One thing that most Americans can agree on is that there's something wrong with the immigration system in this country. The Establishment is always trying to pass "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" a.k.a. amnesty plus. Most VDARE.COM readers would like something called "Patriotic Immigration Reform" a.k.a. massive reductions, maybe a moratorium. Nobody defends the current system, and with good reason.
Into this environment steps liberal policy wonk Darrell West [Email]with his recent Brain Gain: Rethinking US Immigration Policy. The back of this book has laudatory blurbs from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Executive Vice President of Hewlett-Packard, and the President of the Carnegie Corporation. In other words, this is the Establishment's case for their version of immigration reform.
I think they do have quite a bit of evidence in their favor when debating those calling for a complete moratorium. A full quarter of science and engineering businesses launched in the US between 1995 and 2005 had a founder that was born overseas. Sergey Brin, a native of Moscow, started Google.
Immigration reform patriots will get nowhere denying the contribution that some immigrants have made to the United States. But at the same time, the fact is that the bulk of migrants to America are not technical or scientific innovators, or even selected to be. Of 1,107,126 who aliens legally settled in the United States in 2008, 64 percent came through family unification programs, 19 percent were political refugees or "diversity" selections and only 15 percent employer-sponsored. And some years more than half of this lowest category are low-skilled. Which means that in a typical year, less than ten percent of the legal immigrants are skilled workers.
And that's just the foreigners with papers. The official estimate is that there are 12 million aliens in the United States illegally, up from as few as 8.4 million in 2000 and 5 million in 1996.
This mess started with the 1965 Hart-Celler Act, the original "Comprehensive Immigration Reform." The first thing the new law did was nearly double the total number of people let in to the country, going from 150,000 to 290,000 immigrants a year, while stipulating that 120,000 of the new Americans come from the Western Hemisphere. So-called "family unification" was given explicit preference over choosing for skills. Spouses, children, parents and siblings of immigrants could come to the United States without being counted towards the 290,000 limit.
West reports that before this bill was passed it was official government policy to maintain a northern European ethnic majority. New York Congressman Emanuel Celler, descended from Catholic and Jewish immigrants himself, justified the new law on what today would be called anti-racist grounds: "With the end of discrimination due to place of birth, there will be shifts in countries other than those of northern and western Europe." New York Senator and Irish Catholic Robert Kennedy praised the demise of country quotas but expected that at least the new system would be somewhat meritocratic. President Johnson and Edward Kennedy, for their part, downplayed the importance of the bill. Even Representative Celler said that few Africans and Asians would make it in.( Celler:"Immigrants from Asia and Africa will have to compete and qualify in order to get in, quantitatively and qualitatively, which, itself will hold the numbers down."Congressional Record, Aug. 25, 1965, p. 21812.)
West gives an interesting breakdown of how representatives from different parts of the country voted on the Hart-Celler Act. The overall breakdown was 326-69 in the House and 76-18 in the Senate. But 93 percent of the representatives from the Northeast, where many people were descendants of late-coming Catholics and Jews, voted for the bill compared to 27 percent of those representing the South.
Thus the fate of the American majority may have been sealed with the arrival of the first round of "diversity immigrants".
But, whether intended or not, the law set in motion the process of chain migration. A person comes to the United States and sponsors his brothers and sisters. They bring their spouses, who also bring their families, ad infinitum. We end up with a process that gives us almost three and a half times the upper limit set on immigrants in 1965 with only a small percentage settling in this country due to skills.
West, to his credit, sees how insane this process is. He'd like to keep the same numbers of people flowing into the country but would take away the emphasis on family unification. A high value immigrant should be allowed to bring his spouse and children and that's it.
West also recommends sealing the border, encouraging employers to use E-verify—and granting amnesty to the 12 million illegal aliens already in the country. With regards to the last suggestion, he even pulls out the strawman that the United States wouldn't be able to "deport them all".
But if all the rest of West's suggestions were followed, many illegals would leave on their own. We've been seeing a mass exodus from Arizona ever since the state passed SB1070 and there's no reason that "attrition through enforcement" can't work on a national level. Ending birthright citizenship would get rid of another major incentive for coming to America illegally.
While the border may be too long to prevent every poor Mexican from getting into the United States, the record clearly shows that increasing border security does cut down the number of illegal crossings. The amount of illegal immigrants caught trying to enter the country fluctuates by year. In 2000 1.6 million people were arrested on the border. In 2006, after under public pressure 6,000 border patrol agents were added and 526 miles of fence built, the number was down to 705,000. While a slower economy explains some of the difference, it seems more than likely that word has gotten around Mexico that the Americans are at least pretending to take this national border thing seriously.
It's been estimated that a 700-mile double steel fence would cost $49 billion a year. That sounds like a lot, until you remember that our wise leaders in Washington have spent $845 billion on the Iraq war and $250 billion on Afghanistan.
West is least convincing when he's talking about the cultural benefits immigrants bring to the United States. He mentions food a lot:
"Food sections of major newspapers are filled with stories about the culinary variety added to American life through foreign cuisines."
"They ask who can deny the value of 'Italian restaurants, French beauty shops, German breweries, Belgian chocolate stores, Russian ballets, Chinese markets, and Indian tea houses."
I like Sweet and Sour Chicken as much as anybody. But those who stress the downsides of diversity—in moderate cases, affirmative action and in extreme cases mass expulsions and genocide—have the better argument. If you have to appeal to our stomachs several times in making the case for diversity, the benefits are probably limited, to say the least.
Less humorous and more scary is when the author talks about what is needed to implement what he'd consider an acceptable immigration policy. His problem: the bigoted public won't let anything that looks like amnesty pass. Therefore, Congress should delegate power to make immigration policy to a new government agency, modeled after the EPA and Federal Reserve, both set up to circumvent democracy. It would decide how many and what kind of immigrants were allowed into the United States.
"On other controversial issues, Congress has opted for various types of institutional arrangements in which members set broad policy while administrative agencies work out the details...
"Given the technical issues involved in immigration reform and the virtue of depoliticizing the conflict, some advocacy organizations have proposed the creation of a federal immigration commission with authority to make decisions within broad parameters enunciated by Congress...once broad principles are determined by legislators, having an independent agency gather unbiased data and implement specific decisions would help in the long run to reduce contentiousness surrounding immigration discussion."
Now, I by no means fetishize democracy. There are sometimes when "the people" are wrong, usually in the economic sphere, and they simply should not have their way.
But if there's one thing that a people has the right to decide, it's what its country will look like demographically in the future.
Even when it comes to skilled immigration, the historic American nation has a right to determine that it doesn't want the importation of a racially or culturally alien ruling class. For example, there are a hundred million Chinese with IQs over 120: we don't want them as our new masters. Jewish immigration at the turn of the twentieth century has and continues to have effects that have nothing to do with economics.
In what Paul Gottfried calls the "therapeutic state", it's taken as a given that Western populations are always getting cultural matters wrong—that they need to be reeducated into good secular and non-sexist anti-racists by unaccountable bureaucrats and judges.
Taking decisions on migration policy out of the hands of legislators would be the rational conclusion of this widely accepted principle.
It is up to Americans not to let that happen. West's suggestion should be taken as a warning by immigration reform patriots. Beware of any legislation that even hints at putting future decisions relating to immigration into the hands of any "bipartisan" or "expert" commission, committee, agency, regulatory body, department, foundation, board, bureau, panel, task force, convocation, organization, institute, trusteeship, czar, crown prince, or anyone else not directly accountable to the American voter.
As long as the people have a say, the elites won't get their amnesty.
Richard Hoste (email him) writes prolifically on race, immigration, political correctness and modern conservatism. His articles have appeared at The Occidental Observer, The Occidental Quarterly and TakiMag among other places. His blog is HBD Books, where he regularly reviews classic and modern works on these topics.