The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Fall
2012

Border Crossings:

How the Erosion of American Family Life Fuels Illegal Immigration


Bryce J. Christensen


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For the vast majority of ordinary Americans, particularly those who fall between the center and the right of the political spectrum, illegal immigration is a simple issue: The Law is the Law, and the Law should be enforced. As commentator George Rodriguez, himself of Mexican descent, stakes out their position: 

Conservatives view the law as a protection for the just. “Laws” are the rules of the game. These rules can only be changed after, or before, but not in the middle of the game. . . . We have to ask over and over again . . . what part of the word “illegal” do you not understand? If someone used someone else’s ATM card it would be called illegal. If they used someone else’s car without their permission it would be called illegal. So what do you call it if a foreigner enters or overstays in the U.S. without permission? . . . The law must be obeyed until it is changed through the proper process, but it cannot be ignored.

Former President Bush invoked the same standard of lawfulness to justify his own initiatives for sealing the American border against illegal immigrants by constructing a “virtual fence” maintained by electronic motion detectors, infrared cameras, and unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles: “This nation is a nation of laws. And we’re going to enforce our laws. That’s what the American people expect.” Indeed, in decrying the way millions of immigrants have broken U.S. law for a generation, Americans are voicing a legitimate concern. A nation that turns a blind eye to widespread breaking of its laws is in deep trouble. Lawfulness is foundational to social order.

For that reason, it is troubling that for powerful interests groups of both political parties, whether the liberal-leftists of the Democratic party or the libertarian right of the Republican party, illegal immigration is not an issue; it is an opportunity. Indeed, the former quietly countenance both illegal immigration and voter fraud if the combination fosters their electoral success; the latter see economic opportunities of increasing the supply of labor thereby reducing its cost. Yet policymakers from neither party are willing to acknowledge, let alone address, all the legal and political issues that define the problems of illegal immigration.

For example, laws operate on more than one level. So does politics. The laws and political processes most often scrutinized in the immigration debate are man-made, human contrivances that can be changed this way or that to advance a range of possible legitimate policy objectives. But an even more fundamental set of laws and political principles are inscribed not in books of federal or state statutes, but rather in nature itself.

Most Americans recognize the force of natural law. Congress cannot repeal the laws that govern gravity or the movement of light. Tens of millions of Americans understand that limitation; they even recognize that ineluctable natural laws ultimately reflect the will of the one whom the Founders referred to obliquely in the Declaration of Independence as “Nature’s God.” Yet many Americans who deplore the way immigrants break human laws often ignore the way the native population has been violating the laws of nature, in particular those laws that govern family life. In many respects, this “law-breaking” has been encouraged for decades by the liberal-progressive agenda that not only finds political advantage in tacit acceptance of illegal immigration but also has been busy—often with Republican acquiescence—in creating man-made laws that defy the natural laws that govern family life. Americans should indeed worry when millions of illegal immigrants violate the borders that define our national boundary. They should worry even more, however, when tens of millions of legal citizens violate the natural borders that define healthy family life, laws that govern the most fundamental of all social units, the single cell of society that must sustain itself if America is to survive and prosper.

In the long run, human laws cannot controvert natural laws. Just ask King Canute, the eleventh-century Danish ruler famous for having demonstrated to sycophantic courtiers the limits of his power by (ineffectually) commanding the ocean tides not to rise. But in the short run, human laws that defy natural laws can create great social, political, and economic harm. Such harm is evident in the problems surrounding illegal immigration, problems caused not so much because the United States has not enforced her geographical boundaries vigorously enough but rather because the country has not safeguarded the boundaries around natural family life. It is this decay of natural family life that has created needs filled by illegal immigrants.

Yet not all in America have retreated from family life. Latinos living in the United States, whether in harmony with or in violation of man-made immigration law, are generally more committed to the natural laws of the family than are most native-born citizens. Nowhere is the Hispanic commitment to natural law more evident than in the distinctively high fertility of Hispanic immigrants. According to the latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for Hispanic women was 2.35 births in 2010, compared to 1.79 births for white women and 1.97 for black women.[1]

The ethnic fertility gap is more than a numerical disparity. It represents a dramatic divergence in commitment to what may be the most fundamental of all natural laws: societies must reproduce—or die. In the long run, no border on any map matters as much as the border separating a society that is reproducing itself—and consequently looks to the future with hope—from a society that is not reproducing itself and so is wasting away. To understand the implications of that natural boundary between healthy social reproduction and unhealthy social sterility, Americans must realize that demographers regard a TFR of 2.1 as the bare minimum for intergenerational replacement. Yet from a robust peak of 3.63 in 1957, the TFR among America’s majority white population collapsed to well below 2.0 just fifteen years later (1972). Not until 1990 did the white rate rise above 2.0 and only (barely) crossed the 2.1 threshold in 2006 and 2007, before again falling below that threshold in 2008 and 2009. Preliminary NCHS data estimate a TFR among whites of 1.79 in 2010.[2] 

Crossing the Boundaries of Family Life

So, while very few, if any, white Anglos are threatening the United States by slipping across manmade national boundaries illegally, a great many—the majority, in fact—are endangering our national future by setting up residence on the wrong side of the natural boundary between future-sustaining fertility and future-jeopardizing sterility. It would appear indeed that America’s white ethnic majority has for decades been defying an inflexible natural law and so has chosen slow-motion social suicide. In contrast, the Hispanic minority in the United States—a minority that is the focus of the illegal immigration debate—is still choosing to follow the natural laws that mean growth, vitality, and life.[3]

Only by acknowledging the implications of the natural laws governing fertility can Americans even begin an honest debate on illegal immigration. Before indulging in tirades against Latinos who break man-made immigration laws, Americans need to listen to those perceptive observers who recognize how native-born citizens are feeding the demand for illegal immigrant labor by themselves defying the natural laws of family life. Even in the 1980s, when illegal immigration was already surging but was still well below levels reached in the 1990s, Ben Wattenberg understood how sub-replacement fertility among native-born Americans was affecting the nation. “The Birth Dearth,” Wattenberg warned in 1987, “hurts us in every conceivable geopolitical way: militarily, economically, politically, and culturally.”[4] Seventeen years later, demographer Philip Longman voiced similar sentiments, expressing fears about “America’s vanishing labor supply” in a social landscape reshaped by “the low birthrates of recent decades.”[5]

Of course, one way that Americans can deal with the problems they have caused by defying the laws of family life is by relying on immigration as a way to import life otherwise missing because of their fertility-denying defiance of these natural laws. So when the deficit in births is as acute as Wattenberg and Longman have suggested, no one should be surprised when much of that immigration is illegal. Nor should one place all of the blame for illegal immigration on the immigrants themselves. A substantial part of the blame must go to the native-born citizens.

Clarifying the way in which defiance of family-sustaining natural law creates incentives for illegal immigration, economist John Mueller has pointed out how legal abortion in the post-Roe v. Wade era has driven actual fertility below replacement level in such a way that “continued immigration at about 1.5 million a year will be nearly impossible to prevent.”[6] Drawing on Mueller’s work, commentators Andresen Blom and James Bell of the American Principles Project have pointed out that by the early 1990s, as fully a third of the workers who would have been entering the labor force had been aborted, the economy was starved for young labor.[7] That vacuum has been filled through immigration, much of it illegal. In fact, the need for young labor would be even greater, and the consequent levels of illegal immigration would be even higher, were it not for the distinctively high fertility of Latinos already in the country.

Clearly, any honest assessment of illegal immigration begins with an acknowledgement that such immigration has been, in large measure, a response to native citizens’ defiance of natural laws, a defiance that has brought baleful effects that were in no way mitigated by the subtle reasoning of seven decidedly human Supreme Court justices who grounded a right to abortion in mysterious penumbras supposedly surrounding the Constitution.

Though it may be the most grievous violation of the natural laws that sustain family life, abortion is not the only way in which native-born Americans defy these laws, even while abiding by the merely human laws of twenty-first-century America. Nor is distinctively high fertility the only indication that Hispanics—many of them in this country in violation of human laws—are determined to honor such family-sustaining natural laws. That determination is so pervasive that it bears its own name—familismo—a name that emerges again and again in the literature of scholars trying to understand or explain the Mexican community living in the United States. Familismo, acknowledges a team of Anglo educational scholars writing in 2004, means “plac[ing] great importance on family attachment, loyalty, and reciprocity.”[8] Another twenty-first century scholar explains familismo as a manifestation of “the significance of the family in Latino cultures.” “Latinos,” this scholar points out, “identify strongly with their extended family and consider the total family system as a supportive, integrated network; the family as a group has precedence [among Latinos] over individual interests.” Familismo thus entails “obedience and respect towards [parental] authority . . . [and] helpfulness, generosity, and loyalty towards the family, and responsibility, sacrifice, and hard work for the benefit of the family.”[9]

How Hispanics Respect the Laws of Nature

The familismo of Latino immigrants also shows itself in their adoption of distinctively traditional gender roles, roles they believe harmonize with natural laws they honor even when they violate man-made immigration laws. Writing when the social character of perhaps 2 million Mexican immigrants then in the United States was just beginning to attract the attention of researchers, one American scholar of women’s studies conceded that female Mexican-American adolescents “experience less conflict [than their Anglo peers] over their identities and social roles, [and] that they select family-related components and social roles, while [adolescent Mexican-American] boys identify more closely with machismo and the husband roles of the traditional Mexican [culture]” than do their Anglo peers. Adolescent immigrants from Mexico are thus preserving a Latino culture in which “[the] father is held responsible for providing for the family, while the mother’s activity revolves around her family and home.”[10] Such gender-role traditionalism is not surprising among immigrants from a country that deeply frustrates progressive-thinking U.S. feminists. Distressed that even the political revolutionaries of Mexico—the land of origin for most illegal immigrants—have typically endorsed “conservative gender policies,” one feminist scholar sadly concludes that Mexico enters the twenty-first century as a society in which “traditional gender constructions have not been challenged significantly.”[11]

Predictably, among immigrants from this land of strong families and traditional gender roles, relatively few women seek employment outside the home. Researchers involved in a 2004 study thus report that the male-versus-female “employment gap” is particularly pronounced among Latinos of Mexican origin, a population in which women are significantly less likely to be employed outside the home than within the black or white community. Because immigrant Latinos are a relatively impoverished group, the researchers interpret their findings as evidence that culture counts for more than economics in determining women’s employment decisions.[12] The gender-role traditionalism of Mexican immigrants that keeps their mothers in the home helps account for the distinctively high levels of breast-feeding found among Mexican-American mothers, levels significantly higher than those found among Anglo mothers, many of whom are much too committed to advancing their careers to give their offspring the numerous health advantages that come through this medically-encouraged practice.[13]

While skeptical about a woman’s need for employment outside the home, Mexican immigrants are exceptionally supportive of a woman’s need for a husband. In a 1996 study, researcher R. S. Oropesa found that Mexican Americans were more supportive of marriage as a social institution than are their Anglo counterparts. “Not only do Mexican-Americans offer greater support for marriage,” Oropesa wrote, “[but] they [also] exhibit less variation in their support than whites.” In explaining why Latinos are decidedly more likely than whites to agree that “it’s better to get married than go through life being single,” Oropesa referred to a “cultural heritage” in which “marriage is often portrayed as an affirmation of womanhood” and in which matrimony is “part of God’s plan.”[14]

That same commitment to the laws of “Nature’s God” that keeps wedlock central to the cultural life of Mexican immigrants also keeps fornication in check. In a 2004 study, Ohio State researchers report a distinctively high level of sexual restraint among Latino adolescents living in areas with high concentrations of immigrants, evidently signifying “cohesion around more traditional norms regarding delayed sexual onset.”[15] Similarly, among Latino (mostly Mexican) immigrants newly arrived in the United States, scholars at the University of California at Los Angeles and Northridge find a notably “less permissive attitude toward sex” than has become the norm in our increasingly libidinous national culture.[16]

Though activist judges have manipulated human law in ways that make it very difficult for legislators, let alone voters, to have a say on abortion law, polling data indicate that Latino immigrants realize that Roe v. Wade jurisprudence has given the country a man-made law deeply at odds with the natural and divine laws of family life. When California academics conclude that “Latino voters are very conservative on abortion,” they are merely translating into simple English the surveys showing that even in liberal California “only 42 percent of the state’s Hispanics favor an unrestricted right to abortion, compared with 67 percent of non-Hispanic whites.”[17] 

Parsing the Hispanic Unwed Birth Ratio

Given their strong adherence to traditional ideals of chastity and sexual continence, it may puzzle some observers that the percentage of Latino children born out of wedlock runs well above that found among whites. In 2010—the last year for which final NCHS data are available—52.8 percent of all U.S. births among women of Hispanic origin were out of wedlock. The comparable percentage among blacks was 72.4 percent and for whites 29.3 percent.[18]

However, out-of-wedlock childbearing among Latinas must be viewed in cultural context. As a team of scholars from the University of Texas and the University of Pennsylvania points out in a 2006 study, much of the out-of-wedlock childbearing among Mexican-American women is quite different from out-of-wedlock childbearing among whites and blacks. First, because of their deep Catholic commitments, Mexican-American women use contraceptive devices far less than whites or blacks; they also submit to abortions decidedly less often than blacks. Second, although the researchers find that Mexican-American women are decidedly less likely to live in non-marital cohabitation than either whites or blacks, they also find that Mexican-American couples who do cohabit apparently view their unions as “surrogate marriages” in the tradition of common-law marriages often found in Mexico. The consequence—as the Texas and Pennsylvania scholars note—is that a disproportionate fraction of out-of-wedlock childbearing among Mexican-Americans occurs among cohabiting couples whose unions are much more fertile and more marriage-like than those of cohabiting whites or blacks.[19] It also seems more than likely that many of the Mexican-American couples who do cohabit outside of marriage do so only because they fear that in securing a wedding license, they will expose to public officials their status as illegal immigrants.

Nor can out-of-wedlock childbearing among Latino immigrants be assessed without taking into account the relative impoverishment of such immigrants. In every American group of immigrants, it has always been the poor who have given birth to a disproportionate number of the out-of-wedlock babies. The poor likewise have accounted for a disproportionate number of marriages that end in divorce or separation. As sociologist Christopher Jencks remarks, “Couples with neither money nor education have always had more trouble keeping their marriages together than more privileged couples.”[20] Given Latino immigrants’ relative lack of financial or educational resources, it is truly remarkable that Hispanic children are far more likely than blacks (whose economic and educational circumstances are roughly comparable) and only slightly less likely than whites to live in a two-parent family. According to current Census data, 67.0 percent of Hispanic children were living with both parents in 2010, compared to 74.9 percent of white children and 39.2 percent of black children.[21] The relative impoverishment makes it entirely predictable that many Latino immigrants will fail to make or preserve marital ties. What is remarkable—given the severe economic and educational handicaps under which they labor—is the number of Latino immigrants who are holding their marriages and families together.

In this context, conservatives who speak harshly of how illegal Latino immigrants break man-made immigration laws should start examining more closely the violations of natural laws of family life that have become depressingly common among well-off Anglos since the 1970s, as rates for divorce and out-of-wedlock births have soared and rates for marriage and fertility have plummeted. Unfortunately, tirades against poor Latinos breaking man-made immigration laws have too often prevented Americans from recognizing how much such law-breaking is the direct result of native-born Americans’ violation of the natural laws of family life.

How Americans Subvert Laws of the Family

Though far too few Americans have recognized the fact, many of the immigrants who have been breaking man-made laws when they cross the Southern border have been coming—in large measure—to satisfy demands created by native-born Americans who have repudiated the natural laws that make families rich with the only wealth that finally matters—life itself. When, for instance, Americans repudiated the natural laws that make families fertile and child-rich, they created a “birth dearth” that soon had analysts announcing that the nation would need hundreds of thousands of immigrants to fill jobs and stimulate the economy.[22] As historian Franz Shurman admirably clarifies:

America needs the South’s babies . . . American civilization wants sex, but does not want children. . . . America thrives on success and sex. But what about children? Immigrants bring in lots of babies and make even more. . . . Money makes America go worldwide, but the sense that others must help where money and success cannot—namely by producing children—makes America draw in others from other lands.[23]

The children that immigrants from the South bring into the country or bear after they arrive are critically needed in an aging nation where “the age structure of the whole country will [soon] come to resemble that of ‘retirement states’ like Florida, where a fifth of the population is already over sixty five.” Hence, legal scholar Mary Ann Glendon is quite right to assert that “an adequate understanding of today’s migration patterns would . . . have to include their relation to the approaching ‘demographic winter’ in the affluent societies of Europe and North America.”[24]

The aging of a relatively infertile, but long-lived, Baby Boom generation will indeed soon put such heavy demands on the Social Security and Medicare systems that some government experts look to payroll taxes collected from a massive army of immigrants (possibly as many as 5 million new ones per year) as the only way to balance the books.[25] As Americans belatedly come to realize that the birth dearth has helped make the nation’s government system for providing for the elderly fiscally unsustainable, they will perhaps stop worrying about immigrants who break the law by entering the country and start pondering the misguided politics that ignored the natural laws of the family in creating that system in the first place.[26]

Sadly, many upper-middle-class white couples, particularly professionals with two hefty incomes, have so completely repudiated the natural laws of the home economy that they rely on illegal aliens to prepare and serve their meals, to clean their homes, and to care for their flower gardens. Many of these couples—legal citizens, all—are so far removed from the laws of natural family life that even when they do decide to conceive a designer child or two, they end up creating a demand for more immigrants willing to break human laws. Because many of these power couples reject the traditional gender roles that would give their children in-home maternal care and perhaps additional siblings, legal observers acknowledge that “illegal nannies are now commonplace in cities where affluent two-career couples are raising children.”[27]

As if to make theatrically visible the irony that affluent native-born citizens foster the breaking of man-made immigration laws by violating the natural laws of family life, more than thirty Hollywood celebrities (virtually all native-born citizens) rallied in 2005 in support of a law that would have allowed the illegal immigrants who serve as their nannies to obtain a driver’s license. But perhaps the relationship between violation of the natural laws of family life and the man-made laws of immigration has been made even more dramatically evident when recent presidents, Democratic and Republican, have repeatedly withdrawn nominations for prominent judicial and law-enforcement positions because the nominees were entangled in Nanny-gate scandals—scandals exposing the frequency with which our political elite rely on illegal immigrants as nannies. These cases, above all, showed how foolish it is for Americans to hope for the long-term observance of man-made immigration law when the nation’s most affluent and influential citizens are defying the natural laws of family life.

Just how thoroughly affluent Anglos have in recent decades rejected the natural laws of family life is evident in the dramatic rise of support of enlarged political rights for homosexuals, a population that has completely separated itself from the natural laws of reproduction. Citizens who care about such natural laws need to remember that the nation’s Latino population is now significantly more respectful of such laws than are whites, especially wealthy whites. 

Social Conservatives, At Least For Now

Americans, especially those who consider themselves conservative Republicans, should keep in view the reports from pollsters who consistently report that Latino immigrants are “overall . . . more socially conservative than most American voters, especially on issues involving gender roles, abortion, and homosexuality.” The political potency of that Latino social conservatism became particularly evident in 2000 and 2012 when Hispanic Americans in California joined other social conservatives to support voter initiatives, Proposition 22 in 2000 and Proposition 8 in 2012, attempting to ensure that human law reflect the natural law by recognizing marriage as an institution that unites both sexes. Despite the vocal opposition of prominent Democrats—including Presidents Clinton and Obama, Governor Davis, and Senators Boxer and Feinstein—Mexican immigrant voters rallied to support both propositions.

Pre-election polls in 2000 revealed that while Proposition 22 enjoyed the support of just over half of the overall electorate, fully two-thirds of Latino voters endorsed it. Latino supporters of Proposition 22 included even many registered Democrats like Carlos Garcia, who understood very well why it was necessary to break ranks with his party leaders on this issue: “The moment you talk about family,” he explained, “that penetrates everything and goes right to the heart of most Latinos.” After Proposition 22 passed, post-election analysis identified Hispanic voters as its “staunchest supporters.” Similarly, post-election analysis of support for Proposition 8 revealed that between 53 and 59 percent of Hispanic voters supported the measure, compared to less than half of Anglo whites, with particularly high rates of support evident in California cities where more than 90 percent of the residents were Hispanic, prompting one analyst to suggest that “Hispanics in monolithically Hispanic cities are more traditional that Hispanics elsewhere. . . . In cosmopolitan places like the city of Los Angeles and San Francisco, in contrast, you’d expect Hispanics (and everyone else) to be more supportive of gay marriage.”[28]

Hispanics’ distinctively conservative social views become a problem for Democratic leaders when they are trying to deal with issues defined by natural law, issues such as homosexual rights or abortion rights. However, so long as these leaders can keep Latinos’ attention fixed on man-made laws of economics and employment (as in minimum-wage laws or affirmative-action measures), their strategy of tacitly favoring illegal immigration probably works for them. What is more, when it comes to keeping Latino immigrants on their side of the political divide, Democratic strategists possess a powerful secret weapon: namely, the increasingly corrosive power of American culture. Study after study shows that the longer Latino immigrants live in this country, the less likely they are to live by the natural laws that sustain healthy family life. Compared to new immigrants, Latino immigrants who have become “acculturated” to American life are less supportive of marriage, more permissive in their attitude toward fornication, and less successful in holding together their families.[29]

Americans can even see a kind of metaphor for the pathological dynamics of Latino acculturation in the “epidemiological paradox” reported by epidemiologists. This paradox is evident in the surprisingly robust health of infants born to impoverished Latino immigrants, health that is actually better than that of infants born to more affluent Latinos who have been in the United States longer. After careful analysis, health researchers have concluded that this surprising pattern reflects the deterioration of family life that occurs as Latino immigrants become acculturated to American social patterns. That is, the data indicate that recent Latino migrants are “less likely to have experienced family disruption during childhood than either early migrants or [U.S.-born] women,” as is evident in the fact that “about 68% of late migrants lived with both parents at the age of 14, compared to 53% of early migrants and 58% of [U.S.-born] women.”[30] As in health, so in social-cultural behavior—acculturation means poorer well-being in a society increasingly defiant of the natural laws of family life.

It is indeed a damning indictment of American culture that for many Latino immigrants “acculturation” means fornication, singleness, divorce, abortion, and welfare dependency. And as Democratic strategists know all too well, once immigrants turn away from the natural laws that sustain family life and become dependent upon the man-made laws that run welfare bureaucracies, they can thereafter be counted on as reliable mercenaries in the liberal-left’s ongoing assault on the natural laws that undergird healthy family life. 

The Greater Threat to America

These clear risks reinforce the imperative for policymakers and all Americans to rediscover the natural laws that Latino immigrants often honor far better than millions of native-born Americans. As President Ronald Reagan reminded the country twenty years ago: “We have all been enriched by the contributions of Hispanics in every walk of American life” and who justly praised “the casa, the almost mystical center of daily life, where grandparents and parents and children and grandchildren all come together in the familia.” Perhaps we should also remember the criticism of the native-born culture that Reagan expressed on the same occasion: “I fear that too often, in the mad rush of modern American life, some people have not learned the great lesson of our Hispanic heritage: the lesson of family and home and church and community.”[31]

Were he alive today, President Reagan might very well encourage his fellow conservatives to overcome the myopia that blinds many of them to the way that assault on natural law has helped foster conditions favorable to immigration that violates man-made laws. For certain, no healthy country can ignore widespread violation of its man-made laws. But widespread violation of the natural laws that sustain marriage and family ultimately pose a far greater threat—and ultimately make the enforcement of man-made laws of all sorts impossibly difficult and futile. For that reason, Americans who care about the violation of man-made immigration laws need to care even more about widespread violation of the natural laws of family life. They also need to recognize how the progressive left has been using man-made law to subvert natural law. Too often with the acquiescence of Republicans who style themselves as “economic conservatives,” the liberal-left has used man-made laws to create a society needing illegal-immigrant babies and illegal-immigrant nannies.

Such man-made laws include the family-subverting laws of no-fault divorce, abortion on demand, distribution at taxpayers’ expense of free contraceptive devices to women and teenagers, as well as homosexual “marriage.” These family subverting man-made laws have also included less obvious subversion of family life through measures that have subsidized institutional daycare and taxed parental child care and through court decisions that have largely destroyed the “family wage” that once enabled a man to support a full-time mother at home.[32] Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Obama advisor Hilary Rosen’s attack on Ann Romney as a woman who has “not worked a day in her life” never progressed into a larger debate over policies enacted, with the support of both parties, that have pushed more and more mothers into out-of-home employment by making it very difficult for any mother not married to a millionaire to do the home-based non-monetized work that sustains a strong and healthy family.

For all these reasons, real progress in dealing with the immigration crisis can only begin when conservatives do more than hack at the leaves of the problem. They must yank at the roots, meaning the widespread violation of the natural laws of family life, a breach fostered by the family-subverting man-made laws that have multiplied in recent decades. Though it may not be obvious, policymakers can solve the immigration problem when they set out to frame laws that reduce divorce, reinforce wedlock, foster marital childbearing, and support parental care of children.[33] But those who seek more stringent enforcement of immigration laws while ignoring the natural laws that sustain family life are setting themselves up for a painfully enlightening lesson of the sort that King Canute once gave his court.

Dr. Christensen, editor-at-large of The Family in America, teaches composition and literature at Souter Uta University.



  1. “Births: Final Data for 2010,” National Vital Statistics Reports 61.1 (August 2012): Table 8.
  2. Ibid.
  3. See Bryce Christensen, “Confronting the Family Implications of the Immigration Debate: Remembering the Laws of Man y slas Leyes de Naturaleza,” The Family in America, September 2006, pp. 1–8. Portions of this earlier essay are incorporated in this current analysis.
  4. Ben J. Wattenberg, The Birth Dearth (New York: Pharos Books, 1987), p. 99.
  5.  Philip Longman, The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It (New York: Basic Books, 2004), p. 99.
  6. John D. Mueller, Redeeming Economics: Rediscovering the Missing Element (Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2010), p. 278.
  7. Andresen Blom and James Bell, “Blom & Bell: Abortion-Immigration Dynamic,” The Washington Times, November 22, 2011.
  8. Martin J. LaRoche and David Shriberg, “Diversity in Consultation: High Stakes Exams and Latino Students: Toward a Culturally Sensitive Education for Latino Children in the United States,” Journal of Educational & Psychological Consultation 15 (2004): 209.
  9. K. M. Antshel, “Integrating Culture as a Means of Improving Treatment Adherence in the Latino Population,” Psychology, Health & Medicine 7 (2002): 439.
  10. Maxine B. Zinn, “Gender and Ethnic Identity Among Chicanos,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 5.2 (1980): 18–24. 
  11. Nikki Craske, “Ambiguities and Ambivalences in Making the Nation: Women and Politics in 20th-Century Mexico,” Feminist Review 79 (2005): 120–121, 130–131.
  12. Paula England, Carmen Garcia-Beaulieu, and Mary Ross, “Women’s Employment Among Blacks, Whites, and Three Groups of Latinas: Do More Privileged Women Have Higher Employment?” Gender & Society 18 (2004): 494–509.
  13. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2012 edition, Table 99: “Infants Who Were Ever Breastfed by Maternal Age and Race-Ethnicity: 1999–2006.” 
  14. R. S. Oropesa, “Normative Beliefs About Marriage and Cohabitation: A Comparison of Whites, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58 (1996): 49–62.
  15. Christopher R. Browning, Tama Leventhal, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, “Neighborhood Context and Racial Differences in Early Adolescent Sexual Activity,” Demography 41 (2004): 697–720.
  16. Vicki J. Ebin et al., “Acculturation and Interrelationships Between Problem and Health-Promoting Behaviors Among Latino Adolescents,” Journal of Adolescent Health 28 (2001): 62–72.
  17. Andres Martinez, “Two Candidates, Seeking Votes With Salsa,” The New York Times, August 16, 2000, p. A30. 
  18. “Births: Final Data for 2010,” National Vital Statistics Report 61.1 (August 2012): Table 14. 
  19. Elizabeth Wildsmith and R. Kelly Raley, “Race-Ethnic Differences in Nonmarital Fertility: A Focus on Mexican-American Women,” Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (2006): 491–508. 
  20. Christopher Jencks, “Deadly Neighborhoods,” review of The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass and Public Policy by William Julius Wilson, The New Republic, June 13, 1988, pp. 28–29. 
  21. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2012 edition, Table 69: “Children Under 18 Years Old by Presence of Parents.”
  22. Cf. Wattenberg, The Birth Dearth, pp. 127–130; Thomas J. Espenshade, Leon F. Bouvier, and W. Brian Arthur, “Immigration and the Stable Population Model,” Demography 19 (1982): 125–33. 
  23. Franz Shurman, American Soul (San Francisco: Mercury House, 1995), pp. 142–143, 148.  
  24. Mary Ann Glendon, “Principled Immigration,” First Things, June-July 2006, pp. 25–26. 
  25. Cf. Peter G. Peterson, Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2004), pp. 70–71; Julian L. Simon, “The Case for Greatly Increased Immigration,” The Public Interest, No. 102 (1991): 98. 
  26. Cf. Charles F. Hohm et al., “A Reappraisal of the Social Security-Fertility Hypothesis: A Bidirectional Approach,” Social Science Journal 23 (1986): 149–68. 
  27. Ellen Gamerman, “Parents Often Turn a Blind Eye, Hiring Nannies Illegally in U.S.; Nominees Aren’t the Only Ones Ignoring Immigration Status,” The Baltimore Sun, December 15, 2004, p. E1.
  28. Josh Goodman, “Prop. 8, Hispanics, and California’s Next Gay-Marriage Vote,” Governing—The States and Localities, June 16, 2009, http://www.governing.com/blogs/politics/Prop-8-Hispanics-and.html.
  29. Cf. Vicki J. Ebin et al., “Acculturation and Interrelationships Between Problem and Health-Promoting Behaviors Among Latino Adolescents,” Journal of Adolescent Health 28 (2001): 62–72; Oropesa, “Normative Beliefs About Marriage and Cohabitation”; Nancy S. Landale et al., “Does Americanization Have Adverse Effects on Health? Stress, Health Habits, and Infant Health Outcomes Among Puerto Ricans,” Social Forces 78 (1999): 613–41.
  30. Cf. Landale et al., “Does Americanization Have Adverse Effects on Health?”
  31. Reagan qtd. in Allan C. Carlson, “The American Way: How Faith and Family Shaped the American Identity,” The Family in America, January 2004, pp. 6–7. 
  32. Cf. Allan Carlson, “Rise and Fall of the American Family Wage,” University of St. Thomas Law Journal 4.3 (2007): 556–72.
  33. Cf. Allan C. Carlson and Paul T. Mero, “A Natural Family Policy,” The Natural Family: Bulwark of Liberty (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 2009), pp. 189–208.
  34.  

 

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