For more than 15 years, conservative author and activist Patrick J. Buchanan has been a leader among those warning America about the perils of illegal immigration, even making it a key theme in his 1992 Republican presidential primary campaign against the senior President Bush.
On September 10, Buchanan’s latest book, State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, debuted at No. 3 on the New York Times Bestsellers List. Last week, HUMAN EVENTS editors Terence Jeffrey and Allan Ryskind interviewed Buchanan about the book.
Back in 1992 when I [Terence Jeffrey] was working for you in your Republican primary campaign against President Bush’s father, you sent your sister, Bay, and Greg Mueller and me down to Houston a week before the Republican National Convention, where you gave your famous Culture War speech, to work on the Republican platform. One of the issues was the “Buchanan Fence”—
Patrick J. Buchanan: “Structures on the border.”
Which the platform delegates actually accepted and put into the platform. But the Bush White House and the Republican establishment went crazy. Now, 14 years later, you have the House last week passing a stand-alone bill for 700 miles of border fence. Majority Leader Bill Frist [R.-Tenn.] wants to move it through the Senate. This is the issue they want to take to the voters in November. Do you feel vindicated?
Buchanan: Well, yes, I certainly do. But I also regret the fact that we have 12 million illegals here in the United States, a far more serious problem than we had then. If he had taken up the issue in 1992, I don’t know if Bush would’ve won, but he would’ve run a lot stronger than he did. The fact that they recoiled from it and ran away from it is one of the reasons the Republican Party is in trouble now.
Back then, it seemed that the Republican convention delegates completely adopted your position.
Buchanan: Well, the Republican Party, at its grassroots in 1992, was a Buchananite party. I remember one poll was taken in New Hampshire. It said: Whoever you’re going to vote for, whether Bush or Buchanan, whose positions do you agree with more? Something like 80% said, Buchanan, but we think we’ll vote for the President. I remember when we went down to Georgia, one of the reasons why I went out and spontaneously said, “We’re going to California,” is I was watching, I think it was Larry King, and Newt Gingrich said Pat Buchanan is acting like David Duke. And this was over the issue of border security and the border fence. Now I see that Mr. Gingrich is one of the leaders of the border-security battle. He’s grown.
It is remarkable that, 14 years ago, the Republican grassroots, the delegates of the Republican convention, they had your position on immigration. They still have that position, but the Republican establishment still has the other position. What is it that makes the Republican establishment unwilling to deal with the immigration problem?
Buchanan: I think there’s a couple of things for the Republican establishment. The Republican establishment is terrified of being called names. Anybody who comes out for a strong position on immigration is going to be called the familiar names.
Secondly, I think President Bush and Karl Rove see as the only hope for the Republican Party in the future getting the Hispanic vote, the Mexican-American vote, and they think that if they take a strong stand on illegal immigration and securing the border, they will risk that vote the way they think Republicans lost California. I think they’re mistaken on that 100%.
Forty-seven percent of Hispanic Americans in Arizona voted for Proposition 200, which is far stronger than any Republican presidential candidate has ever run among Hispanic Americans.
The third reason is the corporations. I think the corporations and K Street are desperate to get the Senate amnesty/guest- worker bill through, because in the Senate bill, there’s not only amnesty for the illegal aliens, there’s a blanket pardon for all civil and criminal penalties for all businesses that have hired illegal aliens.
So I think that the bottom line for the corporate community, Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, is guest-worker/amnesty. And I think that Bush and Rove are holding border security hostage for that. They have the corporate community that they think they’re going to lose and the Hispanic community they think they’re going lose, and in their vision of the future, their new majority, they feel they’ve got to get that community.
Talk about Proposition 200 a bit.
Buchanan: Proposition 200 in Arizona said that to qualify for social welfare benefits in the state of Arizona you have to prove you belong here. You’re either here legally or you’re not. Forty-seven percent of Hispanic Americans voted for it, 41% voted for Prop. 187 in California, despite the fact that it was editorialized as anti-Hispanic.
Forget about the 12 million illegals here for a moment. If the administration just said, “First, we are going to secure that border before we take care of this other problem,” then you wouldn’t have to worry about deportation, or getting the Hispanic community riled up.
Buchanan: Look, there’s no doubt about it that the amnesty/guest-worker program, whether you agree or disagree with it, is profoundly controversial. It’s perceived as amnesty. People don’t want it. There was a backlash to it. However, the other side of it, border security, is an 80%-90% issue. Why doesn’t the President say, “Look, I favor this, but it’s clear it’s too controversial to get through. But we’re not going to let the best be the enemy of the good. We’re coming out for a border-security fence. We’re going to deport criminal aliens. We’re going to deport gang members who don’t belong here. We’re going to deport drunk drivers who threaten and imperil the safety and health of the community. We’re going to do these things now. And next year we are going to work on something we can agree with.” They would have both houses of Congress with them. Rep. Jim Moran (D.-Va.) voted for a border fence!
That’s what I don’t understand about Bush and Rove.
Buchanan: I talked to a conservative insider who told me Bush and Rove are holding border security hostage. I’ve done 300 radio shows, I bet, since this book came out. I do eight or 10 day. And I would bet that 90% to 95% of all the talk-show hosts either love Bush, or they like Bush, or they voted for Bush, and they can’t understand why he doesn’t secure the borders.
In State of Emergency, you talk about the border-security problem in terms of both crime and terrorism. Considering that one of Bush’s main thrusts is national security and the war against terrorism, doesn’t that make it all the more inexplicable that he won’t secure the border?
Buchanan: Exactly. It’s a very simple statement: Border security is homeland security. How can you say we’ve defended the front door, and we’re sending special forces out to make sure no one comes here, but we’re leaving a 2,000-mile backdoor open. It doesn’t make any sense from almost any standpoint to almost anybody. And it’s very sad, because far more than the economics of it—the holding down of wages, especially for male workers and young people—is that the long-term effect of this, with the melting pot cracked and broken and the millions coming and the whole world knowing the back door is open, I see the United States becoming no longer one nation and one people. I think with the cultural and social impact of it, you’re risking the future of the United States of America.
In the book, you talk about the soul of a nation and what actually makes the nation. But ultimately, you do believe that immigrants from Latin America can be integrated and assimilated into the soul of America.
Buchanan: Certainly. Mexican-Americans are good Americans. They volunteer in the Armed Forces. They are patriotic. Many of them are traditionalist Catholics. Of course they can.
But the question is: When you’ve got, I don’t how many—the Mexican government says 23 million, the Census Bureau says there are 6 million Hispanics who won’t say where they came from—and they come from a country with a grudge against us and a claim on the Southwest, where 58% of the people believe the Southwest belongs to them, and you look at Census Bureau figures that say 100 million will be here in 2050, heavily
concentrated in the Southwest, and you see Anglo-Americans leaving in net numbers, their numbers being reduced in California, not only as a share of the population but as an actual number, heading back East—I think you’re risking having happen to our Southwest what happened to Texas when the Mexicans lost it, and what happened to Kosovo. Not militarily or politically, but culturally, ethnically, linguistically, I think you’re seeing the possible Reconquista of the Southwest. The Mexican folks talk openly about it. Why we don’t wake up to it escapes me.
Do you think that the massive demonstrations we had in D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles and some other places in support of [Arizona Republican] Sen. John McCain’s amnesty bill was a revelation to people on this particular aspect of the immigration issue?
Buchanan: It was the best thing that happened to many of our people, because it awoke them to what’s going on. It shocked many of the Democratic senators into a policy of appeasement. But it shocked most Americans into a realization of the gravity and magnitude of the problem.
In State of Emergency, you say there are 12 to 20 million illegal aliens present in the U.S. at this time. The 20-million figure is based on a Bear Stearns study and far out-strips the numbers they are talking about on Capitol Hill. In terms of concrete public policy, what do you think ought to happen to those 12 to 20 million who are already living here?
Buchanan: As of right now, nothing. We don’t want to set up a Gestapo, and we’re not going to go down and hit every kitchen in town and yell, “Immigration!” every time the door opens. What you do is, you build a security fence, you get a time-out on legal immigration, a moratorium, and you go back to the levels that Jack Kennedy recommended, which are still generous by world and historic standards. You go after the big businesses that hire illegal aliens in great numbers and make some of these guys do the “perp walk.” Put some of these big-business guys in orange jumpsuits, down there on the border, mixing concrete for six months. You cut off social welfare benefits except emergency benefits. You stop the scam of the 14th Amendment, where if your baby is born here it’s automatically a citizen. You end that. Then you go after, for immediate deportation, the criminal elements. Any gang member who’s an illegal alien should be out of this country in 48 hours. The drunk drivers, the felons, you go after them.
Now, how do you deal with the rest? You go about it systematically with the big businesses. You remove the magnets, and attrition will begin to solve the problem. There is no crisis of the 12 million here. The crisis is the border and the threat of the future. Some people say the gradual attrition will solve it in five to 10 years. Now, I think it might work slowly or more rapidly, but it will begin to work.
Now, this attrition strategy doesn’t seem to significantly differ from what House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner [R.-Wis.] had in mind when crafted the bill that passed the House a year ago. Do you think that bill is more or less on the right track?
Buchanan: Oh, I think the House bill was the best immigration bill we’ve seen since the 1924 Act.
Explain and elaborate on the idea of the “anchor babies.”
Buchanan: It has become a complete scam. Under the 14th Amendment, persons “born … in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” are American citizens. Clearly, it was designed to make the emancipated slaves who had been emancipated by the 13th Amendment into citizens. All of them. They had been born here, they had lived here for generations. That was the idea. But it did not apply to everybody born in the United States: It did not apply to Indians, for example, because it took three acts of Congress to make them citizens of the United States. It did not cover the children of diplomats who were born here. So what it says simply is this: that the 14th Amendment is to be interpreted by the Congress of the United States, and that people not under the jurisdiction of the United States are not automatic citizens.
Phyllis Schlafly has used the figure of one in 10 children born in the United States is born to an illegal alien. They come across the border, late in their pregnancy, they go to the hospital and have their babies. And these babies become little “anchors” that anchor them into American society, because all the babies are automatic citizens, entitled to social welfare benefits for their entire life, 12 years of education and all the rest.
The birth rate among illegal aliens is at Baby Boomer levels in the United States. What happens, then, is that taxpayers, who have educated their own citizens, are now educating children who basically are these automatic citizens. I think what you have to say is that if you’re an illegal alien, you are not under the jurisdiction of the United States, and your baby is not an automatic citizen. Therefore, we’re going to take care of the baby and you in the hospital for several days, until you can travel, and then you’re going back.
Given that the Mexican government is overtly promoting illegal immigration to the United States, what ought to be the posture of the United States?
Buchanan: I tell you what I would’ve done if I were President and I found them interfering in U.S. propositions and referendums, which they do. If you interfere in politics or demonstrations in Mexico, and you’re not a citizen of Mexico, you’re subject to deportation and detention. If I found those Mexican consuls interfering with this, I would’ve told the Mexican government, you tell those fellows to shut up. And if they had continued doing it, I would have taken a bunch of them and kicked them out—persona non grata—you’re going back home.
Who do they think they are?