A Patriotic Immigration Reformer's Thoughts On The New Case Against Immigration

This reviewer's motive

A few months ago, I had a discussion with a candidate for Attorney General in Montana about the foreseeable problem of illegal immigration into our largely-pristine state. He invited me to "send all the information you have on the issue."

The temptation was to respond: "How many semitrailers—or, perhaps, terabytes of disk space—do you have?"

Instead, I tried to impress upon him that mass immigration, both legal and illegal, is much bigger than mere "issue"—because it poses an existential threat to America's societal security, the country's "ability to preserve its essential nature and identity under changing and adverse conditions," in the words of the late John Attarian. Regular readers of VDARE.COM know this. And the site's archives document it in painstaking detail.

(So what's a mere "issue"? The flat tax, oil-drilling on the arctic coastal plain, and abortion are examples—whichever way our gridlocked political system ultimately comes down on them, the country will still be recognizable. So what single word adequately encapsulates our myriad-faceted immigration disaster? I don't know. Suggestions are welcome. "Problematique," coined by the Club of Rome, would do, but just try to launch that into the public lexicon!)

Given the magnitude of the threat, our patriot armies fighting for national survival are far too thin on the ground. For example, when we in the immigration-sanity movement refer to "Roy" in our conversations, everybody knows we mean Roy Beck. And "Peter," of course, is Peter Brimelow. But ideally, so many citizens would be heavily engaged in the fray that multiple prominent Roys and Peters (etc.) would be leading us at the barricades (and, ultimately, onto the offensive!), and our conversations would have to cite our leaders' last names, too.

Also, judging from gazillions of comments on immigration-related articles posted at newspaper websites by readers, mass immigration is massively unpopular. But most posters are stuck, intellectually, at the level of "I'm dead set against illegal immigration, but I welcome legal immigrants with open arms."

Altogether, then, we need lots more troops equipped with much broader perspectives and much deeper expertise on America's ongoing immigration disaster.

Book of the hour

Precisely when it was needed, enter Mark's just-released book, The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal. "Mark," of course, is Mark Krikorian, executive director since 1995 of the Center for Immigration Studies. (The book's title presumably harks back to Roy's 1996 book, The Case Against Immigration, which is out of print, but a 1.4-MB PDF version is available for free download here.)

It is a splendid book, both in content and writing.

In his acknowledgements, Mark (with whom I am, in fact, on a first-name basis) writes:

"This book is a work of synthesis. A new and provocative and illuminating synthesis, I hope, but nonetheless one that uses as its raw material the work of others."

This strikes me as overly modest, given his frequency of authorship among the 550+ articles, backgrounders, op-eds, et al. archived at the Center's publications page. And, anyway, synthesis is precisely what's needed.

Comprehensive coverage of our vast subject could have engendered an encyclopedia. Instead, Mark has distilled the big picture—with glimpses of telling details—into a spare 235 pages, heavily sourced with 48 pages of references. (Both page counts are from my pre-publication copy.)

Neither the book's page at Amazon nor at the Center's site provides the table of contents, so I will, as this may best illustrate the book's "landscape" and themes:

Introduction. It's Not the Immigrants—It's Us

Chapter 1. Assimilation: The Cracked Melting Pot

Chapter 2. Mass Immigration Versus American Sovereignty

Chapter 3. National Security: Safety in Lower Numbers

Chapter 4. Economy: Cheap Labor Versus Modern America

Chapter 5. Government Spending

Chapter 6. Population

Chapter 7. What Is to Be Done?

Since there are insights or points of interest on essentially every page, a review risks being as long as the book or devolving into a mere list of topics covered. Instead, I'll focus on a few items that strike me as especially interesting and hope, in so doing, to entice those of you who are the book's natural audience (see below) into the ranks of actual readers.

The top-level view

One central insight is right there in the book's subtitle: "Both Legal and Illegal." As the late Sam Francis wrote: "If the only problem with illegal immigration is that it's illegal, if you're not willing to say mass immigration by itself is a problem, then why should we have any laws against it at all?"

Francis's point can be approached from another angle: To those whose thinking hasn't developed beyond "I fiercely oppose illegal immigration, but I love legal immigration—after all, we're a nation of immigrants," an open-borders enthusiast could logically respond, "Then let's just make it all legal." Checkmate!

(A third shot at the fish in this barrel: If its illegality were the only problem with illegal immigration, then amnesty would be a solution.)

Accordingly, Mark, too, has been steadily slapping down the usual distinction between legal and illegal immigration—see, for example, his essay "Legal, Good / Illegal, Bad? Let's call the whole thing off"—and his book is, indeed, all about proving that mass immigration, by itself, is the problem.

Mark has been advancing that overarching theme over the last several years, and he thoroughly develops it in the book: Today's average immigrants are quite comparable to those of the Great Wave, 100 years ago, but the United States has since matured into a post-industrial economy and a welfare state, so mass immigration no longer serves our national purposes.

More specifically, our economy is no longer dominated by agriculture and heavy industry. So such immigrants—low-skilled and little-educated—can't compete and thrive. Further, the progress in communications and transportation means that there needn't be a definitive break with "the old country"; that progress, coupled with the linguistic homogeneity of the inflow (heavily dominated by Latin American sending countries) and its concentration into huge enclaves, significantly attenuates the pressures for assimilation—a goal which America's multiculturally-obsessed elites now disdain anyway.

Quoting from the Introduction:

"[I]mmigration undermines many of the objectives that our modern, middle-class society sets for itself and exacerbates many of the problems brought on by modernization.

"In short, mass immigration is incompatible with a modern society. As Hudson Institute scholar John Fonte has written, 'It's not 1900 anymore.' "

In the chapter on assimilation, Mark argues that the sharp shift in the immigrant stream over the last century from predominantly European-origin to predominantly third-world-origin is not greatly consequential compared to the sea changes in American society. He outlines how, over and over, newcomers originally viewed as "Other"—e.g. Puritans who settled Massachusetts regarded even fellow English Protestants, such as Quakers, as beyond the pale—steadily became part of "Us." In short, ethnicity and race aren't important.

But that may be an extrapolation-too-far from the evidence. Mark's claim was apparently a major subject of controversy at a recent panel discussion on the book, as reported by VDARE.COM's Marcus Epstein.

Further, the much-remarked work of Robert Putnam is only the most recent reminder that balkanization and strife—even murderous strife—are the likely fates of societies endowed with luxuriant human variety. A brief monograph by sociologists Glaister and Evelyn Elmer, Ethnic Conflicts Abroad: Clues to America's Future? (1988; available from American Immigration Control Foundation; see here, second item down), and Washington Post reporter Keith Richburg's 1997 book Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa both strongly suggest—at least to this linear-thinking physicist!—that Mark is whistling past the graveyard on this subject.

I think Jared Taylor put it most starkly in his classic essay, The Myth of Diversity:

"Most of the time, the reasons for discord are not even as salient as race. They can be religion, language, or ethnicity. From time to time, Americans have fought each other for these reasons, but race is the deepest, most constant source of antipathy. Unlike language or religion, race cannot change. Differences between men that are written deep into their bodies will always be a source of friction."

Clearly, this is a sub-topic that's not going to go away.

But it is a sub-topic. Mass immigration is a disaster for the country in so many ways that myriad other arguments having nothing explicitly to do with race or ethnicity are available to serve our cause of national survival.

Nuggets from the book

Herewith, a sparse sampling of such items from the book. (I won't provide page numbers, since they may have changed from my pre-publication copy. Plus, I want everyone to actually read the book and mark up your copies as you go!):

  • "[E]ven highly educated immigrants make much heavier use of public services than comparable natives (...) [I]mmigrants [with college degrees] are still more than twice as likely as the native born to use welfare (13 percent versus 6 percent) and to be uninsured (17 percent versus 7 percent)."


  • The book is flavored with many spot-on anecdotes. For example, "[Hugh Davis] Graham recounts an Indonesian immigrant who sought inclusion in the Small Business Administration's minority set-aside program in 1988. Her original request to the SBA outlined her immigrant success story, complete with long hours of hard work, struggles to learn English, and finally starting a business and becoming a naturalized American. But she was turned down, because Indonesians were not on the SBA's list of oppressed groups. She took the hint and embraced instead the modern language of grievance and deassimilation." Her revised application, replete with descriptions of the generic woes of "Asian Pacific Americans," succeeded.


  • "There is a huge existing investment in public infrastructure that immigrants immediately benefit from without ever paying in to—like joining a club without a buy-in fee…In a smaller America with a smaller public sector, immigrants weren't inheriting quite as much when they showed up....[C]ontinued mass immigration simply represents…a kind of inheritance tax on Americans, lessening the value of their share of the public assets bequeathed them by their ancestors."


  • Quoting Robert Rector: "It takes the entire net tax payments (taxes paid minus benefits received) of one college-educated family to pay for the net benefits received by one low skill immigrant family."


  • "[W]hen hospitals can no longer shift enough of the costs of uncompensated care to others, they simply close their emergency rooms. This doesn't create a direct monetary cost for consumers, but it does hold the potential to levy the ultimate tax—death—on Americans in need of emergency care…In Los Angeles, more than 60 hospitals have closed their emergency rooms over the past decade."


  • "Even among the third generation—the native-born grandchildren of long-ago Mexican immigrants—welfare use is triple the rate for other natives, and nearly half live in or near poverty." [Surprisingly, this point isn't sourced. If the book sells well enough, I presume the oversight will be rectified in the second edition!]


  • Another telling anecdote: "[Mass immigration] overwhelms our administrative capacity to screen out enemies or locate and remove them if they're already here. A particularly outrageous example of this conflict: In 2003, Immigration and Naturalization Service contract workers at a service center in southern California were charged with coping with the ongoing tsunami of paperwork by shredding immigration documents in order to wipe out a ninety-thousand-document backlog there. After two months of shredding, the backlog was wiped out, but they kept shredding as new mail came in to ensure that the backlog didn't return." (Kris Kobach has written about another facet of this paperwork hyperload.)


  • "[M]ass immigration is almost perfectly designed to overwhelm modern America's welfare system."

Policy prescriptions

Of course, despite the "nation of immigrants" babble ceaselessly assaulting us, immigration is not a force of nature but a matter of public policy choices. Fittingly, the book's final chapter pulls together policy recommendations, starting with Mark's signature distinction between immigration policy (Who and how many to admit? And how to enforce the rules?) and immigrant policy (A warm welcome? Or sink-or-swim?).

Regarding immigrant policy, sink-or-swim was the historic norm until the advent of the welfare state. But despite the substantial welfare-type benefits now available to immigrants and even illegal aliens, Mark still regards our immigrant policy as dominantly unfriendly to the immigrants because of the generic rude incompetence of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—partly due to their crushing workload—and because the present huge inflows of dominantly low-skilled newcomers make it much harder for them to succeed amid fierce competition with each other. In other words, our present immigration policy of accepting huge numbers—beyond its burdens to the rest of us—contributes importantly to an unfriendly immigrant policy.

Regarding immigration policy, Mark first provides a thorough treatment of the attrition-by-enforcement approach against illegal immigration, arguing that neither the Open-Borders-lobby's holy grail of amnesty nor their straw man of mass deportations can work. In contrast, attrition can work and, in fact, has worked. The four examples he cites of attrition-in-action (1954's "ill-named" Operation Wetback; the immediate aftermath of IRCA's passage in 1986; the self-deportation of Pakistani illegal aliens in the months following 9/11; and the illustrations provided by the recent laws in Georgia, Oklahoma, et al.) all belong in the facts&arguments toolkits of everyone pushing for immigration sanity.

Mark wraps up his discussion of attrition-by-enforcement with a levelheaded reminder:

"An effective strategy of immigration law enforcement requires no land mines, no tanks, no tattooed arms—none of the cartoonish images invoked in the objections raised routinely by supporters of loose borders. The consistent application of ordinary law-enforcement tools is all that's needed."

(Marcus Epstein has argued that mass deportations should still be on the table. But I think Mark Krikorian has the better of the argument here, noting that "[P]olitical support for a new commitment to enforcement might well be undermined if an exodus of biblical proportions were to be televised in every American living room."

Or, as Steve Camarota, Mark's research director at the Center, mused a few years ago: "[W]e make public policy by pathetic anecdote.")

Of course, victory on illegal immigration is a prerequisite if our immigration laws are to be of more than academic interest. But Supposing we win that battle? Then the second aspect of immigration policy, the content of those laws, comes to the fore. Two questions will be central: Whom shall we admit? And in what numbers?

Mark's explicit view is that most of today's legal immigrants don't benefit the broad national interest:

"The five employment-based [immigration] categories…are commonly imagined to provide for immigration of the world's best and brightest—Einstein immigration, if you will. In fact, in addition to a handful of actual geniuses, the employment-based categories admit a wide variety of ordinary people who should not receive special immigration rights. There's no reason any employer should be permitted to make an end run around our vast, mobile, continent-spanning labor force…unless the prospective immigrant in question has unique, remarkable abilities and would make an enormous contribution to the productive capacity of the nation.

However, today's legal inflow is dominated not by employment categories but by family-based immigration (i.e. entire families immigrating, headed by employment-based immigrants; plus family reunification), which has averaged above 600,000 people annually in recent years.

After a transition period, Mark would limit family reunification to spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens (i.e. not mere green-card holders):

"This means eliminating altogether today's immigration categories for the adult siblings of citizens, the (...) adult [children] of citizens, the parents of adult citizens, and the adult [children] of legal residents. These are grown people with their own lives, for whom 'family reunification' is a misnomer."

If "spouses and minor children, only" had been the rule in recent years, Mark tells us, then the numbers entering under the "family" categories would have been about 340,000 per year. This still strikes me as appallingly high. I wonder if sterner proposals should be offered, at least to push the conversation in a desirable direction.

So here's my proposal: Restrict employment-based immigration to single people. Not only would this cut the numbers, it would presumably help with assimilation.

Regarding the third type of legal immigration, refugees and asylees, read the book for the considerations that result in a recommended ceiling of 50,000 per year—another number that I think is far too high. (See here and here.)

At the top level, then, Mark favors "a pro-immigrant policy of low immigration," though I think his numbers concede too much when measured against the national interest.

Beyond the broad sweep of policy, Mark makes numerous suggestions on enforcement against illegal immigration and on getting the legal immigration numbers down. Two of his detailed suggestions greatly intrigue me.

  • First, on the illegal immigration front, Mark suggests that the Internal Revenue Service be mandated by Congress to disclose tax information on illegal aliens to the Department of Homeland Security. (Tax returns that use Individual Tax Identification Numbers and report wage income should raise red flags.)

Mark points out that the IRS "already shares information from tax returns with the Department of Education (on student loan defaulters) and the Social Security Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (to confirm eligibility for benefits)."

  • Second, my attention was especially attracted is Mark's cluster of proposals, under the Chapter 7 subheading "Temporary Means Temporary," that deal with foreign students in our colleges and universities.

He writes: "People admitted on student visas should be limited to no more than one percent of total national enrollment, which would translate, generously to 150,000" present at one time (compared to the estimated 565,000 here during the 2005—2006 school year). And "no more than a small share, say 5 percent, of any particular school's total enrollment should consist of foreign students."

But that's not all!

  • Student visas should only be issued for colleges granting bachelor's degrees or higher. Currently, more than 10% of foreign students are enrolled in community colleges, whose mission is supposed to be serving the local (American) community.

About that last suggestion: would Mark deny teaching assistantships and research assistantships to foreign graduate students?

As someone who's been associated with physics departments over several decades, I hope so!

Regarding teaching assistants, he'll have the wistful approval of native-born undergraduates who have struggled to understand lab instructors and tutorial lecturers speaking only distant approximations of English.

Regarding research assistantships, I think I hear Caltech physicist (and former vice provost) David Goodstein leading the cheers. Focusing on graduate schools, Goodstein concluded an article ("Scientific PhD Problems," The American Scholar, Spring 1993; not available online) about unsustainable exponential growth in the American scientific enterprise with some thoughts about foreign students:

"The American taxpayer (both state and federal) is supporting extremely expensive research universities whose main educational purpose is to train students from abroad. When these students finish their educations, they either stay here, taking relatively high-paying jobs that could have gone to Americans, or they go home, taking our knowledge and technology with them…Congress and the public [don't] seem yet to have noticed that, while largely ignoring our own students, we are putting our money and our best talent into training our economic competitors. Just wait until this one hits the fan."

Lo, these fifteen years later, I'm still waiting (and so, presumably, is Goodstein!) for "this one" to hit the fan.

But at least now we have Mark Krikorian enhancing the argument.

Why you should read The New Case Against Immigration

Finally, who is the book's natural audience? My answer:

It's needed by committed, already-knowledgeable citizens—such as VDARE.COM readers—who want to be intellectually well-armored with facts and perspectives against predictable mindless abuse ("Racist!") as they step up to testify on state immigration bills, give public talks, brief their local officials, counter obfuscatory blather on the phone from Congressional staffers and in person at senators' townhall meetings (The inspiring example of Sandy Miller taking on McCain is described here.), persuade others to donate to the cause, etc.

For such patriotic, civic-minded individuals, Mark's book will bear not just reading but multiple re-readings. It will also provide a coherent tutorial for political candidates in future years—presumably, it's rather late for this year—who want to address immigration policy in a serious, informed way on the campaign trail but who haven't spent a decade immersed in the subject.

I don't mean that readers already need to be experts to benefit from the book. However, I think few people without prior deep concerns about immigration will seek it out. And pressing it upon blank-slate friends along with the advice that "It's a must-read!" probably won't work, at least based on my own attempts in similar situations.

Still, for the sake of our country's survival, Mark's book deserves the widest possible readership.

So if you're part of a book club, consider leading a discussion, lasting one or several meetings, of The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal.

And make sure your local library orders a copy!

Paul Nachman [email him] is a retired physicist and immigration sanity activist in Bozeman, MT. Read his VDARE.COM blogs here.