Who Is the Xenophobe, Professor Sunstein?

Those in the Chattering Class who are wondering why Donald Trump’s calls for tightening up immigration policy seem to resonate with so many Americans need wonder no more. Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law has looked into the matter, and shares his sage finding in his latest column, titled “The Real Reason So Many Americans Oppose Immigration.” Those Trump supporters, Sunstein has discovered, are just plain xenophobes, if not outright bigots.

Sunstein cites attitude studies, which sound questionable to me, and also cites the recent NAS study, which I have stated here is truly awful. I won’t go into discussing those studies in this posting. I will discuss at least part of NAS when I have time (and even then will treat  only one or two egregious examples, out of many).

Instead, here I want to address a certain aspect of Sunstein’s piece that moved me to write this blog posting. It’s very simple — he refers to “first generation immigrants.” I know this will baffle many of you, even after I explain, but this term drives me up the wall, and I claim it suggests that Sunstein’s own attitude toward immigrants is pretty lousy.

Let’s say that Sunstein’s grandparents were immigrants. (I think it is a safe bet that I am off by no more than one generation.) So, they were immigrants, and yes, the first generation of the family in the U.S. But does Sunstein them think of his parents as “second-generation immigrants,” with him being a “third-generation immigrant”? Of course not. The term “first-generation immigrant” is redundant, and terms like “second-generation immigrant” are nonsense.

What I am saying, then, is this: Sunstein’s phrasing indicates to me that he feels that terms like “second-generation immigrant” apply to Asians and Latinos, not those of European ancestry, and that he sees Asians and Latinos are “perpetual foreigners.” As such, his sanctimonious defense of immigrants is empty, outrageously condescending and insidiously harmful.

I remember an edition of the PBS Newshour some years ago, in which there was a panel discussion on immigration. One of the distinguished pundits on the panel made the observation, “I’ve talked to immigrants. They’re good people.” In words, to him too, immigrants are The Other, and again, I find this offensively condescending.

Unhealthy attitudes toward other races is bad enough, but subtle, beneath-the-surface atittudes like the above are actually much worse.

Just like Robert Reich (“I finally found a Trump supporter”),  people like this live in their own little world — an immigrant-free world. They are the true “deplorables.”





11 thoughts on “Who Is the Xenophobe, Professor Sunstein?

  1. Sunstein’s article seems to contradict itself. He starts off by claiming opposition to immigration is just racism, but then reports that in fact there was not much opposition to Asians and black people. Opposition was only to two particular groups and in those cases may be tied, rightly or wrongly, to events widely reported by the media.

    Your point about implicit racism in Sunstein’s position is highly relevant. In the tech world, some of the most passionate supporters seem to subscribe to a particular model where white elites are in control, and foreign born programmers form a subservient group that perform the work. In other words, they see the immigrants as inferiors lacking cultural authority.


    • Yes, exactly, it’s the obsolete Old-South “plantation mentality” that has moved into the leftist mainstream. White leftist elites must control the “plantation” (nation) for the good of the rest of us “untermenschen” (whether imported underclass, or “white trash” citizens). So in the viewpoint of the statist elite, America has 3 classes:
      1. On top, the white liberal elite and their cronies;
      2. Next, the imported serfs in tech and in low-wage jobs;
      3. At the bottom, “white trash” U.S. citizens who don’t believe in the plantation mentality.


  2. > Sunstein cites attitude studies, which sound questionable to me, and also cites the recent NAS study, which I have stated here is truly awful.

    Yes, the attitude study that he cites extensively is at https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/97221/pops928.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y . The “statistically enormous effect” reference that Sunstein finds so important refers to Table 1 on page 154 and appears to be based on p-values from a regression. Of course, the American Statistical Association warned against the misuse and sole dependence on p-values as seen by the March 7th statement at http://www.amstat.org/asa/files/pdfs/P-ValueStatement.pdf . In any event, the focus on opposition to immigration seems far too broad. I don’t know anyone who is opposed to all immigration. A better question would likely be the level of immigration that people support.

    Regarding the NAS study, George Borjas was a member of the NAS panel. blogged about it at https://gborjas.org/2016/09/21/a-users-guide-to-the-2016-nas-immigration-report/ and posted a User’s Guide about it at https://gborjas.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/a-user_s-guide-to-the-2016-national-academy-report2.pdf . He makes the following interesting statement at the end of the guide:

    > If we then take the report’s estimates of the surplus and the fiscal burden at face value, it is self-evident that:

    >>> The impact of immigration on the aggregate wealth of natives is, at best, a wash.

    > Instead, the impact of immigration is distributional. Those who compete with immigrants are effectively sending billions and billions of dollars annually to those who use immigrants.


  3. Sunstein’s weird usage of the term “second generation immigrant” seems to me to be an attempt to insist on the claim that “America is a nation of immigrants” so as to support the notion that anyone who rejects the claim that all Americans are immigrants is un-American.

    Since the vast majority of Americans are not immigrants, I consider this usage a purposive distortion of the meaning of “immigrant.”

    Your point about the absurdity of speaking of “first-generation immigrant” is well-taken. Before propagandists began to buttress their claims by manipulating language, “nth generation American” meant simply “nth generation American citizens by birth” and I never heard the term applied except to the case when no forebears n generations ago were US citizens by birth It indicated something about the adjustments and struggles of the family to acculturate and achieve a first-world standard of living. The taxonomy quickly becomes useless in other cases–how would one classify the children of a second generation American who marries an immigrant?

    When I Googled “first-generation American” definition, I was amazed to see immigration websites re-defining the term for political advantage. The Oxford dictionary at http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/first-generation agrees with this original understanding, but The Random House Dictionary countenances the usage that the naturalized American can be termed “first-generation American,” which has a certain logic since the immigrant is the first to be an American; however it violates the sense of the term since the immigrant was not “generated,” i.e. begotten, as an American. So I consider this a corruption of language to achieve a political objective.

    I’m amazed when people say that illegal immigrants deserve to be citizens because they are good or accomplished people, or because they came here to give their family a better life, as if America has an obligation to accept all good people or that a desire for social betterment intrinsically merits US citizenship, or as if the rest of the world’s people are deficient therein. I concede that the former argument is at least as old as Cicero’s defense of Archias, but it has little place in American law. I really hate the corruption of our language — especially by politicians and propagandists who rob words of clear meanings in order to achieve their objectives.


  4. And yet, though the terms “1st generation”, “2nd generation”… “Immigrant” are slightly discordant, they are often useful when examining tendencies of development over time of immigrants and their descendants. Japanese have specific terms for each such generation (which I initially picked up casually from relatives who taught or teach history and comparative cultures Japan). Spaniards in The Americas developed a more complex terminology with a more racialist approach (e.g. “Peninsulares”, “criollos”, “mestizo”…). Studies of Jewish immigrants to the Americas also reveal loose patterns of progression.

    “Those who stayed were, however, the first generation of Japanese-American immigrants — the Issei, as distinguished from the Nisei (second generation) and Sansei (third generation)… The third generation (Sansei) is just entering adulthood [around 1980], and the fourth generation (Yonsei) are still children.” — Thomas Sowell 1981 _Ethnic America: An History_ pp164, 177

    It comes up in Amy Chua’s books _…Tiger Mother_ (pp20-22) and _World on Fire_ (pp58-59, 67); and Michael Meyer, William Sherman & Susan Deeds 2010 _The Course of Mexican History_ (pp260-261, 283-284 where they mildly chastise the racialist “racial purity” aspect in light of the waves of invasions of the Iberian peninsula by people from Greece, Phoenicia, Romans, several waves from Central Steppes, Vandals, Goths from Scandihoovia, Berbers/Maghreb…)


  5. Great insight. Another way to put it is these Centralized Planners like Sunstein are creating a hierarchical society with them at the top and current immigrants and their offspring permanently at the bottom. This is why they are encouraging multilingual services so Spanish becomes the language of the permanent underclass.


    • Almost… They want to put non-elite U.S. whites at the bottom, as they prefer immigrants instead of their fellow citizens. Why? Because U.S. citizens who know their rights are a threat to the permanent overclass.


  6. I read the piece and some of the 1500 comments. Every single comment pointed out that the shoddy and truly lazy nature of the work – it does not differentiate between “immigrant” and “illegal immigrant”. This is an increasing component of the lazy and corrupt Internationalist Class – they want open borders, and consider anyone a racist who does not agree. By not differentiating between legal and illegal immigration, the piece is totally worthless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s called “Xenofavoritism”. It’s the idea that no matter how negative the result from any immigrant or group of immigrants, it’s still a better than having a prosperous middle class of well-informed U.S. citizens. That’s because the goal of the xenofavoritists is to produce a “banana republic” with themselves on top, and everyone else as a serf. And the only people standing in their way are the well-informed, middle-class, non-elitists.


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