Hot Air Calls Out WSJ's 23-Year Break from Reality on Illegal Immigration

Longtime readers of The Wall Street Journal's editorial pages know three things:

  • The paper's editorials and opinion columns are usually among the best anywhere -- and not just on business and economics.
  • The Journal has for years had every reason to be proud of the fact, as the late Robert Bartley noted, that it is one of the few papers readers would buy for its opinion pages.
  • The Journal has, for 23 years, held an uncompromising "liberal" viewpoint on immigration that almost all conservatives have long since abandoned. The Journal's point of view can be summed up in five words it used in a July 3, 1984 editorial -- "There shall be open borders."

A copy of that editorial, posted for fair use and discussion purposes only, can be found here (the title is "In Defense of Huddled Masses") in a post about Journal columnist Peggy Noonan's effective break on June 1 from The Journal's doctrinaire stance.

The 1984 editorial's defining sentence is:

If Washington still wants to "do something" about immigration, we propose a five-word constitutional amendment: There shall be open borders.

That editorial was not a onetime journey into starry-eyed idealism. The Journal specifically repeated its "There Shall Be Open Borders" mantra in pre-July 4th editorials in 1986, 1987, 1989, and 1990. Those editorials made it very clear that The Journal didn't even like the idea of having border guards, and was an early player in calling out the race card, as this sentence from 1990 indicates:

Yet other, less noble images lurk in the background of our July 4th celebrations: the guards who patrol our 2,000-mile border with Mexico or reports by government agencies that the nation’s immigration law has indeed caused widespread hiring discrimination against non-whites.

As late as July 2, 2001, three months before 9/11, the late Robert Bartley, who got so many things right but had this issue so terribly wrong, thought that "open NAFTA borders" would be perfectly acceptable, and derided even the fitful border-enforcement efforts taking place at the time. On July 3, 2000, Bartley wrote that "There is reason to hope that the anti-immigration wave is ebbing before reality."

In sum, since the 1984 editorial cited above, The Journal has never visibly budged from a "principle" that, in the face of the past 23 years of intervening reality, is hard not to see as both incredibly naive and dangerous. The Journal still appears to believe, despite nearly overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the indisputable contributions and nobility of so many legal immigrants throughout this country's history are equally present in those who come here illegally.

The canyon-like fissure between the paper and conservatives recently came to a boil. The Journal produced a brief video (I do not know what the original broadcast venue was) showing discussions its editorial board had about the immigration bill that has so dominated the headlines and political discussions during the past few weeks.

Michelle Malkin's Hot Air finally had enough, and produced a must-see video on Thursday that exposed the editorial board's contempt for the bill's conservative opponents and nuked the pro-amnesty arguments. Among the gems she included in the video are these quotes from that editorial board meeting:

  • "The right isn’t even rational about this any more."
  • "The activists at the National Review are just foaming at the mouth on this."
  • "Their objection is fundamentally cultural ….. and they can’t say that ….. It’s the biggest unspoken truth at the center of this debate."
  • "They don’t even want legal immigration" ….. "and when we call ‘em on that, they go crazy."

In 23 years, no amount of reality has moved the Journal's editorial board from its incredibly stubborn stance, including but not limited to:

  • Downed 100-plus story towers mere miles from where they work, and the distinct possibility that others arriving here illegally are plotting to commit similar and worse attacks.
  • Rampant drug- and gang-related crime.
  • A steadily eroding social fabric.

In the meantime, the Journal's own video shows that its contempt for conservatives who disagree with it on this issue has only grown.

I shudder when thinking about an epochal event that might -- might -- cause the Journal to reconsider.

Cross-posted at

Economy Immigration Culture/Society Major Newspapers Wall Street Journal