Friday, October 15, 2004


In the discussion of immigration, one argument comes up repeatedly. That is, that immigrants, by taking low-level jobs, provide tremendous value to the US, and that, since they don't use services, this is a net plus.

Consider the following (from Front Page Magazine
That immigration is only to be considered from the standpoint of its economic effects has become such an accepted notion over the past 25 years that it has not occurred to many people what a bizarre idea it really is. The implication is that our well‑being as a society is solely a function of economic output. Matters of quality of life, social cohesion and continuity, aesthetic enjoyment, political liberty, national identity, and all the other intangibles that make up the life of a society—since these cannot be stated statistically, they don't count.

The aggregate wealth of the nation is not the only factor to consider.

that individual wealth does not necessarily increase, only the aggregate wealth. Meanwhile, our congested coastal and metropolitan areas have become two or three times more crowded. Pressure on open spaces and parks, stress on resources (increasing the need for burdensome regulations), crippling traffic congestion, displacement of older residents, as well as ethnic conflict, all become worse. Even as economic output goes up, overall quality of life can decline.

Anyone who has lived in a neighborhood with a high percentage of immigrants knows that the quality of life MAY OR MAY NOT stay the same or improve. It all depends on the culture that those immigrants bring in with them, and the degree to which those immigrants are moving up the socio-economic ladder.

I know. I have lived in many neighborhoods with a high immigrant population. Many were delightful neighbors, who shared my strong committment to family, hard work, and upward mobility.

Some were not. It didn't seem to matter where they were from, or what color they were, or even religion; if we shared an essential commonality to values, we were simpatico, as the Spanish speakers would say.

The real issue in a poor neighborhood is whether the person was content to wallow in their misery, or whether they would use the legal methods that are available in this country to upgrade their status.

Certainly, the majority of immigrants take low-paying, low-status jobs.
Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform pointed out:

[N]early 50 percent of all immigrants are working in the low-skilled category, a much higher percentage than is found in the U.S. labor force as a whole

That feature of immigrants may not be an unalloyed blessing. Taking a low-level job because you haven't sufficient education or training leads nowhere, unless you plan to use your time in the US to acquire skills that will help you qualify for better-paying employment.

The real issue should be expressed as:

Where are the immigrants preparing to be in 10 or 20 years? If they are not actively learning English, and improving their education and skills, they are on a road to nowhere.

Why wouldn't Americans want new immigrants? An example of the issues involved follows:
Suppose there were two families, the Smiths and the Joneses, living next door to each other. The two families get along, the children play together, the parents occasionally socialize with each other. Then one day the Joneses announce that they want to move in permanently with the Smiths. When the Smiths seem less than enthusiastic about this proposal, the Joneses say: "What's your problem? You have enough room, your house is bigger than ours, and we get along together. Besides, the nuclear family is only a modern invention. A dual family will enrich all of us." To back up these claims, the Joneses bring in an economist who says that two-family households have larger aggregate wealth than one-family households. They bring in a sociologist who cites studies showing that the children raised in two-family households have superior abilities in adjusting to different types of people in a diverse society. Faced with this aggressive challenge to their existence as a family, what can the Smiths say? Their family, as a unique, autonomous association, is an intrinsic, irreplaceable value to its members. It cannot be defended on the basis of quantifiable facts. In the same way, the nation is a family whose distinct character and values cannot be defended on a purely rationalistic basis. To insist that it do so is to deny its right to exist.

Go read the entire article.

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