Immigration to America Is Not What It Used to Be

By | 2019-03-22T22:09:26-07:00 March 22nd, 2019|
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Speaking at a naturalization ceremony in Texas on March 18, former President George W. Bush said immigration to America “is a blessing and a strength.” He also said that “borders need to be respected,” and praised the work of border patrol agents, but that’s not what the media seized upon.

The Washington Post inserted “blessing and strength” into the lead of its story, headlined “George W. Bush: ‘May we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength’,” also working into the first sentence the following dig at Donald Trump: “a message that sharply contrasts with President Trump’s rhetoric on the issue.”

CNN Politics covered the speech, making sure to note “the rhetoric and policy positions from Bush came in contrast to much of the modern Republican Party and President Donald Trump.” The BBC said, “Mr Bush’s comments were seen as an implicit rebuke to President Donald Trump’s administration.”

And on and on. CBS News: “Bush urges politicians to ‘dial down rhetoric’ on immigration.” The Boston Globe: “described immigration as ‘a blessing and a strength,’ a message that sharply contrasts with President Trump’s rhetoric on the issue.” People: “it was a soft rebuke of the prevailing anti-immigrant position of some members of the Republican Party, including President Donald Trump.”

Get it? George W. Bush has won his grim battle with history. Various photos showed him inviting dozens of new citizens up to the podium, including Muslims in headscarves, Hispanics, and Africans. Apparently including anyone of European descent would have been bad optics.

And never mind that if Bush II hadn’t bombed, invaded and occupied Iraq, the Middle East might be relatively stable today. Iraq, for all its problems, would nonetheless provide a strategic counterweight to Iran. We would have saved trillions of dollars and spared millions of lives, and additional millions of refugees would have stayed home.

What’s Really Happening
The problem with all this media-spun anti-Trump “wisdom” from Bush is simple: President Trump is right, and the spin is wrong.

It is true that America was enriched in the past by waves of new immigrants. It is true that in the past, these waves of new immigrants benefited the economy. And it is true that even now, if immigration were brought under control, reduced somewhat, and reformed so that only highly skilled immigrants with a commitment to learning English were vetted and admitted, it would again be beneficial to our economy and enrich our culture. But that’s not what’s happening.

According to CarryingCapacity.org, the United States “now accepts over one million legal immigrants each year, which is more than all of the other industrialized nations in the world, combined.” Additionally, according to ImmigrationCounters.com, nearly 28 million illegal immigrants currently live in the United States.

Attempting to quantify the costs and benefits of immigration into the United States is not easy. According to a study conducted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the cost to America taxpayers to provide illegal immigrants government funded education, health care, justice and law enforcement, public assistance, and general government services is estimated at $135 billion per year. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, “63% of non-citizen households access welfare programs compared to 35% of native households.”

Statistics abound—and for every study suggesting that America’s immigration is creating a burden on the economy, there is another that concludes the opposite, that immigrants continue to provide a net economic benefit to the economy. So rather than provide yet another regurgitation of battling statistics, it is important to note some crucial qualitative differences between immigration trends in America today, compared with past centuries in America.

Why Immigration to America Today Is Different

  1. Immigrants today are not coming from nations of equal or greater economic achievement. In the past, immigrants from Europe, for the most part, were emigrating from nations that were as advanced as the United States was, if not more so. Today the overwhelming majority of immigrants are coming from developing nations.
  2. Immigrants in the past came primarily from European nations which had cultural values—educational, religious, and political—that were, if not nearly identical to American cultural values, at shared a similar trajectory towards achieving those values. Immigrants today come from nations that, relatively speaking, have far fewer cultural similarities to America than past waves of immigrants.
  3. Immigrants today, for the most part, are coming from nations that are rapidly increasing in population and, in aggregate, dwarf the United States in population. Related to this is the fact that in the past, the people already in America were themselves rapidly increasing in population, but this is no longer the case, except among populations of recently arrived immigrants.
  4. Immigrants today arrive via 10-hour hops on an airliner. In the past, waves of immigrants spent 10 months traversing land and sea in a journey of staggering expense and significant dangers. While this isn’t universally true, particularly for the overland migrants that cross America’s southern border, the general point stands: coming to America today does not require the commitment it required in the past.
  5. Similarly, in the past, immigrants pretty much renounced their countries of origin. They made a one-way trip and they adopted the language and values of America. Today, retaining cultural unity with one’s country of origin is a few clicks on the internet, a cheap telephone call, an affordable airfare. Technology has greatly eroded the forces that used to impel immigrants to become Americans.
  6. Immigrants in the past arrived in an America that had a voracious need for unskilled workers. Today the American economy is relentlessly automating jobs that used to require unskilled labor, and the American population already has a surplus of unskilled workers.
  7. Immigrants today are arriving in a welfare state, where they are assured of food, shelter, and medical care that are, in general, orders of magnitude better than anything available to them in their native countries. This creates a completely different incentive to today’s immigrants. In past centuries, immigrants came to America to find freedom and to work. Today they are offered a smorgasbord of taxpayer-funded social services.
  8. Immigrant students today—especially in the coastal urban centers where most of them settle—enter a public education system that teaches them with a reverse-racist, anti-capitalist bias. They are taught in our public schools not to assimilate, but to “celebrate diversity”; not to earn opportunities through hard work, but through fighting discrimination. They are taught, often in their native language, that they have arrived in a nation dominated by racist and sexist white males, who exploit the world to amass evil profits.

Recipes for Disaster
These final three points are the most troublesome. If immigration reform advocates made those a priority and addressed them decisively with new policies, the other concerns might be manageable. But we must address the problems caused by immigrants with low job-skills, who encounter the welfare state, and are subjected to anti-Western cultural messaging.

To suggest Americans should resist competing with highly skilled immigrants, for example, is not only xenophobic, but it smacks of an entitlement mentality. Allowing immigrants into the United States who are qualified to join our ranks of scientists, engineers, researchers and doctors will only help our economy and overall standard of living. Allowing unskilled immigrants into this country, however, when we already have tens of millions of unskilled workers who are either in our prisons or unemployed and collecting welfare—who themselves could perform this work—is much more likely to constitute a drain on our economy.

Similarly, it is a recipe for disaster to allow immigrants into an America where the curricula in K-12 schools and universities—beholden to powerful left-wing teachers and faculty unions—indoctrinates immigrants to resent the alleged evils of capitalism and the incorrigible racist, sexist core of our American culture. This is particularly true when accompanying this siren song of corruption is easy access to social services of all kinds, including welfare. If new immigrants are taught the cards are stacked against them, and at the same time they are offered a free ride that provides a standard of living many times greater than what they knew in the countries they came from, why work?

Clearly an increasing population, all else held equal, does cause overall economic expansion. It isn’t clear at all, however, that this is the optimal way to create economic expansion. First of all, global human population is destined to level off by 2050 anyway, so rather than expanding the population through immigration, economic policy needs to search for the answer as to how to continue to experience economic growth despite a stable, aging population. In Japan, they have already made this policy decision—with zero net immigration and the oldest population on earth, Japan leads the world in the development of androids that will, presumably, become caregivers to the elderly. Economic growth oriented towards improving the quality of life for the elderly is one example of a sustainable growth sector—economic growth dependent on an immigrant-fueled population expansion is not sustainable.

There is another factor, of course, that makes immigration today far more problematic than it was in previous generations. Now more than ever, mass immigration of unskilled economic migrants and political refugees has become a strategy to move America sharply to the Left by dramatically transforming the electorate.

What the establishment uniparty is doing in America today is a deliberate devaluation of American votes, and a deliberate thwarting of the political rule of  Americans who have lived and worked in America for generations. Trump’s bellicosity may scare the soccer moms, but they along with everyone else who loves America ought to reflect on his actions instead of his tone. He is the only major politician in modern times who has tried to do anything to stop this. George W. Bush, God bless him, should stop letting the media use his words as weapons in their war against Trump.

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Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

About the Author:

Edward Ring
Edward Ring is a Senior Fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is a co-founder of the California Policy Center, a free-market think tank based in Southern California, where he served as their first president. He is a prolific writer on the topics of political reform and sustainable economic development. Ring, a fifth-generation Californian, has an undergraduate degree in political science from UC Davis, and an MBA in finance from the University of Southern California.