Whatever else they disagree about, almost all of the pundits and politicians who will comment on Eric Cantor’s defeat will share one bedrock conviction: Immigration liberalization is right and good—and those who oppose it are animated by unthinking and misguided prejudice.
Watch for it over the next 12 to 24 hours. Sometimes the conviction will be articulated. More often, it will lurk in the background, expressing itself in turns of phrase: “hopes for immigration reform”; “the bipartisan Senate bill.”
Immigration is a tough issue to report dispassionately. The costs are loaded onto people who don’t carry a lot of weight in our society. The benefits are collected by some of the most influential interests in America, including of course the affluent and educated social classes from which journalists are mostly recruited. Because the costs of immigration are diffuse, it’s not easy to tell a personal story about immigration’s losers. But at least one category of winners are visible and sympathetic: the immigrants themselves.
Read this passage from Tuesday’s New York Times report on the immigration surge into Wichita, Kansas:
Armando Minjarez, clipboard in hand, walked through a north Wichita neighborhood of bungalows bearing the signs of Mexican domesticity: Virgin Mary statues on the lawns; children’s toys strewn about.
He had come to ask residents for suggestions about the next mural he and a group of activists planned to paint on a wall in the neighborhood. They had decided it should be about women, but what would residents want to see portrayed?
“Libertad,” said the first woman he met, at a lemon yellow house with red roses in the yard. She said that her daughters had gone to college here and succeeded, but that liberty and equality needed to be extended “to the people who have been living here for a long time without papers.”
“It’s very difficult for them,” she added.
Concerns on the other side go unmentioned, or are hinted at only very elliptically. From the same story:
Mr. Sosa said Mexicans are perhaps less concerned with planning or rules than many of their non-Hispanic neighbors are. He and Mr. Sosa said that both immigrants and Americans probably needed to give in and change a bit to build a tighter community.
Immigration has transformed the daily life of American professionals. Housecleaning and restaurant meals, gardening services and home healthcare: All are more affordable for the American affluent than they were before 1970.