Dennis Prager
Special for The Arizona Republic
Jun. 27, 2004
Intelligent talk radio

Dennis Prager is not your typical talk radio host. Never shrill, never bombastic, he is a thoughtful commentator on politics, culture, religion and myriad other topics. He has broadcast from Los Angeles since 1982, but also has taught Russian and Jewish history at Brooklyn College and occasionally conducts orchestras. He can be heard in the Valley every weekday, 9 a.m. to noon, on KKNT-AM (960).

Many Americans are deeply concerned about the vast immigration to our country from Latin America, particularly from Mexico. These concerns - a huge number of illegal immigrants, the loss of jobs to American citizens, the disproportionate number of these immigrants in the criminal class, and the overburdened schools and emergency wards - are legitimate and worrisome. This Republican shares them.

But after discussing this issue with callers to my radio show for years, I have concluded that many conservatives who are worried about Mexican immigration lose sight of the forest for the trees.

To see that forest, look at Europe and its immigrants. When you do, you may well end up thanking God that our problems with immigrants are the ones just enumerated, not Europe's.

The reality is that Western industrialized countries are not reproducing themselves. Fewer women are having children, and those giving birth are not having enough to reproduce the population. Without new people, their economic growth will grind to a halt as a relative handful of young people work harder to support the greater and growing number of older people. Obviously, only two options can save these countries: Increase population from within or bring in new workers.

The liberal zeitgeist prohibits telling women to have more children or not to have abortions. So to survive, Western countries are left with the immigration option.

But there is one awesome difference between America's immigrants and Europe's. Theirs are Muslims, most of whom do not share the Western world's social values and many of whom loathe Western society and the particular country in which they live.

Our immigrants are largely people who share our basic values, and share our dominant religion. They are fellow Christians (for readers on the Left, a reminder that the majority of Americans are Christians, a fact this Jew notes with gratitude); they have strong families; and most work extraordinarily hard.

When push comes to shove, most Americans recognize this.

We trust their homes, our children, our restaurants and other places of work to these Hispanic immigrants, and one rarely if ever hears stories that provide any reasons not to.

But there is an even more dramatic example of how highly most Americans regard the Hispanic immigrants' integrity. Where I live in Southern California, it is common to find groups of young Hispanic men at certain well-known intersections where they gather to await day labor. Often a woman will pick up one or more of these men, take them to her home, and pay them for a day's work.

When you think about this scenario, it is almost incredible. Women are picking up men who are total strangers, and driving alone with them to their homes. The trust that all these women have in the values and self-control of these Mexican and other Hispanic men is remarkable. Indeed, it is a far greater trust than these women would have in American men. Not one woman I have asked about this would feel anywhere as secure in picking up White or Black American men they didn't know.

And I strongly doubt that French or Dutch women are picking up Algerian or Moroccan or other Muslim and Arab men and taking them home alone with them.

Given the similarity between Mexican and other Latin American immigrants' basic values and ours, and given our need for more young workers, probably the greatest problem concerning Latino immigrants is whether we successfully Americanize them.

Because these immigrants, especially Mexicans, tend to live in ethnic ghettos, because they have access to 24-hour Spanish language television and radio, because they can hold dual-citizenship, and because Mexico is so near, they have not had to assimilate as immigrants of the past had to.

Moreover, thanks to "multiculturalism," our society does not seek to Americanize Hispanic or any other immigrants. In fact, we don't even try to Americanize Americans. If our schools cultivated an American identity and values in all students, there would be few if any problems with immigrants after just one generation.

Immigration would be regarded overwhelmingly as a blessing, as indeed it has been throughout American history.

But if schools celebrate non-American holidays with as much or greater fervor than they celebrate American holidays; if they teach children in the language of the country they came from; and if they think that teaching pride in the American experience and inculcating patriotism are right-wing activities, we will have big problems.

If more and more Americans do not understand the unique American value system that must be transmitted to the next generation, we will not survive as an American civilization, with or without immigrants.

What is this unique American value system? Just look at any American coin. America's three primary values are inscribed on it: "In God we trust" (we are a Judeo-Christian country); e pluribus unum ("from many, one" - America is multiethnic, not multicultural); "Liberty" (America is animated by love of liberty, not as the Left here and in Europe are, by love of equality).

Conservative concerns about immigration must be addressed. But first we should all take a breath and thank God that we have a real chance to fully incorporate these people into our society. Europe, by and large, has no such chance.

Dennis Prager's nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard daily in Arizona on KKNT AM-960 in Phoenix and KVOI AM-690 in Tucson. Reach him through his Web site,