Thomas Jackson, American Renaissance, November 2008
Mark Krikorian is the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, and probably the most frequently quoted spokesman for immigration restriction. His group does excellent research—from how H-1B visas really work to whether immigrants will bail out the Social Security system—and it was entirely to be expected that Mr. Krikorian would make strong arguments in his book, The New Case Against Immigration. As we will see, one of his basic points—the very one he calls “new”—is hopelessly wrong, but it hardly matters. The more people read this book, the better the country will be.
One powerful reason to oppose immigration is that it has driven 80 to 90 percent of our population growth over the past several decades. As Mr. Krikorian points out, Americans have, in effect, made a collective decision to have just enough children to keep the population stable. Our government has overruled that decision by importing more than a million people a year, making us the one developed country that is growing at Third-World rates. In 1945, we had a population of about 125 million, and no one thought that wasn’t enough. There are now 300 million of us crammed into the same country, and the Census Bureau predicts 500 million by 2050.
Some of the consequences are obvious: urban sprawl, crowded schools, bad traffic. Mr. Krikorian notes that in 1982, 12 percent of all car travel took place during times of peak congestion. Twenty-one years later it was 40 percent. In the same period, the number of cities with awful traffic went from 5 to 51. We claim to be working towards energy independence, yet we keep importing more people for whom we will have to import more oil.
Mr. Krikorian also makes the interesting point that the denser the population, the denser the laws and the more pervasive the government. Wyoming, one of the most lightly settled states, with a population of only half a million, has a part-time legislature of 90 people that meets no more than 40 days a year. They get the laws right and then go home; would that Congress could do the same.
Mr. Krikorian also refutes the idea that immigrant-fueled population growth will keep Social Security solvent. Many immigrants are manual laborers who contribute little to the system or may even work off the books; they are not the high-wage earners who could actually help. Immigrants also get old and want benefits, so even millions more of them will not do much for the Social Security system.
Mr. Krikorian notes that while immigrants add to our population they dilute our national identity. Many people have noted that the United States makes nothing like the effort it once did to assimilate immigrants, and Mr. Krikorian blames “post-American elites” who promote multiculturalism rather than the “patriotic assimilation” he advocates. Today, our public schools de-Americanize children, and Mr. Krikorian quotes a study that finds that the more years immigrant children stay in school, the more hyphenated they feel.
The law has changed, too. Traditionally, Americans could lose their citizenship if they served in a foreign army or voted in someone else’s election, but in 1967 the Supreme Court ruled that no American could be stripped of citizenship for any cause. The Supreme Court has also held that the oath of naturalization, in which new citizens forswear all loyalty to other nations, need not be taken literally.
Modern travel and communications also make it easy for immigrants to keep close ties with their homelands, which is important to the more than 80 percent who come from countries that permit dual citizenship. At the same time, Hispanics have taken root in such numbers that they create huge foreign enclaves where one need hardly be American at all. Loss of native confidence combined with stronger-than-ever old-country ties means immigrants are “overloading the society with more diversity than it can handle.”
Mr. Krikorian emphasizes the dangers of massive Mexican immigration, noting that the 12 million Mexicans here now account for a greater number than all the immigrants from the next ten immigrant-sending countries combined. Sixty-two percent of Mexican immigrants have not finished high school, and when Mexican women come to America their lifetime fertility rises: from 2.4 in Mexico to 3.5 here. Mexicans, especially, are close to their homeland, and their loyalties are constantly rejuvenated by newcomers. Almost 80 percent of Hispanics, whether immigrants or native born, watch Spanish-language television, and it is the primary form of television for half of them.
The Mexican government has long worked to keep Mexican-Americans loyal to Mexico. The current president, Felipe Calderon, was firmly in the national tradition when he said in his September 2007 state-of-the-union speech that “Mexico does not end at its borders . . . Where there is a Mexican there is Mexico.”
As of 2007, Mexico had 56 consulates and consular agencies in 26 American states and the District of Columbia, the largest such network anywhere in the world. Their work goes well beyond looking after citizens to open meddling in American affairs. Mexican consular officers push for driver’s licenses and in-state tuition for illegal aliens, and protest any effort by local police to enforce immigration laws. If there are local government deliberations about immigrants, they rally claques to flood the gallery and intimidate elected officials.
Mr. Krikorian says there will never be reconquista in the traditional, territorial sense, but that the Mexican government will assume more and more power at all levels of government over decisions that affect immigrants. One obvious attempt to subvert our immigration policy is for consulates to issue a form of identification known as the matricula consular. Legal immigrants all have legal forms of identification, so the only people who need the matricula are illegals, and to recognize it is to recognize them. To the delight of the Mexican government, Wells Fargo Bank has opened more than 500,000 accounts for people who can show nothing more than a matricula.
In 2005 the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles gave the school district nearly 100,000 Mexican textbooks for 1,500 schools. The consulate has been distributing books for years, and the total probably runs to millions. The history books refer to the American flag as “the enemy flag” and say “we love our country because it is ours.” In Salinas, California, a consular official went even further. He organized a “Mexican Flag Day” at a public school, to promote Mexican patriotism.
One of the most blatant demonstrations of disloyalty is for American citizens to run for office in foreign countries. Several “Americans” have now won seats in national and state legislatures in Mexico and are mayors of Mexicans towns.
Since September 11, 2001, Americans are supposed to have taken a heightened interest in security, but Mr. Krikorian reports that our efforts to keep out terrorists are laughable. Part of the problem is sheer volume. Every year immigration officials process about 180 million entries by foreigners as well as 240 million entries by returning citizens and permanent residents. In 2005, 800 visa officers issued six million visas, or 7,500 per officer. It is not humanly possible to give all these visitors and visas the scrutiny they require. At the same time, the State Department still thinks in terms of customer service rather than security, and officials are rewarded for pushing through lots of applications, not for keeping out miscreants. The theory is that visa-granting can be automated through computerization, but a lot of the work involves examining papers from Third-World countries that have to be checked by hand.
There is supposed to be an exit-control system—otherwise, we have no way of knowing whether temporary visitors have actually left—but it is not working yet. There is also a terrific amount of fraud. One study found false information in a majority of applications for “labor certification,” the process of demonstrating that there are no Americans who will do a particular job at a certain wage.
The Border Patrol does catch some one million illegals every year, but many get through, and once they are past the border, there is little chance of catching them. The biggest joke are the “other than Mexicans,” who are caught on the Southern border. Because Mexico will not take them back, and because we do not have the space to detain them, we turn them loose inside the Unites States after they promise to turn themselves in some other time.
Not enough people make another of Mr. Krikorian’s arguments: That the presence of large numbers of foreigners makes it easy for terrorists to hide out unobserved. It is only because we have throngs of Middle Easterners in many cities that the September 11 hijackers were able to live here for months and get flight training without attracting attention.
Asians are not a crime/poverty/illegitimacy problem, but they pose a different security challenge. Mr. Krikorian quotes a joint FBI/CIA report: “When approaching an individual of Chinese origin, the Chinese intelligence services attempt to secure his or her cooperation by playing on this shared ancestry.” Sometimes it works, of course, but any attempt to keep Chinese-Americans out of sensitive military work would be met with howls of “racial profiling.”
At the same time, we now have so many Mexicans in the country—and our officials are so afraid of offending them—that we can hardly press our interests firmly upon Mexico. Whether it is water rights to the Rio Grande or extradition of killers, we humbly seek favors from Mexico, not the other way around.
Yet another consequence of mass immigration is lowered investment in automation. With so much stoop labor going begging, we have made practically no progress in machine harvesting—to the point that Mr. Krikorian warns competitors even in some developed countries who have invested in mechanization will soon be underselling us. As he explains, “Japan gets robots; we get Mexicans.”
Unlettered immigrants bring down wages for our own high-school dropouts, especially blacks and earlier immigrants. One hundred years ago, many immigrants were better off than natives, and even when they were not, their children and grandchildren caught up. Now, every new generation falls further behind, meaning that immigration increases inequality and is building a new, Hispanic underclass to go with the black one.
There is a benefit, of course, to having a reserve army of labor. The rest of us get services that are a little bit cheaper, with the result that, as Mr. Krikorian explains, we are about two tenths of one percent richer than we would be otherwise. That gain is more than wiped out by the increased taxes we pay to support immigrants.
Mr. Krikorian persuasively makes the point that welfare of the kind we have today simply cannot coexist with mass immigration: Millions of poor people would love to come just to go on the dole. He points out that a century ago, the federal government spent $178 per American in today’s dollars. Now it spends $9,000 per person. In 1900, government spending at all levels accounted for 5.5 percent of the total economy whereas it is 36 percent today. Much as we may hate it, big government and massive transfer payments are here to stay; it will be much easier to curb immigration than to throttle the nanny state.
Mexican prune pickers may therefore seem like a good deal for the growers but they are a terrible deal for the country because they and their families pay very little in taxes and soak up government services. Mr. Krikorian cites two studies: “The average immigrant-headed household in California used almost $3,500 more in state and local services than it paid in taxes, amounting to an extra tax burden for each native-headed household of nearly $1,200 per year,” and “the average lifetime cost to the taxpayer of each low-skilled immigrant household is $1.2 million.” In a rational society, these facts alone would be enough to close the borders.
Here are some of the details that account for these figures: It costs $12 billion a year to educate illegal-alien children, and another $17 billion to educate the US-born children of illegals. Half of all Mexican immigrant households are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (a kind of reverse income tax for the working poor) compared to only 15 percent of native families. From 1998 to 2003, immigrants accounted for 86 percent of the growth in the medically uninsured, and in California the majority of the uninsured are immigrants.
When the uninsured need patching up they go to emergency rooms—the most expensive form of first aid—and hospitals are required by federal law to treat them. Some cannot afford to. From 1993 to 2003, the number of hospitals with emergency rooms declined by 9 percent. In Los Angeles, no fewer than 60 hospitals closed emergency rooms over the last decade. As Mr. Krikorian explains, “Mass immigration is almost perfectly designed to overwhelm modern America’s welfare system.”
Mr. Krikorian has good ideas about what we should do about all this. As he explains, the real problem is not illegal as opposed to legal immigration, but the fact that we have immigration at all. He recommends letting in just enough people—about 250,000 a year—to make up for Americans who leave. He would also sharply cut back on family migration and refugees: “Only the most desperate people on the planet should be offered resettlement in the United States,” and they should be sent back as soon as things calm down at home.
Another good recommendation is for Congress to force the IRS to share tax information with immigration authorities. Every year, it accepts millions of returns from people who are not eligible for a Social Security number and use an individual tax identification number instead. The overwhelming majority of those people don’t belong here, but the IRS refuses to identify them.
As for the illegals themselves, snuffing out their jobs is the best cure. Mr. Krikorian points out that electronic verification of immigration status works very well. If all employers were forced to use it, no one would have the advantage of being able to use cheap, illegal labor. Without jobs, a huge number of illegals would save us the trouble of deporting them and would go home. Mr. Krikorian also wants a new enforcement climate: a few high-profile raids are all it takes to scare millions of illegals and make the old country seem awfully attractive.
Mr. Krikorian has strong views about foreign students. He points out that even if they pay full tariff—and many get financial aid—they are still enjoying taxpayer subsidies that average about $8,000 a head. With 565,000 foreigners at our universities, that works out to $4.5 billion—money we should spend on Americans. Ten percent of foreigners attend community colleges. Mr. Krikorian points out that these schools were established for Americans who cannot enroll in full-time or elite institutions, and foreigners should not be allowed.
Mr. Krikorian would limit foreigners to 1 percent of the student population—that would cut their numbers to 150,000—and doesn’t want any student body to be more than 5 percent foreigners. Today, 20 percent of the students at Columbia and Stanford are foreign. Mr. Krikorian would ban scholarships for foreigners and charge them double the full tariff to make sure they don’t milk us.
So what is wrong with this book? Surprisingly, it does not call for an end to birth-right citizenship, something Congress could probably do with an up-and-down vote. Ending automatic citizenship for the children of tourists and illegals would be consistent with everything else the book proposes. Elsewhere, Mr. Krikorian has written that he actually favors birthright citizenship.
More serious is Mr. Krikorian’s genuflection to race orthodoxy. His argument against immigration is “new,” he says, because “what’s different about immigration today as opposed to a century ago is not the characteristics of the newcomers but the characteristics of our society.” Mexicans and Haitians and Hmong would have made fine Americans back when we needed mill workers and sod busters, but now that we have welfare and need people with skills—and have forgotten how to assimilate foreigners—they just won’t do. The trouble is us, not them. Likewise, if our European forebears had missed the boat and showed up today, they would be no more use than Guatemalans.
It’s a pity conservatives seem to feel compelled to write things like that. This book would be just as strong without egalitarian protestations, and singing the it’s-our-fault chorus doesn’t work anyway: It will not make Mr. Krikorian’s other arguments any more palatable to liberals. Fortunately, this is a small, easily overlooked part of an otherwise first-rate book that has the potential to do a great deal of good.