Critical Considerations for Immigration Reform

Commencing with the earliest settlements, America's eventual rise to superpower status was in no small measure due to the continual flow of gifted, venturesome immigrants coming to her shores with little more than their hopes, dreams, skills, and willingness to apply these to forge a new life for themselves and their families.  They thirsted for liberty and economic opportunity while accepting the responsibilities of dealing with the risks and privations that lay ahead, collectively achieving their goals through hard work and perseverance.

That was then; this is now.  Current immigration policy is not only very costly to the taxpayers, who ironically subsidize both the influx of poor people to expand the Democrat voter base and the "cheap" labor big business craves, but also against fundamental national interest.  In fact, current immigration law is resulting in demographic shifts that not only threaten to change America into a one-party state, anathema to a democratic republic, but may eventually introduce internecine ethnic conflict that threatens the Union.

Our immigration policies worked well prior to 1965, assuring the existing national ethnic and cultural mix and encouraging assimilation.  However, in the wake of the momentous Civil Rights Act of 1964, passed with wide bipartisan support, then-current immigration policies appeared exclusionary and were decried by political liberals and many conservatives as manifestly racist or discriminatory, spurring the passage of the Democrat-sponsored Immigration Act of 1965  (Hart-Cellar).  Democrat luminaries of the period such as Lyndon Johnson himself, Robert Kennedy, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk gave the new legislation unqualified support, while Ted Kennedy, a leading advocate, reassured the country that the nation's demographic mix would not be impacted.  As events would prove, such supporters either lied or were woefully mistaken. 

The new legislation repealed previous immigration policy, increased the number of immigrants allowed into the country to  290,000 annually (a number destined to climb dramatically in the decades to come), eliminated national origin quotas, and introduced a new overriding policy of reuniting families.  This became the very crux of our current immigration problems: the vast majority of today's immigrants are no longer being admitted on the basis of skills they can provide the country, with which they can be self-supporting; rather the primary goal is to reunite them with family members already here.

The result has been that poor and unskilled immigrants are often reunited with poor and unskilled relatives, producing a concatenation of relatives and the much-abused "chain migration" reportedly depopulating entire villages in Mexico while imposing mounting socio-economic costs on America.

This juncture calls for a jaundiced-eyed, 20/20-hindsight reassessment of the Democratic Party's zealous sponsorship of Hart-Cellar Immigration Act which proved so wrong in its demographic prognostications.  How much of this legislation was humanitarian and designed to correct the wrongs of past discrimination, and how much was it to expand the Democratic Party's future voter base?  For that matter, what were the true motivations behind the Civil Right Act of 1964 and the ensuing Great Society legislation?  There may well have been a cynical ulterior motive driving such legislation.  In Inside the White House, Ronlad Kessler quotes Lyndon B. Johnson commenting on the Great Society:  "I'll have those n-----s voting Democrat for the next two hundred years."

For better or worse (mostly the latter), Lyndon Baines Johnson is one of America's most "transformative" presidents, leaving a legislative legacy of enormous import, overshadowing by far that of FDR and, as of today, Barack Obama.  By happenstance or intent, the Johnson-era Civil Rights Act, Great Society, and Hart-Cellar legislation produced not only an inexorably expanding government, but also a captive, growing voter base heavily dependent on government entitlements, initially composed mostly of poor blacks but now reinforced by an exploding Hispanic immigrant demographic.  Together, these two groups constitute a formidable voting bloc that threatens to dominate future national elections, placing in jeopardy the multi-party democracy essential for the Republic's survival.

The results of the 1965 Immigration Act bear examination.

There are now more than 40 million legal immigrants residing in the United States, with about an additional 12 to 15 million expected to arrive over the next decade.  Regardless, the United States still grants legal residency to more immigrants annually than do the rest of the world's nations combined.  Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 14 million immigrants were granted legal residency, while another estimated 5 million entered the country illegally.  These numbers are so great that many immigration proponents now avoid even mentioning our fabled Melting Pot, now cracked and overflowing, because assimilation in many Hispanic areas has slowed and even halted, being dismissed by some Latinos and immigration proponents as almost passé.  As a result, according to the Census Bureau, the nation's current majority composed of whites of European descent will be relegated to minority status by 2042.

Though European leaders are calling multiculturalism a failure, American immigration supporters are still promoting multiculturalism and diversity as laudable goals.  No longer is it e pluribus unum  -- one out of many -- but the "mosaic" and "salad bowl" metaphors that are increasingly being promoted.  This does not augur well for America's future because, though the melting pot can produce alloys tough as steel, the mosaic shatters with a sharp blow, and the salad bowl -- well, one can just toss its contents away.  

The heaviest immigrant inflow is from our next-door neighbor Mexico.  Unfortunately, according to Pew Research, 04/23/2012, Mexican immigrants are woefully less educated than other immigrants, 60% having less than a high school education compared to 21% of other immigrants.  Only 5% have a college degree compared to 36% of other immigrants (and 65% for Asian immigrants).  Furthermore, they possess few skills a modern economy needs, with many unable to read or write in their own language, let alone English.  Because they're generally qualified for only low-wage jobs, they're eager for whatever government assistance is available.

Unsurprisingly, Pew Research reports that 83% of first-generation Latinos express preference for big government, dropping only to 71% for the second generation.  In comparison, Asian immigrants' numbers are 57% and 47%, the latter much closer to the general public's preference of only 39%.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, in its 2012 Annual Flow Report, 65% of new legal permanent residents (LPRs) were granted permanent resident status based on a family relationship.  That means that over 650,000 immigrants were allowed permanent legal residency without having passed financial and/or skills requirements.  Though some of these may actually exist on paper, enforcement is minimal, as evidenced by broader statistics.

Specifically, according to IBD, August 9, 2012, new census data reveal that 43% of all immigrants remain on welfare 20 years after arriving in the U.S., a devastating statistical indictment of our current immigration policies.  Furthermore, in the case of qualifying legal immigrants, there are the additional costs of various assistance programs that should considered, such as Medicaid, food stamps, housing assistance, K-12 education, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the tax child credit.  According to controlling legislation, illegal aliens are not eligible for most of these benefits, but in actuality, these laws are easily circumvented -- and if just one family member is an LPR, a lot of government services become available.  Additional statistics come from the Center for Immigration Studies showing that we are effectively importing poverty from Central America, principally Mexico.  The percentage of Mexican immigrants residing in America, in or near poverty, is a stunning 62.9%.

The most distressing aspect immigration today is that Hispanics (unlike Asians) are not assimilating.  They self-segregate into Hispanic communities to become part of a growing adversarial underclass, magnified by a Hispanic high school dropout rate almost twice that of the blacks.  Tellingly, the third-generation Hispanic has a lower median income than the first.  More troubling, many Chicanos actually disdain assimilation, having been taught that the Southwest was stolen from Mexico in 1848 and thus considering themselves indigenous inhabitants reclaiming Mexican territory.  Predictably, the Hydra-headed monster of irredentism and separatism has appeared in the form of movements such as Reconquista, Aztlan, MEChA, and La Raza.  With the Chicano population growing rapidly, this may well presage future internecine ethnic strife in the Southwest.  To understand how unchecked, non-assimilating immigration can destroy a country, one need go back no farther than recent history: Kosovo, a former province of Christian Serbia, now an independent Muslim state.

All the foregoing elicits the obvious questions: why are we allowing so many immigrants into America who have little or nothing to contribute, much less granting them green cards?  Why are we importing poverty from anywhere?  Why are we adding to welfare rolls when we have a surfeit of domestic recipients and our national debt is almost $17 trillion?  Why are we ignoring potential future ethnic conflict?  America is the world's unchallenged immigration magnet, yet we are more concerned with reuniting families, supporting most of them at taxpayers' expense, then we are in doing what's in the national interest: welcoming the motivated, educated, highly trained people from all over clamoring to come here.

What is wrong with this picture?  And it is this picture that should be the focus for immigration reform.