Signs of Intelligent Life at the New York Review of Books


Harvard sociologist Christopher Jencks has written a two-part review-essay on immigration in
the New York Review of Books. Most of the ideas
appearing there will be familiar to readers of
VDARE.COM, but not to readers of the NYRB, who are
mostly the people who supported the

winning side

in the

Vietnam War.

Entitled “Who Should Get In?” (Part
1
,

Part 2
) the articles examine the various issues
raised by

Alien Nation
,
which receives the same sort of
brief mention as the other books but for some mysterious
reason not actually listed as being under review. Maybe
Jencks just likes arguments better if they come from
liberals:

In

The Case Against Immigration
 
Roy
Beck, a liberal journalist, argues that if Congress had
not restricted immigration in 1924, second- and
third-generation immigrants from Southern and Eastern
Europe would have proven much harder to assimilate.
(Peter Brimelow, a conservative journalist, makes a
similar argument in Alien Nation.)

But  it`s a strikingly balanced
and helpful piece, introducing the history of

immigration restriction,
the story of the

IRCA amnesty
in `86, and the

Jordan Commisssion.
to an audience unlikely to be
familiar with them. Looking at the statistics of today`s
immigration in the United States, Jencks makes a
statement that reformers should probably memorize:

If this trend were to continue, either because of
incremental changes in the number of legal admissions or
because of new amnesties, the total population would, as
I have suggested, exceed

500 million by 2050
.

When I first made these calculations, I viewed them
as statistical fantasies. Long before 2050, I thought,
the electorate would revolt. Every European country that
has experienced high levels of immigration has seen such
a revolt. But Congress will not curtail the growth of
immigration just because poll data show that the public
favors such a change. Immigration will level off only if
the

political groups
that drove it up over the past
generation become weaker or if those who want
immigration reduced become stronger. Once I posed the
problem this way, my statistical projections no longer
seemed so fanciful.

He also

usefully
demolishes the “Immigrants only take jobs
Americans don`t” want myth:

Since 1970, immigration has
increased the number of unskilled job applicants faster
than the number of skilled job applicants. First-year
economics predicts that increasing the relative number
of unskilled workers will depress their wages, because
employers will not need to raise wages to attract
applicants for unskilled jobs. Nonetheless, those who
favor an expansive immigration policy often deny that
the increase in the number of unskilled job applicants
depresses wages for unskilled work, arguing that
unskilled immigrants take jobs that natives do not want.
This is sometimes true. But we still have to ask why
natives do not want these jobs. The reason is not that
natives reject demeaning or dangerous work. Almost every
job that immigrants do in Los Angeles or New York is
done by natives in Detroit and Philadelphia. Far from
proving that immigrants have no impact on natives, the
fact that American-born workers sometimes reject jobs
that immigrants accept reinforces the claim that
immigration has depressed wages for unskilled work.”

Furthermore, while all of VDARE.COM`s readers are
familiar with the idea that immigration adds to the
welfare burden, Jencks may be the first person to
tell this to an audience of New York liberals:

Because immigrants earn less than
natives, they are also more likely to need means-tested
government benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, and
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. Congress limited
noncitizens` right to this kind of public assistance in
1996, but immigrants still receive it more often than
natives.

He also
raises an important point about assimilation – the

new phenomenon
called “downward
assimilation.”  

Most
Americans assume that once immigrants arrive in America
our goal should be to make them more like us. We usually
refer to this process as Americanization or
assimilation.

Legacies
,
by Alejandro Portes and Rubén Rumbaut, tracks the
Americanization of second-generation immigrants in the
San Diego and Miami areas. The book`s most valuable
contribution is to show why so many immigrants are
ambivalent about Americanization and why we should share
this ambivalence. The reason is obvious once you think
about it. Whether

Americanization
is good or bad for immigrants depends on
which Americans the immigrants come to resemble.
Immigrants tend to be poor. If their children come to
resemble the children of poor Americans, they are headed
for

trouble.

Portes and Rumbaut call this
“downward assimilation.”

Asian or
Mexican teenagers who assimilate to Al Sharpton or Snoop
Doggy Dog aren`t doing themselves or any one else any
favors. Teenagers who assimilate in this way make
themselves unemployable even for the low-level jobs
their parents have.

What is
the use of trying to assimilate immigrants through
today`s school system?

In the
early twentieth century, kids went to school, learned to
read and write, and were taught in History, Civics, and
even English classes to love America whether they wanted
to love America or not.

Today they
can go to school in the same buildings, not learn
to read and write, and be taught, via Social Studies and
Language Arts, to despise America, again whether they
like it or not, against a background of gang violence.
Jencks reports that it`s so bad, that some immigrants
are abandoning the American school system:

Some
try to protect their children by moving to safer
suburban districts, even when this means

cramming
six or seven people into three or four
rented rooms. But while suburban schools are usually
safer than inner-city schools, many immigrants still
find them too permissive. Portes and Rumbaut report that
some anxious Caribbean immigrants send their teenagers
back to the islands for secondary school.

If it`s
that bad, perhaps immigration may have to stop until it
gets fixed, on the principle that you don`t invite
people over to stay at your house when your house is on
fire.

It must be
viewed as an excellent sign that the New York Review
of Books
published a balanced discussion of
immigration (“balanced” being defined here as not using
the words “xenophobic“,”
racist“,

“nativist”
or “Know-Nothing“)
leading to the inexorable conclusion that reform is
required.

Can we
expect the

New York Times
t
o follow suit?

We have no
hope for the

Wall Street Journal
.

List of Books Reviewed by Jencks


The Ecological Indian: Myth and History

by Shepard Krech
III


The Case Against Immigration

by Roy Beck


Heaven`s Door: Immigration Policy and the American
Economy

by

George J. Borjas


America`s Demography in the New Century: Aging Baby
Boomers and New Immigrants as Major Players

by William Frey
and Ross DeVol


The Handbook of International Migration: The American
Experience

edited by
Charles Hirschman, Philip Kasinitz, and Josh DeWind


Immigration from Mexico: Assessing the Impact on the
United States

by Steven
Camarota


The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal
Effects of Immigration

edited by James
P. Smith and Barry Edmonston


Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation

by Alejandro
Portes and Rubén G. Rumbaut


The Handbook of International Migration: The American
Experience

edited by
Charles Hirschman, Philip Kasinitz, and Josh DeWind


Strangers Among Us: Latino Lives in a Changing America

by Roberto Suro


Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and
American Realities

by Mary C.
Waters


The Congressional Politics of Immigration Reform

by James G.
Gimpel and James R. Edwards Jr

January 02, 2002