Posted by Mitch Townsend on March 28th, 2006 (All posts by Mitch Townsend)
Everyone has had his crack at this subject. I don’t have answers for immigration issues. Maybe I can help, though, in at least arranging the arguments in some sort of order.
We have the H1-B program for legal admission of skilled workers in short supply in the US, but no such program for the unskilled. The current illegal alien influx is largely employment-related. The main beneficiaries are employers of low-wage unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. There is in fact an oversupply of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, but the illegal immigrants are willing to work for less than the minimum wage or the market rate for legal workers for similar work. Their illegal status is a factor favoring the employer, since the workers cannot go to the authorities for wage violations or safety concerns. This is a hidden labor market in the US whose members can never advance from their low-wage jobs. The various “guest-worker” schemes try to address the supply side of this labor market; penalties for employers address the demand side by raising the effective risk-adjusted cost of employing illegal aliens.
There is nothing preventing the US from admitting poor people from other countries for humanitarian purposes. Doing it by tolerating a high rate of illegal immigration is not a humanitarian policy, if it supports the exploitation of the workers (OK, so I’m a leftist). My fear is that we are creating a caste system. The next time you go to a restaurant, check behind it. The bicycles belong to the kitchen workers who cannot get driver’s licenses.
For skilled workers and professionals, why not privatize the job? An expanded H1-B type of program would let employers screen prospective immigrants and guarantee that they would have jobs upon arrival. Having been through my share of employment interviews from both sides, I’m pretty sure most employers would be more careful than the State Department visa clerks in Saudi Arabia were. There might need to be some qualifications for the employer to avoid the formation of front companies. While we’re at it, we might as well drop the pretense that we are bringing in workers from overseas because there are no Americans available for the job. With rare exceptions, this is a polite fiction.
We have a long-standing policy of admitting political refugees and deporting economic refugees. In the case of some of the poorest countries, we could be missing a chance to help both the immigrants and the people in their home countries. Immigrants send money directly to their relatives overseas. Foreign aid goes through many hands (and sticky fingers) before it goes to people who need it.
The other current humanitarian immigration program is family reunification and family sponsorship. This is actually the largest category of legal immigration. Was this the intention?
There has been a history in the US of claiming that whatever the current immigrants may be, they are different from all previous ones in terms of being unable to assimilate. Irish Catholics, Jews, Asians, and others have all had that argument applied to them, and it has been wrong every time. Europe’s problems may be attributable to both the host countries and the immigrants, in their mutual detestation. Their Middle Eastern and African immigrants came not because they wanted freedom, but because they needed money, and Europe had money. Their Muslim immigrants consider themselves the moral superiors of the degenerate Europeans, and refuse to assimilate on those grounds. The Europeans, in turn, hate and fear the immigrants. Europe’s tradition of “blood and soil” nationalism will not admit these foreigners on terms of equality. There can be no cultural accomodation where both parties are contemptuous of the other culture.
The recent demonstrations against US immigration policies, featuring Mexican flags and expressions of irredentism, raised the possibility that the US could face the European problem of an unassimilated immigrant minority. Gringo-bashing is almost a requirement in Mexican politics; crowds in Los Angeles cheer the Mexican soccer team and boo the American team and national anthem; the war that ended in 1848 is remembered, but the events of 1867, when the French dared not reinforce their puppet emperor in Mexico, are forgotten. Their country is about one-third the size of ours, and combined with their proximity, this could create an overwhelming intrusion.
My personal belief is that these fears are unfounded, even harmful. We are not Europeans, and neither are the Mexicans. Outside of the Anglosphere, there is no country closer to us culturally. (Depending on the definition, they are the only non-Anglospheric country in the world sharing a border with the Anglosphere.) They know the US quite well, much better than we know them, with mixed emotions of love and envy, longing and anger. They receive US television, and Spanish-language channels bring their telenovelas here.
This is probably the most self-aware immigration in our history. Here is what El Universal had to say about the French immigration problems (from Watching America):
Europe Should Make America’s ‘Melting Pot’ Its Own
Why is this problem occurring in France, but not the United States? Perhaps it’s because in the U.S. there is greater insistence on labeling the concept, with great precision, as a social phenomenon. This concept is aptly described by the Anglicism “the melting pot.” Everyone who lives in the United States “is cooked in the same pot” without ever considering national origin or immigration status. Those who fail to accept this will be rejected by the local [U.S.] culture. Of course, this alone doesn’t mean that Latinos, Vietnamese or Africans are automatically integrated into U.S. society.
They already get it. The author, by the way, is a Mexican writer named Gabriel Székely. How a Hungarian name surfaced in Mexico is left as an exercise for the student.