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America’s need for immigrants

Al Cardenas, chair of the American Conservative Union, teamed up with John McLaughlin to produce an essay entitled “Do We Need More Immigrants?“  By “we” they mean America in general, and the answer they provide is “a resounding yes.”

The essay has two major sections.  In the first, Cardenas and McLaughlin cite an Opiniones Latinas survey that shows “the majority of Hispanics, particularly registered voters, agree with conservatives on the important issues of securing the border, E-verify, and no welfare for non-citizens.”

Actually, the results of his poll show the policy Hispanic adults most strongly support, by 77 percent, is “immigration reform which would include granting legal status to those who are already here and giving them a way, after a wait, to become citizens.”  If the question is rephrased to specify improved border security first, support drops by a dizzying 17 percent.  And support for denying food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, and ObamaCare to provisional citizens while they go through the legalization process is the most sharply divided of any question cited from the survey: 56 percent in favor of no benefits, 40 percent opposed.

This somewhat undercuts the premise of Hispanic appreciation for conservative principles, which has nothing to do with the primary focus of the article anyway.  If America really needs more immigrants, it shouldn’t matter if they’re likely to become Republican or Democrat voters.  Obviously, it’s politically relevant to conservatives whether these new voters will reinforce the Democrat Party, which stands radically opposed to our principles, and that is a perfectly reasonable topic for the chair of the American Conservative Union to explore.

But we’re supposed to be talking about whether America in general needs more immigrants, and our authors say it’s a slam-dunk resounding “yes.”  It’s a matter of demographics:

Ours is a declining native population. Much like Japan and Western Europe, if we fail to grow, ours will be a less productive, older workforce which cannot compete in today’s global economy without an infusion of younger workers. We need to retain foreigners educated in the sciences, engineering and math to complement our great needs for a highly skilled workforce as well as find workers who can meet our needs in agriculture, hospitality and construction.

The 11 million in our midst are generally younger and thus more productive. We have already trained many of them who currently work here and hundreds of thousands of youngsters came to our country through no fault of their own. They have served our nation patriotically in the military and many attend college and are ready to work. Some of my friends who have either never met nor really know these immigrants believe that they are “moochers” — that they came to America to receive benefits and not to contribute to it, but to take from it.

We need to import “foreigners educated in the sciences, engineering, and math” to keep the highly skilled end of the American workforce up to snuff?  I hear this argument a lot, but no one seems to interpret it as an absolutely devastating indictment of our massive education bureaucracy, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democrat Party.  (One might quibble about who owns who, given that the teachers’ unions are the Godzilla of Democrat special interest groups.)

Every time I hear the call for importing more high-skilled foreign workers, it makes me want to scream from the rooftops: Then why the hell are we pumping billions of dollars into the American education system?  The public-school product is so lousy that colleges spend much of their time on remedial education, leaving students with six figures of debt  in exchange for the basic knowledge their parents – and plenty of property owners who don’t even have children – already paid a fortune to provide.  The end product of this racket is so sub-par that we’ve got to bring in people from overseas with decent educations to keep America running.

We’re also told that we’ve got to import people for “agriculture, hospitality, and construction” too, even though years of Obama malaise have given us sky-high permanent unemployment and a rapidly shrinking workforce, which currently hovers around 1960s levels.  Unemployment is particularly acute for young people seeking entry-level and unskilled labor.  It’s even more painful for minority youth, which enjoys an unemployment rate roughly triple the national average.

Why in the name of sweet Reason should we be interested in importing millions of new people to make unemployment higher, and average wages even lower, for struggling legal citizens?  And it won’t stop with the 11 million immediately legalized people Cardenas and McLaughlin cite.  Throw in chain migration, and you’re looking at closer to triple that number within the next decade.  And contrary to the “90 percent border security” discussed in the Opiniones Latinas survey, the Senate immigration bill would only reduce illegal immigration by half at best.

Mr. Cardenas, who I assume wrote the first-person sections of the essay, relates his own experiences as a hard-working legal immigrant… but then worries the America which helped him assimilate and prosper no longer exists:

But, today America is different. Not because of our immigrants but because of a federal government which has chipped away at our ability to celebrate the virtues of American exceptionalism, the obligations of self-reliance and love of country.  It’s a federal government that has showered more than one hundred million Americans with one form of federal benefits or another — a government which incentivizes government dependency over individual thrift.

We have an obligation to reconfigure the safety net in our country and Congress needs to pass immigration reform which will offer legal status to these 11 million folks but on the condition that they receive no benefits whatsoever from our federal government.

Which brings me to my fundamental point of disagreement with many advocates of “comprehensive immigration reform.”  I really wish we had the sort of economy that could turn 11, 30, or 50 million new immigrants into productive assets with respectable speed.  But we don’t.  We are laughably far from such an economic, cultural, and political system.  We’re at least three years away from the remote chance of a President who would not veto every sane measure to restore it.  And even the most brilliant economic and political reforms proposed by the most dazzling conservative President would take years to pass and implement.  Barack Obama inflicted generational damage on the American economy, and he only accelerated forces that were already in play.

From a conservative political standpoint, importing a new voting base that favors Big Government socialist policies by 70 to 80 percent – which is, regrettably, true of Hispanic voters, even if 56 percent of them say they would oppose giving amnestied aliens immediate access to the welfare system – is not going to help turn things around.  I would agree that reaching out to these voters is possible, necessary, and ethically mandatory for conservatives, but it’s foolish to pretend we are not undertaking an uphill climb.  A steady, or even increased, level of legal immigration is one thing.  The political fallout from the amnesty H-bomb is quite another.

It seems to me that three major problems are highlighted by Mr. Cardenas:

1. We need more stable marriages and intact families to correct our demographic decline.

2. We need a better education system to produce American workers who can keep the high-tech economy humming.

3. We need a way for people who need lower-skilled work to find gainful employment, and hopefully advancement.

None of those problems is necessarily made more intractable by a solid level of legal immigration.  But why should the conservative solution to any of them involve giving up on the existing American population and importing a new one, on a massive scale?  Of course we “need” some level of immigration, and we’d allow it even if we didn’t need it, because we are a generous and welcoming nation.  But do we need a steady stream of carefully controlled immigration, or the full blast of a fire hose?  If we truly need the latter, we have dire national problems that conservatives should be dedicated to correcting.

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