Civics: Why Immigrants Travel West

Victor Davis Hanson:

The harshest critics of the West in general and the United States in particular are the best arguments for it. Take the latest iconic critic, 29-year-old Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. She has a predictable list of complaints against America, past and present.

Yet fortunately for her, her paternal grandparents and mother had experienced firsthand the antitheses of mainland America. And thus they were obsessed with what was right, not wrong, with the continental United States — and with getting there as quickly as possible. If they had once been critics of America, such animus was seemingly not great enough to prevent them moving to a place with a different language, ethnic majority, and traditions from those of their home, itself a territory of the U.S.

They apparently assumed that a free-market economy and transparent government gave them economic opportunities unknown in Puerto Rico, an otherwise naturally rich landscape. They wisely stayed in North America, apparently because they felt as supposed minorities that they would have far more cultural, social, political, and economic opportunities than they would as part of the majority in Puerto Rico. The fact that her father was a second-generation immigrant and architect, that AOC herself grew up in affluent Westchester County, that she received scholarships to attend pricey Boston University, and that she was elected to Congress bore out her parents’ correct assumptions of a meritocracy, not a caste state.

Mutatis mutandis, the same could be said of two other chronic ankle-biters of America, newly elected Representatives Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.). Their families correctly (but internally rather than publicly) had apparently once assumed that Muslims and the so-called nonwhite would enjoy a higher standard of living, more religious protection, and greater political freedom as minority citizens of the U.S. than as part of the majority in either Somalia or the Palestinian territories . Omar and Tlaib both know that if they were to redirect commensurate animus to the government and society of Somalia or the Palestinian territories, their freedoms, if not their very lives, would be in danger.

Left unsaid is that their theoretical doppelgängers, would-be Christian emigrants, especially European Christians, would find no such reciprocal tolerance when they reached the Middle East or East Africa (and they therefore do not emigrate to such places). That reality, along with a greater likelihood of personal security and material affluence, is why in a larger sense immigration is always a one-way street: Those in Africa, Asia, and Latin America – the non-West — who are fed up always go westward. Very few disenchanted Westerners emigrate in the opposite direction; those who do are usually affluent and retired.

Transfer American paradigms from frigid Minnesota to warm Somalia, and Ilhan Omar would never have left Mogadishu. And put Somalian protocols in play in Minneapolis, and she and her family would never have set foot in America. And the reason she seems unable to acknowledge that simple truth is also Western to the core — once a pampered Westerner gains the leisure, affluence, and security to critique the very system that provided these boons.