“Immigration is a big part of American tradition and national character. We are a nation of immigrants. ”
The fact is, immigration levels today are far higher than traditional levels; in the mid 1950s, our immigration was less than one-third what it is today. Also, the U.S. today is a very different country than in years past. We’re now a fully populated nation of almost 290 million people, not the sparsely settled territory of 150 years ago. Today we’re concerned about limiting sprawl, overcrowding, and environmental stress. Yet, if today’s rate of immigration is continued, it will add nearly 150 million people to our population over the next 80 years. How will that help achieve a single U.S. objective? Will it decrease traffic and other forms of congestion, improve water tables, decrease school overcrowding, cut oil consumption, reduce housing costs? Not one single domestic objective of our nation is being facilitated by today’s mass migration.
“Immigration has been good for us in the past and has made our nation great.”
Immigration in the past did bring benefits--in the past, the U.S. needed large numbers of people to settle the frontiers, cut forests, build railroads, mine gold, and much more. Today’s priorities are preserving our remaining wilderness areas, conserving our natural resources, and ensuring a better quality of life for future generations.
Furthermore, immigration in the past has been quite limited. History shows us that immigration at high levels is not beneficial, which is why the country cut back immigration after the brief Ellis Island period. In the past, we have successfully absorbed and assimilated immigrants because we have periodically halted immigration.
“Throughout our history, people have always attacked immigration and they have always been wrong.”
While people have opposed immigration for a variety of motives over the years, Americans have always had legitimate concerns about immigration and its effects on our population, economy, and society. While we have coped successfully with some of these concerns in the past, that is largely because mass immigration to this country was stopped, not because the concerns were unfounded.
“Immigration is less of a problem today because immigrants comprise a smaller share of our overall population than ever before.”
Quite the opposite is true. When there were fewer people in this country, there was more room and opportunity for immigrants. Now, in a country already stuffed with well over a quarter of a billion people, adding another million through immigration every year is much more of a problem. The more people we have in our country, the fewer immigrants can be added without unwanted consequences.
“Opposition to high immigration is rooted in racism.”
There are always people who support the right idea for the wrong reasons--but that doesn’t make the idea itself wrong. None of this changes the fact that bringing a million additional people from other countries into this one is disruptive to our economy, our society, and our environment. We condemn racism. But we also condemn the use of terms such as “anti-immigrant,” “racist,” or “xenophobe” as they are used to try to stifle open, honest discussion of how our immigration policy is impacting the country.
“Immigrants are a driving force behind our economy, performing jobs that Americans won’t do.”
There are no jobs Americans won’t do, only conditions and wages that are unacceptable. The employers who have become economically dependent on immigrants for cheap labor use this argument to justify virtual indentured servitude and then try to shame Americans into accepting it. Job competition by waves of new immigrants depresses the wages and salaries of American workers and hits hardest at minority workers and those without high school degrees.
“Immigrants don’t take jobs from Americans, they create more jobs.”
Actually, both are true. But many of those jobs created are jobs in providing services to immigrants. Other jobs that immigrants create are generally low-skilled and mostly go to other other immigrants anyway. This doesn’t really benefit Americans at all; it simply creates distortions in the economy, generally away from the high-skills, high-education, high-wage economy most Americans support. And it doesn’t in any way address the increased burdens on our schools, environment, social services, and natural resources that bringing in so many additional people causes.
“We live in a global economy and must have foreign workers to compete in the world market.”
Very little immigration is of skilled personnel. Besides, it is precisely because of advances in global communications that we do not have to allow people to move to the U.S. to take advantage of their talents and benefit from their contributions.
“Immigrants are a net benefit, because they pay taxes and contribute more to our society than they cost.”
The seminal study of the costs of immigration by the National Academy of Sciences found that the taxes paid by immigrants do not cover the cost of services received by them. A calculation to the contrary works only if you discount the programs used by the immigrants’ children, refugees and asylees, immigrants who aren’t of working age, illegal immigrants working “off the books,” and immigrants from certain countries.
This argument also ignores the impact of sacrificing farmland and forests to roads and housing developments, increasing congestion to the point that people spend more time in traffic than at home with their families, and raising the burden on our already strained water supply and other natural resources.
“A country as big as America has room for lots more people.”
A country isn’t a big box that you stuff as many people in as possible. It’s a society supported by an environment, and the question isn’t how many people can physically fit in it, but how many people the society wants and the environment can support. Many of the “wide open spaces ” in the U.S. are inhospitable deserts or mountains, or are already used as farmland to raise food to support the population living on the coasts and to export to feed people in other countries.
“Immigrants catch up quickly economically and soon blend into American society.”
There is increasing evidence of groups of immigrants who are trapped in depressed inner cities, and their children similarly find themselves unable to escape poverty. Today more than 21 million people in our country say that they speak English less than very well. Besides, the hub of the problem is not the rate at which immigrants are assimilating, it’s the rate at which we are admitting them. As long as we have mass immigration, the bulk of unassimilated people in our culture will grow, causing social tension and conflict.
“Illegal immigration is the only real problem, not legal immigration.”
The distinction between legal and illegal immigrants is increasingly blurred by programs such as the amnesty in 1986 that gave legal status to nearly three million illegal residents and provisions that allow illegal immigrants to become legal residents if they marry someone legally here, i.e., Section 245(i). There is little difference between the societal effects from illegal immigrants and from those who were amnestied (and the same is true to a large extent for family members sponsored by former illegal aliens).
“We have a humanitarian obligation to take in struggling people from other countries.”
We can’t solve the world’s problems by importing a tiny fraction of the millions who would like to come here. Instead, we should solve problems where people live and help them turn their countries into places that people aren’t driven to leave. But although the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that foreign aid and assistance is best utilized when the resources are spent on alleviating problems at their source, the U.S. channels a large share of its refugee resources on the transportation, language training, cultural adaptation, and assistance grants to refugees resettled in the United States that could benefit many more refugees if expended on temporary shelter and sustenance at refugee facilities near the refugees’ homeland and in the refugees’ eventual return to their homes.
It should be noted, however, that the United States admits as refugees many persons who are not true refugees under the United Nations’ standard, e.g. people from Cuba who do not qualify for asylum in this country.