Mexican Wave
June 09, 2005, 09:00 AM
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[ note: This piece appeared last week in the UK Spectator, 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 neoconservative 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 Right as on the Left—that immigration is good for Americans and good for the American economy.

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 Hispanic, 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 has quite openly taken the historic decision to dump its poor on the American welfare state—a phenomenon sometimes called "the Mexodus"—and to encourage them not to assimilate.

"You`re Mexicans—Mexicans who live north of the border," 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 "regain" it.

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 is 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 2000 there were 5.6 million, an increase of 40 per cent since 1990. Unmistakably, the melting pot has sprung a leak.

Mass immigration was unleashed 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 impact 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, will 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 "The 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 Britain.)

But the consensus is unmentionable in the mainstream financial press. (I`ve tried.) Even the Economist 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 capital. This by itself explains much of the American immigration debate or, more accurately, lack of it. Big political donors, like Silicon Valley and agribusiness, 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 Anglosphere. 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 Australian Committee for Economic Development found that increased immigration had no clear beneficial effect on output per capita. More recently, David Coleman and Robert Rowthorn reported 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 (for example, 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 US nor Europe needs immigration. It continues because it benefits powerful special interests, and because it feeds into pathological elite anti-racism on both sides of the Atlantic.

Peter Brimelow is editor of VDARE.COM and author of the much-denounced Alien Nation: Common Sense About America`s Immigration Disaster (Random House - 1995) and The Worm in the Apple (HarperCollins - 2003)