Wednesday, August 02, 2017


I'm running into a lot of people who assume that America will recoil from the newly announced Trump administration policy on immigration, and that the man tasked with defending it today, White House adviser Stephen Miller, repulsed the vast majority of Americans, especially in his heated exchange with CNN's Jim Acosta:
... Acosta asked a question about a policy to only let in English-speaking immigrants. He quoted “The New Colossus,” the famous poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty, before saying, “It doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer. Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant?”

Miller disputed Acosta’s follow-up points on historic trends in immigration to the US; then Acosta asked, trying to return to the point about English-speaking immigrants, “Are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?” adding that it sounded to him like “racial and ethnic” engineering. Miller’s response escalated quickly: “That is one of the most outrageous insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you’ve ever said.” He also snapped that the question about Great Britain and Australia revealed Acosta’s “cosmopolitan bias.”
Yes, I know that even though Miller is Jewish, he knows precisely what kind of dog whistle the word "cosmopolitan" is. But I don't know that most of America knows that. To those who haven't staked out a lefty position on immigration -- and most Americans haven't -- I'm afraid that Miller's points seemed reasonable, if possibly not well expressed. Here's that Miller-Acosta exchange:

If we've admitted fewer immigrants in previous years than the administration wants to admit now, then I can imagine a lot of agreement with Miller's assertion that there is no fixed number that's the correct number of admissions. And, yes, some people who live in non-English-speaking countries do speak English.

I'm not saying this is my reaction -- I'm saying that people in the middle as well as on the right might think Miller was making reasonable points.

As Josh Barro notes, Americans value diversity, but they also embrace English as a significant part of Americanness.

He's citing a Voter Study Group survey. Here's a chart with these results:

Americans do think speaking English is important to being American (even though many of us had ancestors who came here and never fully mastered the language).

So today might have gone over better in America as a whole than it did among liberal pundits. And I suspect Miller went over like gangbusters on the right. No, he doesn't look like the kind of guy who could comfortably hang out in a beer-and-a-shot bar with blue-collar deplorables. He's an arrogant, weaselly know-it-all -- but he's their arrogant, weaselly know-it-all, saying what they believe about the desirability of limiting immigration. So I bet he makes them stand up and cheer.

No comments: