On Legal Immigration

Over at the Hillaryspot a reader wrote the following in an email to Jim Geraghty,

“Take a look at your own magazine. Most NR writers aren’t even using the national security argument. Instead, it’s because low-wage, low-skilled Hispanics will vote for Democrats, or because they’ll work for such low wages, or because Hispanic or Muslim immigrants will “tear the social fabric of America asunder,” or something like that. Let’s pretend we had border enforcement. There will still be low-wage, low-skilled legal immigrants from poorer countries tied in with unions that will vote Democratic (at least to start with). Many of these NR writers don’t just want an end to illegal immigration, they want to severely restrict all immigration. Mark Krikorian freely admitted that in his articles yesterday and today. Today he rightly points out that most legal immigrants are still poor, low-skilled workers from places like Mexico and the Middle East. Were your great-grandparents, or whichever generation immigrated, rich, brilliant aristocrats? Instead, I bet the Geraghty clan was much like my family: poor, low-skilled workers who left for America to escape a complete lack of opportunity and political oppression. Sure they may have been tied in with unions and voted Democrat, but they also worked hard to send their children to college, and those children became part of the professional class, became more willing to vote Republican and are part of the reason why unions have nowhere near the strength today that they once had. Neither you nor I would be Americans today if Mark lived in the 19th century and was deciding immigration policy.”

Let’s talk about legal immigration, today and in the 19th and early 20th century.

First of all, the number of immigrants coming here was far smaller. They also were from a more diverse group of countries and there was much more pressure to assimilate. You also have to consider that there was no welfare state in place and that, in most cases, a manual laborer could make a much better living than he can today.

Today, we’re bringing in far more legal immigrants than we did back then and a truly enormous number of illegal immigrants. Moreover, multiculturalism is en vogue to such an extent that we don’t even have the guts to make English our official language and put some teeth behind it. Don’t even get me started on the welfare state that has been built up since then.

So a hundred years ago, if you had an immigrant who showed up here with minimal English skills and no education, he could make a decent living for his family and if he couldn’t, well he could go back to his home country or hope that he could feed his family at the local church-run soup kitchen. Moreover, there was a lot of pressure to assimilate — which is why we don’t have signs in German and Italian up everywhere today.

On the other hand, if an immigrant shows up here today with minimal English skills and no education, he’s probably going to end up working a lousy, low paying job and the moment he has a kid, he’s eligible for welfare and food stamps. Then, when he hits 50 years old and he blows out a back or a knee, and can’t pick fruit or wash dishes anymore, he’ll live out the rest of his life on the dole.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that our legal immigration is utterly and hopelessly broken. It takes people who want to come here years to navigate the system, which is a maze of red tape, and then once they’re here, the government immediately loses track of them.

Now, these problems are not impossible to fix — if you’re willing to use some common sense and your first concern is what’s good for America. The problem is that there are too many people whose attitude is, “To hell with the country, I want what’s good for me,” when it comes to immigration.

Democrats look at immigrants first and foremost as potential votes, are thrilled to see them on welfare for that reason, and demagogue making any changes whatsoever in the system as pure racism.

Republican businessmen and their political lackeys see immigrants as a source of cheap labor, which is the biggest reason so many Republican senators have such a zest for a never ending supply of illegal aliens. The businessmen pay the illegals slave wages, give them no benefits, and then everyone else pays for their health care (at the emergency room), their car insurance (They just don’t get any), and welfare, food stamps, etc., when they have a kid.

With that in mind, how should we tackle legal immigration? Well, the first thing we should do, ideally, would be to completely halt new entries into the country for 3 years so we could clear out the backlog in the system, update the computer systems, and get a workable enforcement system in place. Then, once that is complete we could even consider significantly raising the number of people allowed to emigrate here each year if….

#1) We bring in a better class of immigrants overall. We need to set up a system that puts a higher priority on engineers than dish washers, doctors than migrant workers, and scientists than ditch diggers. That doesn’t mean we can’t bring in some manual laborers, too, but given that we have, and will probably continue to have a high tech economy with a declining manufacturing base, it just makes sense to bring in more people who better fit with our workforce. The new system claims it will do that — 8 years from now, after accelerating the number of people brought in under chain migration. The truth is that if this bill becomes law, we’ll get the chain migration, but we’ll never get the skill-based immigration.

#2) We need to diversify where our immigrants are coming from and increase the number of people coming here from countries that are easier to assimilate. In other words, people from nations with a Western culture should get first priority and people from English speaking nations should also get a boost. One of the big concerns that many people have about immigration is that instead of assimilating immigrants, the immigrants are changing us. Focusing on immigrant groups that are easier to assimilate would help alleviate those concerns.

#3) Immigrants should be ineligible for welfare, food stamps, etc. as a condition of becoming American citizens, if not permanently, at least for a period of 10-15 years. Again, this takes care of another serious concern — that you have people coming here to turn the safety net into a hammock.

#4) Additionally we should put an end to dual citizenship and make English the official language. If you have citizenship in two nations, whether you are a loyal American or not is always in question. Moreover, this is an English speaking nation, it should stay an English speaking nation, and so if you want to become an American citizen, you need to learn to speak English.

If we were willing to make those changes, I’d feel comfortable with doubling or maybe even tripling our current legal immigration rates — although I will always oppose allowing illegal immigrants to become American citizens. Anyone who doesn’t respect this country enough to follow our laws about entering our country doesn’t deserve the high honor of American citizenship.

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