The editors at The Wall Street Journal Edit Page (2/15/01) had their collective Cyclops eye trained on President Bush last Friday, as he departed for Mexico. Their fear was that, rather than listen to them, the president would allow his attention to drift toward anti-immigration groups who also have an interest in his trip. They warned:
"The anti-immigrant rhetoric oozing out of California and other states that rely heavily on migrant labor is getting thicker. Lobbyist groups like American Patrol and the California Coalition for Immigration Reform have even gone so far as to blame their state's power fiasco in part on its immigrant population (too many people)."
No! Supply and demand? Heresy!
A few points:
- Favoring immigration reform is not the same thing as being "anti-immigrant." The Edit Pagers are of course aware of this, but can't resist a cheap shot.
- The Edit Pagers claimed "there is no statistical evidence to support the argument that immigrants compete with 'natives' for jobs." In fact, there are volumes of such evidence – e.g. Harvard economist George Borjas' work, summarized in his Heaven's Door, confirmed by the National Academy of Science's 1997 report The New Americans. The Wall Street Journal – neocon Republican Edit Page and liberal Democratic news section in rare unison – have simply suppressed it.
- The Edit Pagers pointed to the high rate of job creation over the last two-decades of high immigration. But this confuses the cyclical (economic expansion) and secular (long-term immigration increase) trends. Without immigration, domestic wages would have risen more. Without immigration in any future recession, domestic wages will fall less.
- The Edit Pagers concluded by observing that between September 2000 and January 2001, detentions of illegal immigrants along the border dropped by 22% over the same period a year ago. Whoopee!!! But detentions at the border have fluctuated regularly, reflecting all sorts of factors - including enforcement. To posit any trend on such brief evidence is preposterous.
- "Anti-immigrant"? What word comes to mind regarding WSJ editor Bob Bartley, who rashly allowed himself to opine a few years ago that "the nation-state is finished"?
Perhaps Mr. Bartley's nation, whatever that may be, is finished. Surely ours is not - not yet, anyway.
Chilton Williamson Jr. is the author of The Immigration Mystique: America's False Conscience and an editor and columnist for Chronicles Magazine, where he writes the The Hundredth Meridian column about life in the Rocky Mountain West.
February 19, 2001