Recently, both the "liberal" American Prospect (November 2005) magazine and the "conservative" Wall Street Journal [Behind engineer 'shortage': Employers are choosy, by Sharon Begley, November 16, 2005] have published stories starting to acknowledge the possibility of a problem with current mass immigration.
From my perspective as a progressive, their basic flaw is lack of feeling. Neither affluent liberals nor the corporate right seem to be aware, much less to care, how much today's immigration policy and practice are hurting Americans.
I've spelled out the real content and consequences of current immigration policy previously here on VDARE.COM with reports like The Jobs Crunch. Now mainstream media publications like The Christian Science Monitor are starting to get the depth of this problem. What mainstream folks like CSM are still missing is just how short-sighted and self-centered many of the people currently commanding the economy in and out of government really can be. There is enough recent evidence to suggest, that if they thought they could get away with it, many would reintroduce slavery to help the bottom line in the short term—with no thought about long term consequences.
Sharon Begley's WSJ piece focused on technical employment and the impact of immigration. It isn't just another rah-rah piece saying that companies are all victims. However, she still missed some basic points:
Well, we probably can't expect the Wall Street Journal to scrutinize truly a pet economic stupidity that for more than 30 years has reduced opportunity for middle and working class Americans and drained the economy as a whole.
At least, it has now acknowledged a problem.
The American Prospect's collection of articles focused on illegal immigration. [Solving The Immigration Crisis, November 2005] One contributor, Maria Echaveste, did see that some employers are making a lot of money from US immigration policy—especially from the implicit official acceptance of massive illegal immigration. She further saw the consequence that any sane or effective immigration policy must include stiffer penalties for employers of illegal immigrants.
Unfortunately Echaveste grossly underestimated the level of penalties necessary to be effective. She also totally ignored the profits made from facilitating illegal immigration by landlords, corporate customers, and investors, and so did not address how to deter their connivance. Still, she shows that progressives can go beyond being cheerleaders for the status quo.
By limiting itself to illegal immigration, The American Prospect precluded serious questions about immigration policy itself. Disturbingly, some of the articles showed that the authors are holding on to the Pollyannaish belief that the only problem with US immigration is that so much of it is illegal. More scary, many of the writers appeared to be blindly accepting long-discredited assumptions underlying current US immigration policy, as shown in this statement from Princeton sociologist Marta Tienda: "Immigrants are good for business. In fact, the rapid clip of U.S. economic growth might not be possible without them."
In the best tradition of embarrassing liberal figures like Morris Dees, The American Prospect devoted an entire article (The New Nativism: The alarming overlap between white nationalists and mainstream anti-immigrant forces, by Leonard Zeskind) to the alleged influence of (totally ineffectual) white nationalists on the anti-immigration movement. Needless to say, it failed to look at just how effective many religious groups, including Catholics and Evangelicals, are in supporting legal and illegal immigration of co-religionists.
The limited political sophistication of The American Prospect authors is troubling in other ways too. They seem to mistake current Congressional voting patterns, including an apparent alliance between Kennedy and McCain, for the true feelings of the voting public. But as I showed in Everyone wants less Immigration Except the Rich, the current Congressional voting patterns and public perceptions and desires about immigration are antithetical. This situation is possible at the moment because all economic issues, including trade, immigration, employment, and the federal deficit, are on the political back burner.
As economic issues inevitably move to the front burner, progressives have a wonderful opportunity to build a strong political base by reassuming their traditional role of protecting the interests of working Americans—the lower and middle classes.
However, progressives will be completely marginalized if they continue to be an opposition loyal to the established interests and fail to examine the consequences of current policies and the true feelings of the electorate.
The editors and writers at both the Wall Street Journal and The American Prospect would do well to read the Pew Report, Beyond Red and Blue.
It clearly explains that despite, the political domination of the immigration issue by conservative Republicans like Tom Tancredo, in terms of public opinion, immigration is a class issue. Rich voting groups tend to support open borders. Less rich voting groups are concerned about immigration. [See the graph here.]
Working Americans aren't happy about what is happening to them. If the ruling classes continue to pursue extreme concentration of wealth as the French nobility did prior to 1789, there will be a severe crisis.
To avoid unpalatable consequences, all points in the political spectrum need to be not just realistic but creative—and to develop a package of policies that deliver real economic benefits to the broad American population without destroying the rest of the world.
Ending our current immigration disaster is one of those policies.
Randall Burns [email him] holds a degree in Economics from the University of Chicago. He works in the information technology sector and is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University. Burns has been active in furthering the introduction of immigration, trade, and tax realities into the progressive agenda. In 2004, he helped create the Kucinich campaign's position paper on H-1b/L-1 visas.