Immigration and American Strength

When progressives tout their claims that most Americans want immigration reform, they rightfully could include me, even though I am absolutely against amnesty and abhor the steps they want to foist on the public.  A properly constituted immigration system that awarded preferences to people who bring needed education, skills, and capital to the United States would greatly strengthen our country, enhance our prosperity, and ensure that we retain our economic, technological, cultural, and moral leadership in the world.

In this position, I differ from the views of my colleague Selwyn Duke, whose article today argues that immigration weakens the United States, and despairs of the problems inherent to the Nationality Act of 1965, as if no fundamental restructuring along the lines currently followed by Canada and Australia is conceivable.  Those two Anglosphere siblings of the United States give preferences to educated and prosperous immigrants who can add value to their economies, and are the most receptive to immigration among Western nations precisely because they are benefiting from the immigrants they let in.

A member of Congress recently told a group I was in that he spoke with an official in the Canadian embassy who only half-jokingly pleaded with him to not allow the United States to change its immigration policy, because if we did something rational along Canada’s lines, we would lure away the sort of immigrants Canadians so powerfully benefit from.  The United States is unquestionably the most attractive nation for strivers to seek to enter.  While both Canada and Australia are fine places with wonderful people, neither offers the scope and variety that America can offer.

A cursory look at the Silicon Valley workforce makes the point that highly educated immigrants are vital to the success of the high tech sector that currently powers America’s economy.  Those who claim that jobs are merely being taken away from qualified American tech workers by low-paid temporary workers are mistaken.  A study fifteen years ago found that one quarter of the firms in the Silicon Valley area were run by CEOs of Chinese or Indian origin, and the portion today likely is even higher.

There is a phenomenon that has proven a serious harm to many of the countries of Western Europe and to Japan: what some people call the “rich country disease.”  Children who grow up in affluence, or who are raised with a sense of entitlement, tend to lose their edge, their energy, and their aggressive pursuit of success in dismaying numbers.  Social welfare programs only aggravate this problem.

Immigrants who come here for the opportunity we offer suffer from no such ailment, and they provide a bracing dose of competition for Americans who might be tempted to slack off.

We don’t need any more poor and unskilled immigrants in this country.  A century ago, a strong back and a willingness to work were all that were needed to succeed, and millions came here and flourished on that basis.  Today, we need science, technology, engineering, and math skills, and our schools are not producing enough people with those skills.  Attracting entrepreneurial people with these skills is a non-zero-sum project, unlike unskilled immigrants who only compete with Americans in the same sector of the labor market and drive down wages.

The Republicans in the House and Senate should be putting forth an alternative approach to legal immigration, targeting people who can add to our prosperity, not drain social welfare resources and compete for a diminishing pool of jobs in the unskilled labor market. 

When progressives tout their claims that most Americans want immigration reform, they rightfully could include me, even though I am absolutely against amnesty and abhor the steps they want to foist on the public.  A properly constituted immigration system that awarded preferences to people who bring needed education, skills, and capital to the United States would greatly strengthen our country, enhance our prosperity, and ensure that we retain our economic, technological, cultural, and moral leadership in the world.

In this position, I differ from the views of my colleague Selwyn Duke, whose article today argues that immigration weakens the United States, and despairs of the problems inherent to the Nationality Act of 1965, as if no fundamental restructuring along the lines currently followed by Canada and Australia is conceivable.  Those two Anglosphere siblings of the United States give preferences to educated and prosperous immigrants who can add value to their economies, and are the most receptive to immigration among Western nations precisely because they are benefiting from the immigrants they let in.

A member of Congress recently told a group I was in that he spoke with an official in the Canadian embassy who only half-jokingly pleaded with him to not allow the United States to change its immigration policy, because if we did something rational along Canada’s lines, we would lure away the sort of immigrants Canadians so powerfully benefit from.  The United States is unquestionably the most attractive nation for strivers to seek to enter.  While both Canada and Australia are fine places with wonderful people, neither offers the scope and variety that America can offer.

A cursory look at the Silicon Valley workforce makes the point that highly educated immigrants are vital to the success of the high tech sector that currently powers America’s economy.  Those who claim that jobs are merely being taken away from qualified American tech workers by low-paid temporary workers are mistaken.  A study fifteen years ago found that one quarter of the firms in the Silicon Valley area were run by CEOs of Chinese or Indian origin, and the portion today likely is even higher.

There is a phenomenon that has proven a serious harm to many of the countries of Western Europe and to Japan: what some people call the “rich country disease.”  Children who grow up in affluence, or who are raised with a sense of entitlement, tend to lose their edge, their energy, and their aggressive pursuit of success in dismaying numbers.  Social welfare programs only aggravate this problem.

Immigrants who come here for the opportunity we offer suffer from no such ailment, and they provide a bracing dose of competition for Americans who might be tempted to slack off.

We don’t need any more poor and unskilled immigrants in this country.  A century ago, a strong back and a willingness to work were all that were needed to succeed, and millions came here and flourished on that basis.  Today, we need science, technology, engineering, and math skills, and our schools are not producing enough people with those skills.  Attracting entrepreneurial people with these skills is a non-zero-sum project, unlike unskilled immigrants who only compete with Americans in the same sector of the labor market and drive down wages.

The Republicans in the House and Senate should be putting forth an alternative approach to legal immigration, targeting people who can add to our prosperity, not drain social welfare resources and compete for a diminishing pool of jobs in the unskilled labor market.