Mexican Wave

note: This piece appeared last week in the UK

but we`re reprinting it here with
Americanized spelling and punctuation, plus, of course,
our trademark links.

If you read the conservative press in the United
States — which in effect means the

press—you will find a lot of

despairing talk
about the

damage immigration is doing to Europe
. What you are

unlikely to find
, however, is despairing talk about
the damage immigration is doing to the United States.
That`s because there is a consensus here—held as
strongly on the

as on the

—that immigration is

good for Americans
and good for the American

But thanks to the internet—and the sheer weight of
immigrant numbers—the consensus is being challenged.
Last week in Medford, Oregon, angry public reaction
forced the Oregon Employment Department to remove a
Mexican flag it had displayed on its wall

above the American flag
—a serious issue in the US,
where there is an

elaborate flag protocol.
However, state bureaucrats
removed the American flag too—"in
order not to offend"
, one explained.

Medford is more than

800 miles
north of the Mexican border. Less than 10
per cent of its population is

, but that will grow. Mexicans are the
largest single source of both legal and illegal
immigration to the US. About 400,000 arrive each year.
Some 20 million Mexicans, one in every five Mexicans in
the world, now live in the US. The Mexican government

quite openly
taken the historic decision to dump its
poor on the American welfare state—a phenomenon
sometimes called "the

—and to encourage them not to

"You`re Mexicans—Mexicans who live north of the
former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo
told Mexican-American politicians in Dallas

ten years ago.
Subsequently, Mexico

amended its constitution
to allow Mexicans to retain
their nationality after taking out US citizenship—and
for American-born Mexicans to


Poor, illiterate Mexicans, like most other Hispanic
immigrants, don`t do particularly well in the
sophisticated American economy. Nor do their children.
In fact, there is recent evidence that,

even after four generations,
fewer than 10 per cent
of Mexicans have post-high-school degrees, as opposed to
nearly half of non-Mexican-Americans. Basically, the US

importing a new underclass.

Even more striking, the

US Census
has for the

first time
begun to pick up the existence of
individuals—most, but not all, Hispanic—who are
American-born (and thus citizens) but who can`t speak
English very well. In

there were 5.6 million, an increase of 40 per
cent since 1990. Unmistakably, the

melting pot
has sprung a leak.

Mass immigration was

by the

1965 Immigration Act.
Before that there had been a
four-decade period of virtually no immigration—one of
many such little-recognized pauses, stretching back into
colonial times and critical to the process of
assimilation. Matters were made worse after 1965 by the
collapse of immigration controls on the southern border
and elsewhere. (The

Eisenhower administration
abruptly ended a

very similar illegal immigration crisis
in the 1950s
by deporting more than a million illegals in its

now forgotten
Operation Wetback.)

Because Americans of all races have brought their
family size down to replacement level, the

of this new wave of immigration is
exceptional in US history. Without immigration, the
Census Bureau projects, the population will stabilize
somewhere around 300 million. But with current
immigration it will rise by 2050 to 400 million, perhaps
even 500 million.

And because the 1965 reforms instituted a perverse
selection process that skewed immigration, not merely
towards the unskilled but towards the

Third World,
the decade of 2050 is the point when
American whites, 90 per cent of the population in 1960,

become a minority.

This is a demographic transformation without
precedent in the history of the world. And it`s all
being brought about by public policy. In effect, the US
government is following

Bertolt Brecht`s
satirical advice to the

East German communists
after the

1953 riots:
it is

dissolving the people
and electing a new one.

The amazing thing to me, as a long-time US financial
journalist, is that the consensus among labor economists
is that, in aggregate, this enormous influx is of no
significant economic benefit to native-born Americans.
This consensus has existed for more than ten years and
was confirmed in the National Research Council`s report
New Americans
(1997. Ironically, but not
unusually, the economist who played the leading role in
establishing this consensus is himself an immigrant,
from Cuba, Harvard`s

George Borjas.
(I, too, am an immigrant, from

But the consensus is unmentionable in the mainstream
financial press. (I`ve tried.) Even the

magazine, which was at least

aware of the NRC conclusion
in its "America
and Immigration
survey in March 2000, seems
recently (21 May) to have forgotten it. The argument:
immigration does increase total output—Gross Domestic
Product (GDP). But essentially all of that goes to the
immigrants themselves in the form of wages. In other
words, America is being transformed for nothing.

However—and it`s a big however—the economists`
consensus is that, while immigration does not increase
the aggregate income of the native-born, it does cause
an immense redistribution of wealth within the
native-born community, basically by depressing wages.
George Borjas has estimated that more than

2 per cent of GDP is redistributed from labor to
This by itself explains much of the
American immigration debate or, more accurately, lack of
it. Big

political donors
, like

Silicon Valley

, want cheap labor. Politicians of all
parties give it to them. Both are engaged in a predatory
attack on American workers. It`s embarrassing, but
vulgar Marxism does offer the simplest explanation.

The conclusion that immigration is not essential to
economic growth has been long known across the

. A 1991 study by the Economic Council of
Canada found that doubling that country`s (very high)
immigration rate would result in

"very small"
gains by 2015. A 1985 study by the

Committee for Economic Development
found that

increased immigration
had no clear beneficial effect
on output per capita. More recently, David Coleman and
Robert Rowthorn

in the December 2004 Population and
Development Review
that, for the UK, "the
economic consequences of large-scale immigration are
mostly trivial, negative or transient."

And it`s not surprising. There is extensive applied
economics technical literature on accounting for growth
Simon Kuznet`s

Modern Economic Growth: Rate, Structure and Spread
It finds that increases in labor and capital together
can`t account for more than half, and sometimes as
little as a tenth, of growth. What really matters is
technological change—innovation.

The economic evidence is clear: neither the


needs immigration. It continues because it
benefits powerful special interests, and because it
feeds into

elite anti-racism on both sides of the

Peter Brimelow is editor of

and author of the much-denounced

Alien Nation: Common Sense About America`s Immigration
(Random House –
1995) and

The Worm in the Apple
(HarperCollins – 2003)