[This review was published in the Winter 2006 issue of The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, pp. 447-458.  It is also Chap. 8 of the book America Challenged.] 


Book Review 


State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America

Patrick J. Buchanan

St. Martin’s Press, 2006 


            If the middle class, college-educated public in the United States did not have the aversion it has to reading serious books, no matter how readably written, Patrick J. Buchanan would enjoy a reputation as perhaps its preeminent intellectual leader and spokesman.  He is one of those intellectuals who are irresistibly attracted only to issues of central importance—in his case, issues relating to the long-term survival of the West, including his own United States.  This is his eighth book, and none of them deals with less than a major issue.  His A Republic, Not an Empire, for example, reminds Americans of their pre-1898 willingness to let the rest of the world’s peoples live as best they can.  His message there is that Americans ought not to continue their more recent inclination to incur the mortal dangers and moral presumptuousness of meddling, even for what they think are the most benevolent of reasons, in what are essentially other peoples’ own affairs.  Never afraid to take on the conventional wisdom when he thinks it wrong, Buchanan took issue with the twin dragons of globalization and free trade in The Great Betrayal, warning how they were deindustrializing America and creating a chasm between rich and poor as the middle class and the poor were placed in direct competition with low-pay workers everywhere.  These are issues that are enormously practical and at the same time demanding of high intellect.

            The Death of the West dealt with still another life-and-death issue for Western society, and is a more profound book than the one presently being reviewed.  As its title suggests, its discussion is not limited to the United States.  He sees the West as committing suicide demographically, in effect, by its peoples’ non-replacement birthrate and its permitting an influx of tens of millions of strangers from the Third World.  The most recent book, State of Emergency, is content simply to review the threat to American identity from the mass immigration, both legal and illegal, that the United States has permitted since 1965.  It is worth noting that although this can be said to be not as “profound” as the earlier, broader book, this book is not for that reason any less important.  By focusing on the single issue of the mass immigration into the United States, State of Emergency is able to provide details, conceptual discussion, and proposed remedies that simply could not be fit manageably into the broader book.  Make no mistake about it, the immigration issue is of existential importance—both to Americans who value their society in anything like the form they have known it, and to those who don’t.  It deserves its own book.

            Immigration is arguably the most passionately felt issue among Americans at this time.  There is a palpable sense of the change that is welling up within the American demographic.  It would be incorrect, however, despite the volume of writing on the subject, to think that no one needs to be reminded of the specifics.  Accordingly, Buchanan describes its dimensions: “In 1960, there were perhaps 5 million Asians and Hispanics in the United States.  Today, there are 57 million.”  To place the invasion in perspective, he says “our foreign-born population today is almost equal to the 42 million who came over the three and a half centuries from 1607 to 1965.”   Looking ahead, “by 2050, the Hispanic population will have tripled to 102 million, or 24 percent of the nation.”  There are more than one million new immigrants each year, half of them illegal.  This does not even include, of course, the many who are caught, if they are deported (although many are not).  President George W. Bush reported in November 2005 that “in five years 4.5 million aliens had been caught attempting to break into the United States.”  These included “more than 350,000 with criminal records.”   Mexico is the main source, but Buchanan notes that even the Salvadoran population in the United States exceeds 1.1 million.  The influx is felt all over the country, but is especially pronounced in specific localities.  Buchanan points out that Las Vegas is the “fastest-growing big city in America.”  Why?  Because of a stunning fact: the Hispanic population in Clark County, where Las Vegas is situated, has grown from 85,000 as recently as 1990 to more than 375,000 now.

            This reviewer’s notes from the book break down into three large categories: the dangers and costs; the many conceptual issues, especially as raised by the shibboleths that serve as ideological cover; and the measures that Buchanan recommends.


The Dangers and Costs

            Only those who read the book can, of course, get the full detail Buchanan relates about the dangers and costs of the immigration.  We will mention only those that stand out most conspicuously to us.  One is the importation of diseases “that never before afflicted us and the sudden reappearance of contagious diseases that researchers and doctors eradicated long ago.”  Buchanan lists malaria, polio, hepatitis, tuberculosis, dengue fever, Chagas’ disease, leprosy, measles, syphilis and gonorrhea.  The financial costs will necessarily be enormous, and the human costs incalculable.

            By federal law, all hospital emergency rooms are required to treat anyone with an “emergency.”  Buchanan points out that this includes delivering the babies of illegal immigrants.  (Each of the 300- to 350,000 such babies born each year in the United States thus becomes an “anchor baby” entitling it, under current U.S. law, to bring in parents and siblings.)  One effect of providing all this unfunded care is that “between 1994 and 2003, the mandated cost of caring for illegals forced eighty-four of California’s hospitals to shut down.”  Other social-welfare costs: “Among immigrants, 24 percent receive Medicaid [the U.S. system for medical welfare], 29 percent use some form of welfare, 30 percent are eligible for the earned income tax credit [i.e., money paid to them by the government when their income is below a specified level].  A third of all immigrants lack health insurance.”

            Criminality is vastly increased, again with all the associated human and financial costs, including (as just a small part of it) the expenses incurred by all of the many parts of the criminal justice system.  “Today, criminal aliens account for over 29 percent of prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prison facilities.”  At one time, the gang problem in the United States arose almost entirely from within the pool of young black males.  Now, the gangs come from many different nationalities.  One of the most vicious is known as Mara Salvatrucha (also as MS-13), and is “composed primarily of illegal immigrants from El Salvador.”  It has thousands of members in 33 states and six countries.  In southern California, the 18th Street Gang has 20,000 members and “works in harness with the Mexican Mafia that dominates the California prisons.”  Even Asians, who commit a low level of crime compared to others, are now drawn into gang culture.  Black gangs, especially the Crips and the Bloods, are uniting “against the far more numerous Hispanic gangs.”

            A primary motivation behind permitting the mass immigration is that employers seek low-cost labor, which they can obtain both by having work done cheaply overseas and by hiring immigrants.  (Of course, when the labor market is made worldwide through globalization and immigration, employers must compete precisely in the context of lowered wages.  An employer who does not is placed at a competitive disadvantage which may threaten the survival of his firm.)  It is commonplace to point out that this exerts downward pressure in the American labor market.  Buchanan cites a study by Harvard economist George Borjas that reports a 7.4 percent wage reduction for low-skilled American workers because of the influx of immigrant labor.  For this and other reasons, an income polarization has been occurring in the United States.  Buchanan cites California as an example: “While the number of Californians earning $150,000 tripled to 642,000 in the 1990s, the share of California’s people mired in poverty rose by 30 percent.”

            Until major acts of terror are committed, it is impossible to say what the costs of a porous border are in a post-9/11 world.  And the disparity in academic performance from one racial or ethnic group to another reveals the fantasy behind the federal “No Child Left Behind” legislation, which treats it as a school’s fault if its students don’t all measure up on performance tests.  Buchanan cites a study by Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom, who report that “blacks nearing the end of their high school education perform a little worse than white eighth-graders in both reading and U.S. history, and a lot worse in math and geography… Hispanics do only a little better than African-Americans.”  Amazingly, even after they’ve been here three or four generations, “half of all Hispanic children still fail to finish high school.”

            So far, the costs and dangers we’ve recited are “existential” in the sense that they alter profoundly the fabric of life in the United States, changing the country from one thing into another.  What is existential in a political sense is the growing prospect of balkanization, with increasing divisions within the society.  Buchanan goes into considerable detail about the widely held conviction among the Hispanic immigrant population that the American southwest was “stolen” from Mexico and by right ought not to be part of the United States.  He tells of the aspiration in recent years toward reconquista and of the romantic notion of “Aztlan,” “the mythical land out of which the Aztec people came.”  Although moves toward separation may seem remote, the Mexican government during the past decade has pursued a more sophisticated strategy: “This strategy aims directly at a reannexation of the Southwest, not militarily, but ethnically, linguistically, and culturally….”  Buchanan reports that Mexican leaders have themselves declared that “the near-term goal is to attain that leverage over U.S. policy toward Mexico that the Jewish community has over U.S. policy toward Israel and the Cuban-Americans have over U.S. policy toward Castro.”

            The breaking up of the United States may seem remote, but actually is not.  As a case in point, Buchanan tells at some length the history of how Mexico lost Texas to the United States by having allowed a mass immigration of Americans, who never came to feel themselves Mexicans.  Mexico, under General Santa Anna, fought to retain its territory, but it was too late.  Today’s Mexicans, it seems, have learned the lesson that history teaches, while the American elite that overrides American public opinion by pushing “multiculturalism” and the on-going demographic swamping is, for complicated reasons of its own, oblivious to it.  If demographics determine destiny, the future of the United States seems clearly headed for balkanization.

            Before we conclude this section on “costs and dangers,” it is worth noting what Buchanan is not doing.  He is clearly a partisan on behalf of the United States’ continued existence (as Americans have known it), and is not attempting a cost-benefit analysis, so to speak, that would consider both the credits and the debits, and balance them against each other.  A social scientist might very rightly attempt such a thing, and it would be an intellectually meritorious exercise.  But it would be far less valuable than what Buchanan is doing.  Why?  Because there are times when a value-judgment, and the “partisanship” that arises out of it, is clearly called for, and is more important, in its own sphere, than a balance-sheet type analysis.  A good example would be the costs and benefits of war.  Warfare has clearly done much to advance science and medicine, so it is by no means possible to say that war is entirely harmful.  And yet, we would not choose to argue that war, as a general thing, is preferable to peace, as a general thing.  Neither would we find it particularly to the point that the hurricane Katrina had some counterbalancing merits because the destruction it wreaked will have provided employment and perhaps an architectural renewal in the rebuilding of New Orleans.    


The Concepts and Shibboleths Buchanan Discusses          

            There are major interests that favor the immigration and serve as powerful lobbies for it, so it is a mistake to see the immigration invasion as entirely the result of “mistaken ideas.”  Nevertheless, the interests operate within a milieu of cliches and “truisms” that much of the American public doesn’t question.  This makes the ideological confusion a principal factor that promotes the immigration and impedes opposition to it.  An important ingredient of Buchanan’s book is accordingly the analysis of these ideas.  Among those he examines:

            .  That “the immigrants do jobs Americans won’t do.”  Buchanan counters with a quote that “when an illegal immigrant finds a job here, that does not mean that no American will take that job.  In fact, 79 percent of all service workers are native-born, as are 68 percent of all workers in jobs requiring no more than a high-school education.”  He cites Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies as having pointed out that “California tomato farmers testified in the 1960s that ‘the use of braceros [Mexican guest workers] is absolutely essential….’  But that labor program was ended anyway…, so the farmers… invested in harvest machinery.  The result: a quadrupling of production over the following 30 years, and a drop in the post-inflation retail price of tomato products.”

            . That “America is a nation of immigrants.”  Buchanan recounts at length the history of immigration into the United States.  The history tells two things that fly in the face of the contemporary shibboleth that “all immigrants are welcome because, after all, we are a nation of immigrants”: that there have been long lulls that have allowed the assimilation of immigrants into the main society, whereby they have eventually seen themselves simply as “Americans” and not as having one foot still planted in their country of origin; and that until the opening of the doors to Third World immigration in 1965 virtually all the immigration was from Europe, not Asia, Africa or Latin America.  An interesting fact that will come as a revelation to most of us, who have not had occasion to think about it, is that the Statue of Liberty, given to the United States by France in 1883, was originally understood by Americans to symbolize liberty, as the statue’s name suggests.  Buchanan says that “in a 1936 birthday celebration of the island [on which the statue rests], FDR made the first direct link between the Statue of Liberty and immigration.  Since then, the national media and Park Service interpreters have completed Lady Liberty’s transformation into ‘Mother of Exiles’….”

            .  That “all immigrants are equally assimilable.”  A concept, Buchanan says, that “has driven immigration policy for forty years… is that people of any culture, country, creed, or continent, once they arrive on our shores, can be assimilated with equal ease.”  He says that “demonstrably, this is false”  While people from anywhere can become fully integrated as an “American,” their ability is assimilate certainly isn’t equal, since human beings are so strongly imbued with a tribal sense that links them by bonds of identity and affection to their own kind.

            .  That “the United States is a ‘creedal nation,’ founded in ideas but not in historic roots.”  Buchanan recognizes the rationalistic reductionism inherent in this assertion, and argues that “if the organic America of the traditionalist dies, the ‘creedal nation’ of Kemp, Kristol, Bennett, and Bush will not survive.”  He is no doubt correct in thinking that the United States, like any true nation, is cemented together by much more than just a body of shared ideas.  He perhaps overstates his case when he observes that intellectual constructs are the sorts of things “to which men can render neither love nor loyalty,” since there is much reason to believe that people do attach great meaning to the ideas that have become central to their being.   The fallacy behind the “creedal nation” idea is not that people aren’t moved by ideas, but that they are moved by much more, besides; and that there is no reason to believe that the tens of millions of newcomers to the United States are bringing with them a universal propensity to embrace the “creed” that the creedal nation concept assumes exists.  Moreover, there no longer seems to be even a quasi-permanent American creed, anyway.  We see this when we realize that what is “politically correct” today is very different from what Americans accepted in, say, 1945.  In fact, today’s notions, themselves fleeting from decade to decade, see most of the American past as befouled in one way or another.

             .  “Economism”: the view that economic efficiency trumps everything else.  Buchanan calls the rage for globalization and free trade a form of “neo-Marxist ideology,” since it posits “that economics rules the world.”   He quotes John Attarian: “Driven by a craving for maximum return at lowest cost, economites relentlessly dispense with loyalty… If cheaper workers or suppliers appear, the existing ones are summarily dropped… Animals are reduced to protein factories put here for our use… they may be raised on factory farms in tiny, immobilizing pens… Though hallowed by the blood of thousands, Bull Run and Gettysburg are fair game for developers….”  Attarian might well have included the pressure for low-pay immigrant labor in this list.  Needless to say, Buchanan sees much more that is important in human life than is imagined in the concept of economic efficiency.

            .  That “race doesn’t matter,” while also taking it as a given that all peoples—other than whites—have a right to a passionate racial consciousness.  Buchanan says correctly that “the new orthodoxy teaches as dogma that race does not matter”—to which he counters with the exact opposite—that “creed, culture, and ethnicity do matter, immensely.”  The idea that “race doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter” is, of course, an academic sophistry in which almost no one, down deep, truly believes.  It is one of the major facts in the world today that the “peoples of color” are acutely aware of what they see as a racial struggle.  Anyone familiar with the immense Latino activist literature knows this to be so.  Buchanan speaks of a Chicano student movement that has 400 campus chapters across the United States, and whose materials are replete with a “chauvinism about a ‘mestizo nation,’ a ‘bronze people,’ ‘bronze culture,’ ‘bronze continent,’ and ‘race above all’….”

            Until reading State of Emergency, this reviewer hadn’t been aware of the succinct explanation given by the African-American writer Shelby Steele for the premise, embedded as one of the fundamentals in the American ethos today, that whites are to be allowed no racial self-awareness, while everyone else is.  Steele’s explanation sheds considerable light on the origins of what is a profound double standard.  Buchanan quotes Steele: “No group in recent history has more aggressively seized power in the name of its racial superiority than Western whites.  This race illustrated for all time… the extraordinary evil that follows when great power is joined to an atavistic sense of superiority and destiny.  This is why today’s whites the world over, cannot openly have a racial identity… Racial identity is simply forbidden to whites in America… Black children today are hammered with the idea of racial identity and pride, yet racial pride in whites constitutes a grave evil.”

            Steele, of course, is correct in seeing that whites in the past have felt superior and have acted accordingly.  To today’s mindset, which has radically shifted its “point of view” from that held by Americans in the past, it will seem perverse to say it, but it is true that precisely this sense of superiority—and the factual basis for it—must be understood if the history of the West and of the United States is to be comprehended with any insight.  Buchanan sees this when he points out that “Our ancestors were not paralyzed by guilt.  Confident in their culture and civilization, they believed in their superiority over what Kipling had called ‘the lesser breeds without the law.’  We come from a different people than the people we have become.”  The essence of it was expressed by U.S. President Andrew Jackson in a passage Buchanan cites: “What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute… and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion?”

            Buchanan tells of the opposing perspectives that are struggling today for acceptance about the understanding of French history, but his point applies just as well to any other European country or to the United States.  From the point of view of hostile outsiders, France has a rapacious history that supported “the perpetuation of slavery” and fed the “torture and massacre of indigenous peoples, especially in the war of Algerian independence from 1954 to 1962.”  But, refusing to accept that perspective at face value, Buchanan has the courage to pose some hard questions: “Was not the arrival of the West of immense benefit to the colonized peoples?... Was not Western civilization vastly superior to the indigenous civilizations it encountered and crushed, from the Aztecs and Incas in the Americas to the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist civilizations from Africa to the Far East?”  He observes that “most prefer to avoid such questions.  But they are not going away.  For they are at the heart of the clash of civilizations now underway.”

              It is now commonplace among average Americans to voice the sentiment that “we stole the continent from the indians.”  This is accepted facilely, and with considerable moral preening, as a truism.  But anybody who wants to give it even a moment’s thought must ask himself the questions Buchanan poses, and must ask whether Andrew Jackson was in fact perverse in his value-judgment quoted above.  Those who are so mentally lethargic that they won’t think this deeply are almost certainly bound to agree, ultimately, with what is likely soon to become the conventional wisdom: the Hispanic activists’ view that the United States stole the American southwest from Mexico and has no right to it.   This illustrates as well as anything can why ideas (and the mental laziness that supports the regnant shibboleths) are of immense practical importance.


Measures Buchanan Recommends

            Buchanan, though a scholar, is rooted in a political background.  It is natural for him, then, not simply to analyze the elements of a conundrum, but to suggest remedies that, taken together, will be adequate to meet it.  Among other things, he suggests:

            .  There should be “an immediate moratorium on all immigration.” 

           . Then, when immigration is resumed, preference should be given to those who are most assimilable: “individuals who speak our English language, can contribute significantly to our society, have an education, come from countries with a history of assimilation in America, will not become public charges, and wish to become Americans.”  And, shockingly enough, he has the temerity to ask a question that most Americans a generation ago would have considered unexceptional: “As we remain a predominantly Christian country, why should not preference go to Christians?”

            .  No amnesty should be granted to the illegal immigrants already in the United States or to their employers.  President George W. Bush’s guest-worker program, he says, is an amnesty in disguise.

            .  A permanent fence should be built along the entire border with Mexico.  What he describes is no simple fence, but a truly meaningful barrier to illegal crossing.

            . There must be an end to the “anchor baby” phenomenon, through which nearly 400,000 babies born to illegal immigrants every year are granted automatic citizenship.  Congress, he says, should make it clear that a child born to someone who is in the country illegally is not a citizen.

            . “Chain migration” must be stopped.  “Today, immigrants are allowed to bring in family members…, including children, spouses, siblings, and parents.  These relatives then bring in their relatives… Thus, whole villages from El Salvador are here, thanks to chain migration.”  Buchanan proposes that lawful immigrants should be permitted to bring in only their spouses and minor children.

            .  “Dual citizenship” should not be allowed.  There should be a Congressional reversal of the 5-to-4 Warren Court decision that originated it.

            . Employers who hire illegal immigrants should be severely punished, tax deductions for wages paid to illegal immigrants should be disallowed, and the corporate charters of offending employers should be revoked.  Employers, Buchanan says, should be required to match Social Security numbers and names for all prospective employees.

            . Governments should provide only emergency services to illegal immigrants—but no other benefits, including education for their children.  Those unlawfully in the country should be made ineligible for Social Security benefits and for the Earned Income Tax Credit [cash payments to those with low income].

            .  “Asylum” should be limited.  If someone has already made it to a non-tyrannical country, he should not be eligible, since he no longer has a need founded in human rights.

            .  The “diversity lottery” which now grants legal entry to 50,000 a year should be eliminated.

            . Federal funds should be reduced to a city that grants sanctuary or a university that grants in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants.

            . There is no need, Buchanan says, to undertake the massive and perhaps politically impossible task of deporting the millions of Mexicans who are already in the country illegally, since a great many will return to Mexico if they can no longer obtain jobs and government benefits in the United States.   All “OTMs” [illegal immigrants “other than Mexicans”] should, however, be deported.  Aid should be cut off to foreign governments that refuse to take them back.  There should be deportation even of Mexican illegals if they are convicted of a felony, are gang members, or are arrested for drunk driving.

            . Buchanan continues the burgeoning exposure of what CNN anchor Lou Dobbs has called a “mind-boggling concept”—the move now under way in high circles to “erase the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada and merge the three nations into a new North American Community.”   Needless to say, Buchanan opposes this, for all the reasons he opposes the mass immigration. 

            State of Emergency is relatively short and easily readable.  It’s not perfect, mostly because of the repetition that Buchanan has felt necessary as he sounds the alarm; but it is essential reading for people on all sides of the immigration debate. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                               Dwight D. Murphey