MR. SKERRY: There you go again, Peter. There's one study thatpoints to that.

MR. BRIMELOW: I was trying to support you.

MR. SKERRY: But you see, you go too far. I think there's reasonsto because concerned about this gap that I point to, but the studyyou're talking about with Mexican Americans looks at one school inOxnard or some coastal community that has strong agricultural --

MR. BRIMELOW: No, it wasn't just this. It was a University ofChicago --

MR. WATTENBERG: And what did -- just hold on a second. What didthat study show?

MR. SKERRY: And it shows that there is a tendency among youngMexican Americans to define themselves as chicanos, to get -- youknow, to be cool is not to do well in school -- many of the problemswe've seen with inner-city blacks. I think there is reason to beconcerned, but to characterize the entire second generation that way,that all children of immigrants --

MR. BRIMELOW: I don't want to embarrass Peter by -- I think I'lljust stop agreeing with you.

MR. SKERRY: It's a deal.

MS. CHAVEZ: Peter, let me --

MR. WATTENBERG: That's the good news. Yeah, go ahead.

MS. CHAVEZ: Let me interject here because I think there are someproblems that we have to deal with in terms of assimilation and someproblems in terms of public policy. My concern is not that the Asiansand Latins that are coming here don't want to be American or thatthey don't want to learn English, that they're not going to do welleconomically in this society. I think the evidence suggests that theywill do comparably well to other groups who came before.

I think the problem is, we do have a lot of public policies inplace that are problematic. You've pointed to the welfare state.Peter, you've written in your work, as have I, about affirmativeaction. These are problems. We now live in a regime in which, becauseof civil rights laws, we now give preference on the basis of race andethnicity.

MR. BRIMELOW: This is completely different -- completely differentfrom what happened in 1900.

MS. CHAVEZ: And that is very different. And I'm concerned aboutthat, but quite frankly, you could shut off the border, you could putup a Berlin Wall at our southern border as far as I'm concerned. Wewould still have the problems with affirmative action and bilingualeducation in the schools and multiculturalism in the schools, and weneed to deal with that separately.

MR. BRIMELOW: Yes, but the constituencies will not be as strongand they won't be reinforced by -- MS. CHAVEZ: They'd still be 20percent of Americans.

MR. WATTENBERG: Peter, you seem to think that the son or daughterof a Korean inner-city granddaughter --

MR. BRIMELOW: Grocer, right.

MR. WATTENBERG: -- of a green grocer -- right, you heard that lineof mine -- is somehow leading the barricades in multiculturalism anddiversity and affirmative action. That's just not true. And neitherare most Hispanic immigrants.

MR. BRIMELOW: Right now we don't know how the Asians are going togo. You do see some sign of -- there are some Asian radicals around.

MR. WATTENBERG: Well, there are some WASP radicals who have veryold New England names, Peter.

MR. BRIMELOW: But the fundamental point --

MR. WATTENBERG: I mean, they're people, right?

MR. BRIMELOW: Well, I realize that you don't want to talk abouteconomics on this show, but the fundamental point about economics --

MR. WATTENBERG: What did you say about this show? I'm sorry.

MR. BRIMELOW: I realize you don't want to talk about economics onthis show.

MR. WATTENBERG: Be my guest.

MR. BRIMELOW: Well, there's a fundamental point here, which isthat this immigration, you can't show that it in any way is necessaryto the U.S. That's what the economic evidence is. The benefit fromthis immigration is very slight. It's probably wiped out by thewelfare loss. So you have to make a political case for thisimmigration, and nobody's making it. Why take the risk, is the point.Maybe Linda's right. I think the data is more fragmented than shesays here. And I know that she's said to me before that this isnothing that bad policies can't mess up, this assimilation process.

MS. CHAVEZ: That's right. I agree.

MR. BRIMELOW: Maybe she's right. Maybe they will assimilate. Butwhy take the risk? That's the point.

MR. SKERRY: Peter, you're being disingenuous. Your book isschizophrenic. You did an enormous service by cutting through a lotof rhetoric, some of which emanates from Ben and people who have thatperspective on immigration. But -- but -- that's fine, you cutthrough a lot of rhetoric and you make -- and you elucidate a lot ofeconomic evidence that I think is important and compelling. But thenthere's the other part of your book, where you have thiscultural-racial argument that doesn't articulate with that at all andthat says things like, when you go below the street in New York Cityinto the subway or into the INS office, you're faced with a thirdworld, you know, a set of -- there's a third world --

MR. WATTENBERG: Let me read one more, and then let's move on.Brimelow reports that when you enter the waiting room at an office ofthe Immigration and Naturalization Service, quotes, 'You findyourself in an underworld that is not just teeming, but is almostentirely colored.'

MR. BRIMELOW: Now, this is no more or less than the absolutetruth, and it speaks to the way the '65 act has worked.

MR. SKERRY: And it speaks to your cultural argument.

MR. BRIMELOW: Let me finish, let me finish. It's choked offimmigration from Europe, it's skewed immigration towards just 15countries from the third world. This is a fact. If you don't like thefact, go and argue with the --

MR. WATTENBERG: No, I -- it is a fact.

MR. BRIMELOW: -- but it's no more or less than a fact.

MR. WATTENBERG: We've shown it in the setup piece. But thequestion is, what is the consequence? You are saying that people whodon't come from Europe are culturally incompatible in this society.Now, how do you know that? Why do you think that? You look at theAsian immigration, for example. I mean they're winning Nobel Prizesfor us --

MR. BRIMELOW: But don't you realize --

MR. WATTENBERG: -- they're developing medicines to cureosteoporosis. I mean, you are an immigrant. Are you more of anAmerican than Michael Chang?

MR. BRIMELOW: The point is that --

MR. WATTENBERG: You don't play tennis as well as he does.

MR. BRIMELOW: -- the reason why you can't -- the reason why ---you can't finish the rest of that story. Why can't we talk aboutVietnamese gangs? Why can't we talk about criminal elements?

MS. CHAVEZ: Peter, I think -- Peter, what --

MR. BRIMELOW: I ought to be able to finish.

MR. WATTENBERG: Let Peter finish, Linda.

MR. BRIMELOW: The other point is that what you're talking aboutthere is the consequence of skilled immigration, and the fact is thatthe '65 act has just choked off skilled immigration because of theway the family unification principle works, which is why we now haveimmigrants, on balance, less skilled. You can have a millionimmigrants a year, but why not skilled immigrants? Why have they gotto have half of them unskilled?

MS. CHAVEZ: Let's talk about skilled immigrants. Let me bring thisback, because I think there's an important point here, and this iswhat some of us find frustrating in your book, Peter. On the onehand, you argue for more skilled immigration, which I think all of us-- I mean I've written about that in 'Commentary' myself; I think weought to have a more skills-based immigration policy. I think familyunification does not necessarily make sense.

But if we had a skill-based immigration, the likelihood is itwould be very heavily skewed from Asia. In fact, they would benon-white immigrants from India, from Pakistan and from other partsof Asia.

Now, if your argument is fundamentally a racial argument or even acultural argument, how is that you justify that at the same time asyou say you want more skilled immigrants, because the most skilledpeople who are coming to the United States today are coming fromthird world, non-white nations.

MR. BRIMELOW: I don't understand your point. I say that I thinkthat skilled immigrants, on the whole, do -- are preferable tounskilled immigrants. You know, if they're skilled, then there willbe much less worry.

MS. CHAVEZ: And if in fact we were admitting all of the immigrantsfrom Asia, as opposed to Latin America -- so your real objection isreally not about skills, it's really not about race. Your realobjection is to unskilled Latin immigrants coming to the UnitedStates.

MR. BRIMELOW: Is unskilled immigrants. I wonder what the point ofhaving unskilled immigrants is. You know, the evidence is that youcan't show any --

MS. CHAVEZ: One of the points of having them is that they do jobsthat the rest of us won't do anymore, Peter.

MR. BRIMELOW: Oh, baloney. It's just a myth. What do you thinkhappens in Japan? They get their -- MR. WATTENBERG: They're bringingin illegals to --

MS. CHAVEZ: They have Koreans come. They have a lot --

MR. WATTENBERG: They're bringing in illegals to do the jobs thatJapanese won't do.

MR. BRIMELOW: Minimal. They throw them out as fast as they can.They have maybe 200,000 illegals in the country, and they throw themout as fast as they can. We have at least 4 1/2 million illegals inthis country.

MR. WATTENBERG: And they also have a class system in Japan thatforces --

MR. BRIMELOW: And they're not even efficient about their use oflabor --

MR. WATTENBERG: -- that forces people to stay into lower-classjobs and hovels from which they cannot rise. That is not the Americantradition.

MR. BRIMELOW: That's just nonsense.

MR. WATTENBERG: That's not just nonsense.

MR. BRIMELOW: I mean it's obvious that --

MR. WATTENBERG: It's like India over there. They have a -- it's acaste system in Japan.

MS. CHAVEZ: I thought you were going to say, Peter --

MR. BRIMELOW: -- economies just do not need this kind of cheaplabor.

MS. CHAVEZ: Peter, I thought you were going to say --

MR. BRIMELOW: You can substitute capital for labor, you cansubstitute robotics for labor. And that's what the Japanese havedone.

MS. CHAVEZ: I thought what you were going to say is that we couldhave a guest worker type program --

MR. BRIMELOW: Well, that's true.

MS. CHAVEZ: -- and that's where we could get our skilled workersfrom, and we might even have some agreement there.

MR. BRIMELOW: And this is where Linda and I agree.

MR. WATTENBERG: Let me ask one question --

MR. BRIMELOW: You see, I think the basic point is, the '65 systemis broken. It didn't work right.

MR. WATTENBERG: Okay. I think a lot of us agree --

MR. BRIMELOW: And I think everyone here agrees with that, don'tyou?


MR. WATTENBERG: A lot of us agree that the 1965 immigration lawhas some problems, and in point of fact, the last immigration law, in1990, does starkly increase the number of skilled workers. It makes alarge effort to rebalance the immigration through the so-calleddiversity immigrants, which are supposed to come largely from Europe.So, you know, all your points are not off the wall. I would be thefirst to allow that.


MR. WATTENBERG: Let me ask you a question, though. You say, Well,all I really want is a lull, just a little plain moratorium for fiveyears. Can you -- and one of the candidates who says he wants thatand is sort of leading the movement is my good friend Patrick J.Buchanan. Can you, in your wildest imagination -- it's 1995 -- in theyear 2000, can you see Pat Buchanan standing up and saying, 'The lullis over, and now let's start taking all those people back in'? Do youseriously believe that as a political idea?

MR. BRIMELOW: If they were Croatians, we might well do it. But infact, I mean the issue is what the Americans want. That's thefundamental issue here. You know, for more than 40 years, as youknow, not more than 13 percent of Americans, 1 3 percent ofAmericans, have said that they wanted to see immigration increase.But it's been quintupled. That looks great from here inside thebeltway, but out there in the country it gets people very upset. Youcan't do that kind of thing to a country without expecting seriousreaction.

Ultimately, there's a value judgment here. People have to make avalue judgment. Do they want to have 390 million people living here,which is what the Census Bureau says will happen in 2050 with currentimmigration flow, or do they want 250 million people, which is whatthe Census Bureau says would happen without immigration. It's a valuejudgment, and it's up to the Americans to make it. So I say in fiveyears' time, let's ask the Americans.

MR. SKERRY: But if you're concerned about reactions, Peter, thekinds of proposals that you put forward will create incrediblereactions of their own. The kind of -- you know, the ditch orbarriers or whatever it is you say we should -- American politicalleaders should muster up at the border, or an 'Operation Wetback'that you, you know, unshamefacedly put forward will create suchdivision in the American Southwest that -- I mean, you know, wewouldn't be able to have a program like this to talk about it.

MR. BRIMELOW: Well, what you're saying, Peter, if we can't have an'Operation Wetback,' which, as you know, Ben, was the way in what theEisenhower administration ended the last illegal immigration crisis,and it deported about a million --

MR. WATTENBERG: But you're talking about legal immigration. Wait aminute.

MR. BRIMELOW: I mean, if you can't -- listen, if you can't have an'Operation Wetback,' which is -- Peter raised it, what you said. Whatyou said is if you can't have an 'Operation Wetback,' the U.S. haslost control of its national territory.

MR. SKERRY: No, no, no. No. They're already in here, Peter.

MS. CHAVEZ: There were also -- just a second.

MR. WATTENBERG: Let Linda talk.

MS. CHAVEZ: Let me also interject here that in 'OperationWetback,' there were thousands of people who looked like me and, likeme, were born in the United States and whose parents and grandparentsand great grandparents were born here, who were deported to Mexicoand had to fight to get back in, who had to prove themselves. I meanthat --

MR. BRIMELOW: Linda, my impression is that most of the Americancitizens who were deported were actually children, because -- they'rechildren, or they're born here, and they become citizens by virtue ofthe 14th Amendment.

MS. CHAVEZ: I don't think that's true. I mean you may -- I don'tknow what the numbers are, but I know that in fact there were anumber of people who were deported who had a legal right to be here.

MR. WATTENBERG: Can we just stop for a minute?

MR. BRIMELOW: But it's illegal now.

MR. WATTENBERG: The purpose of this discussion, I thought, was totry to deal with legal immigration, because I think everyone on thispanel and most everyone in America is agreed that we have to stopillegal immigration.

MR. BRIMELOW: But not deport illegals after --

MR. WATTENBERG: Excuse me?

MR. BRIMELOW: We don't have to deport illegals if they're already--

MR. WATTENBERG: I don't think Linda's against deporting illegals.

MS. CHAVEZ: No, I'm absolutely in favor, but I'm not in favor ofthe kind of roundups that took place before. I think it's a balancingact.

MR. SKERRY: Peter is in favor of that, so --

MS. CHAVEZ: It's a balancing act, and I don't think it's worth it.

MR. BRIMELOW: It's 4 million -- you're talking about 4 millionpeople. I mean, obviously you're going to have to -- you know, thereare 4 million illegals here. Should they stay here?

MS. CHAVEZ: Look, I --

MR. SKERRY: Should they be forcibly deported? I think that's --

MS. CHAVEZ: I don't think we want to send troops out into theSouthwestern United States and round people up.

MR. BRIMELOW: Let's have a vote on it.

MR. WATTENBERG: Linda, let me ask you a question. Peter mentionedthat the current crop of immigrants are more likely to be on welfareand generally are more likely to be ne'er-do-wells than in thosehalcyon days of yore. Do you buy that, or what --

MS. CHAVEZ: Well, first of all, we didn't have welfare programs inthose halcyon days of yore.

MR. WATTENBERG: But what are the immigrants like today?

MS. CHAVEZ: It depends on who you're talking about. If you'retalking about working-age immigrants, they are less likely to be onwelfare than the U.S.-born. If you are talking about refugees, it isU.S. policy to admit refugees and to put them on welfare. I thinkthat policy is wrong, I think it ought to be changed, I think it's adisgrace, I think the American taxpayers don't support it. I wouldlike to see changes in that law.

If you're talking about older immigrants, I think there also wehave a problem. I think there are a lot of people who are sponsoringtheir parents and bringing them here --

MR. WATTENBERG: And then not paying up --

MS. CHAVEZ: -- and then not taking care of them. We have lawsadequate on the books now to deal with that. Those laws ought to beenforced. I think they ought to be expanded. I think that people whosponsor someone to come into the United States ought to beresponsible for a minimum of 10 years for the financial well-being ofthat family. And if they turn out to be wards of the state, then Ithink they ought to be sent back.

MR. BRIMELOW: But, of course, we already have these laws on thebooks, as you said.

MS. CHAVEZ: Of course we do, and we're not enforcing them.

MR. BRIMELOW: They're just not being enforced.

MS. CHAVEZ: And that's wrong, and we ought to be hammering at theClinton administration to begin to enforce those laws.

MR. BRIMELOW: So we -- and also, for that matter, the Reagan-Bushadministration.

MS. CHAVEZ: And the Reagan-Bush administration as well.

MR. WATTENBERG: Peter Skerry -- because you've written about this-- are immigrants and the current pattern of immigration behind thismulticultural agenda, this diversity mongering, that is good up to acertain point, and then beyond that, in my judgment, leans towardseparatism?

MR. SKERRY: Well, the phrasing, 'Are they behind it,' I find alittle unfortunate, but I take your meaning, Ben. I think they playeda --

MR. WATTENBERG: Everyone's correcting me today. Go ahead. I'mfine.

MR. SKERRY: These are touchy issues. I think that much, if notmost of the impetus behind multiculturalism, to use that phrase, Ithink in fact comes from black Americans. Yet I think manyimmigrants, and certainly many immigrant leaders, partake of that.And I think it speaks back to the point I made at the beginning ofthe program. It speaks to the whole ordeal, the Sturm und Drang, ofassimilation.

Finding out -- I think the problem today in America, as much asanything, is not a lack of assimilation. It's almost too muchassimilation. It's excessive assimilation. The young MexicanAmericans I meet in Los Angeles, in East Los Angeles, don't sufferfrom lack of it. They feel deracinated. They can't speak Spanish totheir grandmothers, who don't speak English. They don't know anythingabout their culture or their heritage, they'll tell you. That's hardto believe in East Los Angeles, but that's what one hears over andover again, and that's borne out by the data.

MS. CHAVEZ: And how is that different than what Nat Glazer --

MR. SKERRY: It's not.

MS. CHAVEZ: -- and Pat Moynihan were writing about in the 1970sabout eastern and southern Europeans?

MR. WATTENBERG: About Italians and Jews and Poles.

MS. CHAVEZ: Right.

MR. WATTENBERG: And in an earlier year, about Germans.

MS. CHAVEZ: I mean, that is what --

MR. SKERRY: And that's exactly the case. Let me answer thequestion. It's very much the same, except it's arguably morederacinating today, I think because of mass media and the popularculture.

MR. WATTENBERG: Tell us what deracinating means.

MR. SKERRY: It means uprooted. It means deprived of your roots,literally, from the Latin, okay.

MR. WATTENBERG: That's right.

MR. SKERRY: We're not speaking Latin. But the point I would makeis that it is essentially the same process, yet today we have atotally different infrastructure in place that speaks to and evokesthose feelings, the political institutions, in particular, ofaffirmative action, the Voting Rights Act, and a broader set ofcultural norms that evoke those kinds of reactions and that feed onthem and exacerbate them.

MS. CHAVEZ: And that is precisely the point, and we need to dosomething about those policies. Affirmative action is a bad idea.Again, if we closed the border, if we didn't let in another Mexicanor another Asian immigrant, we'd still have the problem of --

MR. SKERRY: But it isn't that simple, I would argue, because whatwe had in place at the turn of the century, when Nat Glazer and soforth were going through those pains, were a whole set of politicalinstitutions --

MR. WATTENBERG: Nat is not that old. You're talking about what hewas writing about.

MR. SKERRY: No, you're right. You're right. You're that old.

MR. WATTENBERG: Thank you. Right.

MR. SKERRY: No, neither of you --

MR. WATTENBERG: I'm under a hundred.

MR. SKERRY: Neither of you are that old. Well, you know, anythingabove 50 looks old to me.

What we had in place were a set of political institutions, localpolitical organizations, the so-called political machines, that Ithink -- and they're not just that, but principally that -- played animportant role in helping bridging these kinds of anxieties andhelped -- provided a path into the broader scheme of Americansociety. We don't have any of that. If we get rid of affirmativeaction today, we still won't have it.

MR. WATTENBERG: Peter, you wouldn't have disagreed with thisrecent conversation, would you have, much?

MR. BRIMELOW: Oh, sure, he's right. But I don't want to agree withPeter because it embarrasses him. I mean he has to work in academiclife, you know. (Laughter.)

MR. SKERRY: Peter, I don't -- you don't -- we don't have to workat it. You're -- you know, when we talk about irresponsible, thekinds of things you say about race and culture are, you know,suggesting an 'Operation Wetback,' are incredibly divisive and notvery helpful to your argument, it seems to me.

MS. CHAVEZ: Peter, nobody on this show has been called a racistmore times than I have, so let's not -- you know, let's not play thatgame.

MR. WATTENBERG: I don't know. I've gone through that.

MR. BRIMELOW: I guess maybe I've been exposed too much to GeorgeOrwell as an adolescent, you know. I really do believe in plainspeaking in political discourse. I think that at the moment we have apolitical discourse which is impossibly corrupted and riddled withtaboos. And as a result, the --

MR. SKERRY: That's why it's disappointing to hear you back off theargument in your book.

MR. WATTENBERG: Did you find any taboos in this discussion? And ifso, what are they?

MR. BRIMELOW: Well, we're very enlightened, aren't we?

MR. WATTENBERG: Well, I don't know. I mean I'm just curious. Whatwere the taboos, Peter? We can talk about them.

MR. BRIMELOW: Well, I think Peter is disturbed about the idea ofan 'Operation Wetback.' And I think his distress is essentiallyemotional and, if I may say so, irrational, because there's no otherway to resolve the problem if you have a large illegal population.

MR. WATTENBERG: All right, listen, we are about out of time. Iwant to go once around the room, starting with you, Peter, briefanswer to this question. Is it going to work out all right?

MR. SKERRY: We don't know yet. I think there are lots of reasonsto be concerned.


MS. CHAVEZ: I think it's likely to work out all right, but I thinkwe do have to have some changes in public policy. People need tolearn English and they do need to assimilate.

MR. BRIMELOW: I don't know whether it's going to work out, but Isay, why take the risk?

MR. WATTENBERG: I think there's more of a risk in not trying.

Okay, thank you, Linda Chavez, Peter Brimelow and Peter Skerry.And thank you. Please send your comments and questions to: New RiverMedia, 1150 17th Street, NW, Suite 1050, Washington, DC, 20036. Or wecan be reached via E-mail at

For 'Think Tank,' I'm Ben Wattenberg.

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