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Opinion: The Third Rail

16 October 2017  

The United States may be the first nation in history to voluntarily surrender its traditional culture and national identity to other peoples.

Race has dominated the news again this week. Since the election of Donald Trump, racial politics have been an endless lietmotif in the mainstream media. Although many claim the controversy over NFL players refusing to stand for the National Anthem is really about patriotism and not race, it's hard not to notice that most of the players refusing to stand are Black. Most of the people standing for the National Anthem are White. According to a USA Today poll, public opinion on the issue breaks down along political and racial lines. White Republicans generally support standing for the National Anthem. Democrats, including 80% of Blacks, support the players who have refused to stand. (USA Today, 10-3-17, p. 3A).

The mainstream press has seized upon President Trump's insistence that traditional decorum requires standing for the National Anthem as evidence of racism. It looks like he has some law on his side. Title 36 U.S.C. 301, sets forth the law on Patriotic and National Observances and stipulates that uniformed military personnel shall stand during the playing of the National Anthem, regardless of whether the flag is displayed.

This seems to have been the case since at least 1904, when the requirement was incorporated into military regulations (See Paragraph 383, Regulations of the U.S. Army, 1094 Ed.). Granted, NFL players are not uniformed military. But to honor both those who are in uniform and the veterans of our nations's wars, the custom of standing for the National Anthem has become a time honored tradition. Trump may be the first President in modern history to defy the racial pieties of the mainstream media and live to talk about it.

Another story with racial overtones also caught my eye this week. The Federation For American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a national think tank studying immigration issues, has published their findings on the economic cost to the United States and the individual states of illegal immigrants.

The immigration debate often includes the claim that illegal aliens are good for the US economy because they fill labor shortages and take jobs American's won't do. (Terms such as "illegal immigrant" and "undocumented migrant" are the invention of journalists. The legal definition is found in Title 8 U.S.C. Section 1325, which defines persons illegally in the country as "aliens" subject to removal.) The pro immigrant argument holds that they pay taxes and help shore up Social Security and so on. Those who make such claims are in for a surprise.

According to FAIR's September 2017 report, the net cost of illegal immigration to the United States is roughly 116 billion dollars a year, or $8,000 a year for every man, women and child. For Arizona, the figure is 2.3 billion dollars a year, or roughly $4000 a year per alien. To put this figure in perspective, Arizona's entire state budget for the current fiscal year is less than 10 billion. In other words, the cost of illegal immigration to Arizona taxpayers is equivalent to 20% of our state budget.

In calculating the cost of illegal immigration, FAIR estimates that there are roughly 12.5 million illegal aliens in the United States and 4.2 million citizen children born to parents who are in the United States illegally. The figure of 12.5 million is higher than the more commonly cited 11 million estimate by the Pew Research Center. But the Pew estimate does not include several categories of illegals such as unaccompanied minors, people with Temporary Protected Status, and DACA eligibles.

The folks at Pew make a technical distinction that illegals who are temporarily exempt from deportation shouldn't be counted among those here illegally. By this logic, with the stroke of a pen, President Obama reduced the number of illegal aliens in our country when he exempted DACA eligibles from deportation.

The problem with the Pew Center estimate is that with another stroke of a pen by another President, this was undone.

Without apology, Trump has repeatedly touched the "third rail" in American politics. Immigration and border security were signature issues for candidate Trump. Implicit in the campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again" is a nostalgia for something lost, a sense that the national greatness we once took for granted is slipping away. A shrinking middle class and stagnant working class wages may explain economic resentments toward immigrants who take jobs. But for many native born Americans, it is more than jobs that are being lost.

The current national discussion over immigration policy rarely touches on the elephant in the room. Over the last half century the United States has been transformed from a nation predominantly peopled by those of European ancestry into a true multiracial society where White people are becoming a minority. As recently as 1960, the US Census reported that 89% of the population was White.

According to the 2016 US Census estimates, the White population now stands at 61.3%, with Blacks at 13.3%, Hispanics at 17.8%, and Asians at 5.7%. Like the country as a whole, Arizona is undergoing demographic transformation. The White population currently stands at 55%, with Hispanics at 30.8%, American Indians at 5.4%, Blacks at 4.9%, and Asians at 3.4%. Given the current immigration patterns and differential birth rates, both Arizona and the United States as a whole are likely to have a majority non-White population within the next 25 years.

Five states--Hawaii, New Mexico, California, Texas and Nevada are majority non-White. Maryland, with a slim 51.1% White majority is likely the next to flip, with Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Georgia soon to follow.

The cultural implications of this rapid transformation are only beginning to be felt. We see it in our popular culture in everything from entertainment, sports and music, to changing school demographics and public safety. We see it in the media with the savage negativity toward President Trump and the White voters who elected him.

Cultural and ethnic transformation is nothing new in the history of nations. Many lands have changed hands or seen their borders redrawn. But the displacement or dispossession of a people from their homeland typically occurs thru military conquest. The United States may be the first nation in history to voluntarily surrender its traditional culture and national identity to other peoples. We are only beginning to experience the consequences.