One of the more interesting trends of recent years has been the effort to view citizenship through a kind of debauched meritocratic lens. This approach is favored particularly by those who oppose enforcing immigration laws, who argue that somehow immigrants (including illegal immigrants) are more “American” than poor Americans. Like some earlier iterations of Social Darwinism, this worldview combines moral self-righteousness with a crass materialism.
.. Bret Stephens offers a “Modest Proposal”–style recommendation to deport poor Americans: “Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic points of American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning.” Stephens says he doesn’t really want to deport struggling Americans; his tongue is firmly in his cheek. His main purpose is to criticize the deportation of illegal immigrants by pointing to the supposed shortcomings of many native-born Americans. However, rather than destroying the case for enforcing immigration laws, this satirical proposal far more effectively skewers efforts to dissolve national fellowship in the name of the pseudo-meritocracy.
.. many immigrant families sometimes face more challenges than their immigrant parents did. For instance, sociologists Edward E. Telles and Vilma Ortiz found that the economic prospects of those descended from Mexican immigrants often stall or even decline after the second generation.
.. Whether or not a poor American “deserves” to be an American is beside the point — what matters is that he is American and that, by virtue of his citizenship, he has an inherent claim to the public square and public concern. While pseudo-meritocratic initiatives to cull the weak are chic on Wall Street, they inject poison when applied to politics. Arguing that the poor and disadvantaged are somehow less worthy citizens exacerbates civic alienation; it cuts the materially unsuccessful out of the body politic and flatters the indifference of the successful, whispering to them that they are justified in sneering at the struggles of the weak.
.. the argument that the native-born are degenerate trash-people is almost a recipe for even more populism, a force that has caused Stephens himself no small angst in recent years.