THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM IS THAT YOU MUST BE able to speak English to get along in this country, which is why President Bush suggests that illegal immigrants from Mexico learn the language as a pre-condition for citizenship. That's no big change in U.S. policy. You've always had to pass a language test. But one of the President's top advisers would like to go one up on Bush and make Mexican immigrants learn English before they even get here.[Raising a Language Barrier By Jim McTague ]
Here's a part of it that a reader forwarded to me.
Before he succeeded Ben Bernanke at CEA in March, Lazear wrote a paper that stated, "By almost any measure, immigrants from Mexico have performed worse and become assimilated more slowly than immigrants from other countries." We found the document, written in March 2005, posted on a Stanford University Website.
Lazear was discussing legal immigrants. More legal immigrants come from Mexico than from any other country, he said. About 16% of all legal immigrants — 115,000 — came from Mexico in 2003. He added that they earn less money than other immigrant groups and end up on welfare more frequently. The primary reason: U.S. policy permits Mexicans to enter the country on the basis of family ties, not job skills, according to the paper.
"ABOUT 3% OF MEXICANS come in on employment skills preference, whereas 13% of non-Mexican immigrants come in through this channel," Lazear wrote.
As a result, only 49% of the legal immigrants from Mexico are fluent in English before arriving here, versus 80% for non-Mexican immigrants.
"Mexicans start below other groups in levels of English fluency when they arrive in the U.S. and never catch up," he wrote.
The typical non-Mexican immigrant has at least a high-school diploma and an average income of $21,000, Lazear reported. Mexicans, on the other hand, usually have less than an eighth-grade education and an average income of $12,000 a year.
"Those who are admitted to the U.S. because they have desirable skills are more likely to speak English, have high levels of education, and obtain higher salaries than those who are admitted on a random or family basis," Lazear said. He cited a paper he wrote in 2000 noting that immigrants from North Africa had the highest levels of education and English fluency.
"Even when compared to Hispanics, Mexican immigrants fared badly, with 62% of the non-Mexican Hispanics being fluent in English," Lazear wrote. To survive, the Mexicans tend to settle in communities where about 15% of the residents also are from Mexico. He cited another scholar's report that Mexican immigrants disproportionately take up residence in states with high welfare benefits.
CEA chairmen typically meet with the President several times a week. When we asked if Bush and Lazear have ever discussed the paper, guess what we were told by both the White House and the CEA? That's right: "No comment." Six figures! What a job. What a country.
The Lazear paper they're talking about is this one
Mexican Assimilation in the United States Edward P. Lazear Hoover Institution and Graduate School of Business Stanford University March, 2005(PDF)
As you can see, the facts of Mexican assimilation, or lack of it, suggest that the United States, given a choice, would be better seeking immigrants elsewhere, starting with English-speaking like Canada, England, and South Africa.
I haven't read the whole piece, because I don't have a subscription, and thus I'm not clear whether Jim McTague thinks the problem is that Lazear knows what's going on as far as the "Mexican Wave" of immigration is concerned, that he has committed a "Kinsley Gaffe", w hich will cause someone to take offence, or the reverse: that he knows what's going on, but isn't trying to make the President see it.
If it's the latter, it's not Lazear's fault; the President doesn't listen very well.