Firing Line Immigration Debate Special, Ten Years Later
Peter Brimelow writes: Firing Line`s Immigration Debate Special, a high point in the Immigration Wars of the mid-1990s, was taped ten years ago today, June 6. Maggy had gone into labor very early that morning, but with Spartan fortitude nevertheless sent me off through the lovely early summer countryside to Bard College, where the event was held.
Ten years is nothing in the life of a nation. The fact that the mid-1990s debate was subsequently blocked by ethnic hysterics, business lobbyists and assorted traitors in the Republican ranks will ultimately seem nothing but a blip. The struggle for immigration reform is a multi-decade process—that`s what it took to bring the First Great Wave to a halt in the 1920s.
But ten years sure makes a difference to suffering humanity. Hannah Claire, who had her tenth birthday today, went to her first school dance on Friday night. (I was surprised too. Alexander, 13, refused to go.) Her mother, tragically, is dead.
Firing Line is extinct, a symbol and a symptom of the long whimpering worthless end of Bill Buckley`s once-important career. Immigration reformers have been purged by Buckley from National Review, although VDARE.COM`s frequent pointing this out seems recently to have caused the frequent importation of an outside Beltway beard, the triangulating—and more tactful— Mark Krikorian.
I guess I should have expected this when I realized the great man was flipping through the just-published Alien Nation, apparently preparing himself belatedly, actually during the taping. Or when he turned to me animatedly and said “You must answer that” after Ed Koch huffed about my point, which opens Alien Nation, that the anti-racism obsession that made possible post-1965 immigration policy can be viewed as Hitler`s revenge on the nation that defeated him.
Arianna Huffington, who despite her Cambridge Union training was surprisingly unable to handle the ACLU`s thuggish Ira Glasser and thereafter disavowed me in a letter to the New York Times, has followed her buccaneering star off to the Left. Watch out, Left!
But Arianna did send us a beautiful baby gift. In fact, everybody was very nice when I got the news, after the session posted here, except Glasser, who turned his back. In the next taping—not posted here— he bet me a year`s salary that I had not mentioned, in Alien Nation, the fragmentary evidence that immigrants were not over-represented in state prisons as they were at the federal level. Of course I had, and of course he refused to honor his word.
Glasser is now retired. But I`ll take a year`s pension, if anyone knows where he is.
This is a long post and you should arm yourself with a stiff drink before reading. As Brenda Walker wrote me recently, alerting me to the rerun of my BookNotes interview, it`s fascinating what has changed and what hasn`t in ten years.
I think the next ten years will be different.
For the Resolution:
Against the resolution:
Michael Kinsley moderates.
MR. KINSLEY: Good evening. From Bard College in Annandale, New York, welcome to a special all-star Firing Line Debate. Our topic tonight is, “Resolved: All Immigration Should be Drastically Reduced.”
Note that word, “all.” This debate is not just about securing America`s borders against illegal aliens. It`s about cutting the total number of immigrants, both illegal and legal. So it`s really a debate about the nature of American society: Are we a nation of immigrants, tied together by America`s values but by no particular ethnic background? Or is that just a lot of sentimental claptrap? Does immigration at current levels threaten not just our economic prosperity, but American culture as well?
Including illegals, more than two million foreigners are moving to the United States every year. In absolute terms, that`s an all-time high, although as a fraction of the population, it`s nothing particularly unusual. But today`s immigrants are different. Most of them come from Asia and Latin America, not from Europe. Does that matter? Well, that`s just one of the questions you`ll hear debated tonight.
Immigration is sure to be an issue in next year`s election campaign. Last year, the voters of California approved Proposition 187, which denies public education and other social services to illegal aliens. The welfare bill now being debated in Congress would deny welfare benefits even to legal immigrants, and a government commission on immigration is expected to recommend this month that the total number of legal immigrants be reduced by one-third. So before it gets totally enmeshed in politics, here is your chance to think and hear about the immigration debate in its pure, high-minded form. Let`s welcome tonight`s pure; high-minded debaters, all eight of them. [applause]
One interesting thing about tonight`s debate is how many of the debaters are themselves immigrants. That does not of course include the captain of the affirmative team, William F. Buckley, Jr. Mr. Buckley is the founder and star of Firing Line, the founder of National Review, syndicated columnist, author of books too numerous to mention, all-around great American. Mr. Buckley actually traces his ancestors in this country back to the early Bronze Age. [laughter] [applause] He traces his politics back to the same period, and they haven`t evolved one little bit since then. [laughter]
Peter Brimelow is a double immigrant, from Great Britain by way of Canada. Indeed, he was once considered America`s best leading expert on Canada, not that there was a lot of competition for that title. [laughter] Mr. Brimelow is presumably not referring to himself in the title of his controversial new book, Alien Nation: Common Sense about America`s immigration Disaster. Mr. Brimelow is senior editor of both Forbes magazine and National Review.
Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington is also a double immigrant, from Greece by way of Great Britain. She`s a former president of the Cambridge Union Debating Society and the author of several books. Her husband, Michael Huffington, lost a close race for the Senate in California last year in which immigration was a major issue. Mrs. Huffington`s current project is a new TV show called Beat the Press, and I can`t tell you how many journalists are already starting to fantasize about being beaten by Arianna Huffington. [laughter]
Daniel Stein is executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR. FAIR is the leading lobbying group for new limits on immigration. Mr. Stein—come on—Mr. Stein was born in Washington, DC, and in the current political climate, I don`t know if that makes you a native-born American or not. [laughter] According to his resume—and I was struck by this, and I quote—“He plays trombone and enjoys a full range of hobbies and interests.” I guess that`s what you call tooting your own horn. [laughter]
The captain of the opposition team is our host today, the president of Bard College, Leon Botstein. Mr. Botstein is also music director of the American Symphony Orchestra. That means he doesn`t have to toot his own horn, he has an entire horn section to toot for him. [laughter] He is the author of several books on music and on European cultural history. Mr. Botstein was born in Switzerland of Jewish refugee parents and immigrated to this country at the age of three.
Ed Koch of course is the former three-term mayor of New York City. He was born in the Bronx. In retirement, Mr. Koch is a partner in a law firm, has his own radio talk show, is host of a talk television show, writes a weekly column for the New York Post, writes a syndicated column of movie reviews, and lectures around the country. It seems to me that Mr. Koch all by himself is stealing more jobs from Americans than any number of illegal aliens. [laughter] [applause]
Our old friend Ira Glasser is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. He was born in Brooklyn, I believe. Now Mr. Glasser may or may not play the trombone. His resume does not say, and of course he has a constitutional right to remain silent on that point. [laughter] I would merely say that if he does by any chance play the trombone, his trombone has both the right and the duty to remain silent tonight. [laughter] That goes for Mr. Stein`s trombone and also for Mr. Buckley`s harpsichord. [laughter] No music.
Frank Sharry is executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which is America`s leading pro-immigration lobbying group. He was active in the unsuccessful campaign against California`s Proposition 187. Mr. Sharry`s resume also does not indicate whether or not he plays the trombone. It does say, however, he speaks Spanish, which is reasonable enough in his line of work, but I believe he may speak English as well, or at least we`ll find out.
5o those are tonight`s debaters. I wield the gavel tonight. My name is Mike Kinsley and I now call upon Mr. Buckley to propose tonight`s motion. Mr. Buckley. [applause]
MR. BUCKLEY: Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. The subject we`re debating tonight begs to be mishandled by the Affirmative, those of us who believe immigration should be curbed; and poisoned by the Negative, those who urge no changes in immigration policy. The reason this is so is that we have here before the house a question of public policy in which the great intimacies of ethnic pride are involved. If the subject under discussion were whether to lessen the tariff barriers or raise them, we would only marginally touch on human sensitivities.
The great shadow that looms menacingly over one side is rank nativism, to stumble into saying, “That man who wants to get into the United States is black, brown, or yellow, and we have enough of them.” On the other side, the illuminsory composite. [VDare.com note: Transcription error, we think. Buckley uses strange words, but doesn`t actually make them up.] There are the libertarians who say, “Anybody who wants to do anything should be permitted to do so, and if one of the things people want to do is to come live in the United States, why not?” That is one of the great disabling rhetorical limbs that get in the way of clear thought. Another holds that inasmuch as everyone in America is the child or great-grandchild of an immigrant, what reason can there be for adopting different policies from those that let us or our forebears in.
There will be data given on these points as they arise. For instance, it is simply not the case that immigration on the scale at which it now proceeds is conventional in American history, and it isn`t the case that the ebb and flow of human beings into—or for that matter, out of— one country into another, are mechanical questions simply to be governed by the laws of arbitrage. These particulars my colleagues will confront as required in the discussion. I mean to touch on the touchiest of all questions in the hope, probably fruitless, that polemical opportunism will be restrained.
I think it is a legitimate concern of a country, ours especially-we have been taking in year after year 50 percent of all immigrants in the entire world—to give thought to the culture and ethos we hope to preserve. What this comes down-to is a question of assimilation. The ideal of immigration is not alone to provide shelter or even economic opportunity, but to create another American. Now to say any such thing these days in the firestorm of multi-culturalism is to court criticism that can be mortal, especially in academic salons. But recall that it was not so long ago taken for granted that anyone coming to America would need to learn something about American institutions and would need, if he hoped to vote, to read and write in English. That isn`t the case any more. In New York City schools, we learn courses are taught in 100 languages and there`s a shortage of teachers who can speak Albanian.
The pressures that were brought on immigrants, so to speak pressures to Americanize them, were so direct that during the last half of the 19th century, one-third of immigrants simply gave up and after a while, traveled back home. Immigrants were required, just to begin with, to make their own way economically. That is no longer true under the welfare state, and were required to learn the language of American English, no longer required. Those were the most conspicuous courses of socialization, but there were others, designed to communicate an ethos. One of them, of course, was the discipline of self-government. Self-government is very rare, and in the 19th century something of an eccentricity. And then too, the ethos in America presumed religious convictions. Ninety-eight percent of America at the time o£ the Revolutionary War was Protestant.
It is our contention that America, the most successful engine of assimilation in the history of the world, hasn`t got the steam needed to handle immigration at the current level, and that the burden of assimilation became more acute when in 1965 the qualifications for immigration changed so radically. Does this mean that it is more difficult to assimilate Haitians and Mexicans than British and Italians? Yes. We`re prepared to go that far, wistfully hoping that this is not to earn a denunciation as racists. We really should be permitted to speak about such matters without risking the charge of un-Americanism.
“Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them?” The person who spoke those words was Benjamin Franklin. And Mr. Chairman, we will bear bravely any charge leveled against us that could also be leveled against Benjamin Franklin. [laughter] He thought it entirely civilized to speak about the ethnic characteristics of other countries.
We do believe that there is something there when we speak of American exceptionalism. This doesn`t bind us to disdain the cultural claims of others. We listen with respect to someone asserting the relative achievements of the Swiss or the Spanish or the Swedes, though we might get restless listening to the claims of some nationalists, best quarantined in the United Nations. We`ve no need here tonight to document American exceptionalism. We need only to document that more is being expected of this country than it can reasonably be expected to furnish while still surviving as the country to whose health and prosperity we are committed. Ladies and gentlemen, let`s drink to that. [applause]
MR. KINSLEY: President Botstein is invited up to oppose the motion.
MR. BOTSTEIN: Today`s debate is an experience in déjà vu. We`ve heard the same refrains before: Too many bad, different, new immigrants, as opposed to fewer good, old-style immigrants; that we can`t afford immigration altogether. It isn`t any different from the predictions of doom expressed by, yes, Ben Franklin, about Germans in Pennsylvania; Republicans in 1896 who wanted a literacy test; Henry Cabot Lodge`s derision of Italians as worse than the Irish; and the misguided immigration commission of 1911 when immigration reached an all-time high, which predicted that new immigrants would either compete for jobs or ruin the fabric of America. They were wrong. So why are today`s nay-sayers, with the same arguments, suddenly right?
Immigration in our past has been more statistically significant than it is now. Almost 15 percent of the population in 1910 was foreign-born. Today only eight percent is. Since the first census in 1790, the percent of immigrants has been unusually high, and America flourished economically and culturally. And there are only a million immigrants coming in a year, not two.
Today`s immigrants won`t behave any differently from our forefathers and foremothers. A century ago, there were public and private schools in the rural Midwest teaching only German, yet by the second and third generation, English triumphed. Second-generation Spanish speakers in Florida are showing the same pattern: loss of ancestral language toward proficiency in English. Even intermarriage rates show their classic upward trend. All previous generations of immigrants and their children had high rates of school dropout, illness, poverty, and crime. We were warned that the masses of foreigners on the Lower East Side would never enter the mainstream and would corrupt American mores, and yet the transition to the American middle class took place. So too today: just look at the Korean grocery markets in New York.
Do our opponents really believe that in our global economy, with its ease and speed of travel, that we can stop immigration? We get 19 million visitors a year. Even Britain, a more homogenous and traditional island culture, has an immigration problem. Sealing the border is a pipedream. So the question is, rather, how we can manage immigration better. Simplify it. Encourage legal rather than illegal immigration. We are not the French and not the Japanese. our culture, like our language, is the evolving consequence of sustained immigration.
Our opponents, proud conservatives, seem to favor free trade and markets without regulation for everything but people. Why should we not be able to hire the best engineer from anywhere, just as we`re free to buy the best TV set, even if it`s foreign? Look at how much American science, industry, and our universities profited from the intellectual migration of the 1930`s. The poor from over the Mexican border come because they will work where and when others won`t. Sure, immigrants cost money, but they also fill jobs, and they fuel the economy. The Zoë Baird problem is a matter of demand. We should encourage skilled immigration, regulate unskilled immigration according to demand, and preserve America as a refuge from political and religious persecution. Immigration will remain the unique factor behind America`s greatness as a competitive and different nation not characterized by a rigid jingoist and racist view of itself. [applause]
MR. KINSLEY: Mr. Brimelow and Mr. Sharry. It`s your opportunity to ascend to the podium, Mr. Sharry and Mr. Brimelow, and Mr. Brimelow has a minute and a half to make an opening statement.
MR. BRIMELOW: Do I start now, Mike?
MR. KINSLEY: Start now.
MR. BRIMELOW: Okay. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I Want to start off by saying that I`m here courtesy of my wife and Dr. John Sussman, who is delivering her of a baby right about now. [laughter] [applause] Bill Buckley called, so I have to come. And that`s appropriate really, because immigration is typically a policy where A and B get together, we have A and B and C here, and decide what C should do for D. C in this case is our children. Our children have been asked to decide—have been asked to handle the consequences of these decisions which are being made now.
Immigration is out of control, both illegal immigration and legal immigration, legal immigration because of the peculiar workings of the 1965 Act. We must never forget that this is a policy, a government policy, and it works in very paradoxical ways. The US is being transformed against its will, as measured by opinion polls, by accident-to no economic advantage whatever, a thing which I spend a great deal of time on in Alien Nation, and the American people haven`t been asked. There has never been a transformation like this in the history of the world. We`re not saying that it won`t necessarily work, but we`re saying that it`s the risk and the American people should be asked whether they want to take that risk. We should have a pause in immigration precisely to allow that great debate to take place and to allow the immigration policy to be reformed on some rational basis.
MR. KINSLEY: Thank you, Mr. Brimelow. Mr. Sharry, you have a minute and a half.
MR. SHARRY: Immigration is a very highly charged debate, very emotional, I think, really because it gets down to the question of who we are as a nation, as President Botstein so eloquently addressed. We also need a rational debate about immigration. We need to look at the facts and figures rather than the myths and misinformation that this debate is steeped in. For example, most international migrants in the world do not come to the United States; in fact, less than one percent come to the United States. Most stay in the developing world, and of those immigrants and refugees who come to the United States, the vast majority come in perfectly legally, after going through a highly regulated system. In fact, 85 percent of the immigrants and refugees living in the United States reside here legally.
The numbers—we will hear a lot of scary numbers about the zillions of people overrunning the United States; the fact is, legal and illegal immigration comprises about eight percent of the US population. From 1850 through 1940, that percentage as a share of population was up in the neighborhood of 15 percent. The United States has dealt with far greater proportional immigration than we were dealing with in this decade. The economic impacts: Economists from across the spectrum from right to left agree that on balance and over time, immigrants contribute more than they take, starting businesses, through their production, through their consumption: Hardworking taxpaying folks who after being in the country for ten years, have a higher household income than people born in the United States.
Immigrants are assimilating quickly. There are lotteries for adult ESL, English as a Second Language, classes. Kids of immigrants not only learn English, but prefer English. [gavel] The fact is that we need a sensible debate in which we look at the facts, and when we do that, then the policy debate will be a lot easier to handle. Thank you.
MR. KINSLEY: Thank you, Mr. Sharry. Don`t go away, it`s your chance to interrogate Mr. Brimelow.
MR. SHARRY: Mr. Brimelow, in your book, Alien Nation, you make the statement that race is destiny. Can you explain what you mean by that?
MR. BRIMELOW: Yes. I didn`t make that statement, Frank, as you perfectly well know, because we`ve been through this many times before. What I said was, “Race is destiny in American politics,” and that goes to a difference between American politics and European politics. In European politics, political allegiance is determined by class; in American politics, political allegiance is determined by race and ethnicity, and what that means is that where you alter the ethnic balance of the country, you are, in effect, altering its political future. I mean, there is no way that Jesse Jackson is going to be elected President of this country unless the Rainbow Coalition grows to the point where it can basically, putting it crudely, outvote the whites, and of course with the policy that you recommend, that is going to happen.
MR. SHARRY: Well what about the fact that the largest proportional growth of immigration is coming from Asia, and in fact the Asian community is very supportive of the Republican Party? In fact, more Asian-born immigrants vote Republican than Democrat, so how can you say that race is destiny in American politics when upwards of forty percent of Hispanics vote Republican as well? It seems to me that both of those major new groups of immigrants are up for grabs politically, so how can you say—
MR. BRIMELOW: It appears to me to mean, Frank, that sixty percent of Hispanics vote Democratic, and that`s a substantial number.
MR. SHARRY: That`s also true, but the fact is, how can race be destiny in American politics when two major groups are up for grabs?
MR. BRIMELOW: I don`t agree that they are; I mean, it is quite clear that Hispanics are predominantly a Democratic group, although of course, as you know—
MR. SHARRY: The Cubans in Miami?
MR. BRIMELOW: —as you know, it is a very variegated category, Hispanic: it is not really a very true, a very good analytical category. Asians we just don`t have any numbers on. Less than one percent of them voted in the presidential election last year, so we just really don`t know what they`re going to do. But of course what you`re doing here is conceding my point, which is that these groups do differ systematically from the rest of the population, according to ethnicity, and therefore by controlling the ethnic inflow one way or another, you are going to alter the future of American politics, and the question is: Why?
MR. SHARRY: Well, it seems to me, in my conception of America, that we need to be as strong and as confident and as optimistic as we`ve been up until now in order to keep growing, that we`ve gotten here by not only taking risks, but by embracing an incredible amount of diversity—people from different faiths and different backgrounds and different nationalities—and carved out a very strong democracy in the most powerful nation in the world. Why, given the historical evidence of the benefits of immigration, why now is it too much of a risk to take?
Mr. BRIMELOW: What`s characterized American immigration in the past is that it is not continuous, there are pauses. Some of these pauses extend a very long time. In the middle of this century, there was a pause of forty years. After the Revolution, there was a pause of fifty years. When Ben Franklin complained about Germans, the German immigration collapsed and didn`t resume again for nearly 100 years. Those pauses are essential to the process of assimilation. No pauses are in sight now, naturally, because of the demographic structure of the Third World; one will have to be legislated as one was in 1920, the 1920`s.
MR. SHARRY: In your book, you mention that we are attracting most immigrants from the Third World, that they are, quote, visible minorities, that INS waiting rooms look like New York subways, and that you seem to be disturbed by the skin color of immigrants rather than the content of their character, and I was wondering if you could respond to that.
MR. BRIMELOW: I said repeatedly in the book—I don`t know if I don`t have to tattoo it on my head—that I`m confident that the American assimilative mechanism can assimilate anybody; they could assimilated Martians here: but they can`t do it without a pause. It also helps if the Martians are skilled. One of the key criticisms of the 1965 Immigration Act is that it skewed the skill levels downward so that the for the first time, we see an immigrant inflow which is less skilled than the American native born on average, which in turn is why immigrants are nine percent on welfare as opposed to native born Americans at seven percent and native born American whites five percent.
MR. SHARRY: Well, in your book you seem to settle for distortions of the facts: as you know very well, that is only half the story. We are attracting some unskilled immigrants; we are attracting a tremendous number of skilled immigrants. Forty percent of the engineers in Silicon Valley, one of the most high growth areas in the United States, are foreign born. Many, many small businesses, which are the engines of growth in this country, are run by immigrant entrepreneurs. Many of the foreign trade and export oriented industries that are such—
Mi. BRIMELOW: Is this a question, Frank?
MR. SHARRY: Yes it is. So given those facts, in your study have you in fact concluded that immigration does not create economic growth, does not boost the economy of the United States?
MR. BRIMELOW: Sure. Sure. First of all, there is a consensus among economists that immigration is not necessary for economic growth: it does nothing that the Americans couldn`t do for themselves by other institutional means. Economic growth had actually slowed down since 50 years before 1965. Economic growth was faster than it was afterward.
MR. KINSLEY : You can go on the offensive when you`re through.
MR. BRIMELOW: Oh, thank you. [laughs] The best estimate of the economic advantage of immigration, the benefits of immigration to the native born, is by Professor George Borjas of UC-San Diego, who wrote the review article in the Journal of Economic Literature last year, and his estimate is that the benefits to the native born right now is about one-tenth of one percent of GDP: it`s actually wiped out by the welfare loss, which he estimates at about 15 billion dollars. Are you familiar with this study?
MR SHARRY: I am familiar with his study, and Mr. Borjas is always cited by the restrictionists, I believe, because he is the one legitimate economist that sort of supports your view. In survey after survey—economists from across the spectrum—of Nobel laureates in this century: they were asked, “Is immigration of benefit or not?” Eighty-one percent said “Yes,” and the other 19 percent said, “Somewhat.” Not one of them said it was negative.
MR BRIMELOW: But you must realize that Nobel laureate economists often vote Democratic. [laughter]
MR. SHARRY: Well, I also realize that the Bush Administration Department of Labor did really the definitive analysis of labor market impacts and concluded that on balance and over time, immigration creates economic growth. You have conceded that this really isn`t an issue about the economy, right?
MR. BRIMELOW: No, no. You are aware that in my book I quote Professor Julian Simon, who is supposedly the leading expert on your side, saying frankly that he`s never said that immigration is necessary to economic growth.
MR. SHARRY: I believe, Mr. Brimelow, that the questions are now in your hands.
MR. BRIMELOW : That is a question.
MR. SHARRY: That is a question?
MR. BRIMELOW: Are you aware of that?
MR. SHARRY: I am not aware of that, no.
MR. BRIMELOW: Oh dear. [laughter]
MR. SHARRY: I don`t pray in Julian Simon`s church.
MR. BRIMELOW: Are you aware that the Census Bureau projects that without immigration, the U. S. population is going to stabilize at around 250-260 million because Americans of all races are bringing down their family sizes, but with immigration, it will go up, by 2050, to around 390 million. Now that`s the middle series projection; the high series is 500 million. Now, the question I want to ask you here is: Why do you want to second guess the American people on population size?
MR. SHARRY: I`m not second guessing them. I don`t see population growth in and of itself as a bad thing. The United States has modest population growth by international standards. I am concerned about population growth where it is more out of control, but fertility rates have come down all over the world, and particularly in the United States, and I don`t see it as a problem. If you`re getting at the environmental question, which I find interesting for a conservative like yourself—
MR. BRIMELOW: I`m open-minded.
MR. SHARRY: You`re open-minded. [laughter] Now you`re an environmentalist when it comes to immigration. It`s very interesting, this kind of drug pushing that restrictionists do, it`s like: What have you got? Are you concerned about the environment? Here`s the drug: take this blame-immigrants drug and you`ll feel better. Worried about schools, worried about culture—
MR. BRIMELOW: What I want to know is why do you want to drive the population up to 390 million when without immigration it would stabilize at 250 million?
MR. SHARRY: You`re asking me like it`s a problem. I don`t see population growth as a problem.
MR. BRIMELOW: No, I want to know why you want to increase the population.
MR SHARRY: I don`t want to drive population growth. These projections have changed every year in the past five years, based on a current snapshot—
MR. BRIMELOW: They`ve always gone upward.
MR. SHARRY: No, they haven`t. In fact, two years ago, they said population would stabilize in the middle of the next century with immigration, so we can expect those projections to change with the wind and with differences in policies. If you`re concerned about the environmental impact, we should talk about consumption habits of Americans. Let`s not talk about immigrants who come and recycle, let`s talk about the United States consuming more than 25 percent of the world`s resources with six percent of the population. If you want to address environmental concerns, I`m happy to, just don`t blame immigrants in the process. [applause]
Mr KINSLEY: Let`s keep going. You`ve got another minute-and-a-half.
Mr BRIMELOW: You mean you`re not going to answer the question of why you want to drive up the population? [laughter]
Mr SHARRY: [laughs] I have answered it. I`m not concerned about population growth in the United States. I am concerned about population growth in Third World countries where the fertility rates are in the 6-7 per couple. In the United States, it`s 2.1, just a bit above replacement level, and I would prefer to be a young, dynamic country with lots of people being born in this country and lots of opportunity, as opposed to Europe, your hallowed ground, where population growth is below replacement level, where you have an aging population, and where the world is not looking for new ideas. I would prefer to have the United States be the dynamic, robust, confident country that it`s always been, in large part fueled by immigration. [applause]
MR. BRIMELOW: I take that to mean that you are in favor—I take that to mean that you are in favor of increasing the American population so radically. As you know, for more than 40 years, not more than 13 percent of Americans, one-three percent, have said they were in favor of increasing immigration, but in that period, immigration has quintupled. Now, the question is, why shouldn`t the American people by allowed to have their way on this? If they want immigration reform, why can`t they have it?
MR SHARRY: Let me address the proposition. You like to talk about how legal immigration needs to be reduced, and I fundamentally reject that. I do believe that illegal immigration needs to be reduced. There is a big difference.
MR BRIMELOW: What about the American people and their opinions? [gavel]
MR SHARRY: [gavel] The American people believe that most immigrants are coming in illegally, and they`re badly misinformed, and I believe too many of them read your book, and as a result they are misinformed. [gavel] [applause]
MR. KINSLEY: All right. Thank you both. Arianna Huffington has an opportunity to make a short opening statement and then submit to the interrogation of the opposing team.
MS. HUFFINGTON: I want to begin by addressing the apparent irony of somebody with my clear immigrant accent being on this side of the debate. I arrived in this country 15 years before the 1965 Immigration Act and became a citizen in 1990, and what really changed my mind was what happened to me in the last year when I
MR. SHARRY: It`s all Greek to her.
MS. HUFFINGTON: —why are American children, and indeed Hispanic children, being deprived of the opportunity to learn English and be part of the mainstream?
MR. BOTSTEIN: They are not being deprived-
MS. HUFFINGTON: They are.
MR. BOTSTEIN: In fact, immigrant populations for generations were taught German, Polish. Today, in this day in Chicago, you can go to Polish neighborhoods in Chicago and see—the level of Polish is not that admirable, the continuing use of Polish. What I`m suggesting-
MS. HUFFINGTON: Yes, but-
MR. BOTSTEIN: —is that there were newspapers and schools in the history of America doing exactly what`s happening now.
MS. HUFFINGTON: But they were being taught by their parents, by their schools-
MR. BOTSTEIN: No, by public schools.
MS. HUFFINGTON: they were not being taught by taxpayer money.
MR. BOTSTEIN: By public schools. In the rural Midwest in the 19th century, there was exclusively German taught.
MS. HUFFINGTON: You know, you need to go to Los Angeles and talk to the people who are leading the movement against bilingual education.
MR. BOTSTEIN: Because there`s been racism against immigrants in this country from the very beginning. [applause]
MS. HUFFINGTON: Oh, come on. It has nothing to do with racism.
MR. KINSLEY: Mr. Koch.
MR. BOTSTEIN: People who`ve come in don`t want the next person to come in after them.
MR. KINSLEY: Mr. Koch.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Oh, let`s stop name calling and argue the facts.
MR. KINSLEY: Mr. Koch. Mr. Koch.
MR. KOCH: Arianna, I`m an admirer of yours, but not on this issue, but on many others— [laughter] and I believe that the emphasis that you give is misplaced. Why blame the immigrants for the stupidities of some educators in this country? [applause] Why—is it the immigrant who comes here and says, “I don`t want to learn in English.” That`s not what the—just let me finish this question.
MS. HUFFINGTON: No, it`s people like Leon Botstein who claim that it`s the way— [laughter]
MR. KOCH: I might agree with that, I might agree with that, but I am saying, don`t keep the immigrants out-
MS. HUFFINGTON: Keep Leon out.
MR. KOCH: —keep the educators out. [laughter] [applause]
MR. KINSLEY: Let her answer, let her answer because we have to move on.
MR. KOCH: The multi-culturalism, that wasn`t brought here by the Chinese or blacks or Hispanics, that was imposed upon them.
MR. KINSLEY: Okay.
MS. HUFFINGTON: That is exactly the point I made.
MR. BOTSTEIN: I`m not even arguing it.
MR. KOCH: Get rid of the multi-culturalism, not the immigrants.
MR. KINSLEY: [gavel] Too much agreement here, too much agreement here. Time to move on. [laughter]
MS. HUFFINGTON: That`s exactly what I`m saying. That`s exactly what I said.
MR. KINSLEY: Thank you, thank you, Ms.-
MS. HUFFINGTON: Until we get rid of multi-culturalism, we cannot afford to have the high levels of present immigration.
MR. KINSLEY: Thank you, Ms. Huffington. [applause] Mr. Glasser, it is your opportunity to make an opening statement and then to be interrogated by proponents of the resolution.
MR. GLASSER: The talk about numbers is pretextual. It is over-exaggerated in the extreme. The number of immigrants who come in, including illegals, each year now, is at about a million. If the present commission`s recommendations has its way, it will be cut by about a third. That`s a million against some 258 million people: a very small percentage. We had a million coming in 1910. That was against a population of 90 million, a much larger percentage. The numbers are simply not that big. They aren`t. It`s grossly exaggerated. The economic consequences are marginal. Most economists, including the conservative Julian Simon, say that if we have fewer immigrants, we will be poorer.
We will have a larger federal deficit, we will have a worse position of international competition. He says flatly, and said so to Brimelow in a debate recently, that we can reduce the number of immigrants if we want, but we will make American citizens poorer, that the higher level is better for us economically. Even Professor Borjas, who is your side`s favorite, says that the economic issues are at best indecisive. Mr. Brimelow says that repeatedly in his book and says we have to go to something else. That “something else” is the nature of the American character: we want to keep it the way it was before 1965. Now what does that mean exactly if it doesn`t mean numbers and it doesn`t mean economic consequences? What does it mean?
MR. KINSLEY: Does someone want to take that up? Mr. Stein.
MR. STEIN: Does the ACLU have any objection to the American people, if they choose to, bringing the immigration level down to zero?
MR. GLASSER: We do not.
MR. STEIN: And would you explain to the American people how the Native American benefited from immigration about 400 years ago?
MR. GLASSER: You know, there`s a really interesting thing that`s happened here: first Mr. Brimelow did it, and now you do it. You seem to have a divine way of figuring out what the American people mean, and it certainly isn`t what Congress did. No, no, no. Congress is not what the American people meant. You know what the American people want.
MR. STEIN: How did the Native American—
MR. GLASSER: Tell me what it is that you are talking about, and how you figured this out.
MR. STEIN: I`m talking about Congress reducing it down to zero, Ira. Now, how did the Native American benefit from immigration? Would you describe that for us?
MR. GLASSER: The Native Americans did not benefit from immigration. [laughter] And they did not benefit— [applause]—and they did not benefit from Brimelow`s ancestors, who, as I recall, we threw out [laughter] because they didn`t understand the American traditions. They did not benefit from decimation and genocide, either. But that`s not what we`re talking about, is it? If you want to stick to the germane principle, why did you even ask that question?
MR. STEIN: The reason is because, as even Julian Simon points out, there are various groups, particularly those on the bottom of the labor market, who are more disproportionally affected by the depression on wage rates and labor competition in hotel, restaurants, and service work.
MR. GLASSER: You`re talking about blacks, are you?
MR. STEIN: No, I`m talking about Americans with a high school degree or less, and I think the evidence is clear that if you look at the standard of living and the average wages of Americans with a high school degree or less since immigration`s been going up since 1980. Surely the ACLU must be concerned about their wage rates.
MR. GLASSER: We are, and the fact is that it`s not affected by the levels of immigration and Professor Borjas says that and Professor Simon says it, and it`s marginal at best. You`re talking here about dueling economists, all of whom agree that the differences are small. So why this big debate—what is this big debate about? And the big debate, which you want to run away from, is that we`re doing something, we did something in 1965. But it was more than just the numbers, because the `65 legislation left the numbers where they were at the time.. What it did is it changed the American character, and I would like somebody on this side of the panel to tell me: What do you mean by that?
MR. KINSLEY: Mrs. Huffington.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Lucas Guttentag was a lawyer with the ACLU-
MR. GLASSER: Still is.
MS. HUFFINGTON: Yes. Still is. Maybe he won`t be after you hear what he says.
MR. GLASSER: Ah.
M5. HUFFINGTON: But he-
MR. GLASSER: I think I know more about what he says than you do, but go ahead.
MS. HUFFINGTON: But he said that all this talk about immigration is pandering to Americans` most primitive fears. Now this is the kind of condescending statement that the American people are tired of, and when you question Mr. Stein`s numbers, every poll, every poll taken shows two-thirds of the American people in favor of reducing illegal immigration, and it is indeed illegal immigration—look at the results of Proportion 187. Four million people, and a half, voted in favor.
MR. GLASSER: Let me tell you something about the American people, since you`re an immigrant yourself. Let me tell you something about the American people and polls. In 1950, all the polls showed that they were in favor of segregation, too, didn`t they? The American people, in terms of the polls show, is not the way we do business in this country, and it hasn`t got to do with the facts necessarily, does it? It has to do with—what I`m saying to you is that if the economic consequences are marginal, and if the numbers are by historical standards not that big, and if you all keep saying that we`re changing the American character because of something we did in `65, tell me what you mean by that.
MR. KINSLEY: OK, Mr. Brimelow.
MR. GLASSER: I notice now how nobody wants to do that.
MR. KINSLEY: OK, Mr. Brimelow.
MR. BRIMELOW: Mr. Glasser, you must realize that you`ve walked into Dan`s trap here. He was asking about the effect of immigration on native-born Americans. The point here is precisely that it can radically alter society. It did alter it.
MR. GLASSER: They killed them all, that`s true.
MR. BRIMELOW: I see.
MR. GLASSER: That`s true. However if you let them open up businesses, and have economic mobility, it`s less true, as most of us in this room are evidence of.
MR. BRIMELOW: Are you aware that immigrants on the average are less likely to open up businesses than the native-born?
MR. GLASSER: I am not aware of that—
MR. BRIMELOW: Good
MR. GLASSER:—because it`s not true.
MR. BRIMELOW: Are you aware of—it is true.
MR. GLASSER: It isn`t true.
MR. BRIMELOW: It is true, it shows in the—
MR. GLASSER: No, it is not true.
MR. BRIMELOW: You really must read my book-
MR. GLASSER: Oh I have, I have-
MR. BRIMELOW: Alien Nation, Random House, $24.
MR. GLASSER: —and I used all my supply of Alka-Seltzer after I did. [laughter] [applause] Your book, Mr. Brimelow—
MR. BRIMELOW: I`m delighted to hear that. You must read it again.
MR. GLASSER: Your book was characterized by your favorite economist, Julian Simon, as “suffused by race.” Your book on every other page worries about your little son Alexander growing up in a world which is non-white. Your book characterizes nonwhite immigrants as typified by Colin Ferguson. Your book worries about going down into the subway where homeless people are almost entirely colored.
MR. BRIMELOW: Let me ask you, let me ask you a question-
MR. GLASSER: I showed that to my kids, who use the subway almost every day, and they asked me: Have you ever been in a subway?
MR. BRIMELOW: What is your agenda here? Why do you want to transform America? [applause]
MR. GLASSER: My agenda is exposing you. My agenda is exposing you. [applause] [gavel]
MR. KINSLEY: Thank you both. You`ll both get another crack at it. It`s Mr. Stein`s opportunity to make an opening statement.
MR. STEIN: Thank you. Barbara Jordan and her commission, appointed by President Clinton and Congress, has recommended major cuts in immigration. Now there`s a reason why. Polls show, and I think it`s pretty clear from public opinion otherwise, the American people want to see cuts in immigration. Now there are only three questions we have to deal with when we look into the future on this issue: How many people we are going to admit? Who are they going to be? And how can we better enforce the rules to make sure that all immigrants are legal? We also have to ask a more fundamental question, which is: Why do we need immigration at this point in our national history? As Peter has mentioned, there have been long and sustained pauses. We used immigration to fill up a continent—very low levels compared with today—but we did, with the Northwest Territories and the Northwest Ordinance Act of 1787, we pushed people across the continent, the wilderness, as against contending colonial powers to build a nation with a template of institutions and cultural ideas that were able to help absorb people as they moved across the land. We had one brief period where we had an extraordinarily high rate immigration, around the turn of the century for the Industrial Revolution, to mine the coal and to build the railroads. But throughout most of this century, and during those periods of very high economic growth, we`ve had very low immigration. Now we have very high immigration that going to increase our population to 400 million in many of our lifetimes, and we haven`t asked ourselves: Why do we need immigration? What`s its purpose? And how can we better make the policies that we have today fit our own domestic set of objectives and needs?
MR. KINSLEY: Thank you. Mr. Botstein.
MR. BOTSTEIN: Just a factual matter. John Higham, in his book on the immigrant American history, shows that the rates of immigration from 1790 to 1940 were at 10 percent and 9 percent, approximately at current levels. What`s this nonsense about their being only high for one period of American history?
MR. STEIN: Throughout most of the colonial period, immigration rarely exceeded 5,000 a year.
MR. BOTSTEIN: Oh, the colonial period. Let me ask-
MR. BOTSTEIN: You forgot to take a census of the Native American population, but let me ask you another question, talking about the attitude of America. In 1933, if you had given a poll of Americans, whether they should open the doors—or in the late `30`s, 1938—to the Jews of Europe, would you have thought that was an adequate answer, that they didn`t want more Jews in the United States, and therefore, our restrictive quota policy led indirectly to the deaths of millions of Jews. What would you say about this?
MR. STEIN: This is called “the St. Louis gambit.” The suggestion is that we should have moved 6 million people.
MR. BOTSTEIN: It`s not a St. Louis gambit. I`m a descendent of one of the few survivors.
MR. STEIN: Well, but the point is that at that point in time, or even today, we cannot accept everyone who wants to come here, and if you have a totally cavalier attitude about what the public thinks, on this issue or any issue, or to say, “Well, democracy doesn`t matter. Polls don`t matter.” There is a very clear increase in intensity of public concern about this issue, and if you let the ivory tower, inside-the-beltway eggheads decide how many people come in, without regard to its impact on schools and hospitals and the labor market and all the highly impacted areas, you`re askin` for trouble.
MR. KINSLEY: Mr. Sharry.
MR. GLASSER: Who are those Washington eggheads? You`re the only one who lives in Washington.
MR. KINSLEY: Mr. Sharry.
MR. STEIN: Pardon me?
MR. KINSLEY: Mr. Sharry.
MR. SHARRY: Mr. Stein, your group calls for a moratorium on immigration-
MR. STEIN: Sure.
MR. SHARRY: —essentially zero immigration policies, as I understand it-
MR. STEIN: Several bills in Congress.
MR. STEIN: Brothers, sisters,