Sunday, July 6, 2008


To date, the national debate on mass immigration has been largely ad hoc. Now comes a book that raises the discussion to a higher level by weaving the many separate threads of the issue into a cohesive whole.

The just-published book, “The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal,” is by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. By constructing an historical framework that enlarges our perspective and embraces the divergent facets of the immigration problem, Mr. Krikorian has brought badly needed clarity to a difficult subject.

Splendidly written, moderate in tone, and convincingly argued, the book is readily accessible to the layman. At the same time it is thoroughly researched, containing voluminous footnotes and technical references in a separate section at the back of the book.

We learn it’s not that today’s immigrants are so different from the immigrants who came to our shores a century ago. Rather, it’s America that has changed. The immigrants of old were self-reliant - they had to be. There weren’t a myriad of government programs available to nurture them, and their contributions were a net asset to an adolescent society. Now our nation and our economy have attained maturity. In the process, we have created a quasi-welfare state that has made the new mass immigration a national liability.

The immigration wave that started 40 years ago, triggered by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, has infiltrated many facets of modern life. Native-born workers have seen their wages depressed by both legal and illegal immigrants, opportunities for job advancement among the native-born have been reduced, and American workers’ bargaining power has been weakened. Entry-level jobs have become harder to come by.

African American and Native American workers and part-time jobseekers have been particularly hard-hit. Income inequality has worsened. Not least, cheap immigrant labor has reduced the incentive to invest in new technologies, thereby dampening productivity and economic growth to the detriment of all Americans. In Mr. Krikorian’s words, “we have resumed the importation of what amounts to 19th-century foreign labor.” It no longer fits.

Besides retarding economic progress, immigration has been shown to threaten our national security, burden American taxpayers with costs in excess of what immigrants produce and create problems of assimilation.

It would be a mistake to attribute the fallout from immigration to illegal immigrants alone. Indeed, there isn’t a sharp distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. Their flows mix through time, passing though such categories as tourists, asylees, illegals, green-card holders, visa lottery holders and a variety of other visa classifications. Overall, the various categories can be thought of as an amnesty program in disguise.

Even though educated immigrants are not a fiscal burden, they nevertheless make greater use of public services than educated native-born Americans and retain a strong identity with their home country. There is also a question of how well the next generation of immigrants will fare as adults. The evidence is not promising. In education, Mr. Krikorian tells us, the children of immigrants “are doing less well in relation to the rest of America.”

Americans have made lifestyle changes in the last century that often clash with immigrant lifestyles today, such as our preference for smaller families and less dense living.

Immigration, Mr. Krikorian argues, also poses a threat to our national sovereignty. For example, “Mexico’s government increasingly insinuates itself into American politics and governance.” Further, “mass immigration undermines our national security. [It] provides enemy operatives with the sea within which they can swim as fish.” The sea is rising daily.

American immigration policy clearly needs an overhaul. Mr. Krikorian recommends a “pro-immigrant policy of low immigration.” He favors attrition through:

  • Increased enforcement of immigration laws.

  • An end to illegal immigrants’ access to jobs.

  • Tighter border control.

  • A reliable means of identifying people.

  • Expanded English-language instruction.

  • A more efficient government immigration bureaucracy.

  • Internal Revenue Service cooperation with immigration enforcement.

  • Better cooperation between federal immigration authorities and state and local law enforcement.

  • A reduction in visa overstays.

  • Double deportations of noncriminal illegal immigrants.

  • And state and local laws to discourage the settlement of illegals.

    Mr. Krikorian’s comprehensive analysis has put the ball in the other side’s court. The burden of evidence is now squarely on the shoulders of pro-amnesty high-immigration supporters. If they don’t respond, their silence will be deafening.

    Our presidential candidates should read this book. All Americans should.

    Alfred Tella is former Georgetown University research professor of economics.

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