Friday, October 31, 2008


Australian sociologist Katherine Betts has examined this phenomenon. She uses the term "new class" (a group similar to what former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich calls "symbolic analysts" to describe the intelligentsia, professionally-educated internationalists and cosmopolitans, lawyers, academics, journalists, teachers, artists, activists, and globetrotting business people and travelers. Her cogent analysis of why the new class has eschewed the cause of limiting immigration in Australia is germane to the case of U. S. environmental leaders: "The concept of immigration control has become contaminated in the minds of the new class by the ideas of racism, narrow self-seeking nationalism, and a bigoted preference for cultural homogeneity....Their enthusiasm for anti-racism and international humanitarianism is often sincere but there are also social pressures supporting this sincere commitment and making apostasy difficult." And later: "Ideologically correct attitudes to immigration have offered the warmth of in-group acceptance to supporters and the cold face of exclusion to dissenters." Similar analysis in the United States suggests that it is "politically incorrect" to talk of reducing immigration.

Taboos against challenging immigration policies are enforced by a "political correctness" that often is based on honorable sentiments tied to an individual's personal connections to immigration. These sentiments are usually strongest among those with the most direct, and recent, immigrant experiences in their immediate families, i.e. those whose spouses, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles immigrated to the United States. Sensitivity is heightened still more for those who feel a strong personal identity as a member of ethnic groups – such as Irish, Italian, Greek, Slavic, Chinese, Japanese, or Jewish – whose members once fled persecution in other countries or who may have met with discrimination in this country. Even when such a person does recognize that U.S. population growth is problematic, and that immigration is a major contributor to it, he or she may well reason that it would be hypocritical, as a descendant of immigrants and indirect beneficiary of a generous immigration policy, to "close the door" even partially on any prospective immigrant. Dealing with immigration can become almost physically sickening for such people, who feel they must make a choice between environmental protection and their view of themselves as a part of an immigrant ethnic group.

Leon Kolankiewicz

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