Immigration & Population: Is it Time to Close the Golden Door?
George J. Borjas, Professor of Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Author, Friends or Strangers: The Impact of Immigrants on the U.S. Economy (1990); Labor Economics (1996)
Joel E. Cohen, Professor of Populations and Head of the Laboratory of Populations, Rockefeller University; Professor of Populations, Columbia University; Author, How Many People Can the Earth Support? (1995)
Georgie Anne Geyer, Internationally Syndicated Columnist on foreign policy and international affairs; Author, Americans No More: The Death of Citizenship (1996)
Peter D. Salins, Provost, State University of New York; Sr. Fellow, the Manhattan Institute; Author, Assimilation American Style (1997)
Alan K. Simpson, Former United States Senator, Wyoming; Former Chairman, Senate Subcommittee on Immigration; Co-Author, Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration Bill
Richard D. Lamm, Professor, and Director of the Center for Public Policy and Contemporary Issues, University of Denver; former Governor of Colorado
R. Bruce Rich, Esq., Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Counsel, Association of American Publishers
Brooks Thomas, Chairman, Vail Valley Institute; former Chairman & CEO, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
In the words of our Keynote Speaker, Alan Simpson, Immigration is a tough, gut-hard issue; it always will be. The lady in the harbor and our own American generosity are our strength and our weakness. But that is what makes us a very great country.
As long as there has been a United States of America, there has been a debate about how open the nations door should be to immigrants. Immigration frequently rewarded our country as well as the newcomers; it has been a golden door to individual and national opportunity and economic development. But, each new set of immigrants brought its own ways of making sense of the world. Would immigrants different perspectivesmorals, customs, religionsbe too great a threat to the established way and to our unity? In some decades of our history the answer was yes, and the golden door was briefly closed.
America is ambivalent again today, but for a new reason: population pressures. In 1997, the countrys population numbered approximately 260 million. By 2050according to the National Academy of Sciencesit is expected to be over 380 million. Immigrants will comprise two thirds of the growth, if our immigration policy stays as it is now. About 800,000 immigrants enter legally each year under current regulations, a near record for the century.
How many people can the earthand in particular our countrysupport? Our natural resources are finite and already seriously overused. If fewer than half of our rivers and streams are swimmable or fishable now, how many will be by the year 2050? If air quality is unacceptable already in many of our major metropolitan areas, what will it be like when the population has increased an additional 50 percent?
Similar questions can be asked about our infrastructure and our economy. How many new classrooms and teachers will we need? How many prisons? How many people will be receiving public assistance and other entitlements, and how will our increasingly older population pay for them? Half a century ago Frederick Jackson Turner warned that we were running out of physical frontiers. Will population pressures threaten our economic frontiers as well?
All of these concerns lead to questions such as: If we keep the door open to immigrants, which ones should we let in and how many? How should they be chosen? Are the values that have driven current policyfamily reunification and occupational skills, to some extentthe best way forward? Should we close the door, if not permanently, then at least temporarily? What do we want our immigration policy to accomplish for us?
Our speakers provided vital demographic, legislative, civic and economic frameworks to help seminar participants address these crucial questions. Their presentations all stressed the need for American citizens to take as broad a view as possible of the immigration story so far and to take the time to clarify, for themselves, where they would like to see the country head in the next century. Immigration policy should be a reflection of our common vision of Americas future. Consequently, many of the speakers presented a descriptive, rather than a prescriptive, view of population and immigration issues. The answers, they said, are up to all Americans to determine.
Following are summaries of each of the five speakers remarks regarding this timely topic of the Vail Valley Institutes sixth annual seminar, Immigration & Population: Is it Time to Close the Golden Door?.
Alan K. Simpson
Former United States Senator, Wyoming
Former Chairman, Senate Subcommittee on Immigration
Co-Author, Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration Bill
My comments today will focus on efforts in the 1995-96 Congress to reform legal immigration. Many of us have thought for some time that major reform of legal immigration is required. Polls and other evidence show a widespread dissatisfaction with the impact of immigration under current lawespecially in the most heavily-impacted areas like California, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey.
The concern has not been merely about or even mainly about economic impactssuch as the effect on wages in certain occupations. There is a serious concern that the Americanization of many immigrants their rate and their degree of assimilation of American values, beliefs and behaviors is too slow or incomplete. That is what many people feel. As a result, immigration is altering the very way of life in many areas of the country and against the will of Americans already living in those areas.
We believedand I still believethat members of Congress have an obligation to respond to that kind of concern unless they are convinced that it is somehow misplaced. I have believed for some time now that the concern over current legal immigration is not misplaced. Therefore, I felt there was a need to take action. There is no need to present a detailed analysis of the reform legislation I proposed. Let me focus instead on the legislative process as I saw it because it is going to continue this way.
One of the fundamental objectives of the 1995-96 Congress was to institute a modest reduction in total legal immigrationnot as great a reduction as most Americans say they would want. But, it still was a meaningful reduction. It would have been a reduction of around 550,000 to 600,000 immigrants per year with a breathing space for five years to see how assimilation was working.
The proposed reduction would have been accomplished first by providing family-based visas to only the closest relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants; in other words, those most likely to reside with the U.S. relatives who petitioned for them. These are the visas provided in the name of family reunification.
A nuclear family in American parlance is spouses and minor children. To us, it does not include uncles and aunts and adult married brothers and sisters. To other ethnic groups, it does. You can see where conflict comes in right there. Anyway, we wanted to cut the numbers of those farther outthe adult married and unmarried childrenand give those precious numbers to permanent resident aliens. We have a million and a half legal immigrants who are not yet joined by their spouses and minor children. Again, it seemed logical because these visas were given for family reunification.
Second, employment-based immigration would have been limited to the number for which U.S. employers had actually petitioned in the most recent year. In addition, we wante` to reform the requirements for obtaining an employment-based visa in order to increase the protection of U.S. workers. I felt that current immigration law has resulted in a looser labor market, and therefore in lower wages than would otherwise exist. This is unfair to current U.S. workers.
The reforms were not proposed merely to protect current workers from foreign competition. The reforms were also intended as a long-term incentive for U.S. employers and the government of this country to increase the number of Americans who enter needed occupations. I wasand amconcerned that many in the science and engineering professions, especially those for which graduate-level education is required, appear to be increasingly reliant on foreign nationals.
I was and am aware that the large supply of foreign scientists and engineers results in wages that are lower than would otherwise exist. The consequence is that fewer Americans will enter those fields. Given the well-deserved reputation of Americans for creativity and innovation, anything that may reduce the number or even the proportion of U.S. scientists and engineers who were raised in this country concerned many of us greatly. Innovation in science and technology is crucial to our future quality of life and national security. But, that one went a-glimmering.
I think no description of the reform effort in the last Congress can be made without reference to the cast of characters, the playbill. This is a dramatic human story. Participants in the debate included some interesting, powerful personalities:
Senator Ted Kennedy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Immigration Subcommittee I chaired, and my colleague on these issues for many years.
Senator Diane Feinstein, a Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee from California and a supporter of so many of the proposed reforms.
The late Barbara Jordan, Chairwoman of the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, whose recommendations strongly influenced my bill.
Bill Gates, with whom I met and exchanged lengthy letters.
Senator Spencer Abraham, the junior Senator from Michigan who has become the Chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee since my retirement.
The story includes many fascinating details. President Clinton dropped his initial support for eliminating the preference category for brothers and sisters, apparently at the request of Asian-Americans (including John Huang) who had madeor delivered from Asian nationalslarge political contributions. It is in the record that he changed his position. That is realpolitick, as we say. Furthermore, the I.N.S. misled members of the Judiciary Committee with statements that annual immigration had begun to decline, which increased the attractiveness of the Administration-backed Kennedy-Abraham proposal on family-based immigration.
A very influential Republican in some circlesGrover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, who had actively opposed legal immigration reform supposedly because of his deep concern for the national interestreceived thousands of dollars per month from Microsoft. This was not revealed until late in the debate. He also passed out a remarkable piece of paper called the Smith-Simpson tattoo: a Lamar Smith-Alan Simpson tattoo which you dipped in water, slid off, and put on your forearm. When you talk about tattoos, you wash away all fact. Emotion, fear, guilt, racism: that is how you pass or kill a bill in the U.S. Senate.
Then, there is the serious split within the Republican Party. Republicans like myself believe that the national interest requires that legal immigration be reduced and otherwise reformedfor reasons related to culture, assimilation, and population growth. We will not get anywhere until we figure out what to do with the population of the earth, which has doubled in the last 30 years from what it was at the beginning of man. And, it will double again by 2067. Those are big things, at least as big as economic reasons.
However, there are Republicans who favored current or even higher levels of immigration. That latter group included:
The Wall Street Journal editorial page writers.
The Cato Institute and other libertarian-oriented Republicans who think arguments for free trade also support open borders and who largely ignore non-economic effects.
The self-interested members of the business community, especially in high-tech companies like Microsoft and Intel, who want to minimize their need to raise wages and provide training in order to obtain workers.
Those with a sentimental concept of U.S. immigration history, derived from idealistic feelings about the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and their own immigrant ancestors. Often such people are unaware of the fact that high immigration periods have always been followed by sometimes decades-long periods of low immigration.
These three groups of high-immigration Republicans are not mutually exclusive. Thus, Jack Kemp, Spencer Abraham, and other Republican leaders are, with respect to immigration, both libertarian and sentimental. (In addition, of course, they receive important political support from self-interested members of the ethnic and business community.)
An unusual coalition developed to oppose reform. That coalition consisted of high-immigration Republicans plus ethnic activists and their Democratic allies (who were primarily interested in preventing any reform of the family-based categories).
Members of this coalition wrote articles and lobbied. CEOs flew in from all over the country as part of this effort. It looked like corporate Air Force America. The coalitions key tactic was disingenuous, but ultimately quite successful. They did not directly oppose all reform of legal immigration, but rather opposed consideration of both legal and illegal immigration in a single bill. That was their pitch.
No alliance of comparable strength developed in favor of reform. The Commission on Immigration Reform was widely respected, but did not lobby and did not appear to have much impact in the Congressional debate. Republicans concerned with the kind of non-economic impacts I spoke of were not nearly as active as The Wall Street Journal or the Cato Institute. Democrats like Ted Kennedy, who were very concerned about the effect of immigration on U.S. workers, could not provide enough support because of their opposition to the meaningful reform of the family-based categories. The pro-reform public interest organizations like FAIR (the Federation for American Immigration Reform) were not effective during this process leading up to the reporting of the bills by the Judiciary Committees. After the bills reached the Senate and House floors, FAIR expressed opposition to both bills because they believed immigration levels would be too high. That is where purism can get you into trouble.
My staff made attempts to work with business representatives. I even wrote a long response to Bill Gates, who had written to express a number of specific concerns about the bill. I heard he was a man who could alter his views when a sound argument was made and I attempted to correct some seriously mistaken impressions he had of our bill. I offered to work with the high-tech industry to improve the bill and to make reasonable compromises.
When the likelihood of getting shot out of the saddle became so vividly clear to me, we made a final attempt to split the coalition opposing reform. First, we tried to work out an agreement with Senator Kennedy which would preserve some of the worker protections. He liked that (so did the Labor Department) as well as a portion of the family-based reforms. But Kennedy wanted to resist the proposed changes in family categories (our first priority) and he did to the end. So no agreement could be reached.
We tried to make enough changes in the bill to satisfy the business community so we could at least achieve the family-based reforms. No agreement could be reached on specific changes there. I had a final meeting with the business representatives, told them I would eliminate all the business provisions in the bill and then asked for their support. Although several made statements indicating possible movement in that direction, they subsequently decided (after meeting again with their lobbyists) to continue their alliance with the ethnic activists who opposed family reforms. That is a pretty devastating array of opposition.
When the vote was held at the Judiciary Committee on the proposal to split the legislation into two billsone legal, one illegala majority prevailed despite our efforts to explain how the processes of legal and illegal immigration to the United States are linked. For example, a substantial portion of legal immigrants originally enter this country illegally. They are qualified for a status that is backlogged and then are unwilling to wait until their place on the waiting list becomes current. They come anyway. That is a very serious issue. Sixty percent of those who came here illegally become legal. They slip into another status.
A final view on the prospect for reform in the current Congress and a comment on the central role public opinion should play in the determination of immigration policy: Serious need for reform continues. None of the underlying facts have changed. Yet the prospects for reform are not good because of the views of the Senate Immigration Subcommittees new chairman, Spencer Abraham, the chief opponent of legal immigration reform in the 19951996 Congress.
Abraham is a very smart, able, charming man whose views I respect highly on nearly every other issue. Yet on immigration, he is tragically wrong. He neglects many important impacts of immigration not directly related to economics, and even appears to ignore important economic effects. Even more fundamentally, he apparently does not believe that the stated preferences of the American people should be much of a consideration, let alone a central consideration, in the determination of immigration policy. His view is that polls are the last bastion of those with weak arguments.
That may be because he does not listen carefully enough to the views of the American peopleespecially those in the heavily impacted areas. He may not consider all the adverse impacts of current policy, including the assimilation-related impacts that appear to upset the American people the most. You will not hear much about it because it makes people look racist. But they do write letters like: I do not even know my neighborhood anymore. What are you doing about it? I read the mail for 18 years about the actual concrete impacts of immigration on peoples lives. Yet also considering the polls, I think I have a more accurate idea of what in fact will promote the long-term well-being of most Americans and their descendants.
I do not believe, nor have I ever believed, that legislators should decide policy on the basis only of public opinion polls. I think that is a serious defect in a public figure. Sometimes public opinion on an issue is based on beliefs that are plain inaccurate. But polls along with other expressions of opinion often reflect real values and priorities and these determine whether changes in individuals lives will in fact be experienced as an improvement or a deterioration.
Immigration is a tough, gut-hard issue; it always will be. The lady in the harbor and our own American generosity are our strength and our weakness. But that is what makes us a very great country.
George J. Borjas
Professor of Public Policy,
Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Author, Friends and Strangers: The Impact of Immigrants on the U.S. Economy (1990)
Labor Economics (1996)
I would like to start with an anecdote from the late 1970s when Jimmy Carter was President. He was in China and at the time he was trying to convince the Chinese government to institute a certain menu of human rights that was needed before China could join the so-called club of civilizations. President Carter went through the litany of things he wanted the government to do because he wanted China to join the club. On the list was the right to immigrate. President Carter told the premier that countries which do not permit citizens to leave could never be civilized nations. He said if China really did want to join the club, it would have to change its attitude about that. The premier thought about it a little while and then finally asked, Mr. President, how many do you want? That was the end of the conversation.
The premier actually put his finger on something very important which is half the question we face regarding immigration policy. Suppose Jimmy Carter had actually said, We want a million. The premier could come back and say, Which million? We have a billion of them. That is equally important. The question is not just how many, but which ones.
If you think about the debate over immigration today in the United States, sadly enough it is really a debate about the symptoms of the immigration problem. For example, we all worry that immigrants go on welfare rolls. We all worry that immigrants may have a negative impact on the employment opportunities of certain workers, particularly the less skilled. We all worry about immigrants ability to assimilate into the United States.
But, all those worries are really about who. Who do we want? Do we want immigrants who use welfare? Do we want immigrants who take jobs away from particular workers? Do we want immigrants who adapt quickly or slowly? To an economist, it is a question of what kind of potential, skills, and socio-economic variables we want immigrants to bring with them. That is the question at the heart of the whole debate which, for better or worse, we do not ask quite out loud. We hide behind the symptoms without realizing all these symptoms stem from the same problem. What do immigrants look like when they come here? That is what I am going to talk about today.
Until now, the historical height of immigration was between 1900 and 1910 when almost nine million immigrants were admitted to the United States. In the 1930s as a result of restrictions put in place the decade before and the impact of the Great Depression immigration disappeared from the face of the map. But since then, the number of legal immigrants has increased at the rate of one million per decade. If present trends continue, the 1990s will actually beat the 1900-1910 number of legal immigrants. In addition, we have three or maybe four million illegals coming in per decade. You can do the numbers yourself and see that they are quite sizable.
Alongside this huge increase in the number of immigrants, there has been a big shift in the national origin mix. We do not have to care only about race to be concerned about this; it is very important from an economic point of view.
What has happened to skills in America in the last 30 years? Let us look at how much education on average immigrants have. In 1970, immigrants had a little less schooling than natives. Over time, that gap has widened quite sizably. What is the consequence of that? In 1970, the typical immigrant in this country actually earned .9 percent more than the typical native. By 1990, the typical immigrant was earning 15 percent less than natives. In a very short 20 years, we saw a complete reversal in the economic performance of immigrants with skills.
Let us compare people aged 30 when they arrived from 19651969 with natives who were also aged 30 in those years. The day the immigrants arrived they were earning 12 percent less than natives. What happened to the gap 10 years later? It narrowed to 6 percent. And, after 20 years in the country? The gap vanished. So from a historical point of view, immigrants who were here as of 1965 did pretty well. Within 20 years, they reached wage parity with natives.
Immigrants who arrived ten years later in the late 1970s started out with a much larger gap: 21 percent as compared with 12 percent for the late 1960s arrivals. What happened to that gap over 10 years? It went down by 6 percentage points, which is exactly the amount it decreased for the earlier group. We do not know what the year 2000 will look like. But, if the historical pattern has anything to teach us, it is pretty hard to imagine that this group will reach wage parity with natives in these immigrants lifetimes. And, it is even a little worse for those arriving in the late 1980s.They started out with a 23 percent disadvantage. There is very little chanceif the historical pattern is any indicationthat these groups will assimilate in an economic sense in their lifetimes.
Now why has this happened? There is one simple reason which some of us find very unpleasant to mention: national origin. Ethnicity matters from an economic point of view, for better or worse. Let us look at the percent wage differential between immigrant men and native men in 1990 by country of origin. Immigrants from the United Kingdom in 1990 were actually earning about 40 percent more than natives. Immigrants from Mexico were earning 40 percent less than natives in 1990. There is a huge dispersion of national origin groups regarding skills and economic performance.
Why does this happen? A lot of it is due to educational differences. A typical immigrant from Mexico has less than 6 or 7 years of schooling as compared to a typical British immigrant who has a college diploma, on average.
Not only is there a difference in skill levels, but also in the types of skills these immigrants have. To illustrate, suppose I had to move to another country. Do the skills I have fit in better in an industrialized economy or in a poor, rural country? I know how to make Excel graphs. That is what I know how to do. I do not know how to hunt. I do not even know how I would try to get a meal for the night. That matters. The skills that I have tend to be transferable to developed countries and vice versa. So, where you come from matters.
In addition, the kinds of people who want to come to the United States differ tremendously across countries. Some of us may find this incredible to believe, but most people in the world do not want to come to this country. For example, most people in Mexico do not want to come here even though they are free to do so right now. There is nothing preventing any Mexican from driving to the border and running across. The fact of the matter is millions of Mexicans do not choose to do that. That is a very important lesson.
Furthermore, the select few who want to come from Mexico are not the same as the select few who want to come from Great Britain. Let me tell you why. I have a very simple economic explanation. Think of the fact that Britain or any of the highly developed European economies tend to have one thing in common: a very compressed wage distribution. Due to taxes or to a structured labor market, people who do well in those economies do not fare that much better than those who do not well because everything gets distributed to the welfare state. So from that point of view, who has the most incentive to leave those countries? The skilled, the ones who have been doing all the subsidizing. They are the ones who have economic reasons to come here.
Now, at the other extreme, let us look at a less developed country like Mexico which has an extremely unequal wage distribution. The skilled people live a lifestyle that most of us, or at least I, cannot afford. The unskilled people live at subsistence level. Who would want to come to this country? It is the unskilled. In other words, you get a very different selection because of the difference in the economic incentives. If we are ever going to address immigration policy, we have to realize that if we want to control for skills at some level, it will have an effect on the ethnic mix. There is no way around that.
But why should we care about skills? I mentioned a couple of reasons before. One is welfare. Let me tell you about the history of welfare and immigration policy over the last 30 years. Believe it or not, in 1970, immigrants on average were less likely to be on welfare than natives. By welfare here, I mean cash benefits. By 1990, the opposite was true: 7.4 percent of native households were on welfare as compared to 9.1 percent of immigrant households. And, if you were to add food stamps and Medicaid to those numbers, by 1992 or so, 20 percent of immigrant households received some kind of aid as compared to 14 percent of native households.
The National Academy of Sciences in their 1997 report, The New Americans, came up with a number that surprised even me. Today in California, the average native household is paying $1200 per year for the fiscal costs associated with immigration in that state. That is not a trivial sum. However, the National Academy found that over time perhaps immigration could be a plus. But, there is a little fine print to that over time.
The little fine print is that this positive conclusion was based on a demographic projection over the next 300 years which stays negative until the moment in time the National Academy made an assumption. The National Academy assumed that in the year 2016, the debt-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio will be held constant henceforth. In other words, somehow our fiscal problems will be worked out by 2016. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. The fact of the matter is the Academy did not use a realistic assumption. The study shows very huge negatives in terms of fiscal impact. It is only that fiscal assumption plucked out of thin air that allowed the National Academy to conclude that immigration might have a positive economic impact 200 years hence.
Let me turn to another reason we should care about immigration and unskilled immigration in particular: the impact that unskilled immigrants have on unskilled natives. It is hard to imagine that you can let 10-20 million less skilled workers into the country and somehow less skilled workers in the United States survive this without any impact. That would almost be unbelievable. It would be denying the law of supply and demand.
Nevertheless, there has been disagreement over this pointdue, in part, to confused reasoning. Let me explain what normally has happened. The typical logic people have used when examining the impact immigrants have on natives is to compare the situation of natives in a city like San Diegowhich has a lot of immigrantswith the situation of natives in Pittsburgh, a city with fewer immigrants. Then, assuming the logic of economic analysis is right, they expect to find natives in San Diego worse off than natives in Pittsburgh. They make what is called a spatial correlation.
There are two problems with that logic. The first problem is immigrants tend to reside in cities that are doing pretty well. They do not want to go to a city that is depressed. So part of the correlation may become contaminated by that simple fact. In addition, it is unlikely that natives in San Diego who are suffering because of the impact of immigration are going to stand still. They are going to respond in several ways.
First off, natives will move out. And, when they move to other cities, they will diffuse the shock of immigration through the whole country. Secondly, natives that were planning to move to San Diego may decide not to move there. And, last but not least, an investor planning to put money into a garment factory in Detroit or Pittsburgh may look at the supply of cheap labor in San Diego and decide to make the investment there. Consequently, the negative impacts of immigration may not be visible in San Diego, but in Pittsburghwhich was not the place where we would have been looking for it. And, that is where the confusion has come in.
So far, I have talked about the costs. But, we would not have immigration if there were not benefits as well. If everybody lost, we would not have any immigrants. So somebody must gain an awful lot for this to continue.
Given this, the argument that immigration is great for the country is really the wrong way to look at the debate. The correct way to look at the debate is as a tug of war. It is a tug of war between people who gain a lot and people who lose a lot. It is a debate over distribution. It is not a debate over the size of the pie. It is a debate over how the pie is divided. If you look at two numbers from my own economic model, native workers lose approximately 1.9 percent of GDP, or $133 billion, and native capitalists gain approximately 2 percent of GDP, or $140 billion. The net gain to the country is $7 billion. That gain is really tiny, but a lot of money is being transferred from people who compete with immigrants and suffer lower wages, to people who hire those immigrants.
Let me conclude by talking about policy. I think by now economists are reaching a consensus on the costs and benefits of immigration and what I have spoken about today is what the consensus looks like. That does not mean we are addressing the more important question. Should economics even matter when setting immigration policy? We are going to have a limited number of visas. The question is how we want to allocate those limited number of visas among the millions and millions who want to join this free country. Maybe economics should not be the only thing that matters. Maybe we are willing to pay a price to allow particular groups of people with humanitarian needs to immigrate. But we better make sure we know what the price is before we let them in. That is what economics really has to teach us.
Joel E. Cohen
Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of Populations
and Head of the Laboratory of Populations, Rockefeller University
Professor of Populations, Columbia University
Author, How Many People Can the Earth Support? (1995)
© 1998 by Joel E. Cohen
The immigration policy of the United States should reflect a comprehensive vision of Americans values about how we want to live with other Americans and with the rest of the world. I am not going to present that comprehensive vision because I think that is something we have to work out in the political process. The goal of my talk is much more modest. I would like to make three factual observations about immigration to the United States. For each factual observation, I suggest a consequence for policy and action. I make no claims to cover all the important, urgent issues.
My three factual observations have titles: rich and poor; immigration and birth; and space and time. Let me summarize the three sets of facts and consequences first and then give details.
First, rich and poor. Facts: In many respects, there are two distinct worlds on the planet, a rich world and a poor world. Many people migrate from the poor world to the rich world in search of a more prosperous life. Consequence: If the rich world wants to reduce the pressure for immigration to the rich world, the rich world should promote the future prosperity of the presently poor world.
Second, immigration and birth. Second facts: Currently the population of the United States grows by about 2.6 million people a year. Of this annual increase, about 1.1 million is the excess of immigration over emigration. The balance of 1.5 million is the excess of births over deaths. It is estimated that about 1.5 million births in the United States each year result from unintended pregnancies, both mistimed and unwanted. Consequence: If the growth of the United States population and the well-being of parents and children are concerns, then improving couples ability to assure that every pregnancy is intended could have effects at least as large as reducing the number of immigrants.
Third, space and time. Third facts: Decisions about how many and which people shall immigrate are made federally, but most immigrants live in a few states and in a few jurisdictions within those states. Local jurisdictions, including Vail, lack authority to control the size or composition of the immigrant population. Consequence: One economic argument for continued immigration is that the long-term national benefits outweigh the short-term local costs. If so, then there should be attention to the possibility that the federal and affected local governments could share control of immigration, its short-term local costs and its long-term national benefits.
Now I would like to go back and give some supporting details, beginning with the rich and the poor. One-fifth of the worlds population has an average annual income of roughly $19,000 per person. These 1.2 billion people of the rich countries live in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The remaining 4.7 billion people of the poor world have an average annual income of $1,100 per person. Now if you do the arithmetic, this means that roughly 80 to 85 percent of the worlds income is received by the top 1.2 billion. The bottom 1.2 billion get about one and a half percent of the worlds income. The ratio of income per person between the top fifth and the bottom fifth is about 60 to 1.
The population of the rich countries increases by about one tenth of one percent per year. If this growth rate were continuedand it will not be but let us pretend it wereand if the poor economies did not develop into rich economies, then the population of the rich world would take more than 500 years to double in size. The population of the poor countries grows at 1.8 percent per year. If this growth rate were continuedand it will not beand if there were no development of poor economies into rich economies, then the population of the poor countries would double in 38 years.
The implications of these differences in growth rates surprise some people. If the rich and poor countries continued to grow at their present rates for a typical lifetime of 76 years, and if there were no development of poor countries into rich countries, then the population of the poor countries would grow 400 percent in one lifetime. That is the result of doubling in 38 years and then doubling again. Meanwhile, the population of the rich countries would increase by roughly eight percent.
People in poor countries live shorter lives on average than those in the rich countries. For example, the average infant born in a poor country has a chance of dying before age one roughly six percent that is more than seven times higher than that of an infant born in a rich country.
Despite higher death rates, poor countries populations grow faster than rich countries because birth rates in the poor countries are much higher. The average woman in the rich countries has 1.6 children in a lifetime at current birth rates. The average woman in the poor countries has 3.4 children in the course of her lifetime at current birth rates. Because of the higher birth rates, the poor countries have a much higher fraction of young people and a much lower fraction of old. In 1996 the poor countries had 35 percent of the population under the age of 15 versus 20 percent in the rich countries. Since most migrants are young adults and their families, the poor countries will have huge numbers of people in the coming generation in the age groups most likely to migrate.
The population density of poor countriesthat is, the number of people per square kilometer of landis 2.5 times higher than it is in the rich countries: 55 people versus 22 people per square kilometer. Only 36 percent in the poor countries live in cities versus 74 percent in the rich countries. What is the consequence of that? The rural areas have almost 38 people per square kilometer in poor countries, but fewer than six people per square kilometer in rich countries. In other words, the rural areas of poor countries are about six times as densely settled as the rural areas of rich countries.
A Presidential Commission on immigration from Mexico suggested that a long-term approach to the problems raised by immigration from Mexico is to help Mexicans build the economy and society of Mexico so that the incentives to move north are diminished. I believe the same conclusion applies to immigration from any of the economically less developed countries.
I would like to turn next to births and migrants. The population of the United States increases annually by about 2.6 million people per year. This increase is equivalent to adding one Manhattan a year, or the 1990 population of Colorado in 15 months. As I said earlier, about 1.1 million of the annual increase is the excess of immigration over emigration. (That number is partly guesswork because it includes undocumented immigrants.) In addition, about 3.9 million births a year subtracted by 2.4 million deaths a year adds 1.5 million people annually.
Where do the 3.9 million births come from? Sex. Currently about 5.5 million women in the United States become pregnant each year. Some of these pregnancies are intentional, but more than half are not. When women were asked in 1987, 43 percent reported that their most recent pregnancy was intended. Fifty-seven percent reported that their most recent pregnancy was either mistimedthat is, they would have had it lateror unwanted at any time.
If we apply those percentages to current pregnancies, then 2.4 million births a year resulted from intended pregnancies. About 3.1 million pregnancies are mistimed or unwanted. A little more than half of those, or 1.6 million, are aborted. Thus 1.5 million pregnancies a year result from unintended pregnancies. Undoubtedly, many children of unintended pregnancies get the loving welcome and the material resources from their parents which they deserve. But, undoubtedly, many do not. The adverse consequences of unintended pregnancies for many children and parents are well documented and are a matter of concern regardless of the consequences of those births for population growth.
When people worry about the contribution of immigration to American population growth, I think they should consider the 1.1 million net immigrants per year along with the 1.5 million births per year that result from unintended pregnancies. They should take a comprehensive, rather than a narrow, look at how best to enhance the well-being of the American population.
Third and last, some comments on space and time. Globally, about 125 million people, or two percent of the worlds population, reside outside the country of their birth. The U.S. has more immigrants than any other country. In 1996, 24.6 million foreign-born people were 9.3 percent of the estimated U.S. population. Of these 24.6 million, 61.1 percent entered and remained in the United States between 1980 and 1996.
Generally immigrants are highly concentrated. In 1996, nearly half of U.S. immigrants lived in only two states: California (8 million immigrants made up 25.1 percent of the state population) and New York (3.2 million immigrants made up 17.7 percent of the state population). Other states with at least a million foreign-born residents in 1996 were Florida (15.2 percent of the population), Texas (11.2 percent), New Jersey (14.6 percent), and Illinois (9 percent). The consolidated metropolitan area of Los Angeles had 27 percent foreign-born; the county of Los Angeles had 33 percent; and the city of Los Angeles had 38 percent foreign-born. If local governments are providing a national benefit by serving immigrant populations, then means of equitably distributing the costs of those services should be considered.
The National Academy of Sciences recently completed a major study of immigration called The New Americans. The charge to the National Academy of Sciences from the U.S. Congress focused on the economic, demographic and fiscal impacts of migration. The National Academy found that, under certain possibly controversial assumptions, a typical immigrant eventually makes a positive contribution to the U.S. economy but it takes a long time for the balance of economic costs and economic benefits to turn positive.
If one combines this finding with the undisputed spatial concentration of immigrants, one obtains a picture of concentrated short-term local costs and diffused long-term national benefitsa mismatch in space and time. Federal decisions about immigration could be distorted if they do not take full account of local impacts.
If the Congress had wanted an objective, comparative analysis of all the demographic sources of economic gains and losses, it would have commissioned the National Academy of Sciences to carry out the same economic analysis for a newborn child resulting from an intended pregnancy, for one resulting from a mistimed pregnancy, and for one resulting from a pregnancy unwanted at any time.
The demographic and economic effects of immigration can be measured nationally with existing statistical systems. The environmental and cultural effects of immigration mainly occur locally, prove much more difficult to measure quantitatively, and are usually overlooked in demographic and economic analysis.
In 1950, the United States. had about 150 million people. Today, it has about 260 million people. In the lifetimes of our children, depending on choices that we and they make, the population could grow by another 100 or 200 million. Changes of that magnitude have environmental and political consequences. For example, the National Forest system registered 10 times as many recreational visitor days per year in the early 1990s as it did in 1950. Part of that increase resulted from population growth, part from rising affluence, and part from cultural changes.
As another example, in 1790 when there were 13 states, 26 senators, and 3.1 million American citizens, there were roughly 120,000 Americans per senator. Today, with 100 senators and 260 million Americans, there are 2.6 million Americans per senator20 times as many. We need to understand much better the political, civil, and social consequences of diluting the relation between the average individual and his or her political representatives.
The cultural impacts of immigration go far beyond inter-ethnic tensions in cities or the flight of native-born people from immigrant concentrations. They include the environmental, political, and civil consequences of massive population growth, partly driven by immigration.
To sum up, I believe we need to view immigration in a more comprehensive framework that recognizes the three elements I have described, along with many others. First, the gap between rich and poor is an irresistible engine of migration. Second, immigration and birth are twin sources of population growth. Third, the gaps in space and time between the costs and the benefits of immigration make it difficult for decision-makers to get accurate and complete signals about all the economic, environmental and cultural impacts of immigration and other sources of population growth.
Georgie Anne Geyer
Internationally Syndicated Columnist
on Foreign Policy and International Affairs
Author, Americans No More: The Death of Citizenship (1996)
For the last 10 years, I have been very interested in immigration. I grew concerned about the issue because as a foreign correspondent I had seen so many countries fall apart under me. But I didnt delve into it in a dramatic way until one day in December 1987 when I realized that the world that I had been covering was changing.
Since 1964 when I went overseas, I have covered the whole world for The Chicago Daily News and then for my column. Everything I reported during most of that time was related in one way or another to the Cold War this long, bitter conflict between not only two countries and two peoples, but between two ideologies. Then suddenly, the second week of December 1987, it all began to change. We do not say we won it because we are too nice. But as a matter of fact, we did win the conflict.
This is how I learned of it. During that historic week in 1987 Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan were meeting in Washington, and three other columnists and I were called to the White House. Almost immediately one of us asked the president how he was getting along with the evil empire. He said, My friend Mikhail, thats no evil empire. We are the best of friends. Were all going to get along fine now. They no longer believe in one world Marxian domination. That was his odd wording. We asked him again and again and each time he repeated that.
I was absolutely breathless when I walked out of the White House that day. I said to one of the other columnists, I think we just heard the announcement of the end of the Cold War. Historians have told me that week is as good a time as any. I was simply ecstatic thinking this would be an exciting new period of history. What would happen? There was no assurance in those early days that our peculiar mix of valuesthe Protestant ethic, capitalism, democracy, individual merit, freedomwould win out. But that was the moment. Everywhere in the world I went after that, people have been striving for some form of the American secular dream.
I began to notice something else during that period a centrifugal force within the United States. As our system was being accepted all over the world even in the former Communist countries, and even to a great degree in China to date we were weakening it from within.
I wanted to understand better why this was happening so I began by asking questions about the border. How many people should we have? How many people can we take? How much of the Latin American left, which hates the United States, is going to come up across that border? Why are we not taking people with skills? Why do we have family reunification? These were all negative questions. I also wanted to write about positives. So, I decided to look into the citizenship business.
I found incredible things because nobody covers citizenship. It is considered a given in this country, an old fogie business that is taken for granted. But as I began to get into it and this relates directly to immigration I began to see there was much more here than I had thought.
The first thing I did for my book, Americans No More, was draw up an incomplete but good list of what countries in the process of disintegration have in common. They are: the death of an all-encompassing ideology; the deconstructing of nations in the name of ambitious individual egos; the breakdown of one language as the unifying element in society; the growth of one definable population group at the expense of others; the perception that affirmative action or policies of preference are unfair; the insistence by minority groups on their own laws; and finally, a time when the moment of critical mass had passed. In other words, mainstream society had waited too long to confront the situation.
I then drew up a list of what I had seen firsthand in Bosnia and Lebanon and a list of where I saw our citizenship. This is absolutely crucial in terms of immigration. Without citizenship and the civic understanding of our citizenship, immigrants will become separate conflicting groups in this society.
First, I looked at the American citizenship tests. Under the old testing system, it was imperative to have an attachment to the Constitution. That was the term. These days, applicants are not asked about the Constitution. Instead, there are two or three questions. They are toughies like the colors of the flag, or the capitol of the United States. My favorite one is to list three reasons to become an American citizen. And, the only three reasons acceptable are: to get a federal job, to bring relatives here, and to get a passport to be able to travel abroad. Once I got this sense of our citizenship testing, I realized we have a problem.
Then I found out about non-citizen voting. A television station in Chicago did a five-part series 10 years ago that showed that all you need to do in order to be able to vote is get a library card. Then, the next step is a drivers license. In addition, The Los Angeles Examiner did a story several years ago about 28 congressmen that had been elected with the illegal vote. Also, there was the fact that Americans were immigrating from America for the first time and, at least until about a year ago, legal immigrants were choosing not to naturalize. In many ways, citizenship had become a carnival, a lottery for green cards. That is one of the things I hate most. At certain times of the year, new immigrants can put their cards into a lottery and who is to become a citizen is drawn out.
But, let me turn again to citizenship testing. The Immigration and Naturalization Service these days is so understanding. The agency does not want to do anything to challenge peoples self esteem. So you can call the I.N.S. and tell them you want the list of questions and answers on the citizenship test. I and others have done this. They will very nicely fax both of them to you so you do not have to do any studying.
I spent a lot more time on this than I should have, considering I have a full-time job with my column. I began to get in deeper and to find the interest groups that are supposedly representing new citizens and immigrants. I went over to talk to the National Council of La Raza, one of the Hispanic lobbying groups, to ask them whom they represented and where they got their money. They said they do not have any members. So then I asked again where they got their money. The answer was the Ford Foundation.
That was my first clue that a whole new political system was being erected in this country. I go into it in some detail in a chapter of my book called Ford Foundation as the New Electorate. It is not hard to trace because the Ford Foundation is very proud of it. It is in all their publications. They have sponsored the National Council of La Raza and many other groups. It is lateral funding for ethnic lobbies who have fought, almost always successfully through the courts, every change in citizenship and language testing. These groups are completely behind the bilingual scam, and the border control. It is all very traceable.
I also looked into the history of citizenship. In earlier eras, there were real strictures to becoming a citizen. For example, you could not be a dual citizen. History and language tests were rigorous. You had to provide a witness to character intent. There were FBI checks, and mediating institutions. The new citizens would go into their new communities and there would be training for them. There is none of that now.
In 1988, a Republican administration (all of these changes are not all Republican or Democratic, although they are more Democratic particularly today) gave citizenship preparation and testing to ethnic lobbies and private companies. The I.N.S. no longer does this. Now, some of these groups are saints, and some are sinners. But what matters most is that they all have their own agendas: to have more people come in or to make more money. These are their agendas and not the agenda of the United States of America.
As I finished my book at break-neck speed in March 1996, different people from the I.N.S. because the I.N.S. is very split about all this warned me that people were going to be pushed through the process to enable them to vote. I had not imagined it could be that bad; even I would not believe that. But in the end, it was much worse: 1.3 million people were pushed through last year with very little training or language proficiency.
We know now about all of the corruption. I am sorry to say it came from Vice President Al Gores office. The idea was to push these people through so they could vote for the Democrats. I think it is appalling for new citizens to come into a country under those circumstances. It corrupts everybody every single person it touches.
But I do not blame immigrants. It is our fault. Our citizenship testing is based on these words: easy, easy, easy. The test will be easy. And, benefits, benefits, benefits. Do not worry about it and you will get lots of benefits. That is what our test is telling people we think of our country. It is not, I think, what we here feel. But, it is what is getting through to them.
I think there is a lot of blame to go around. As I started out the work, I looked to the far left in this country because it has produced the over-arching new ideology of multiculturalismbreaking the country down into group rights, putting ethnic designations on the census. I blame the multiculturalists first, but it really is across the spectrum. The Wall Street Journal editorial board members are for open borders. They want cheap labor because they think that will keep the economy going, with no thought to civics or culture. Then, there are the globalizers who say we do not need the nation-state. They have all these sweet answers and they are all unworkable. But by the time they know that, it is too late.
I have just been able to touch on the many aspects of these issues. What will happen if immigration and citizenship procedures go on the way they are? Mary Ann Glendon, in her book Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse (1991), uses a phrase that I thought really captured it: roaming in the land of strangers. That is what we will become.
It is primarily true that we are a nation of citizens. And, it is secondarily true that we are a nation of immigrants. Immigration was the first step. It is like the step of a child, of someone uncompleted. Citizenship is the completed stage of the human being who has finally entered a civic society where he or she is no longer a subject of the crown, no longer a subject of history, but a self-motivating, self-controlling person.
It started in the north of Europein England in the 15th century. Peasants could own land for the first time and that diffused power. Once individual people could own land, they were on their way to becoming citizens. The great Hannah Arendt once said that it is equality that makes men citizens but citizenship that makes men equals.
Another of my favorite quotes comes from former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm who said that each generation must confront its own heresy. Abraham Lincoln said that we must think anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and thus save the nation. And, Winston Churchill said that courage is the most important virtue because it guarantees all the rest. We will need courage as we do this.
In closing, this issue of the principle behind our nation lies at the center of everything. One, you cannot have leadershipand we are suffering from lack of leadership todaywithout generally-agreed-upon principles. Without principles, leaders dissipate their energies as referees among competing, squabbling and finally internally-conflicting groups with little real interest in the unity of the whole. Two, you cannot have balanced intelligent children without principles. Three, and most importantly, you cannot have a strong, coherent, just democracy without the principles that hold it together.
I do not want to end on a negative note. There are incredibly good, decent, and intelligent civic groups that are bubbling up all over the country. In universities, citizenship is a big topic. People care very desperately. They also want immigration control with citizenship, and I do too. No one has yet brought the majority of Americans together to change the things that have to be changed, like the citizenship process. I hope it will be done. I think it will be done.
Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
State University of New York
Senior Fellow, the Manhattan Institute
Author, Assimilation American Style (1997)
I want to say at the onset that I am for immigration. I think immigration has been good for the United States in the past and it will continue to be good in the future.
I do not know what the right number of immigrants is per year. But, I do not think that is the issue. And, I do not believe economic analysis or demographic profiles will give us the solution in terms of immigration policy. We could have a radically different ratio of rich to poor countries and the United States could still have a very restrictive or unrestrictive policy.
Ultimately, immigration policy is subjective. It is based in our national civic values. That is what I firmly believe. You either think that this is a nation where immigration is part of the civic compact or you do not. That is where I shall argue todayfrom this civic, cultural, and subjective plane.
I would like to start by telling you how I got into this because I think it matters. I had done a lot of work on the economics and the general problems of New York City. One of the first books I wrote was The Ecology of Housing Destruction about housing abandonment in New York City in the 1970s. New York City was dying at that time. The city lost half a million dwelling units more than the entire housing stock of most of the cities in the United States in the course of that decade.
In the early 1990s, the magazine The New Republic asked me to do an article on immigrants in New York, and I agreed. In the course of my analysis, I was struck by how New York City had been transformed by immigration for the better. The pathological abandonment of housing had stopped. And, neighborhoods that had been dying in the 1970s had been revitalized. The key to this revitalization has been the immigrants. They have helped the economy and the fabric of the city.
From there, I became determined to write a book that wove together the notion of immigration and assimilation. To me, the most remarkable thing about the United States is not that we have a lot of immigrants. It is that we have made a unified society out of a nation of immigrants. America uniquely is a nation that assimilates immigrants. That is the critical variable, the one on which the entire immigration policy rises or falls.
I need to explain that when I wrote my book assimilation was an unfashionable term, and I think it probably still is today. It is crucial to define assimilation properly. The biggest mistake that we make when we use the term is to confuse it with what sociologists call acculturation.
Assimilation is not about people being culturally similar. They may or may not be. Some of the most assimilated people in the United States the Amish in Pennsylvania and Hassidim in Brooklynare considered the oddest culturally. And some of the least assimilated people, including the participants in the World Trade Center bombing which I certainly think is an anti-assimilationist actwere thoroughly acculturated. In articles I have read, the families of the terrorists say they were so surprised their relatives would do such a thing because they claimed to love the United States so much. What they loved was the consumer culture of the United States. That is not a relevant criterion for assimilation; the consumer culture of America is all over the world.
The contract contains three clauses. One is the supremacy of the English language in the civic domain. Americans can speak any language they want at home and in their neighborhoods. But the civic language of the United States which means the language of the courts, at the ballot box, at the public schools, at the universities other than in core classes that teach other languages is English.
Next is adherence to and belief in what many have called the American idea, the American civic architecture. That is our glory. We all have our human frailties and we are never as good as our ideals. But I think it is important to have these ideals and to believe in them. The faith in the American civic template is the second clause of the assimilation contract.
The third is faith in the Protestant ethic. This term was coined by Max Weber to refer to the Calvinist philosophical basis for the work ethic. But the important thing about the Protestant ethic has nothing to do with Protestantism. The ethic rewards people for striving and doing well. It enjoins judging people by any criteria other than what they themselves have accomplished. The bane of most multi-ethnic societies is the classification and the consideration of people on the basis of their ethnicity. The Protestant ethic does not stand for that. It says we are going to judge you by what you have done, not by who your parents are or what your religion is.
Those three clauses of the assimilation contract were the charter elements, the key elements, in the assimilation paradigm all through the period in which we took in large numbers of immigrants. Then, something happened in the 1960s. I am not clear exactly what or why. Maybe it was the Vietnam War. I think to a large extent it was also the civil rights revolution. Maybe these things happen in cycles and social agreements and compacts unravel periodically. Whatever it was, we emerged from the 1960s with a powerful anti-assimilation bias.
All three clauses of the assimilation contract were being overturned. Bilingualism became a fashionable ideology and it is today. The American idea has been trashed in our public schools, in our universities, and by the media. There is a pervasive cynicism about it some of it in serious works by intellectuals, other in an ambient culture that has emerged in institutions of higher education. And the Protestant ethic has been seriously undermined by the welfare state.
So all three clauses were seriously weakened. However, I do believe that there is enough of the assimilation contract still at work today. If there is anything to be alarmed about, it is not the numbers of immigrants. It is the erosion of the assimilation contract.
Who is responsible for this erosion? That is another critical point. I argue strenuously that the key to assimilation is not what immigrants do or what they believe. The key to the assimilation contract is what native Americans believe and what native Americans do. The immigrants are clay in the hands of whatever society they enter. It is the failure of native Americans to enforce the assimilation contract, the disbelief of native Americans in the assimilation contract, that has been the problem.
This phenomenon is well documented in sociological literature. Assimilation is always driven by the premises of the host society. Immigrants are the same wherever they go. The Indian family that immigrates to Australia or Canada or the United States or Europe is the same family and holds the same beliefs. How they function in these different societies is related to how those societies relate to them.
It is very clear if one does any historical analysis that the actual ethnic mix or degree of ethnic similarity in a country is not the crucial variable. To begin with, no degree of ethnic similarity is ever enough. In the former Yugoslavia, people are quite similar ethnically even when compared to the population of a middle-American suburb. Yes, they vary by religion. But in almost every other respect, they are nearly identical. But, that did not keep them from a bloody war.
Another hot spot composed entirely of Europeans is Northern Ireland. We keep on saying, Oh, Europeans can assimilate into the United States. We have a hard time with Asians and Africans and others. But there are all Europeans in Northern Ireland and they are killing each other. And to our north, there is a very interesting case study. Where do the Canadians have their ethnic conflict? It is not between the hundreds of thousands of immigrants accepted in recent years and the native Canadian population. It is between the French and English Canadians, again both Europeans who have been there a long time. As I said, no amount of ethnic similarity is ever enough. Ethnic co-existence becomes possible only when ethnicity is made irrelevant as a civic criterion.
As I said at the start, I believe our faith in immigration and our belief in continuing high levels of immigration are going to be grounded on how we feel about the immigrants place in American society. Nevertheless, we do have constantly recurring alarmists perspectives from demographic and economic points of view. I do not want to add to the ongoing demographic discussion here, but I do want to second the point already made today that demographics change. The countries of the poor world are developingsome of them quite rapidly. And, rapid economic development results in reduced birth rates.
I am also not going to take up the economic issues, but they are interesting. I keep hearing the theme today: we could absorb immigrants in the 19th century because we had a rapidly growing economy; we cannot absorb them today because we have a more slowly growing economy. America has the most vital economy today of any of the industrial nations in the world. We now have the lowest unemployment rate we have had in decades and the highest employment rate we have ever had in our history or just about any industrial country has had on earth.
Do not compare our economic growth rate today with that of 100 years ago. It is undoubtedly lower now. When you are in the process of economic development, you grow rapidly. We are past that stage. Compare the United States with its immigrants and its growth rates with the countries of Europe that do not have immigrants. There is no proof that our growth rate would be any better without immigrants. I would argue that at least some small measure of our economic robustness as a nation can be related to immigrants.
In summary, I believe that there is enough of the assimilation contract still at work today. But if there is anything to be alarmed about, it is not the numbers of immigrants. It is the erosion of the assimilation contract.