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Jews and Immigration

Lurking in the midst of a long rambling post, Steve Sailer wonders why American Jews love immigration so much:

To be frank, much of what we see in the press appear to be examples of Jewish-American ancestor worship, a bizarre religious urge to make Ellis Island into a sacred site. Other groups, such as the Italian and Irish, share this to some extent, but Jews with their vast talent at nostalgic myth-making seem much more taken in by their own concoction than are Catholic ethnics, who are, sensibly, more focused on the future than the past. On the right, the main cheerleaders among journalists for massive immigration have been Jewish neocons like William Kristol, John Podhoretz, Tamar Jacoby, Michael Barone, and James Taranto.

Is unchecked immigration good for the Jews? Of course not. It will bring in more anti-Semites and terrorists, like Egyptian immigrant Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, who murdered two Jews at the Israeli El Al Airline counter of LAX on the July 4, 2002.

I don't think this is even remotely puzzling. First off, as a high-income, high-education group, most American Jews derive direct financial benefit from high immigration policies. Second, as a historical matter nationalism has been Bad For The Jews. Third, the general understanding in the American Jewish community is that restrictions on immigration and, in particular, the restrictions the USA imposed in the 1920s are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Holocaust who otherwise would have followed their American cousins out of Europe (this is perhaps empirically mistaken in some respects, but it's certainly the general understanding). Fourth -- and relatedly -- the earlier immigration clampdown is understood by American Jews to have been largely motivated by anti-semitism raising suspicions about the motives of present-day restrictionists. Fifth, things might be different if most immigrants to America were Arabs or Muslims but when people think "immigrant" they think about Mexicans and Asians not Egyptians; Jews have no particular beef with Mexicans and identify pretty strongly with Asians.

April 6, 2006 | Permalink


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Why on earth are you reading Steve Sailer?

Posted by: David Weman | Apr 6, 2006 4:03:23 PM

Why do you link to Steve Sailer?

Posted by: Matthew | Apr 6, 2006 4:17:19 PM

I had always thought it was the Italian-Americans who were most interested in making Ellis Island into a qualsi-religious shrine. The heaviest period of Italian immigrants overlapped to some extent with the heaviest period of Jewish immigration.

Posted by: Peter | Apr 6, 2006 4:27:43 PM

Why do you both hate the Jews?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Apr 6, 2006 4:28:01 PM

And as long as you're explaining things to the goyim, could you (or someone else)explain how this could possibly be true:
"Two political scientists, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, have recently sallied forth with a paper that puts The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to shame."(TNR.)

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Apr 6, 2006 4:40:23 PM

“Mexicans and Asians”? For someone living in DC to lump all of the south of the border immigrants into the category of “Mexicans” is a bit odd. If you were in Tucson, maybe. But DC is swimming in Salvadorans and Guatamalans, to name just two non-Mexican groups.

Posted by: ostap | Apr 6, 2006 4:44:08 PM

Sailer is concerned with all the junk genes coming in with the immigrants and polluting our purity of essence.

If we don't stop the darkies from coming in, how will we safeguard our precious bodily fluids? When arabs immigrate to America, a foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual, and certainly without any choice.

The only real answer is to drink nothing but pure rainwater and pure-grain alcohol. Sailer knows this.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 6, 2006 4:47:29 PM

"Why do you link to Steve Sailer?"

Because he's even funnier than Sarah Silverman. You're not taking him seriously, are you?

Posted by: Petey | Apr 6, 2006 4:48:54 PM

Thanks, Matt, a helpful list.

The crucial question is:

Is it good for the Jews to obsess over "Was it good for the Jews?" Or should they, when thinking about immigration policy, ask, "Will it be good for the Jews?"

Posted by: Steve Sailer | Apr 6, 2006 5:16:03 PM

You're missing the point, Mr. Sailer. Approaching every policy question by asking "Will it be good for the Jews?" is exactly what Matt is saying Jews are not and should not be doing, because such narrow, ethnically-centered thinking by others has been so disastrous for us in the past. In other words, in the classically Jewish ethical paradigm, we do not think about what will be good for us, we remember how we needed others to be good to us once.

Posted by: Alexander "Benjamins" Hamilton | Apr 6, 2006 5:31:19 PM

sorry, close ital tag, dummy.

Posted by: Alexander "Benjamins" Hamilton | Apr 6, 2006 5:32:17 PM

sorry, close ital tag, dummy.

Posted by: Alexander "Benjamins" Hamilton | Apr 6, 2006 5:33:02 PM

"Is it good for the Jews to obsess over "Was it good for the Jews?" Or should they, when thinking about immigration policy, ask, "Will it be good for the Jews?""

Both are good.

Yes, immigration was "good for the Jews" because America has been - despite the initial unpleasantries - the best and most welcoming country for Jews in...well, a long time.

And yes, it continues to be so because, as a tiny minority (now and forever), it's exceedingly good that the United States continue to be - and become moreso - a tremendously pluralistic society.

Posted by: jkd | Apr 6, 2006 5:34:02 PM

That was a pretty good takedown.

Posted by: Al | Apr 6, 2006 5:49:18 PM

Thanks, Matt. I've posted my response over at



Posted by: Steve Sailer | Apr 6, 2006 7:39:17 PM

Some anonymous Jewish person put "Alexander Hamilton"'s point pretty well in Deuteronomy 10:19.

Sailer claims that "American nationalism" will be good for the Jews. I guess it depends on the kind of nationalism. If it is propositionalist, then maybe (although it is disproportionately Jews who are suspected of thinking outside the propositions), but if it is ethnic, then it ain't going to be pretty for "bicoastal elites," if you know what I mean.

Posted by: Pithlord | Apr 6, 2006 8:10:28 PM

Also, isn't it true that most Jewish immigrants cut ties with "the old country" fairly completely (partly because, as with all immigrants back then, technological limitations made it much harder to stay in touch, and partly because they were less emotionally tied to their country of origin), so their descendants today tend to overestimate how quickly new immigrants will, in fact, assimilate?

Posted by: Brock | Apr 6, 2006 8:43:20 PM

Something for American Jews to keep in mind is the fate of their brethren in South Africa. There they suffer the effects of affirmative action laws and violent crime like the rest of the whites, even though they were on the forefront in the struggle against apartheid - think Nadine Gordimer, Albie Sachs, Joe Slovo, Ronnie Kasrils and many more. The result is that the Jewish community has been virtually wiped out through emigration in recent years.

Posted by: Will | Apr 6, 2006 9:01:44 PM

Anti-Semitism has always been about resentment of a highly successful, ethnically distinct minority. Wherever the Diaspora has landed anti-Semtism has been the eventual reaction.

America unexpectedly became the Jewish haven that Israel was intended to be, not out of altruism but because we somehow became the nearest thing to a meritocracy free of ethnic nationalism that the world has known. This environment just so happened to be ideal for the wave of Jewish brainpower that it drew across the Atlantic; it's perhaps the real story of American success, mostly hidden amidst the intentionally vague platitudes about immigration making America. One should be allowed to be a bit more specific. But of course, witnessing the unreasoning disdain for Mr. Sailer right here in this comments thread, for the sin of being both curious and frank, it's apparent we're still quite a way off from that sort of honest debate.

Jews should be concerned about Latin immigration, particularly what it portends for the future. In the arduous rantings of some of the manifestos of the reconquistas, the movement to reclaim the western U.S. for Mexico, there are outright denunciations of Jewish influence, among the plentiful contempt for Anglos in general. Anti-Semitism is a natural subset of anti-Anglo theory.

The same meritocratic America that has empowered Jews in ways that the early Zionists couldn’t have imagined is creating a society that will concentrate its wealth and influence within a very thin stratum of a highly educated and ethnically unrepresentative elite, heavily Jewish, East Asian, and white. Addressing the inevitable resentment this will produce is already a daunting challenge; we are exacerbating it greatly by open immigration creating a growing ethnically and linguistically distinct underclass. But then, we can always hope that the pattern of the last fifty years, of a stubbornly under-educated working class Hispanic population, will somehow be altered in the next few generations by swelling their ranks with more uneducated and unskilled immigrants, abreast of globalization and technology shrinking the need for working class labor.

Posted by: Dennis | Apr 7, 2006 1:33:02 AM

Sigh. I probably shouldn't feed the trolls, but.

“Aztlan is a long-held notion among Mexico's intellectual elite and political class,” Malkin wrote in her column Wednesday, “which asserts that the American southwest rightly belongs to Mexico. Advocates believe the reclamation (or reconquista) of Aztlan will occur through sheer demographic force. If the rallies across the country are any indication, reconquista is already complete.”

You might expect Malkin to give her readers some evidence that Aztlan really is “a long-held notion among Mexico’s intellectual elite and political class,” but she never does.

Why? Because Aztlan and reconquista these days aren’t, for the most part, ideas held by Mexicans: they’re ideas held by white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The myth of reconquista stems from a misreading of one of the founding documents of the Chicano movement, “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan.”

In much the same way that the Black Power movement meant the words “Black Power” in a metaphorical sense, that is, as a call to African-Americans to recognize after years of being stigmatized that they too were people with something to contribute to society, “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan” was an appeal to nationalism as a means to achieve a greater self-awareness and self-esteem.

But that’s not the way some white supremacists, fearful of a brown mass ready to take over the United States, has interpreted it.

A simple Google search shows that the people talking about Aztlan and reconquista are predominantly not Mexican (though there are some radical fringe groups) but white supremacists.

Posted by: Alexander "Benjamins" Hamilton | Apr 7, 2006 4:58:29 AM

Not at all. A google search of the term Aztlan yields far more reconquista sites than right wingers. Not that I take these guys seriously (though they have far more traction in their community than white supremacists have in theirs), but they, like the neo-nazis, can shed light on the more bigoted sentiments that exist among their uneducated peers.
There are tenured professors who advocate reconquista in the southwest and California. Does this mean they're going to succeed? Of course not. Does it tell us something about the depth of all that resentment we saw on display this past week? I think so.
I grew up in a working class L.A. Co. neighborhood, and I can tell you the sentiment runs deep.
The reconquistas are also hostile toward Israel, seeing in the Palestinian plight a sister cause, as this website demonstrates:

This from the JDL website:

The Nation of Aztlan (NOA), first organized in the early 1990s, is a California-based Hispanic nationalist organization that claims to represent the desires and aspirations of the Hispanic community. The organization calls for the United States to return "Aztlan" territory - Aztlan being the mythic homeland of the Mexican people, or Aztecs, which according to legend is found in the American Southwest or Northern Mexico. The group's nationalist message is blurred by frequent appeals anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, homophobia and other expressions of hatred.

By the way, I don't consider this trolling. Now, if I can interest you in some hot young co-eds...

Posted by: Dennis | Apr 7, 2006 5:58:46 AM

Close ital tag, Mr B.

Posted by: Doug | Apr 7, 2006 6:03:32 AM

Correction to my last: far more reconquista sites overstates it. Five pages into a google search and I count eight pro-Aztlan, two of which are El Plan de Aztlan, six of which are the "fringe" types you mentioned, fairly vociferous; compared to six (assumed) conservative posts critical of the movement.

Posted by: Dennis | Apr 7, 2006 6:41:08 AM

Has anyone done any actual empirical research about what "the Jews" think about immigration? I know what the American Jewish Committee thinks. (Or at least I think I do.)

Or is this going to remain an argument between one Harvard-educated young Jewish man and one journalist?

This is an important subject and it's necessary to get some good data before we proceed.

It's my impression actually, going from most of the Jews I know, that they don't like illegal immigration any more than the next person.

It is also my impression, perhaps wrong, that most NYC-area contractors are of Italian-American origin. And that most of them employ illegal aliens.

I spent four months living on the grounds of a Catholic retreat in 2004; they employed Mexican laborers on the grounds of the convent and in the kitchen: do you think that the laborers were illegals?

Do you think it is possible that the Catholic Church is functioning as a huge conduit for illegal labor, and that this whole subject is being distorted as "Jews are making this country a haven for illegal aliens"?

Matthew and Steve, you think that this is something the government should be looking into, or that you should be writing about?

Posted by: diana | Apr 7, 2006 8:20:37 AM

"Jews should be concerned about Latin immigration, particularly what it portends for the future. In the arduous rantings of some of the manifestos of the reconquistas, the movement to reclaim the western U.S. for Mexico, there are outright denunciations of Jewish influence, among the plentiful contempt for Anglos in general. Anti-Semitism is a natural subset of anti-Anglo theory."

I fervently await the day Amir Peretz becomes PM for various reasons, not least of which is the concept of the event making folks like Dennis anti-Israel.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 7, 2006 8:25:08 AM

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