The late ecologist Garrett Hardin opined that "it takes five years to change your mind about anything important," and the process of that change is always interesting to observe and examine.
In the article, Immigration Reversals (from The American Spectator, Dec07/Jan08), City Journal editor-at-large Myron Magnet describes how he evolved from an uncritical supporter of massive immigration to a person who recognizes the current crises in the rule of law, assimilation and social costs caused by open borders.
In short, the overwhelming mountain of evidence appearing in his own magazine (and now republished in a book) eventually persuaded him to reverse his views. He doesn't specify the number of years it took to accomplish the change, but he does remark at the outset, "I'm embarrassed it took me so long to grasp the phoniness of the charge that it's "anti-immigration" to oppose current U.S. immigration policy."
Better late than never! Welcome to the company of immigration realists.
But weren't my grandparents' generation of immigrants also unskilled? In fact, the National Research Council reports, they were slightly more skilled than the native population, and the rapidly urbanizing U.S. economy of that time desperately needed all the tailors, stonecutters, retail clerks, and so on, arriving by the shipload. Unlike today's knowledge-based economy, it also needed plenty of unskilled labor to build its new cities and work its unmechanized and still inefficient farms. In addition, [Steven] Malanga argues, those earlier immigrants brought with them a rich store of social capital: strong families, self-reliance, entrepreneurialism, a belief in education for their children, optimism about the future and belief in their new land rather than fatalism and cynicism. That's why their children were just as likely to end up lawyers, engineers, or accountants as the children of native-born Americans. By contrast, the American-born children of Mexican immigrants, two and a half times likelier to drop out of high school than the average American-born kid, earn less than the national average as adults.