A Reply to Tamar Jacoby

VDARE.COM continues its series of
argument-by-argument refutations of unconvincing
pro-immigration polemics. This time it`s Tamar Jacoby
who`s on the receiving end of our peerless forensic
talents.

Too Many Immigrants?

No. America needs more foreign workers.

[Peter
Brimelow and James Fulford write
:

Tamar Jacoby
is being

auditioned
for the role of designated immigration
enthusiast apologist, a position vacant since the death
of Julian Simon. Her long

article
[in

Commentary pay archive] in the April issue of Commentary
magazine
was a nice change from Irwin Stelzer`s

hysteria
. But the reasoning wasn`t much better. The
subtitle ("No. America needs more foreign workers."
) used above is exclusive to the version that
appeared in the

Wall Street Journal
.
It appears neither in the

print version
of Ms. Jacoby`s article, nor in the


Commentary magazine

table of
contents, which has the much more reasonable subhead
“Current policy is completely irrational, and most
proffered solutions would make matters worse; but there
is a better way.”
]

Original Author:
TAMAR JACOBY

Of
all the issues Americans have had to rethink in the wake
of Sept. 11, few seem more baffling than immigration. As
polls taken in the following weeks confirmed, the
attacks dramatically heightened people`s fear of
foreigners—not just Muslim foreigners, all foreigners.
In one survey, fully two-thirds of the respondents said
they wanted to stop any immigration until the war
against terror was over. [The
Administration, in the shape of the INS, is bravely
ignoring those polls. Since September 11, over

50.000 visas
have been granted to immigrants from
the Middle East.
]
In Congress, the
once-marginal

Immigration Reform Caucus
quadrupled in size
virtually overnight, and a roster of sweeping new
proposals came to the fore: a six-month

moratorium
on all visas, shutting the door to
foreign students, even militarizing our borders with
troops and tanks.

In
the end, none of these ideas came close to getting
through Congress. [Norm
Matloff

warned us
that the Open Borders coalition wasn`t
going to let a little thing like a massacre change their
minds about immigration.
]
On the issue of
security, Republicans and Democrats,
["bipartisanship" as defined by Sam Francis` famous

joke
. Of course, it means that the majority of the
American people, who favor restrictions on immigration,
have no one to vote for
]
law-enforcement
professionals [In 1995. a
judge

decided
that local law-enforcement officials weren`t
allowed to enforce immigration law. Recently police have
been saying that they will

refuse
to help enforce immigration laws, as this
would cause them to

forfeit the trust
of the illegal alien community.
]
and civilians alike agreed early on that it was
critical to distinguish terrorists from immigrants—and
that it was possible to protect the country without
isolating it.

The
Bush administration and Congress soon came up with
similar plans based on the idea that the best defense
was to intercept unwanted visitors before they reached
the U.S.—when they applied for visas in their home
country, were preparing to board a plane or were first
packing a lethal cargo shipment. A

bipartisan
bill now making its way through Congress
calls for better screening of visa applications,
enhanced intelligence-sharing among federal agencies,
new tamper-proof travel documents with biometric data,
and better tracking of the few hundred thousand foreign
students [Many of whom
are

subsidized
by the US taxpayer]
already in
the U.S.

But the security debate is only
one front in a broader struggle over immigration. There
is no question that our present policy is defective, and
immigration opponents are hoping that the attacks will
precipitate an all-out fight about overhauling it. Yet
even if the goal is only to secure our borders,
Americans are up against some fairly intractable
realities.

In
the aftermath of Sept. 11, for example, there have been

calls
for tracking not just foreign students but all
foreigners already in the country. This is not an
unreasonable idea; but it would be next to impossible to
implement. Even monitoring the entry and exit of
visitors, as the Immigration and Naturalization Service
has been charged with doing, has turned out to be a
logistical nightmare [Oh
yeah? So how does the credit

card industry manage?
]—we
are talking about a half billion entries and
probably an equal number of exits a year (Of the total,
incidentally, by far the largest number are Canadian and
Mexican daily commuters, a third are Americans, and only
a tiny percentage—fewer than a million a year—are
immigrants seeking to make a new life in the U.S.) If
collecting this information is difficult, analyzing and
acting on it are a distant dream. As for the
foreign-born population as a whole, it now stands at 28
million and growing, with illegal aliens alone estimated
at between
seven million and eight million
. It would take years
just to identify them, much less find a way to track
them all.

To
this, the more implacable immigration opponents respond
that if we cannot keep track of those already here, we
should simply deport them.
["Simply deport" of course, would only apply to
illegals, although higher standards would result in
other visa holders being asked to leave. Why is it
implacable to deport illegal immigrants?
]
At
the very least, others say, we should move to reduce
radically the number we admit from now on, or impose a
five- or 10-year moratorium. In the months since Sept.
11, a variety of more and less extreme restrictionists
have come together in a loose coalition to push forward
such ideas. Although the movement has so far made little
headway in Washington, it has become increasingly vocal,
gaining a wide audience for its views, and has found a
forceful, nationally known spokesman in the former

presidential candidate
and

best-selling author
Patrick Buchanan.

The
coalition itself is a motley assemblage of bedfellows:
[See John J. Miller`s

The Politics of Permanent
Immigration
for a self-congratulatory look at
the "motley assemblage of bedfellows" on the immigration
enthusiast side
]
liberals worried about the
impact of large-scale immigration on population growth
and the environment, conservatives exercised about
porous borders and the shattering of America`s common
culture, plus a sizable contingent of outright racial
demagogues. The best known organization pushing for
restriction is the

Federation for Immigration Reform
, or FAIR, which
provided much of the intellectual ammunition for the
last big anti-immigration campaign, in the mid-1990`s.

FAIR is still the richest and most powerful of the
restrictionist groups. In the months since the attacks,
a

consortium
it leads has spent some $300,000 on
inflammatory TV ads in Western states where the 2002
midterm elections will bring immigration issues to the
fore; over pictures of the 19 hijackers, the spots argue
that the only way to keep America safe is to reduce
immigration severely. But FAIR no longer dominates the
debate as it once did, and newer groups are springing up
around it.

On
one flank are grassroots cells. Scrappier and more
populist than FAIR, some consist of no more than an
individual with a Web page or radio show who has managed
to accumulate a regional following; other local
organizations have amassed enough strength to influence
the politics of their states, particularly in
California. On the other flank, and at the national
level, FAIR is increasingly being eclipsed by younger,
more media-savvy [!!!]
groups like the

Center for Immigration Studies
in Washington and the

writers
associated with the Web site

VDARE
, both of which aim at swaying elite opinion in
New York and Washington.

Different groups in the coalition focus on different
issues, and each has its own style and way of presenting
itself. One organization,
Project USA
, has devoted itself to putting up
roadside

billboards
—nearly 100 so far, in a dozen states—with
provocative messages like, "Tired of sitting in traffic?
Every day, another 8,000 immigrants arrive. Every day!!"
Those in the more respectable
[What`s not respectable
about

billboards?
]
factions spend much energy distancing themselves from
the more militant or fanatical, and even those with
roughly the same mandate can seem, or sound, very
different.

Consider the

Center for Immigration Studies
and

VDARE
. Created in 1985 as a fact-finding arm of
FAIR, CIS is today arguably better known and more widely
quoted than its parent. The group`s executive director,
Mark Krikorian, has made himself all but indispensable
to anyone interested in immigration issues, sending out
daily electronic compendiums of relevant news stories
culled from the national press. His organization
publishes scholarly papers on every aspect of the issue
by a wide circle of respected academic researchers, many
of whom would eschew any association with, say, FAIR`s
exclusionary politics. Along with his director of
research, Steven Camarota, Mr. Krikorian is also a
regular on Capitol Hill, where his

restrained, informative testimony
is influential
with a broad array of elected officials.
[This is a triumph for
Mark`s strategy of

triangulation
against other immigration reformers
e.g. us and we congratulate him on it. We say: Let a
hundred flowers triangulate! Of course, "restrained" can
mean wimpish. But hey, that`s what VDARE.COM is for!]

VDARE, by contrast, wears its political views on its
sleeve—and they are deliberately provocative.
[See!] Founded a few
years ago by the journalist Peter Brimelow, a senior
editor at Forbes [now
with

CBS MarketWatch
]
and the author of the

best-selling
Alien
Nation: Common Sense About America`s Immigration
Disaster
(1995), VDARE is

named after Virginia Dare,
"the first English child
born in the New World." Kidnapped as an infant and never
seen again, Virginia Dare is thought to have eventually
married into a local Indian tribe, or to have been
killed by it—almost equally unfortunate possibilities in
the minds of VDARE`s writers, who make no secret of
their concern about the way America`s original
Anglo-Saxon stock is being transformed by immigration.
[If VDARE.com did
champion what David Hackett Fisher called

"Albion`s Seed"
 in this way, it would, after all,
merely make us the
Commentary magazine of the
"Anglo-Saxon" minority. But in fact we have posted
nothing to justify this description. If Tamar had read
our "Why VDARE.com/ The White Doe" – which she clearly
has not, because she misreports the Virginia Dare story
– she would have seen that we satirize the miscegenation
canard by posting a picture of Heather Locklear. The
case against current immigration policy is a very broad
one; it is all too typical for New York intellectuals to
read into it only their own

ethnocentric
preoccupations
].

The
overall strength of today`s restrictionist movement is
hard to gauge. But there is no question that recent
developments—both Sept. 11 and the flagging American
economy—have significantly boosted its appeal. One
Virginia-based organization,

Numbers USA
, claims that its membership grew from
5,000 to over 30,000 in the weeks after the attacks.
Buchanan`s

The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and
Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization

—a deliberately confrontational jeremiad—shot to the
top of Amazon.com`s bestseller list within days of
publication, then moved to a perch in the New York Times
top 10. Nor does it hurt that the anti-immigrant cause
boasts advocates at both ends of the political spectrum.
Thus, leftists repelled by the likes of Mr. Buchanan and
Mr. Brimelow [???]
could read a more congenial statement of the same case
in a recent,

much-discussed
series in the New York Review of
Books
by the distinguished sociologist Christopher
Jencks.

To
be sure, immigration opponents have also had some
significant setbacks. Most notably, the Republican
Party, which stood staunchly with them in the mid-1990s
in California, is now firmly on the other side of the
issue—if anything,

George W. Bush
has become the country`s leading
advocate for liberalizing immigration law. But there can
be no mistaking the depth of public concern over one or
another of the questions raised by the restrictionists,
and in the event of more attacks or a prolonged
downturn, their appeal could surely grow.

In
addition to national security, immigration opponents
offer arguments principally about three issues: natural
resources, economics, and the likelihood that today`s
newcomers will be successfully absorbed into American
society. On the first, restrictionists contend not only
that immigrants compete with us and consume our natural
resources, to the detriment of the native-born, but that
their numbers will eventually overwhelm us, choking the
United States to death both demographically and
environmentally.

Much of Mr. Buchanan`s book, for
example, is devoted to a discussion of population. As he
correctly notes, birth rates in Europe have dropped
below replacement level, and populations there are
aging. By 2050, he estimates, only 10% of the world`s
people will be of European descent, while Asia, Africa
and Latin America will grow by three billion to four
billion people, yielding "30 to 40 new Mexicos." As the
developed countries "die out," huge movements of hungry
people from the underdeveloped world will swamp their
territory and destroy their culture. "This is not a
matter of prophecy," Mr. Buchanan asserts, "but of
mathematics."

Extrapolating from similar statistics, Christopher
Jencks has

predicted
that the U.S. population may double in
size over the next half-century largely as a result of
the influx of foreigners. (This is a much faster rate of
growth than that foreseen by virtually any other
mainstream social scientist.) [It
is in fact one of the projections made by the


Census Bureau.]

Mr. Jencks imagines a hellish future in which American
cities will become all but unlivable and suburban sprawl
will decimate the landscape. The effect on our natural
resources will be devastating, as the water supply
dwindles and our output of carbon dioxide soars. (To put
his arguments in perspective, Mr. Jencks finds nothing
new in this pattern. Immigration has always been
disastrous to our ecology, he

writes
; the

Indians
who crossed the Bering Strait 13,000 years
ago depleted the continent`s fauna by

overhunting
, and many centuries later the germs
brought by Europeans laid waste to the

Indians
.)

Not
all the arguments from scarcity are quite so
apocalyptic, but all begin and end with the assumption
that the size of the pie is fixed, and that continued
immigration can only mean less and less for the rest of
us. [No, they don`t. The

conservationist
case against immigration is an
amenity argument – more people might be able to crowd
into the U.S., but what would it do to the

quality of life?
]
A similar premise
underlies the restrictionists` second set of
concerns—that immigrants steal jobs from native-born
workers, depress Americans` wages, and make
disproportionate use of welfare and other government
services.

Here, groups like FAIR and CIS focus largely on the
portion of the immigrant flow that is poor and
ill-educated—not the

Indian engineer in Silicon Valley
, but the Mexican
farmhand with a sixth-grade education. "Although
immigrants comprise about 12 percent of America`s
workforce," CIS reports, "they account for 31 percent of
high-school dropouts in the workforce." Not only are
poverty rates among these immigrants higher than among
the native-born, but, the restrictionists claim, the gap
is growing. As for

welfare
, Mr. Krikorian points out that even in the
wake of the 1996 reform that denied means-tested
benefits to many immigrants, their reliance on some
programs—food
stamps,
for example—still exceeds that of
native-born Americans.

The
restrictionists` favorite economist is Harvard`s

George Borjas
, the author of a widely read 1999
book, "Heaven`s
Door
." [In fact,
Borjas represents the current consensus among labor
economists, reflected for example in the National
Academy of Science`s survey

The New Americans
.]  As
it happens, Mr. Borjas did not confirm the worst fears
about immigrants: they do not, for example, steal
Americans` jobs, and today`s newcomers are no poorer or
less capable than those who came at the turn of the 20th
century and ultimately did fine in America.
[This is simply wrong,
and much of it is contradicted by Tamar`s next
sentences. In particular, Borjas found that recent
immigrants are relatively less skilled on average than a
century ago – and the effects of a relative lack of
skills in 1890-1920 can be detected in the form of
economic underperformance for four generations. Even the
arch-immigration propagandist Julian Simon conceded in
his


Economic Consequences of Immigration
that
immigrants do take American jobs (p. 249, 347). The only
question is whether they bring compensating benefits –
and whether those benefits go to the displaced. Borjas`s
answer to these questions: no and no.
]
Still,
in Mr. Borjas` estimation, compared with the native-born
of their era, today`s immigrants are relatively
farther behind than, say, the southern Europeans who

came a century ago,
and even if they do not actually
take work away from Americans, they may prompt the
native-born to move to other cities and thus adversely
affect the larger labor market.

As
a result, Mr. Borjas contends, the presence of these
newcomers works to lower wages, particularly among
high-school dropouts. And because of the cost of the
government services they consume—whether welfare or
public schooling or hospital care—they impose a
fiscal drain
on some states where they settle. In
sum, immigrants may be a boon to U.S. business and to
the middle class (which benefits from lower prices for
the fruit the foreigners pick and from the

cheap lawn services
they provide), but they are an
unfair burden on ordinary working Americans, who must
subsidize them with higher taxes.

Mr.
Borjas`s claims have hardly gone unchallenged by
economists on either the right or the left [actually,
they are the consensus among labor economists, see above
]
—including

Jagdish Bhagwati
in a
heated exchange
in The Wall Street Journal—but
he remains a much-quoted figure among restrictionists,
who particularly like his appealing-sounding note of
concern for the native-born black poor.
[Critics of immigration
restrictionists apparently find it hard to believe that
we could be
genuinely concerned about what

immigration is doing to black Americans,
but the
damage done to the black working class by immigration
had been noted by

Booker T. Washington,


A. Phillip Randolph,


and more recently by

Roy Beck
, who has given testimony to what
immigration has done to blacks who

used
to have jobs in the

meatpacking and poultry industries
.
]
Mr.
Borjas`s book has also greatly strengthened those who
propose that existing immigration policy, which is based
mainly on the principle of family unification, be
changed to one like Canada`s that admits people
based
on the skills they bring.
[Click

here
for George Borjas` essay on his critics
.]

This brings us to the third issue that worries the
anti-immigration community: the apparent failure, or
refusal, of large numbers of newcomers to assimilate
successfully into American society, to learn our
language, adopt our mores and embrace American values as
their own. To many who harp on this theme—Mr. Buchanan,
the journalist

Georgie Anne Geyer
, the more polemical VDARE
contributors—it is, frankly, the racial makeup of
today`s influx that is most troublesome. "Racial groups
that are different are more difficult to assimilate,"
Mr. Buchanan says flatly, painting a nightmarish picture
of newcomers with "no desire to

learn English
or become citizens." Mr. Buchanan and
others make much of the influence of multiculturalism
and identity politics in shaping the priorities of the
immigrant community; his chapter on Mexican immigrants,
entitled "La Reconquista," quotes extensively from
extremist Chicano activists who want, he says, to
"colonize" the United States.

On
this point, it should be noted, Mr. Buchanan and his
followers are hardly alone, and hardly original. [This
is a funny way of saying that they have support
.]
Any number of observers who are

favorably disposed to
continued immigration
have likewise

raised an alarm

over the radically divisive and balkanizing effects of
multiculturalism and bilingual education. Where they
part company with Buchanan is over the degree of danger
they perceive—and what should be done about it.

About one thing the restrictionists are surely right:
Our immigration policy is broken. Not only is the INS
one of the least efficient and most beleaguered agencies
in Washington—at the moment, four million authorized
immigrants are waiting, some for a decade or more, for
their paperwork to be processed—but official policy,
particularly with regard to Mexico, is a hypocritical
sham. Even as we claim to limit the flow of migrants,
and force thousands to wait their turn for visas, we
look the other way as hundreds of thousands enter the
country without papers—illegal but welcomed by business
as a

cheap, pliable labor force.
Nor do we have a clear
rationale for the selection we end up making from the
vast pool of foreigners eager to enter the country.

But
here precisely is where the restrictionists` arguments
are the least helpful. Take the issue of scarcity. The
restrictionists construct their dire scenarios by
extrapolating from the current flow of immigrants. But
as anyone who follows these matters is aware, nothing is
harder to predict than who and how many will come in the
future. It is, for example, as easy today as it ever was
to migrate to the U.S. from Puerto Rico, and wages on
the island still lag woefully behind wages here. But the
net flow from Puerto Rico stopped long ago,
[No, it didn`t!. As we
wrote in

August
,
Puerto Ricans are still coming to the mainland at a rate
nearly as high as the official Mexican rate
]

probably because life there improved just enough to
change the calculus of hope that had been prodding
people to make the trip. [And
to the extent that it has improved, it`s improved
because Puerto Rico is

part of the United States,
and can receive Federal
aid, while being

exempt from Federal taxes.
]

Sooner or later, the same thing will happen in Mexico.
No one knows when, but surely one hint of things to come
is that population growth is slowing in Mexico, just as
it slowed earlier here and in Europe. Over the past
three decades, the Mexican fertility rate has dropped
from an average 6.5 children per mother to a startling
2.5.

Nor
are demographic facts themselves always as
straightforward in their implications as the
restrictionists assume. True, population is still
growing faster in the underdeveloped world than in
developed countries. But is this an argument against
immigration, or for it? If they are to remain strong,
countries need population—workers, customers,
taxpayers, soldiers. And our own openness to immigrants,
together with our proven ability to absorb them, is one
of our greatest advantages over Japan and Europe, which
face a demographic crisis as their ratio of workers to
retirees adversely shifts. The demographer [the
WHAT?
] Ben Wattenberg has countered Mr.
Buchanan with a simple calculation: "If we keep
admitting immigrants at our current levels, there will
be almost 400 million Americans by 2050. That"—and only
that, one might add—"can keep us strong enough to defend
and perhaps extend our views and values." [Bunk.
Technology and skill are what count, not bodies,
especially unskilled bodies. Click
here
for more on this point from the development economist
Lord Bauer
.]

The argument from economics is
equally unhelpful. The most commonly heard complaint
about foreign workers is that they take jobs from
Americans. Not only is this assertion untrue—nobody has
found real evidence to support it—but cities and states
with the largest immigrant populations (New York, Los
Angeles and others) boast far faster economic growth and
lower unemployment than cities and states that do not
attract immigrants. In many places, the presence of
immigrants seems to reduce unemployment even among
native-born blacks—probably because of the way
immigrants stimulate economic growth.

Economists looking for a depressive effect on
native-born wages have been nearly as disappointed:
dozens of studies over the past two or three decades
have found at most modest and probably temporary
effects. Even if Mr. Borjas is right that a native-born
black worker may take home $300 less a year as a result
of immigration, [This
estimate nowhere appears in Borjas` work. He does
estimate the depression of unskilled wages is around
5%, but at the minimum wage this would amount to nearly
$1000 a year
] this is a fairly small amount
of money in the overall scheme of things.
[i.e. to Manhattan
journalists. Not to everybody.
]
More to the
point, globalization would have much the same effect on
wages, immigrants or no immigrants. Pressed by
competition from foreign imports, American manufacturers
have had to change production methods and cut costs,
including labor costs. If they did not, they would have
to go out of business—or move to an underdeveloped
country where wages are lower. In either case, the U.S.
economy would end up being hurt far more than by the
presence of immigrant workers—who expand the U.S.
economic pie when they buy shoes and groceries and
washing machines from their American neighbors and call
American plumbers into their homes.

What about the costs imposed by immigrants, especially
by their use of government services? It is true that
many immigrants—though far from all—are poorer than
native-born Americans, and thus pay less in taxes. It is
also true that one small segment of the immigrant
population—refugees—tends to be heavily dependent on
welfare. As a result, states with large immigrant
populations often face chronic fiscal problems.

But
that is at the state level, and mostly in high-welfare
states like California. If we shift the lens to the
federal level, and include the taxes that immigrants
remit to the IRS, the calculation comes out very
differently: Immigrants pay in more than they take out.
This is particularly true if one looks at the picture
over the course of an immigrant`s lifetime. Most come to
the U.S. as young adults looking for work—which means
they were already educated at home, relieving us of a
significant cost. More important, even illegal
immigrants generally keep up with payroll taxes,
contributing to Social Security though they may never
claim benefits. According to Stephen Moore, an economist
at the Cato Institute, foreign-born workers are likely
to contribute as much as $2 trillion to Social Security
over the next 70 years, thus effectively keeping it
afloat. [Immigrants`
contribution to Social Security is trivial in terms of
the overall system. And they also represent a future
liability. No reputable student of the Social Security
problem takes Moore seriously
.]

The economic debate often comes
down to this sort of war of numbers, but the victories
on either side are rarely conclusive. After all, even 28
million immigrants form but a small part of the $12
trillion U.S. economy, and most of the fiscal costs and
benefits associated with them are relatively modest.
Besides, fiscal calculations are only a small part of
the larger economic picture. How do we measure the
energy immigrants bring—the pluck and grit and
willingness to improvise and innovate?

Not
only are immigrants by and large harder-working than the
native-born, they generally fill economic niches that
would otherwise go wanting. The term economists use for
this is "complementarity." If immigrants were exactly
like American workers, they would not be particularly
valuable to employers. They are needed precisely because
they are different: willing or able to do jobs few
American workers are willing or able to do. These jobs
tend to be either at the lowest rungs of the employment
ladder (busboy, chambermaid, line worker in a
meatpacking plant) or at the top (nurse, engineer,
information-technology worker).

It
is no accident that 80% of American farm workers are
foreign-born, or that, if there were no immigrants,
hotels and restaurants in many cities would have to
close their doors. Nor is it an accident that immigrants
account for a third of the scientific workforce in
Silicon Valley, [Considering
that the institution of the

H1-B visa
lets companies hire what amounts to

indentured labor,
at lower rates than

American programmers,
it`s surprising that there are
that any Americans employed there
] or that
Asian entrepreneurs run a quarter of the companies
there. [Which is another
possible explanation for the high number of foreign
programmers. The Center for Immigration Studies
reported, in



Reconsidering Immigrant
Entrepreneurship

that jobs created by immigrant entrepreneurs tend to go
to other immigrants. And Tamar has already told us
how"restrained" CIS is!]
Today`s supply of
willing laborers from Mexico, China, India and elsewhere
matches our demand in these various sectors, and the
result is good for just about everyone—business,
workers, and American consumers alike.

[As
usual, this entire discussion of the economics of
immigration misses the key point, which is not:
Is Immigration Doing Harm? But: Is Immigration
Necessary? Is it doing something for Americans that they
couldn`t do for themselves? George Borjas, in a
calculation confirmed by the National Academy of Science
survey, estimates that the aggregate net benefit of the
current immigrant presence to native-born Americans is
nugatory – less than a tenth of one percent of Gross
Domestic Product. (And even that is currently wiped out
by transfer payments, like welfare and education.) There
are literally scores of policies that could spur that
amount of growth, beginning with lower taxes. In other
words, America is being transformed for nothing (0). All
this is explained in



Alien Nation,
which even quotes Julian Simon as
saying: "I`ve never said that immigration is necessary."
But you have to actually read it
.]

To
be sure, what is good for business, or even for American
consumers, may not ultimately be good for the United
States—and this is where the issue of assimilation comes
in. "What is a nation?" Mr. Buchanan asks. "Is America
nothing more than an economic system?" If immigrants do
not come to share our

values
, adopt our heroes, and learn our history as
their own, ultimately the nation will not hold.
Immigration policy cannot be a suicide pact.

The
good news is that assimilation is not going nearly as
badly as the restrictionists claim. Though many
immigrants start out at the bottom, most eventually join
the working poor, if not the middle class. And by the
time they have been here 20 years, they generally do as
well as or better than the native-born, earning
comparable salaries and registering lower poverty
rates. [Although this was
long an article of faith among immigration enthusiasts,
it was in fact an artifact of the more selective
pre-1965 policies and has now disappeared. Read Borjas
more carefully.]

Nor
is it true that immigrants fail or refuse to learn
English. Many more than in previous eras come with a
working knowledge of the language—it is hard to avoid it
in the world today. Despite the charade that is
bilingual education, nearly all high-school students who
have been educated in this country—nine out of 10 of
them, according to one study—prefer English to their
native tongue. And by the third generation, even among
Hispanics, who are somewhat slower than other immigrants
to make the linguistic shift, only 1% say they use "more
or only Spanish" at home.

Despite the handicaps with which
many arrive, the immigrant drive to succeed is as strong
as ever. According to one important study of the second
generation, newcomers` children work harder than their
U.S. classmates, putting in an average of two hours of
homework a night compared with the "normal" 30 minutes.
They also aspire to higher levels of educational
achievement, earn better grades, drop out less
frequently—and expect only the best of their new
homeland. Nearly two-thirds believe that hard work and
accomplishment can triumph over prejudice, and about the
same number say there is no better country than the
United States. As for the lure of identity politics, one
of the most thorough surveys of Hispanics, conducted in
1999 by the Washington Post, reported that 84% believe
it is "important" or "very important" for immigrants "to
change so that they blend into the larger society, as in
the idea of the melting pot."

[If
Hispanics want to assimilate, why is the Bush White
House so

convinced
it has to appeal to them on the basis of
their ethnic identity? And let`s put this in
perspective: even if immigrant children are
assimilating, what about the impact of their presence on
the education of the native-born? As one prominent
neo-con (and closet immigration reformer)
told
VDARE.com last year, not only is that not studied, it
isn`t going to be studied – because no-one wants to know
the answer. But Tamar doesn`t even ask.
]

There is also bad news. Immigrant
America is far from monolithic, and some groups do worse
than others both economically and culturally. While less
than 5% of Asian young people use an Asian language with
their friends, nearly 45% of Latinos sometimes use
Spanish. Close to 90% of Chinese parents expect their
children to finish college; only 55% of Mexicans do.
Indeed, Mexicans—who account for about a quarter of the
foreign-born—lag behind on many measures, including,
most worrisomely, education. The average Mexican migrant
comes with less than eight years of schooling, and
though the second generation is outstripping its
parents, it too falls well below American norms, either
for other immigrants or for the native-born.

When it comes to absorbing the American common culture,
or what has been called patriotic assimilation, there is
no question that today`s immigrants are at a
disadvantage compared with yesterday`s. Many Americans
themselves no longer know what it means to be American.
[Too true.
We know a New York
journalist who doesn`t know about Virginia Dare
.]
Our schools teach, at best, a travesty of American
history, distorted by political correctness and the
excesses of multiculturalism. Popular culture supplies
only the crudest, tinniest visions of our national
heritage. Even in the wake of Sept. 11, few leaders have
tried to evoke more than a fuzzy, feel-good enthusiasm
for America. No wonder many immigrants have a hard time
making the leap from their culture to ours. We no longer
ask it of them.

Still, even if the restrictionists are right about all
this, their remedy is unworkable. Given the global
economy, given the realities of politics and law
enforcement in the United States, we are not going to
stop—or significantly reduce—the flow of immigrant
workers into the country any time soon. Businesses that
rely on imported labor would not stomach it; as it is,
they object vociferously whenever the INS tries to
enforce the law. Nor are American citizens prepared to
live with the kinds of draconian measures that would be
needed to implement a significant cutback or time-out.
Even in the wake of the attacks, there is little will to
require that immigrants carry ID cards, let alone to
erect the equivalent of a Berlin Wall along the Rio
Grande. [Yeah, yeah.
That`s what they said during the last Great Wave. Then

came
the cut-off of the 1920s
.] In sum,
if many immigrants among us are failing to adopt our
common culture, we will have to look elsewhere than to
the restrictionists for a solution.

What, then, is to be done? As things stand today,
American immigration policy and American law are
perilously out of sync with reality—the reality of the
market. Consider the Mexican case, not the only telling
one but the most dramatic.

People born in Mexico now account for roughly 10% of the
U.S. work force, and the market for their labor is a
highly efficient one. Very few recent Mexican migrants
are unemployed; even modest economic upturns or
downturns have a perceptible impact on the number trying
to enter illegally, as word quickly spreads from workers
in California or Kansas back to home villages in Mexico.
This precise coordination of supply and demand has been
drawing roughly 300,000 Mexicans over the border each
year, although, even including minors and elderly
parents, the INS officially admits only half that many.

One
does not have to be a free-market enthusiast to find
this discrepancy absurd, and worse. Not only does it
criminalize badly needed laborers and productive
economic activity. It also makes an ass of the law and
insidiously corrupts American values, encouraging
illegal hiring and discrimination against even lawful
Mexican migrants.

Neither a

moratorium
nor a reduction in official quotas would
eliminate this thriving labor exchange—on the contrary,
it would only exacerbate the mismatch. Instead, we
should move in the opposite direction from what the
restrictionists demand, bringing the number we admit
more into line with the reality of the market. The
rationale for whom we ought to let in, what we should
encourage and reward, is work.

This, as it happens, is precisely the direction in which
President Bush was moving before Sept. 11. A package of
reforms he floated in July, arrived at in negotiations
with Mexican president Vicente Fox, would have
significantly expanded the number of visas for Mexican
workers. The president`s impulse may have been
partisan—to woo Latino voters—but he stumbled onto the
basis for an immigration policy that would at once serve
America`s interests and reflect its values. He put the
core idea plainly, and got it exactly right: "If
somebody is willing to offer a job others in America
aren`t willing to do, we ought to welcome that person to
the country." [This of
course shows that Tamar has completely failed to grasp
that work is now only part of the incentive – as Milton
Friedman has

put
it, "It`s just obvious that you can`t have free
immigration and a welfare state." Neither has the
President, but he`s hopeless
.]

Compared with this, any other criterion for immigration
policy—family reunification, country of origin or skill
level—sinks into irrelevancy. It makes no sense at all
that three-quarters of the permanent visas available
today should be based on family ties, while only
one-quarter are employment-related. As for the
Canadian-style notion of making skill the decisive
factor, admitting engineers and college professors but
closing the door to farm workers, not only does this
smack of a very un-American elitism but it disregards
our all too palpable [but
apparently unquantifiable
] economic needs at
the low end of the labor market.

The
problem is that there is at present virtually no legal
path into the U.S. for unskilled migrant laborers;
unless they have relatives here, they have no choice but
to come illicitly. If we accept the President`s idea
that immigration policy should be based on work, we
ought to enshrine it in a program that makes it possible
for those who want to work, and who can find a job, to
come lawfully. The program ought to be big enough to
meet market needs; the number of visas available the
first year should match the number of people who now
sneak in against the law, and in future years it should
follow the natural rise and fall of supply and demand.
At the same time, the new regime ought to be accompanied
by serious enforcement measures to ensure that workers
use this pipeline rather than continuing to come
illegally outside it.

Such a policy makes sound economic sense—and also would
provide a huge boost for immigrant absorption and
assimilation. [And
numbers. Note the unanswered $64,000 question here: WHAT
ABOUT THE CURRENT FAMILY-BASED INFLOW? That`s because
any reduction in immigration is literally unthinkable to
Tamar. It`s like a learning disability.
] By
definition, the undocumented [i.e.
ILLEGAL
] are effectively barred from
assimilating. Most cannot drive legally in the U.S. or,
in many states, get regular care in a hospital. Nor, in
most places, can they send their children to college. An
indelible caste line separates them from other
Americans—no matter how long they stay, how much they
contribute or how ardently they and their children
strive to assimilate. If we want newcomers to belong, we
should admit them legally, and find a fair means of
regularizing the status of those who are already here
illicitly.

But
rerouting the illegal flow into legal channels will not
by itself guarantee assimilation—particularly not if, as
the president and Congress have suggested, we insist
that workers go home when the job is done. In keeping
with the traditional Republican approach to immigration,
the president`s reform package included a proposal for a
guest-worker program, and before Sept. 11, both
Democrats and Republicans had endorsed the idea. If we
want to encourage assimilation, however, such a system
would only be counterproductive.

The cautionary model in this case
is Germany, which for years admitted unskilled
foreigners exclusively as temporary guest workers,
holding out virtually no hope that either they or their
children could become German citizens. As it happened,
many of these migrants remained in Germany long after
the work they were imported for had disappeared. But
today, nearly 40 years later, most of them still have
not assimilated, and they remain, poorly educated and
widely despised, on the margins of German society.
Clearly, if what we hope to encourage is the putting
down of roots, any new visa program must give
participants a shot at membership in the American body
politic.

But
how we hand out visas is only the first step in a policy
aimed at encouraging immigrant absorption. Other steps
would have to include the provision of basic services
like instruction in English, civics classes,
naturalization programs—and also counseling in more
practical matters like how to navigate the American
banking system. (Many newcomers, even when they start
making money, are at sea in the world of credit cards,
credit histories, mortgage applications and the like.)
All these nuts-and-bolts services are as essential as
the larger tasks, from overhauling the teaching of
American history to eliminating counterproductive
programs like bilingual education and ethnic
entitlements that only breed separatism and alienation.

There can be no gainsaying the risks America runs in
remaining open to new immigrants. The security perils,
though real enough, are the least worrisome. Legalizing
the flow of needed workers and providing them with
papers will help keep track of who is here and also help
prevent those who wish to do us harm from entering in
the first place. The more daring, long-term gamble lies
in continuing to admit millions of foreigners who may or
may not make it here or find a way to fit in. This is,
as Mr. Buchanan rightly states, "a decision we can never
undo."

Still, it is an experiment we have tried
before—repeatedly. [We`ve
also restricted immigration before – repeatedly, going
back to

Colonial times
] The result has never come
out exactly as predicted, and the process has always
been a wrenching one. But as experiments go, it has not
only succeeded on its own terms; it has made us the
wonder of the world. [Hmmm.
We thought it was Americans that made us the wonder of
the world
.] It can do so again—but only if we
stop denying reality and resolve instead to meet the
challenge head-on.

[Let`s
get this straight – we`re running a risk, so we increase
it. Sounds like a head-on collision to us
.]

May 17, 2002