International Migration Review, Summer 1996 v30 n2 p591(10)
Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster. (book reviews)
By Lawrence H. Fuchs.
© 1996 Center for Migration Studies of New York Inc.
The alarmist tone of four of these books - The Immigration Invasion, America Balkanized, Alien Nation and Population Politics - is consistent with the surging anti-immigration sentiment evoked in the mid 1990s by California's Proposition 187 and Pat Buchanan's xenophobic calls for a crackdown on legal as well as illegal immigration. None of these books are serious efforts to analyze the complex effects of immigration on the United States. Nonetheless, these authors correctly chronicle several developments in the last fifteen years that contributed to the sense of alarm they widely share with others:
The major problem with these books is that there is no serious scholarship in the first three and little in the fourth. How can a reviewer take seriously the solutions to problems offered by these authors when their alleged facts often are wrong and they misuse and leave out other relevant data? Two of these books - The Immigration Invasion and America Balkanized - pretend to discuss the impact of immigration on American society, but they do not acknowledge, let alone cite, even one of the following leading researchers in the field: Robert Bach, Frank D. Bean, Kitty Calvita, Barry Chiswick, Gregory DeFreitas, Thomas Espenshade, Michael Fix, Michael Greenwood, Guillermina Jasso, Charles Keely, Douglas Massey, Kevin McCarthy; Mark J. Miller, Richard Mines, Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Alejandro Portes, Mark Rosenzweig, Ruben Rumhaut, Julian Simon, Marta Tienda, or many others.
The title of Lutton and Tanton's polemic, The Immigration Invasion, indicates the hysterical tone that permeates the book. They see a conspiracy in favor of immigration that includes the U.S. Catholic Conference, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the Church World Service of the National Council of Churches, the Ford Foundation, Mexican-American advocacy groups, and even the long-discredited and marginalized National Lawyers' Guild, which they say absurdly "is at the forefront of the campaign for virtually unrestricted immigration." The views of the National Lawyers' Guild on immigration, to my knowledge were never even discussed by the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy (1979-1981) or the current U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform (1991-).
There is virtually nothing in The Alien Invasion that is helpful to policymakers in the immigration debate. Even when facts are correct, the authors' analysis is shallow or nonexistent. For example, the authors point out that a substantial percentage of Vietnamese refugees are on welfare and attribute that fact to the low per capita income in Vietnam. But they say nothing about the fact that few Nigerians are on welfare, and Nigeria had approximately the same per capita income in 1992 ($270) as Vietnam did ($215). Nor do they report that Nigerians constitute a group of fairly well-educated immigrants, highly self-selected, and that many Vietnamese initially came as refugees, often traumatized by the experience, who were introduced to a system of refugee welfare support to which some of them became acculturated.
The authors seem to believe that all immigrants displace Americans from jobs and do not acknowledge the research which shows the extent to which they generate jobs. A perfect example of selective citation is in their use of research by David Card to the effect that black males and black or white females with not more than twelve years of education, and white males with less than twelve years of education appear to be having an extremely difficult time economically in areas where they compete in the job market with large numbers of immigrants. The finding is important and not surprising. However, the same authors never acknowledge Card's study of the apparent absence of a negative effect on employment opportunity for blacks in Miami following the influx of relatively low skilled and poorly educated Marielitos in 1980. Full disclosure is not a priority with these authors. Setting false alarms is.
Scare tactics - allegations unsupported by facts - abound in Lutton and Tanton's book. Immigration, say the authors, is "an invitation to terrorists." They report correctly that one Mexican was granted asylum in the United States became the Mexican police harassed and arrested him as a homosexual. Revealing ignorance of how the asylum granting process actually works, they conclude: "If this decision stands, the U.S. will find itself the destination of millions of homosexuals. . . ." A Nigerian woman was granted asylum by a judge in Oregon, claiming that her two daughters would be subject to female circumcision in Nigeria. Write these authors. "If this decision is not overturned, half of Africa might claim asylum."
The authors repeatedly raise the specter of immigrant crime without any effort at balance. They discuss Japanese crime syndicates but never mention the extraordinary acculturation of the descendants of Japanese immigrants. They present sensational stories of the Chinese Triads, but no anecdotes about Chinese entrepreneurs and scholars. They warn that Russian immigration will bring gangsters and say nothing about the Russian doctors, engineers, and scientists who strengthen the United States in many ways. The authors find something sinister in the most benign immigrant activities. For example, they warn us that Mexican-American organizations have been conducting citizenship classes for amnestied "illegals and other aliens. . . ." Some of their recommendations are based on absurd speculation, such as the one to rescind the Voter Registration Act because, they allege, it will enable illegal aliens to vote.
A common argument in all four of these books is that there are a large number of immigrants "who do not share our language or cultural values," as stated by Nelson in America Balkanized. As a result, Nelson warns, immigration "could transform the Southwest into an Hispanic Quebec." Like many severe restrictionists, including Abernethy, as discussed below, Nelson has no hesitation in making demographic projections for 80 years from now. The trouble is that the numbers fed into the projections have little relation to reality. For example, Nelson writes that Mexican-Americans will comprise 34.1 percent of the total population of the United States by the year 2080 "even if the U.S. limits immigration to 2,000,000 entrants each year from all areas of the world...." The number 2,000,000 is pulled out of a hat. The fact is that annual net migration to the United States from all sources almost certainly is less than 1,000,000 now.
Nelson's assumption that the great-grandchildren of today's Mexican immigrants will be part of a separate, un American ethnic bloc is totally unsupported by research, which shows that persons of Latino background into the second, third and fourth generation become Americanized just as the descendants of other immigrants have. Voting habits tend to divide along class lines. Geographic mobility, including movement to the suburbs, is common. Intermarriage increases significantly. And, of course, the children and grandchildren of Latino immigrants fight and die for the U.S. in its wars.
The author finds something alarming in the fact that San Antonio had a majority of Latinos in its population by 1986, and that in El Paso 71 percent of the first grade children are of Latino background. On visits of the Select Commission to San Antonio in 1980 and of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform to El Paso in 1995, the evidence of Americanization was everywhere. Indeed, the most popular man in El Paso in 1995 was a border patrol chief, Silvestre Reyes, who had figured out an effective way to substantially deter illegal border crossing.
All of these authors lack confidence in the acculturative power of the United States. Nelson believes that "the overall drift will be towards the extinction of a European civilization." Nelson does not use the term 'American civilization.' There are at least as many aspects of European civilization in Latin America as in the United States. Indeed, Americans have always been especially proud of their repudiation of those aspects of European civilization that the founders associated with monarchical, oligarchical, hierarchical and clerical systems of government. Those things that are most distinctively American - freedom of speech, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, equal protection of the laws, the erosion of class distinctions, a continental language for a continental economy with extraordinary openings for entrepreneurial activity - have always been embraced by large numbers of immigrants and especially by their children, a phenomenon that continues to this day Ask immigrants repeatedly, as I do, what they like most about the United States, and they will say "freedom and opportunity." Ask them what they like least about the United States, and they usually will mention individual and random violence and the excessive freedom of children, who are sucked into a mass, homogenizing popular culture that the entire world recognizes as American, especially in an age when U.S.-made television programs and motion pictures for the big screen are so popular everywhere.
This reviewer agrees that Americans should pay more attention to the requirements of the unum than to the demands of the pluribus, a subject revisited below. But the fact is that there is no significant political movement for separatism in the United States, even though a great many high schools, colleges, and universities are infected with the thought that separatism is desirable. The authors' concerns about separatism are not voiced in the context of any discussion of American acculturating power. They make no attempt to show why such a movement is imminent and threatening in a nation with a continental economy, a pervasive mass culture, long lines of immigrants waiting to take English language courses and naturalize, and a strong civic culture to which any candidate for significant office must pay obeisance regardless of her or his ethnic background.
In the United States, diversity is linked to individual freedom that gives individuals the opportunity to cross ethnic boundaries. It permits intermarriage, cross-racial and cross-religious adoptions, conversions, freedom to move to any state or community, and freedom to be as culturally ethnic or as un-ethnic as one wants to be, as long as the laws to protect the general welfare, safety, and public health are observed. Of course, diversity does not a nation make; but in the United States, belief in the compatibility of diversity with national unity serves as a lynchpin of unity itself as long as the principle of ethnic group rights does not replace that of individual rights (except in the case of Aleuts, Eskimos, native American Indian nations, and possibly ethnic Hawaiians).
None of these authors attempts a serious examination of the problems of diversity in the United States, or of the public policies that tend to encourage movements for group rights. The political correctness of the last two decades has kept most political leaders, not just immigration restrictionists, from undertaking a serious analysis of the effects on American national unity of some bilingual education programs, some of the harder counting-by-race forms of affirmative action, hard ethnic and racial gerrymandering, and ethnocentric expressions of multiculturalism on college and high school campuses. One wishes that one of these authors had the knowledge and ability to provide a balanced view of just how state-sponsored ethnic corporate pluralism supports ethnic advocacy leaders who have a stake in separatism, a kind of review given elsewhere by such writers as Abigail Thernstrom, Shelby Steele, Rosalie Pedalino Porter, Stanley Crouch, and Linda Chavez.
One can find evidence of considerable immigrant-ethnic separatism at any point in American history, going back to the Scotch-Irish, or the Germans in Pennsylvania. Nelson acknowledges that the first generation of Norwegian Americans in Wisconsin between 1870 and 1900 lived in virtually exclusive ethnic enclaves in which Norwegian was the language of family, church, and neighborhood. He could have said the same thing about the first generation of Italians, Poles, Greeks, Jews, or others, as many scholars have shown. Nelson is right that newer ethnic Americans (one could say most Americans) need to develop a higher identification with the nation as a whole, not merely with their own ethnic or economic interest groups. He is right also in pointing out how ethnic separatism on college campuses, which often has a political aspect to it, has become stronger in recent decades. But there is no analysis of why that is, or what happens as college graduates move out into the world of work and have to perform tasks and make a profit with the cooperation of persons from different backgrounds. That Americans tend to associate privately with persons who are like them in various ways - ethnic, musical, female - is hardly surprising or threatening to national political unity. Nelson thinks that there is something dangerous in the fact that Cubans in South Florida like to socialize with each other, or that Mexicans enjoy each other's company in Los Angeles. It is precisely the genius of American civilization that its laws insist upon - or at least should - a society that is ethnically and racially blind with respect to the public sphere (voting, getting a job or a promotion) while permitting persons to engage in a large private sphere of activity on the basis of their personal likes and dislikes (going to church, a mosque, marrying whom one wants, enjoying ethnic food, music, speaking the language of one's ancestors at home, etc.).
Peter Brimelow's book Alien Nation is more sophisticated than Nelson's but no less polemical. Brimelow insists that national unity always depends upon a substantial racial or tribal unity. In taking that position, he follows in a tradition of some English visitors and English immigrants, too. In 1881, Oxford Professor Edward A. Freeman toured the United States and, expressing his concern about the ability of Americans to remain a nation, remarked that "the best remedy for whatever is amiss in America would be if every Irishman would kill a Negro and be hanged for it." He added that many Americans agreed with his recommendation (presumably, he didn't think of Negroes or the Irish as Americans), and that most of those who disagreed were concerned that if there were no Irish and no Negroes, they would not be able to get domestic servants.
Brimelow, like Nelson, reveals a fundamental intellectual failure to understand the power of American society to acculturate newcomers. That the British have a long history of discomfort with foreigners is understandable. The people of that island nation have developed a sense of insularity that is quite distinct from the experience of Americans. That is probably one reason why Nancy Foner found several years ago that Jamaican immigrants to England met with greater hostility than those in the United States, despite this country's special history of slavery. Also, a nation preoccupied with class distinctions, as the English have been, is likely to produce an upper class and upper middle class of natives who find it hard to believe that low-skilled and lesser educated immigrants can produce children who will graduate from the best colleges and even earn Nobel prizes.
This reviewer agrees with Brimelow that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are culturally specific in their origins. But the men who wrote them were Anglo-American, and not European or even English. Like Nelson, Brimelow forgets that the founders explicitly cast off aspects of European civilization that they considered superstitious in religion, tyrannical in government, and rigidly stratified in class. More importantly, while the Declaration and the Constitution are culturally specific in origin, they are loved by persons from a variety of backgrounds, including the Chinese students in Tiananmen Square and the millions of immigrants and their children, who are less likely to take them for granted than second and third generation native-born Americans. But Brimelow believes that race, loosely defined, and political culture are inextricably married. Since, by his definition of race, the Japanese Americans and Mexican Americans (most of whom identify themselves as white in the census) are racially not capable of being part of a society whose Constitution and government derive substantially from English culture. How, then, could he possibly account for the extraordinary patriotism of Japanese-American and Mexican-American soldiers in World War II?
Brimelow does not raise ambiguities or questions about his central argument, which is that political ideas, a continental economy a common language, and a mass popular culture are not enough for national unity without racial homogeneity. (Where do the eloquent expressions of devotion to the Constitution by Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other African Americans fit in Brimelow's analysis?) No nation can survive without racial unity he says, in defiance of American history and contemporary research on acculturation and assimilation.
History is not Brimelow's best subject, even recent history He claims that mass immigration was reignited by the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act Not so. The numerically capped number of immigrants to be permitted from the Eastern Hemisphere was raised from 150,000 to 170,000 and, for the first time in history, a numerical ceding was imposed on immigrants from the Western Hemisphere, at 120,000. Several subsequent developments helped to push up the category of numerically unrestricted spouses, minor children and parents of U.S. citizens, an uncapped immigration stream embodied in the 1924 restrictionist Act, not in the 1965 Act. They included a growth in the admission of refugees, the legalization of nearly 3 million illegal aliens under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, and the passage of the 1990 Immigration Act. The main point of the 1965 Act was to get rid of the national origins quota system, which had been based on a theory similar to Brimelow's that national unity depended on racial and religious unity (in those days, Jews, Italians, Poles and others were called "races" and the Brimelows of the day thought them to be utterly inassimilable).
Brimelow also subscribes to the theory shared by the other restrictionist authors that immigration policy has been made in a conspiratorial way, in the absence of substantial discussion. Actually, Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson all discussed their opposition to the national origins quota system in major speeches, and the increase in immigration from the 1970s to 1990 and 1991 was endorsed by a widespread bipartisan consensus involving one Democratic and three Republican presidents. Dozens of Congressional committee hearings and many debates were held on the floor of both houses of Congress dealing with the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1967, the Indo Chinese Refugee Acts in the early 1970s, the omnibus Refugee Act of 1980, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and the Immigration Act of 1990. In addition, many of the policies contained in these Acts were subject to extensive public hearings throughout the country by the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy (1979-1981), most of whose major recommendations were accepted by Presidents Carter, Reagan, and Bush and the leadership of both parties in Congress.
Brimelow's assertion that legal immigration is as much out of control as illegal immigration is hardly justified by the facts. To him, control means having a policy like Canada's that does not emphasize family relationships nearly as much as in the United States (actually, Canada admits a much higher proportion of immigrants to its overall population than the U.S.) He admires a highly centralized system in which bureaucrats determine who gets in through points awarded on the basis of skills, fluency in the national language, and other factors, a perfectly rational policy proposal sought after by many other Americans, including a number of economists. But there is no discussion here of the possibility that what might be good for Canada, or work effectively in the Canadian parliamentary system, might not be right for the United States or workable in terms of American politics. Legal immigration is large, and there are reasons to advocate a switch from heavy reliance on family reunification categories to skill-based categories driven by market forces. But legal immigration is not out of control.
Brimelow repeats the charge by Lutton and Tanton that immigrants are significantly more likely than the native born to be on welfare. The fact is that immigrants (not refugees) of working age are less likely to be on welfare than native-born Americans of working age. Nearly all researchers conclude that the most outstanding common characteristic of immigrants in the aggregate is their willingness to work hard, plan, save, and invest in their children. After reviewing research on the impact of immigration on the United States, the Select Commission concluded in 1981 that immigrants, taken together, strengthen the United States in many ways. It and the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform in its report on legal immigration (1995) acknowledged that there are costs attached to legal immigration. The effects of legal immigration in the aggregate and the long run may be beneficial for the society as a whole, but there are disaggregate negative impacts in the short run in certain sectors of the economy and on certain portions of the population. One negative effect is that refugees, presumably admitted to save them from persecution and even torture and death, understandably use the welfare system more than native-born Americans. In addition, the elderly parents of U.S. citizen immigrants are more likely to be on welfare than native-born elderly parents since a large proportion of the newcomers did not participate in the work force long enough to become eligible for Social Security.
Brimelow calls estimates of immigrant costs that he agrees with "the best estimates" without any attempt to present other carefully researched evidence. Failure to check what he alleges to be facts is occasionally so blatant as to be shocking. For example, Brimelow, in arguing his case for a sharp reduction or an immediate temporary cutoff of all immigration, says that Reverend Theodore Hesburgh's Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy in 1981 recommended a cutback on legal immigration to 350,000. It actually recommended an expansion of numerically capped legal immigration from 270,000 to 350,000 in addition to the numerically uncapped immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and the refugees who adjusted their status to that of immigrant. In addition, it submitted a plan for backlog clearance. How could anyone who is so wildly wrong on an easily verifiable fact be trusted with respect to his assertion of other facts?
Brimelow's intellectual forebears thought that legal immigration was out of control in the eighteenth century because Germans were admitted; in the early and mid nineteenth century because Irish Catholics were admitted; later in the century because Asians were admitted; and in the early twentieth century because Jews, Italians, Poles, Greeks, and others were admitted. All of these immigrants and their children helped to transform a constricted view of American identity based on its Anglo-American Protestant origins and, in so doing, helped to transform the United States into an of economic, military, cultural and intellectual power whose national identity is not based on race, religion, or ancestral origins. Brimelow should visit Hawaii and attend meetings of civic dubs (Lions, Kiwanis, etc.) and political rallies, visit high school American History classes, and listen to and watch the local and national news on television. If he has any willingness to observe the dynamics of democracy in Hawaii, he will become quite aware that the distinctive characteristics of American civilization and the binding ingredients of American nationality are not based on race.
Virginia Abernethy also is interested in the effects of immigration on the stability of American society. A specialist in psychiatric anthropology at Vanderbilt Medical School and an editor of the Journal of Population and Environment who is worried about the destabilizing effect of world population growth, she reminds us that Central American families average six children each; in Haiti the population doubles about every 23 years; and by the year 2020, Central America will have 200,000,000 people. In a world of increasing opportunity consciousness, cheap transportation, and professional smugglers, one can expect desperate people to take tremendous chances in order to migrate to the United States.
Abernethy is right in saying that "immigration control is a fundamental element of population stabilization and conservation," but she never makes an analysis of the argument offered by some students of international politics and others that premature population stabilization in the United States (zero population growth) will serve to weaken its power and the cause of freedom in the world. Nor does she deal with the argument that environmental problems are world problems whose solutions may well be advanced rather than harmed by immigration to the United States. On other matters, Abernethy avoids the hard analysis that the complexities of immigration policy deserve. Even if she is fight about the advantages of population stabilization, her failure to distinguish legal from illegal immigration takes away from the policy relevance of her preoccupation with numbers. So obsessive is that preoccupation that she makes some serious mistakes in discussing legal immigration. For example, she states that the 1990 Immigration Act boosted legal immigration to nearly 2,000,000 a year "when amnestied illegal aliens, asylees, and refugees are included," without pointing out that the 2,000,000 a year figure is good only for 1991 and possibly 1990. Net settlement from legal and illegal migration in 1995, taking emigration into account, as noted above, was below 1,000,000. She also uses the grossly exaggerated estimate of 2,000,000 immigrants annually to support predictions about U.S. population growth by the year 2080, a reckless venture similar to that of Nelson's and one that most demographers would be loathe to make, even with more accurate contemporary net migration numbers and more realistic projections, because of the uncertainty of projected birth and death rates. Her premise that population growth in the United States inevitably leads to environmental degradation is contradicted by the strides that the United States has made in cleaning its air and water in the last 25 years, despite population growth.
Abernethy tends to see every problem in America as exacerbated by immigration and totally ignores argents and data that show how immigrants create as well as take jobs, and how immigrant children help to upgrade the quality of public schools as well as add to their costs. Like the others, she should be more careful with simple facts. She claims that the 1965 law discriminated against Europeans, when a little checking would have told her that the 1965 law ended discrimination against eastern and southern European immigrants on the basis of national origins. Among her other errors, she writes that the 1990 Act increased annual immigration by over 40 percent, conveniently including the newly legalized immigrants. Even without counting them, her math is baffling. In 1990, 656,101 non legalization immigrants were admitted to the United States. Another 880,372 were admitted under IRCA, but she Imps them together, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of IRCA immigrants were in the United States already. The Immigration Act of 1990, which she says increased annual immigration by over 40 percent, did not go into effect until October 1, 1991, the fast day of fiscal year 1992. In fiscal year 1993, when Abernethy was writing her book, the number of non legalization immigrants admitted went up to 880,014, actually a 34 percent increase over 1990, not 40 percent. By fiscal year 1995, the number was down to 798,394 for non legalization immigrants, or 21.6 percent over 1990.
Unlike the other authors reviewed above, Abernethy writes with the trappings of scholarship. Like them, she exaggerates the extent of immigration to warn against its negative effects. Like them, she leans heavily on the work of George Borjas in describing what she believes to be a decline in the quality of immigrants in recent years without mentioning the contradictory findings of Passel, Fix, and others. Like them, she attacks multiculturalism, bilingualism and affirmative action without making any analysis of the complexities of those policies and their effects. Like them, she suggests solving the so-called immigration problem by calling a moratorium or, at the very least, limiting the total number of legal newcomers, including refugees and asylees, to no more than 200,000.
The five authors discussed above might have saved themselves several errors if they had read and review. LeMay's Anatomy of Public Policy: The Reform of Contemporary American Immigration Law, about the making of the 1986 and 1990 laws, is detailed and factual. He chronicles the evolution of pro-immigration policies between 1981 and 1991. Although IRCA constituted a strong effort to crack down on illegal migration by the imposition of employer sanctions, it was a pro-immigration measure, mainly through its legalization programs. It also adjusted the status of Cubans and Haitians who entered the United States without inspection and had resided in the country continually since January 1, 1982, to that of permanent resident alien. It increased the numerical limitation for immigrants admitted under the preference system for dependent areas from 600 to 5,000, beginning in fiscal year 1988. And it gave birth to what would become the diversity program, by allocating 9,000 nonpreference visas in each of fiscal years 1987 and 1988 for aliens born in countries alleged to have been adversely affected by the 1965 Immigration Act. Other pro-immigration measures included the AmerAsian Homecoming Act in 1987, mentioned above, which provided for the admission of children born in Vietnam to Vietnamese mothers and American fathers, along with their immediate relatives, and the Immigration Nursing Relief Act (1989), which allowed adjustment from temporary to permanent resident status without regard to numerical limitation of non immigrants who were employed in the United States as registered nurses for at least three years and met established certification standards. Finally, the 1990 Act increased total immigration under an overall flexible cap of 675,000 immigrants beginning in the fiscal year 1995, preceded by a 700,000 level during fiscal year 1992 through 1994. Continuing to be exempt from numerical caps were a diminishing number of refugees, asylees, AmerAsians, adjustments under the legalization provisions of IRCA, and certain parolees from the former Soviet Union and Indochina.
The diversity program established in the 1990 Act was set forth in two phases. The first was a transition program, which allocated 40,000 visas annually during the period 1992-1994 to nationals of certain countries identified as having been adversely affected by the 1965 Act and specified that at least 40 percent of the visas must be allocated to natives of Ireland. The permanent diversity program, now under attack in Congress and by the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, went into effect in fiscal year 1995, at a level of 55,000 a year to be chosen via a worldwide lottery except in leading countries of immigration to the United States. In addition, 55,000 visas a year were set aside for the spouses and children of legalized aliens, as also mentioned above.
Even with these immigration expanding provisions in the 1990 Act, immigration in fiscal year 1995 is less than it was in 1994, which is less than it was in 1993, 1992, and 1991. The huge increase in immigration, especially in 1990 and 1991, the increase that made it possible for restrictionists to speak of immigration at well over 1,000,000 a year, was due to the one-time legalization program passed under the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986. The high point, as mentioned above, came in 1991, when 1,827,167 immigrants were admitted, of whom a large majority were aliens who had been legalized under the 1986 Act.
LeMay introduces fascinating complexities into the discussion of the forces behind the making of immigration policy. For example, he reports that Hispanic Caucus members, all of whom were Democrats, split six to five against IRCA, a law that was the most pro-one-country (Mexico) immigration measure ever passed in U.S. history Students of immigration politics might find it particularly interesting that those members who came from districts that voted for Reagan, of which there were seven, split five to two for IRCA; in all four districts that had voted for Mondale, the representatives voted against IRCA.
The role of the Hispanic Caucus in Congress - often in alliance with members of the Black Caucus and other liberals - in holding up pro-legal-immigration measures is a fascinating aspect of this policy history. For example, the Hispanic Caucus held up consideration of a conference report on the Immigration Act of 1990 because it opposed a small pilot program included in the Conference Committee's bill to permit the utilization of driver's licenses to identify workers who were legally authorized to work. Some raised the specter of a national ID and even of tattoos comparable to those used in concentration camps. The question for political scientists and students of the policy process is whether or not the Hispanic Caucus in the long term harmed legal immigration by its intrepid opposition to workplace enforcement on the ground that it would lead to discrimination against Latino citizens and resident aliens.
By 1993, it had become clear that the legalization of IRCA immigrants had opened a channel that led to numbers larger than most had anticipated. It also became clear that there had been a considerable amount of fraud in the system, particularly with regard to the special agricultural worker legalization program. By 1989, the INS had placed 390,000 SAW applications on hold became of suspected fraud and had arrested about 750 people for selling phony labor documents for up to $2,000 in central Texas and $1,500 to $3,000 in California. By 1993 it was also clear that employer sanctions were not doing the job that had been intended.
Thomas Espenshade and eight coauthors of A Stone's Throw from Ellis Island examine a variety of effects produced by immigrants (plus Puerto Ricans) on the United States and especially on the seventh largest immigrant state, New Jersey. The essays, based on extensive data, are, on the whole, instructive but not conclusive, precisely because they present the issues honestly in all their complexity An introductory historical chapter is followed by one on the evolving characteristics of New Jerseys contemporary economy The next six authors get to the heart of the book by assessing the economic impacts of immigrants in the United States and New Jersey, particularly between 1980 and 1990.
As one would expect, there are no decisive answers to the big questions. Deborah L Garvey, in surveying the role of immigrants in New Jersey's economy, states: "We cannot conclude on the basts of our data whether immigrant quality, as defined by Borjas, has declined over time . . . . However, if we broaden our definition to include investment in skills at any point in time, which captures educational attainment at entry and propensity to acquire further human capital in the United States, our data do not support the conclusion of a decline in quality. . . . Such data are not consistent with Borjas's hypothesis that changes in the immigration market have resulted in an increased incentive for the relatively unskilled to migrate to the United States." But Garvey readily concedes that Latin American immigrants "find assimilation in the U.S. labor market more difficult, at least in the short run," than Asian immigrants. Latinos are typically less educated and less English-proficient than their Asian counterparts, and that may be the reason that Hispanic newcomers have twice the unemployment rate of Asian immigrants for the same level of labor force participation.
Tracey J. Munza, in his analysis of the impacts of immigrants on natives' employment and earnings in New Jersey, found that European and Asian immigrants tend to have positive effects on the hourly wages and annual earnings of non-Hispanic native-born whites. But the consequences of Latin American immigration for native whites' wages and earnings were somewhat negative, although the statistically significant effects were quite small. For example, a one percentage increase in immigrants' share of the local area employed labor force tended to increase natives' earnings by one or two percent in the case of European immigrants and by no more than three or four percent for Asian immigrants. The reduction in wages and earnings from Latin American immigrants was generally less than one percent
Munza's micro-study is preceded by a chapter by Staughton Y. Lewis, reviewing the literature on the impacts of immigrants on U.S natives' employment and earnings in the United States generally. That chapter and the general review written by Eric S. Rothman on the fiscal impacts of immigrants in the United States provide useful summaries of many studies. Lewis concludes, as every serious researcher does, that immigrants both substitute for and complement native labor, and that the empirical evidence differs according to area and industry He cautiously concludes that many of the findings are potentially misleading because of several factors for which it is not possible to control. In addition, many of the studies lump illegal migrants with legal immigrants, complicating the relevance of the information for most policymakers, who already generally accept the proposition that illegal immigrants are particularly threatening to wage rates for legal farm workers or others in low-skill labor markets.
Eric S. Rothman's review of the fiscal impacts of immigrants in the U.S. also led him to indefinite conclusions regarding the effects of immigrants on state and local governments. The reason is obvious. Data sources and methodologies vary extensively. In some cases, it is impossible to make an assessment as to the fiscal contributions of immigrants. In others, as in education, it may not be possible to get a true cost. For example, every fiscal analysis reviewed by Rothman assumed identical cost per pupil for immigrant and native students. But bilingual education, English as a Second Language courses, and such things as special counseling for newcomer refugee children bring additional costs.
Such complexities undoubtedly would bore the authors of the four polemical restrictionist books reviewed above. For them, the country is on fire, and scholars who argue about one or two percent points in New Jersey are fiddling while the nation bums. Historians tend to take comfort from the fact that restrictionists have cried wolf many times in American history and were generally wrong. But restrictionists argue that the past is not a sound guide to the future, not just because the immigrants come from different parts of the world, but because America has changed. In making that argument, they are talking more to the point of changing policies on the management of diversity in the United States - fighting tendencies toward corporate pluralism - than they are about immigration policy. Of course, the restrictionists say they are talking about both. They point out that in the past, periods of large immigration have been followed by periods of low immigration, as between 1930 and 1965, giving the newcomer Catholics and Jews and their children and others from eastern Europe and the relatively small number of Chinese-, Korean- and Japanese-Americans an opportunity to assimilate.
The restrictionists are right in arguing that ethnocentrism should not be encouraged in the name of multiculturalism, as so often happens at our colleges and universities; that Spanish language maintenance programs should not be advanced in the name of bilingual education, as sometimes happens in elementary and even high schools; and that affirmative action and ethnic gerrymandering should not be advanced in the cause of civil rights when they sometimes constitute a naked power play by ethnic group advocates. These issues, when defined that way, are ones on which many pro-immigration forces would agree. But concern with American unity does not necessarily lead to a restrictionist position. Restrictionists and pro-immigration advocates should argue for greater resources to encourage the naturalization of immigrants, to speed their effective acquisition of English, and to help the country deter illegal migration within humane and constitutional boundaries. Sometimes, pro-immigration advocates actually are more concerned about American unity than restrictionists, whose harsh attacks on safety-net benefits for permanent resident aliens and whose archaic definition of American nationality as racially based, make newcomers feel unwanted as Americans.
The authors of the first four books reviewed above see themselves as patriots, crying out that the enemy is coming. Although their lack of respect for facts and the weakness of their analysis tends to discredit them, the issues they raise should not be dismissed as trivial; these issues deserve serious, thoughtful, constructive attention. The restrictionists reviewed above do not provide that. Espenshade and his coauthors and LeMay address those issues only indirectly, but what they say has the merit of being honestly researched and thoughtfully written.