Understanding Immigration Today
The problem with immigration has been discussed ad nauseum in just about every venue in the land from the state legislature to the local barbershop and all places in between, but seldom is the issue of culture raised as a key source of concern and trouble. The reason is that it is politically incorrect to suggest that a particular culture may not be compatible with the psyche of our nation; it is politically incorrect to suggest that we value one culture more than another; it is politically incorrect to point out how some cultures fail to bring about a viable way of life above misery and subsistence for its people.
If we think about someone moving from, say, Illinois to Washington, we are not alarmed, and we do not call them immigrants. Yet, if we think of someone moving from, say, Mexico to Washington, we do become alarmed (even if it is legal immigration) and we call them immigrants. We have been led to think that crossing an international border rather than a domestic/state border is the key difference making one an immigrant. This thinking, though, is silly. What really is at issue is the culture that each person moving into an area brings. Sure we can see in many cases superficial differences that allow us to spot a “foreigner” by sight, but these differences are superficial and of no consequence if the culture embodied in the foreigner is compatible with ours. That is the same as recognizing that most of us choose real friends not by, say, their looks or the cars they drive, but by the life values we share in common.
The PC atmosphere today insists that the culture of any tribe of some foreign land holds value to us such that we must accommodate that culture here, in our own country. With this in mind we have installed laws for bilingual education, created special community programs, allowed laws to be interpreted with the backdrop of foreign moirés, made special allowances for failure to meet our normal standards of behavior, etc. We no longer have the concept that immigrants are responsible for their assimilation into our society. The outcome of this thinking is the mess we currently have in which we see our country populated with enclaves of immigrants who have no incentive to join our society and have no reluctance to press their own narrow agendas in our own country. No other country in the world would tolerate this from us in role reversal.
Whether any of us admits it (and it is politically incorrect to do so), the culture that is/was the US has given mankind the best it has ever seen in terms of the human condition. Other cultures, such as those in Latin America, have not given the people of Latin America nearly the same advances. Just look at the data! How can you explain the stark differences in the conditions of those nations versus that of the US? I can give you a simple example: the bulk of the people of Venezuela live in terrible conditions, yet the country itself is rich in natural resources, probably more so than the US, on a per capita basis. The case with Mexico is similar but less dramatic. You can also consider the success of a country like Japan with few natural resources; why isn’t it an impoverished nation? There are many such examples to prove the point that culture is the key factor that determines outcome. We have been so “politically corrected” that we do not allow ourselves to see stark reality.
To the active harm caused by PC dogma discussed above add the fact that most of us do not understand much about how we have come to be a prosperous nation, so we have a dulled perspective about what is good for us and what changes might be harmful to us. Thus we often hear that we are a nation of immigrants to justify the PC view that we should accept anyone and everyone who is here (legally or illegally). That we are a nation of immigrants is correct but such a statement is absolutely as useless as saying water is wet. It suggests that all immigration is the same and that all circumstances are the same.
Quite to the contrary, the nature of the immigration of today is quite different than that of previous eras in the US. The immigrants prior to the establishment of our welfare state, risked life and limb for an uncertain future in our land of opportunity, the fabled USA. This process naturally selected for us the very hardiest and boldest of people that would come to our country. The bright from many countries came to us because they were free to pursue their dreams; they had skill and ambition. We apparently no longer understand the great value this immigration gave us. We seem ignorant of the fact that the bulk of Nobel Prizes in science has been awarded to immigrants in the US. We seem ignorant of the fact that the (domestic) immigration over the Oregon Trail built the West for us; those immigrants risked everything for the opportunity to try to make a better life. And we could find hundreds of such examples in our own history. So, we lump the typical immigrant of today who, for the most part, finds a safety net of welfare benefits and legislation guaranteeing a safe landing with the immigrant that built this nation. With benefits outweighing the risks it should be no surprise that we get a different kind of immigrant today than yesteryear. This thinking that all immigration is the same is just harmful nonsense that makes for silly attitudes and silly social and legal policies, such as discouraging or limiting the immigration of bright and healthy people in favor of unskilled and ill people.
In this discussion I did not reference the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. The public’s general sense of concern over the illegal immigrant being a scoff-law is somewhat misplaced. For supporting evidence I note that we tolerate blatant criminality in many of our political and entertainment icons, and at one time or another we all feel justified in breaking some law such as traffic laws. The real issue with illegal immigration is the lack of a limitation on the vast number of immigrants that come to us, thus making the process of assimilation very slow and nearly impossible especially given our current laws and attitudes. Furthermore, many of them already display a disregard for our culture of largely respecting the law and our sense of fair play (illegal immigrants cut ahead of the line of those waiting for legal immigration). Probably worst of all, they come with no intent of honoring our country by learning our language and adopting our customs; instead they congregate in large groups and flaunt their own culture –which already has failed them in their own country; (that is why many are here) – demanding that we accommodate them.
Can understanding these points lead to some sensible recommendations for public policy? Yes. Our legal mess, woven by lawyers and politicians, is so complex and opaque that lawyers and politicians have guaranteed themselves full time jobs cleaning up the mess… just like they have been doing for years. Their motivations seem not to be in concert with benefitting our country, but more in line with self-benefitting. Good solutions always are simple … just turn off welfare to eliminate the free ride… remove all special programs/laws that give status to anything that is not in the English language and not in the US Constitution. I encourage the reader to look at works by Thomas Sowell (and others such as Walter Williams) for some good reading on all matters of public policy, including immigration.
I leave what to do with the illegal immigrants currently residing in the US as an exercise for all of us to ponder, with an eye toward what is truly in the long term interest of our society. My own notion is that a practical and palatable solution to this specific immigration can be based on granting a work permit, with no possibility of citizenship ever, for those who have been productive members of our society for some minimum number of years. Deportation is the answer for the others.