Unauthorized Book Review: Immigration Wars
It's not the economy. Instead, it's all about immigration.
Well, the two are not mutually exclusive. Still, somehow, the subject of immigration has lately taken center stage. In order not to turn toward it a blind eye, haphazardly hope it sorts itself out, those who will construct tomorrow's immigration policy will necessarily have to take into account the substance of a book written by Jeb Bush. At the very least, Immigration Wars, Forging an American Solution is instructive. It is not an in-depth analysis, since such a study would require multiple volumes. Immigration in 2014 is not an easy subject by any means. But the book serves to introduce, one after the other, the numerous issues involved, all of them important, that must be considered. The bi-partisan objective is to create a viable, fair, equitable, and socially advantageous immigration system. At present, no such thing exists.
According to Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker, "Immigration increases a country's human capital." (p. 72) No need to explain. After WWII, the U.S. and Russia competed for German scientists. This is merely one example. Most people know a thing or two about immigration from firsthand experience, education, and the media. Very few, however, comprehend immigration as it is practiced today in its entirety. America was and remains an immigration nation. The door has never shut on newcomers. Our Statue of Liberty still stands tall upon the waters outside New York City. But unbridled, lawless, and chaotic immigration, followed by deferred action, then amnesty, is debatable. It bristles. It creates resentment and anger. The book brings out the surprising fact that most Americans support immigration. The only caveat is that it be informed by smart, feasible laws and down-to-earth, truly enforceable law enforcement. Americans do not demand more.
It's Your Call
Politics is Not the Answer
Something along this line becomes apparent after reading on about the enormous difficulty involved in trying to get a grip on so large problem. Both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of reducing immigration to only a few aspects, such as the language barrier and welfare drain. There is so much more to consider. For instance, I did not realize until I got into the book that the United States was losing out on immigrants to nations like New Zealand. Somehow, very desirable, sought-after foreigners get lost in the shuffle. As Governor, Jeb Bush dealt with immigration on a constant basis. Florida, not unlike Arizona, maintains an economy that is never disconnected from immigration. Bush broke his state's economy down into three main components: agriculture, construction, and the hospitality industry. All three sectors employ immigrants. All are dependent upon them. But the subject of immigration is not so simple. Trends have shifted away from work-based immigration to immigration that is family-based. Recently, a young immigrant on a television interview expressed his joy, owing to Obama's most recent proposal, at being able to see his mother. Neither party deliberately separates families, but it is easy to see the political capital that emerges, whether earned or not. Window dressing, however, will not solve anything. In addition to work and family, there is also political asylum, as well as the painful awareness that America can, if possible, alleviate the suffering of human rights violations.
The media also plays a role, as it would in any three-ring circus. For the most part, it is about half right and half wrong all the time. Photo-shoots show irate Americans wielding signs yelling their lungs out at unwanted trespassers. True enough, some of the undocumented commit crimes. Their mug shots scare the willikers out of everybody. Emotions can rise to insufferable heights. Things get tense. Other pictures show women and children at the Rio Grande who have not yet even done anything, not so much as wade across. Still, their bewildered faces might well serve for targets at gun and ammo salons. These would-be immigrants are recipients of more wrath than they deserve. So, what should the agitated minority do? Probably calm down for starters. The silent majority is elsewhere. They are hundreds of miles away. The chief complaint all round remains the welfare state. No one really knows where tax dollars go, but it is a known fact that some supports unwed mothers and purchases food stamps. Not right in anybody's book. Still, it is hard to see another perspective, one that would welcome these selfsame people, who in the future could help maintain a healthier social security and medicare system. Americans are declining in birthrates. Immigrants take up the slack. They pay in, though they help themselves, it is thought, unstintingly, to endless services.
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Quick-studys will have to acquaint themselves with a variety of terms. There is, for instance, talk of a labor pipeline. Recently, Alabama decided, mostly on sentiment alone, to allow some of its commercial enterprise to fall into ruin rather than hire illegals. Often enough, it is the other way around. Some employers stay afloat only by hiring guest-workers. The upshot is that the American economy is actually losing out to Canada, China, France, Germany, and Australia. Some countries, like China, are hardline anti-immigrationists. But theirs is a highly populated nation with strict limits on births. To just say no to immigration would be a gamble as well as a losing proposition.
The book mentions a two-fold crisis dealing with employment. While on the one hand there is a lack of qualifications, there is also a paucity of jobs for the qualified. Highly educated foreign born job-seekers are in demand. Nevertheless, unskilled labor is equally essential. Who likes the fact that most apples now come from China? Suffice it to say that people are by definition diverse. Nearly everyone is capable of work and a self-sustaining life-style. Not in the book is the backlash against the 1980s, semi-popularized by Tom Wolfe in Bonfire of the Vanities. Bond traders are unlikely to call themselves "masters of the universe" any longer as they walk a fine line between and betwixt a new, angrier, nosier, more suspicious era. Not just inside traders, but minimum wage earners are making headlines. At the same time, many small as well as large businesses are in the process of disappearing. The astronomical cost of healthcare, insofar as it affects payroll, is not an irrelevant factor.
This Land is Whose Land?
A Short History of Immigration
It is important to understand that immigration troubles are not an exclusive product of our day and age. The book is sketchy but touches upon many of the key debates and arguments that form the history of how people came to America. Briefly, contested immigration is by now over 250 years in the making. In retrospect, it seems as though no one immigrated without encountering some resistance. Ben Franklin worried that too many Germans would overwhelm the Anglo majority in Pennsylvania. The Federalists took measures to monitor the Irish and the French in their Alien & Sedition Acts of 1798. The Know-Nothings were anti-Catholic. While railroads were being built, the Chinese became victims of bias. Fears concerning the use of foreign languages led to the closing of private schools. Southern and Eastern European immigration in the early 20th century stirred up hysteria over anarchy. Labor Unions, as might be expected, were fiercely anti-immigration, dreading the loss of American jobs. World War II, however, turned this prejudice around. Mexican labor was encouraged to fill in for a badly depleted American work force.
It goes on. In 1948, the United States invited post-war displaced persons to come ashore. Until 1875, state laws rather than federal paved the way toward immigration. They more or less dictated how it would be accomplished. The McCarran Walter Act of 1952 militated against racial classification. The Immigration Act of 1965 abolished national origin quotas. Since 1960, over 800,000 Cubans have immigrated. Later, we begin to deal with even more astronomical numbers. We read and hear about amnesty for millions of illegals. They are already here, well entrenched, working, getting educated, driving, and very possibly voting. While there are numerous heart-warming, flag-waving stories about immigrants (many of our high-tech, multi-billion $ companies are in part the result of their presence), the current animosity toward foreign immigration is due to the belief that the latest intruders do not embrace American values. There is no end of talk having to do with gun smuggling, drug dealing, human trafficking, exotic diseases, and perhaps only recently, the entrance of terrorists who mean to destroy America from the inside out. Much of the detraction could be valid. But how much? Since not every immigrant is armed, high, or bent on blowing things up -- what is the truth?
The Two-Way Street of Immigration
This nobody really wants to hear about and it is not included in the book. But there are many hard-working professionals and other competent men and women headed in the opposite direction. They are leaving America. They have not made their decisions lightly. It seems as though none left without agonizing at length over such a drastic move. Most, it can be admitted, experience an unanticipated sense of relief after having packed up, gone, and finally settled down. I know of no horror stories relating to this side story. Is America past tense? Isn't every place in the same predicament? Technology, like Attila, is the new scourge of God. It is wiping everything out, everything of value, and replacing what it eliminates with systems, devices, wiring, cable, wireless, gadgetry, and techno-words, too, that hardly anyone over the age of ten or twelve has any facility with. There is no question in my mind but that technology is a dead end. It does not go anywhere. It is the greatest scam of all time. If Americans find happiness elsewhere, well then, maybe they should hop a plane and not look back. If later they encounter trouble, we will, if we can, rescue them. It is a global world. There are opportunities in Panama that cannot be found in Nebraska. That much at least has to be taken into account. It also has to be taken into account that few countries can lift its poor and needy out of poverty and need. The United States, on the other hand, has been doing just that for centuries.
Is America Underpopulated?
Forget the post-Apocalypse. No one loves these futuristic depictions on movie screens showing teeming millions and endless vertical and horizontal concrete more than me. Try this. Take a cross-country drive on an Interstate and count the number of people you see along the way. Naturally, nobody wants to live right next to a busy highway. Exit and ride a side road. It is likely to produce the same result, only at a slower pace -- a self-guided grand tour of the middle of nowhere. But the greater point is that America, far from the largest country, nonetheless has a great deal of space. The fact of mass-amnesty unaccompanied by catastrophic fallout has given the lie to the idea that our country is not big enough to accommodate literally millions more. As to our beloved systems, primarily social security and medicare, they might have to be trashed in favor of more viable solutions. Let's be honest. Whatever the scenario, it would be astonishing should, without such relied-upon mechanisms, the sick and elderly be regularly deposited into gutters owing to the exhaustion of sacrosanct trust funds. Our economic problems are one thing. Population is merely a factor, however important, and far from the main one. More to the point, we are being outsmarted by many countries, some small in population, some large, who drive business away with better mouse traps, all of which has nothing whatsoever to do with what language is being spoken on the street, or how many hungry stomachs need to be fed before sleep.
Neil Diamond "Comin' to America"
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