Book Reviews: Three Recent Immigration Titles

By Martin Witkerk
Volume 24, Number 1 (Fall 2013)
Issue theme: "Stolen lives"


The World Comes to America:
Immigration to the United States Since 1945

by Leonard Dinnerstein and David M. Reimers
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014
(sic: released December 2012)
138+xvi pp., $19.95 softcover

The Myth of the Muslim Tide:
Do Immigrants Threaten the West?

by Doug Saunders
New York: Vintage books, 2012
208 pp., $15.00 softcover

Global Crossings:
Immigration, Civilization, and America

by Alvaro Vargas Llosa
Oakland, CA: The Independent Institute, 2013
355+xxiv pp., $26.95 hardcover,
$16.99 kindle

The World Comes to America is a fairly straightforward and useful account of postwar immigration to the U.S. The two authors have previously collaborated on Ethnic Americans (1977; 5th edition 2009), a history covering the same subject from its earliest days, and (with Roger L. Nichols) on Natives and Strangers (1979; 5th edition 2009), a work organized by ethnic group rather than chronologically.

Their new book consists of six chapters which expand on the final three chapters of Ethnic Americans but, as in Natives and Strangers, provide separate accounts of the various ethnic groups involved. Chapter one reviews the first twenty postwar years, in which the principles of the 1924 restriction act were officially maintained but an increasing number of exceptions were allowed. The first of these was the War Brides Act of 1945, which allowed European-born wives to join their American husbands in the U.S. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean wives were gradually allowed entry over the following years. Two Displaced Persons Acts (1948 and 1950) and a Refugee Relief Act (1953) each allowed in over 200,000 European refugees.

In 1947, the Senate Judiciary Committee began a comprehensive reconsideration of America’s immigration laws that culminated in the McCarran-Walter Act, passed over Pres. Truman’s veto in 1952. This did not, however, represent a radical departure from previous policy. A quota allotment of at least one hundred persons was granted to all countries in the Eastern Hemisphere, officially eliminating a ban on Asian immigration already weakened by war bride legislation. The act also expanded officials’ power to bar aliens suspected of communist sympathies.

One provision of McCarren-Walter that went almost unnoticed at the time of passage granted the U.S. attorney general the authority to “parole” individuals into the country in emergency situations. In 1956, following the crushing of the Hungarian uprising by Soviet troops, Pres. Eisenhower instructed his attorney general to parole 38,000 of the 200,00 or so Hungarian refugees into the United States. It was also partly by means of the parole power that several hundred thousand Cuban, and about thirty-thousand Chinese, refugees from communism, entered the U.S. before 1965.

The Bracero program allowed an estimated 2.5 million Mexicans to work temporarily in the U.S. between 1942 and 1964. Although not strictly a form of immigration, this temporary labor program “spawned and institutionalized networks and labor market relationships between Mexico and the United States [which] continued and became the foundation for today’s illegal migration from Mexico.”

Altogether, in the first two decades following World War II, twice as many immigrants came to the U.S. outside the quota allotments as under them; for Asians, the figure was ten times as many. The Immigration Act of 1965, or Hart-Celler Act, which abolished the national quota system altogether, was thus to a great extent making official a change which was already well under way.

At the beginning of their second chapter, Dinnerstein and Reimers discuss several factors leading to the 1965 act. The Supreme Court’s 1962 decision in Baker v. Carr ended a system of aligning congressional districts which gave disproportionate influence to conservative rural districts unfavorable to immigration. Pres. Kennedy was the first U.S. President to endorse the abolition of national origins quotas. The 1964 election led to heavy dominance of both houses of Congress by liberal Democrats. Chairmanship of the Senate and House Judiciary Subcommittees on Immigration had been assumed by the liberals Phil Hart and Emmanuel Celler, respectively. The Johnson administration made the argument that national origin quotas harmed America’s image abroad.

Less persuasively, the authors deny that those who passed the Hart-Celler Act in 1965 intended to change the ethnic makeup of the U.S. or foresaw such result. They apparently take at face value Emmanuel Celler’s assurances to undecided congressmen that “since the people of Africa and Asia have very few relatives here, comparatively few could immigrate from those countries.”

The Hart-Celler Act came into effect in 1968. Dinnerstein and Reimers claim that its principle beneficiaries in the first decade were Europeans from Southern Europe: Italy, Greece, and Portugal, in that order. The law had little effect on immigration from Germany or even Great Britain, since their loss of favored status coincided with a drop in demand for admissions to the U.S. The nation most adversely affected was Ireland.

Chapter three summarizes Asian and Middle Eastern immigration to America during the period 1965-1990. There are sections on Taiwanese, South Korean, Filipino, and Middle Eastern immigrants, as well as Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian refugees. The largest of these groups is the Filipinos, with over three million arrivals since Hart-Celler. Whereas in the 1950s, European immigrants outnumbered Asians by a factor of more than ten, Asian immigrants surpassed Europeans in the 1970s and by the 1980s outnumbered Europeans by a factor of more than four. In absolute terms, Asian immigration increased by a factor of twenty-one between the 50s and the 80s. This increase was due not only to the higher ceiling for Eastern Hemisphere immigration but also to a mushrooming in the number of persons entering under family reunification provisions.

The fourth chapter covers the critical subject of Mexican and other Latin American immigration over the entire period 1965-2012. Before the Hart-Celler Act, there was no limit on immigration from the Americas, but Hart-Celler’s sponsors reluctantly included a ceiling of 120,000 entries per year in order to secure the support of certain congressional conservatives.

“Hispanics” today constitute about one-half of immigrants to the U.S., including a majority of the illegal entrants. Mexicans constitute 63 percent of the current “Hispanic” population of the U.S. The second largest group, Puerto Ricans (10 percent), are not legally immigrants, since Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the U.S. The next largest groups are Cubans (4 percent), Dominicans (4 percent), and Salvadorans (3 percent).

After 1980, the Mexican economy experienced a sharp devaluation of the peso and a downturn in the oil industry. Many of Mexico’s citizens headed north, legally or otherwise. By the time the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 gave amnesty to some 2.7 million illegal entrants to the U.S., Mexicans constituted more than half of the total.

In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, forcing Mexican farmers to compete with lower-priced, more efficiently produced American agricultural commodities. Many of those affected also headed north, where wages were at least five times greater. At the same time, America was experiencing an unprecedented stock market boom and employers were desperate for workers. These factors combined to bring a record two and three-quarters of a million legal immigrants from Mexico to the U.S..

During the first decade of the new century, as the U.S. economy weakened, the rate slowed to about 150,000 persons annually. Most entered under family unification provisions: about 62 percent of the total in 2010, for example. Remittances from Mexicans working abroad constitute the country’s third largest source of income. Annual figures seem to be around $30 billion, based on World Bank estimates.

Mexicans have low rates of naturalization. As of 2008, only 21.7 percent had become U.S. citizens, compared to 42 percent of the foreign-born population overall.

The U.S. has seen a record surge of immigrants of all kinds since the 1990s, and this is the subject of our book’s fifth chapter. A couple of tidbits: over one quarter of New York City’s African-American population is from an immigrant background; as of 2006, there was a single full-time professor of economics in Ethiopia, but one hundred Ethiopian economists working in the U.S.; America now is home to around 2,000 mosques and 800 Hindu temples.

The book’s final chapter takes stock of the present situation and includes comparisons with the immigration situation in Europe.

Most authors who devote books to immigration do so because they like immigration, and certainly Dinnerstein and Reimers make no pretense of neutrality. We learn from them that “immigration is the lifeblood of America,” and that “throughout American history immigrants fueled economic growth.” (They offer no evidence.) The 1965 Hart-Celler Act, they tell us, was inspired by “America’s highest ideals.” Those who opposed mass immigration are variously said to have “feared” and “abhorred” foreigners, thought them “inferior to white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants,” and believed they would “pollute American society.” The authors do mention the argument that “newcomers depress the wages of uneducated Americans,” but blithely counter that “there [is] slight evidence for this contention.” In their final summation, the authors proclaim that
“[c]ertainly the development of a multicultural American society provided great benefits to all its residents,” but do not offer a single example. Their parting thought for the reader is that this question is now closed anyway: “[t]he issue for the future is not that America will become even more diverse [but only] the nature of that diversity.”


I purchased a copy of The Myth of the Muslim Tide on the strength of its title alone. Having seen the photographs of Muslim swarms occupying streets and squares in the capitals of Europe, kneeling and praying in unison toward Mecca, I was genuinely curious as to how anyone would go about trying to persuade readers that the said Muslims were a “myth.”

Author Doug Saunders, however, is neither as foolish nor as dishonest as one might gather from his title. He even begins his book with a description of the highly visible changes his own London neighborhood has undergone over the past fifteen years. His central argument can be stated succinctly: rural peoples tend to be fertile, while cities are population sinks; Muslims moving to the West are usually also moving from rural areas in their homelands to vast urban conglomerations in their host countries, where their fertility tends to fall rapidly; therefore, estimates of future Muslim population growth based merely on projecting the fertility of first-generation arrivals into the future are wildly exaggerated.

The author does a fairly convincing job of demonstrating this thesis. He shows, for example, that Muslim fertility has declined within the Muslim world itself in recent decades in tandem with a marked process of urbanization. Iranian families had an average of nearly seven children in the mid-1980s; by 2010, their fertility had fallen to 1.7, below the rates of France or Great Britain. Turkey has moved away from secularism in recent years, but its fertility rate has also fallen from 6 to 2.15 children per family. North Africa has seen a steep fall in fertility; the worst affected country, Tunisia, is now below the replacement level. Altogether, “the fertility rate across all Muslim-majority countries has fallen from 4.3 children per family in 1995 to 2.9 in 2010.” Demographers project an overall decline to 2.3 by 2035.

But how about Muslim fertility in the Occident? In the West Germany of 1970, Turkish families had 4.4 children each, while today they have 2.2. Austrian Muslim fertility declined from 3.09 in 1981 to 2.3 in 2001. First-generation Pakistani women immigrants in Great Britain average 3.5 children each, while their daughters average 2.5. A study of the situation in France reports that Muslim fertility rates are “closely tied to length of residence... the longer immigrant women live in France, the fewer children they have.”

These figures offer a heartening reprieve to all who cherish the civilization of Europe. The battle is not going to be over within a decade, or even a generation. The masters of the universe will have to stay the course for perhaps the better part of a century before they render their project irreversible. But this is not, to put it mildly, the message which Mr. Saunders intends to convey to his readers. Rather, he wants us to relax. Muslim immigration is no different, he believes, from the Jewish immigration of yore, and, he implies, we all know how unproblematic that turned out to be.

Yet, as Saunders’ own sources show, the Muslim share of the European population is still rising. According to the Pew Research Center, the Muslim population of the European Union, Norway, and Switzerland is 18.2 million out of a total population of 405 million, or 4.5 percent. Extrapolating from current trends predicts an expansion to 29.8 million, or 7.1 percent of the population by 2030. A U.S. Congressional Research Study produced almost identical numbers: 30 million Muslims representing 7 percent of the population by 2030. The one slightly longer-term prediction cited by the author is from British demographer Eric Kaufmann’s 2011 book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, which estimates that by 2050, the Muslim population of the EU will have risen to 10 percent (i.e., another 3 percent over the forecast for 2030).

This is good enough to disprove the claims of certain over-zealous campaigners, or to satisfy anyone whose concern for the future of our civilization is limited to a single generation, but I do not see how it gives us cause for complacency.

The Myth of the Muslim Tide is divided into four sections, of which the first contains a very brief account of what he calls “the Muslim tide authors” — Bat Ye’or (Gisèle Littman), Oriana Fallaci, Christopher Caldwell, Robert Spencer, and Melanie Phillips — highlighting their more alarmist statements.

The second section is the heart of the book, where Saunders draws upon the best data he can find to counter these authors’ warnings on three subjects: population, integration, and extremism. The population data, the most convincing part of Saunders’ case, are discussed above. Concerning integration, the author reports survey data showing that 83 percent of British Muslims are willing to tell a pollster that they are “proud to be British,” a slightly higher figure than among the British themselves. He also learned that French Muslims give a “95 percent overall favourability rating to France and its institutions,” hardly a meaningful judgment on the part of people with no history of free institutions. Moreover, Saunders takes these survey responses entirely at face value; he seems never to have heard of taqqiya, or religious dissimulation, although he might have learned about it from the authors he criticizes.

The same reservations should inform our reading of data about extremism among Muslims in the West. Thus, French, British, and German Muslims respond very much like their host populations to questions such as whether “attacks on civilians are morally justified” or whether it is “justifiable to use violence in a noble cause.” According to what French Muslims tell sociologists, more of them “have feelings of closeness with French people” (85 percent) than with their co-religionists (71 percent). Which is more likely: that Muslims in France get along better with the native French than with each other, or that they tell French pollsters what the pollsters want to hear?

One interesting point the author makes is that, according to Gallup, a majority of Americans think legislation should be drawn from the Bible and fully 9 percent of Americans say that the Bible should be the only source of law. These figures are apparently not very different from the percentages of Iranians favoring sharia!

The book’s third section provides short accounts of Catholic and Jewish immigration to America and Western Europe, showing that some of the arguments made against it were similar to the arguments of the “Muslim tide authors.” I do not see how this proves anything. Section four offers the author’s perspective on what aspects of Muslim immigration we ought to be concerned about: standard liberal pabulum about education, economic opportunity, and the need to grant Muslim immigrants citizenship as quickly as possible.

Regarding the question of why we should be burdening ourselves with such problems by admitting significant numbers of Muslims into the West at all, the author has nothing to say. The text on the book’s back cover repeats the conventional lie that such change is “inevitable.”


Alvaro Vargas Llosa is the eldest son of Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. When his father made a surprise bid for the Presidency of Peru in 1990 on a platform of economic liberalization, twenty-four year-old Alvaro served as campaign press spokesman. Since then he has become a prolific author in his own right. Global Crossings is his sixth book in English; he has also authored or coauthored ten titles in Spanish. His subjects have included free market economics, Latin American politics, and the myth of Che Guevara. Sn. Vargas currently lives in Washington, D.C.

Like most authors of a classical liberal bent, Sn. Vargas’s orientation is fundamentally economic. He is capable of equating culture with economic activity: “by and large, the Hispanic community can be seen as part and parcel of the American cultural body. The sheer economic power of Hispanic consumers and producers speaks precisely to that fact.” Apparently, if people buy, sell, produce, and consume within the borders of America, they are ipso facto American.

Sn. Vargas continually contrasts what he takes to be the natural realities of the market with the supposedly artificial and even unreal character of nationhood and politics. “Nativism stems from a collectivist myth,” he writes; “a superstitious notion of nationhood is almost everywhere the basis for the fear and rejection of immigrants.” International migration, on the other hand, is as natural as the earth and sky: “the levees of anti-immigration policy and enforcement are fighting to contain, along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, a tide as natural as the flow of the sea and the rivers.” (If Sn. Vargas thinks there are no boundaries in nature, he should read up on territoriality in animals.)

The preference of business interests for cheap labor is a “need”—sometimes even an “acute” or “desperate need.” Yet there is no corresponding talk about any “need” for American workers to earn enough to marry or raise families. Indeed, higher wages would harm workers:

If fewer foreigners were employed in production, natives would have to be paid higher wages, which in turn would force prices for those goods and services to rise. People would then consume less of them, leading to a loss of jobs for natives.

One wonders how America survived before wages flatlined in the 1970s!

Immigration is said to promote ethnic understanding and peace: “The more flexible, porous and open a society, the better chance it has of creating a peaceful environment in which different groups can co-operate.” Tell it to the Sri Lankans, who let in Tamils until they had a civil war on their hands.

But in any case, “different groups” hardly exist, because people are all pretty much the same:

Race is an almost meaningless concept in today’s world, of course. [Tell it to Eric Holder.] Time has reduced to absurdity the pseudo-scientists who invented racial demography.... A race would be a genetically homogeneous group of individuals... [but] what “race” fits that description in any modern society?

And yet, somehow, it is also imperative to eliminate these meaningless differences: “Tensions will be defused as people from different backgrounds mingle, intermarry, and coexist, a social mélange that modern life and globalized cities make almost inevitable.... Pro-immigration advocates...should not shy away from confronting the remnants of tribalism.”

Remnants? Sn. Vargas is innocent of a vast literature indicating the innateness and largely unchanging character of tribal consciousness. Space precludes a summary here, but a good one can be found in chapter four of Jared Taylor’s White Identity. Of course, Sn. Vargas is free, for his part, to prefer a blended, homogeneous world without loyalties, wholly devoted to production and consumption; as Lincoln said, “for those who like that sort of thing, that’s the sort of thing they like.”

Lowlights of the author’s argument include a patently ridiculous survey result claiming to show that between 55 and 65 percent of Americans believe “the economy would collapse without [foreigners’] contribution,” as well as an assertion that young illegals demanding in-state college tuition (the “DREAMers”) are “keen to contribute to America’s greatness.”

Much of the burden of argument in the book is assumed by the mere emotional coloring of words. Anti-immigration activism, for example, is “hysteria”—while, as noted above, business’s preference for paying lower wages is a “desperate need.” Is it not obvious that an author with different policy preferences could just as easily write of industry’s “hysterical” demand for cheap labor and the “desperate need” to protect native labor from competition? Adjectives are not arguments!

Although Global Crossings sometimes makes reference to other parts of the world, it is abundantly clear that what really interests Sn. Vargas (in common with all other open-borders advocates) is breaking down barriers to entry in just two places: North America and Europe. These are, of course, the world’s two main concentrations of white Europeans. Such priorities may seem irrational in an author of apparently all-Spanish ancestry, but one of the book’s few personal asides may help explain them:

I had been looked down on, during my stay at a British boarding school in my youthful years, by British kids for whom I was a dark-haired dago because of my looks and my tongue-twisting Spanish name. Because some Pakistani and, to a lesser extent, Chinese, kids were also treated with the same contempt, I found myself making common cause with these other non-natives from time to time.

In books like that of Sn. Vargas, we are up against forces far more powerful than the rather weak arguments they explicitly marshal.


About the author

Martin Witkerk writes from the mid-Atlantic region and has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Tulane University.