Editor’s note: This is the second installment in an ongoing debate about U.S. immigration policy, featured exclusively at WND. This column by Cafe Con Leche Republicans President Bob Quasius is a rebuttal to a commentary by The Center for Immigration Studies’ Steven Camarota, “No ‘green card lite’ for illegal aliens.” Be watching WND for Camarota’s response to this column.
In his opening argument, Steve Camarota stated that America doesn’t have an immigration policy because we don’t enforce immigration laws. However, President Obama will deport his 2 millionth immigrant next month, far surpassing any previous president, in just five years.
We already have thousands of pages of immigration laws and regulations, not much changed since 1965 – but our policy is badly out of touch with changing demographics and economy. The only major policy changes in recent decades added more enforcement. These changes increased deportations and border security dramatically, but failed to live up to their promises of stopping illegal immigration. This enforcement effort reveals what conservatives have known for centuries: More enforcement by itself cannot transform bad policy into good policy.
Incredibly, Camarota says we should slash legal immigration from 1.1 million to 300,000 to make immigration “manageable” – yet as a percentage, legal immigration levels are now barely half that of other developed nations. Developed nations with stronger economies welcome more legal immigrants!
We need smart, market-based immigration policy. Fixed quotas don’t change the economics that drive migration, and the progressive notion of fixed quotas is deeply flawed and smacks of a government-planned economy. Government’s proper role is in public safety: Guard our borders, and screen out criminals, terrorists and those with contagious diseases. Cutting lawful immigration will undoubtedly increase illegal immigration, especially as our economy rebounds from our Obama economic nightmare.
With these cuts we would rank third-lowest among developed nations. Japan’s adult diaper sales recently surpassed baby diaper sales, due to aging, chronic low fertility rates, very low immigration and strict enforcement, which is much easier as an island nation. Most of our population growth in recent decades was driven by immigration, but our population is still aging. Shall we become a geriatric nation like Japan is becoming, or enjoy economic stimulus and robust growth from more legal immigration?
All nine nations with higher per capita gross domestic product (GDP) welcome at least twice as many legal immigrants (as a percentage); all but two have a higher foreign-born population. Nations with low fertility rates but that compensate with higher rates of legal immigration show strong economies.
Our neighbor Canada welcomes twice as many legal immigrants, has a 5 percent higher per capita GDP and a 50 percent higher foreign-born population. The Senate immigration-reform bill under consideration incorporates recent improvements by Canada.
Australia welcomes three times as many legal immigrants, and has a 35 percent higher per capita GDP, with double our foreign-born population.
Tiny Luxembourg welcomes 10 times as many legal immigrants, with double our per capita GDP and triple our foreign-born population. Norway welcomes three and a half times as many legal immigrants, with double our per capita GDP and comparable foreign-born population.
Densely populated Macao compensates for the world’s lowest fertility rate by welcoming four times as many legal immigrants, with 57 percent higher per capita GDP. Fifty-eight percent of Macao residents are foreign-born, mostly from bordering China.
Based on the dire warnings of recent years from the Center for Immigration Studies and other restrictionists, these nations should all be basket cases, yet somehow all have thriving economies.
In the Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers complained about King George’s immigration restrictions and clearly wanted America to be more welcoming to immigrants:
“He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.”
Since independence, we’ve experienced illegal immigration whenever immigration policy is disconnected from economics. Black markets are created whenever government unreasonably restrains free market economics.
America didn’t have widespread illegal immigration until early modern progressives decided on immigration restriction as a tool of eugenics and social engineering. National-origin quotas were imposed in the early 1920s, which heavily favored Western European nations.
Before quotas, Italian immigration was 200,000 per year, and Ellis Island (now closed) admitted 98 percent of immigrants. After a quota of 3,845 was imposed on Italy in 1924, within a few years there were several million immigrants here illegally from Italy and other low-quota nations. They were granted amnesty because it was impractical and economically unwise to deport them all.
During the Great Depression, “Mexicans” were declared “illegal aliens,” and upwards of 1 million (60 percent of them citizens and the rest mostly legal immigrants), were deported. There’s no evidence these deportations reduced joblessness.
World War II caused labor shortages, and the braceros program was created to bring Mexican workers here. Braceros worked well until a resurgent post-war economy required far more guest workers than quotas. After Eisenhower expanded quotas to meet demand, deportations fell 90 percent.
Braceros ended in the mid-1960s at the insistence of big labor and were never replaced. Ever since we’ve had widespread illegal immigration. Congress failed to follow up the 1986 amnesty with more border security until years later and never reformed guest-worker programs as promised. Current low-skilled guest visa programs are so regulated and expensive that it is very difficult for businesses to use them. For example, four federal agencies regulate agricultural guest workers, with so much red tape and high cost that most farmers prefer illegal workers.
Most economists agree that immigrants complement rather than compete with American workers. According to the most pessimistic academic studies, unskilled unauthorized immigrants slightly depress the wages of unskilled American workers, but raise the wages for other Americans. Interestingly, legalizing their immigration status will raise the wages of all workers – especially in the long run.
The Senate bill doesn’t fully harmonize immigration policy with free-market economics. With 55 Senate Democrats beholden to big labor, new policy will still lean restrictionist, but it is still a big improvement.