American Magazines Caught in Immigration Sweep

A Time poll finds Americans not feeling friendly toward illegal residents, while our own survey of magazines turns up a glossy consensus urging U.S. politicians not to stiff-arm immigrants.

The current issue of Time magazine features a special report on immigration that leaps off the newsstand with an illustration of the Statue of Liberty flashing a bit of universal, unfriendly sign language — specifically, the old talk to the hand routine.

Inside, the editors present the results of a Time poll of Americans, which backs up in part that unwelcoming gesture.

“Of those surveyed, 82 percent said they believe the government is not doing enough to keep illegal immigrants out of the country, and a large majority (75 percent) would deny them government services such as health care and food stamps,” reports Time. “Half (51 percent) said children who are here illegally shouldn’t be allowed to attend public schools.”

Our own highly unscientific survey of American magazines, however, turned up a glossy consensus of writers urging U.S. politicians not to stiff-arm immigrants.

In the pages of the Weekly Standard, for instance, William Kristol warns Republican lawmakers that their current tough talk on immigration could crush the party’s prospects down the road.

“GOP senators and congressmen — and presidents — have plenty of room to show leadership and to resist demagoguery,” writes Kristol. “Most Republican officeholders know that the political — and moral — cost of turning the GOP into an anti-immigration, Know Nothing party would be very great. It could easily dash Republican hopes of becoming a long-term governing party. How many Republicans will have the courage to stand up and prevent the yahoos from driving the party off a cliff?”

A similar sentiment echoes through the pages of the New Republic.

“Politically, Bush’s self-interest is clear: dump the guest-worker program, sign the harshest border-security bill he can find, and jump into Rush Limbaugh’s adoring arms,” writes Peter Beinart (subscription required). “There’s just one problem: That’s not what he believes.”

“If the GOP tries to keep itself in power by becoming an anti-immigrant party, it may win short-term victories,” adds Beinart. “But it will start to resemble the Republican Party of the 1930s, drawing on a native-born, heavily rural political base at a time when that base is becoming a smaller and smaller share of the American electorate.”

The New Yorker agrees. “Over the course of its history, the United States has gained enormously from its image as an open society: open to new commodities, open to new ideas, open to new people,” writes John Cassidy. “President Bush, to his credit, regularly defends this tradition, and urges voters to reject the rival tradition of insularity and isolationism.”

No surprise there — at least, according to Michael Ennis of Texas Monthly. After all, Bush is from Texas. And Texans, he argues (subscription required), tend to know a thing or two about immigration.

“The white-hot immigration debate may well become one of the most combustible issues in this year’s midterm elections, but here in Texas, it’s really, really old news,” writes Ennis.

“Thought you could invigorate the economy by letting in all those foreigners, and now you’re concerned that the newcomers aren’t obeying the laws or assimilating into your culture?” he adds. “Fearful that a porous border threatens your national security? That’s what worried Mexicans back in the 1820’s, as Anglo immigrants poured into Tejas, bringing their rambunctious American ways and suspect values (including a penchant for slavery, which had been outlawed in the interior of Mexico). State officials of Coahuila y Tejas welcomed immigration from the United States, but the hard-liners in Mexico City banned it, Texans revolted, and the rest is our history.”

What’s a modern Texan to do? Ignore the “boneheads” from the middle of the country, says Ennis, who know next to nothing about real immigration issues. “We’ve been in the middle of this collision of cultures a lot longer than they have, and we’ve learned enough to tell the rest of the country the truth about the other side,” concludes Ennis. “They will become us, and we are already them.”

Perhaps. But to date at least one American demographic group has resisted the multicultural influence from south of the border — specifically, magazine editors. Or so suggests an article in New York this week about the four sort-of-new, sort-of-young editors at The New Republic, The Paris Review, Harper’s, and The Atlantic. “[T]he four new editors are all accomplished old-school journalists themselves,” writes Carl Swanson.

“As to what the four have in common,” adds Swanson, “[New Republic Editor Franklin] Foer ventured another interpretation: ‘White guys are still in charge?’”

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Felix Gillette writes about the media for The New York Observer.