Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 5 February 2024


The Elites Opened the Doors to Migrants—and Chaos

Bleeding-heart liberalism has taken a dangerous turn toward an ideology that rejects national borders.


On the streets of London, a woman and her two young children are doused with lethal chemicals. The suspect was twice denied asylum in the U.K. but managed to stay and was convicted of a serious sexual assault, then was granted asylum on appeal. The victims are left with life-altering injuries. A member of Parliament from the governing Conservative Party tells a television audience that this is a warning about the consequences of “microaggressions” that women face every day.

In Sweden a gang war between rival groups of migrants is unleashing havoc on the citizens of what was once a global model of social harmony. The European media descend on the country and publish dark warnings about the rise of “far right” anti-immigrant parties.

In Chicago, a “sanctuary city” recently inundated with illegal migrants, and where gang crime (most of it not migrant-related) is rampant, the City Council rouses itself from its indifference to pass a resolution that calls for antagonists to put down their arms—in Gaza.

It is tempting to look at these recent events across two continents and conclude that we in the West aren’t a serious civilization anymore, that our commitment to liberal principles, openness and tolerance have inured us to our peril; that our values are no longer fit for purpose in an open world of existential threats.

The deeper reality is that it isn’t our values that have failed. We are witnessing instead the most powerful indictment of a political and cultural elite whose hegemony is long overdue to meet its nemesis. The demographic reality of an overpopulated and still immiserated global south that is disgorging hundreds of millions of people to the wealthy north is making chaos of the attitudes and decisions of a ruling elite that—by design or accident—seems hell-bent on the West’s self-annihilation.

Perhaps I exaggerate. But the scale of the migration crisis in the west—more than the rise of China, the challenge of new technologies or the climate—seems to me the issue that will increasingly define the politics of our age.

Let’s be clear about migrants and crime. It has been pointed out that there is no evidence of greater criminal activity among illegal migrants than among the general population. There’s limited data on the subject but a 2020 study found that illegal immigrants in Texas are less likely to be arrested for a felony than native-born citizens or legal immigrants.

This makes sense. If you are here illegally you live life in a demimonde defined by evading detection, and therefore might be more likely to be drawn into crime. But it is also true that if you are here illegally you have an especially strong incentive to avoid doing anything that gets you into an encounter with law enforcement.

But the argument spectacularly misses the point. Of course the overwhelming majority of migrants here illegally don’t beat up cops or throw toxic substances at innocent women. But one single crime committed by one perpetrator who is in the country without legal leave is an especially heinous reality. One innocent victim whose life was ended or ruined by someone who should have been prevented from being in the country in the first place is a particularly noxious form of crime that naturally enrages citizens and immigrants who are here lawfully.

It is the blithe response to these shocking episodes of criminality that reveals the dysfunctions of which we are all victims, a response rooted in the idea that the rest of the world has as much right to be in our country as everyone else. This attitude, prevalent on the left, might once have been attributable to a misguided but understandable human empathy—what we used to call bleeding-heart liberalism. It is after all derived from the most fundamental Christian ideal—our obligation to take in and support our disadvantaged fellow humans. 

But it seems now, in the post-Christian west, much more of an ideological postnationalism. You don’t have to believe in theories about a “great replacement” to see that the policies in the U.S. and Europe that have unleashed mass immigration in the past few years aren’t born of neglect or incompetence but are a deliberate choice to open their nations to all comers. 

Unless we turn back now, the consequences of all this will overwhelm us. Migrant crime will surely get worse, our drug epidemic will widen, our exposure to terrorism will increase. Also in the U.K. this week, a leading Conservative who represents a constituency with a sizable Jewish population announced he was leaving Parliament because he can no longer deal with the death threats he has been facing from Islamists.

If we don’t act in the face of this building demographic wave to seize back control of our borders, the day is coming when we will no longer even be able to affirm the primacy of our values.

Potomac Watch: Not all rich people are elitist—and that helps explain the growing chasm between a disconnected 'elite 1%' and average Americans. Images: Reuters/AFP/Getty Images/Zuma Press Composite: Mark Kelly

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