Monday, August 7, 2017

Everyone is wrong about American Immigration Policy

This is one of those occasional entries I started months ago, and then put aside.  Frankly, its a topci that can so easily be taken the wrong way, I simply decided not to post it.  However, now, with the new immigration proposal by the administration, its topical again, so I'm reviving it.

When I started this thread it was in the context of the just ordered "Muslim Ban". There's a lot of water under the bridge since then, so a lot of this is no longer exactly on topic, but it'll swing around to being so.

 The unfortunate way we romantically recall immigration.  Ellis Island, 1913.  The Homestead Act was still in effect. The Czar still owned, and I do mean own, all of Russia.  The sun never set on the British Empire. That era is over in every way.

First, let me note, I'm a child of an immigrant.

So, having noted that (and guessing that this probably doesn't lead to where you think, or even what the view of my immigrant mother was in later years), and now starting off where I left off . . . 

 "Everyone is wrong about American Immigration Policy". So I stated when I started this entry.

And I do mean everyone.

Immigration has been a hot topic in politics for years and years.  Seemingly forgotten in the current uproar of President Trump's "Muslim Ban" (and now a new more restrictive legislative immigration proposal) is the fact that its fairly well established that the majority of Americans have felt, for a very long time, that American immigration policies, or frankly the lack of them, were out of control. That's not racist, as those on the Greenwich Village Progressive Left like to imagine.   And it has little to do, additionally, with what we're currently seeing.  Indeed, Trump's recent support of a new immigration statute does demonstrate, to his credit, that he's still trying to satisfy his base.

But let's be honest.

Our entire immigration policy is stupid, as we've never thought it out.

A. Is the Goal Bangladesh?

The United States needs an immigration policy that's coherent for a nation of 360,000,000, not one that has a population of 136,000,000.

And that's a hard thing, seemingly, for politicians to grasp.

So, let's look at what a sane, sensible, just and workable immigration policy would look like.

And let's start with a couple of controversial statements which are true, but none the less fly in the face of American cliches about themselves and immigration.

First of all, the entire "we're a nation of immigrants" bromide is utterly and completely pointless.

 Sitting Bull, whose adult life was basically dedicated to resisting the "nation of immigrants' bromide that people like to drag out during immigration discussions.

Yes, most Americans descend from immigrants.  Not all do.  Indeed, the entire "nation of immigrants" thing has to be a bitter thing to hear if you are Sioux, or Ojibwa, or Arapaho, etc.  That's a lot like "we're a nation of invaders".  Which was, after all, true.  Sure, the invaders were immigrants, but then so were the Vikings. I.e., the Vikings were invaders and immigrants where they invaded. That doesn't put a happy face on it.

 Look!  Danish immigrants. . .ie., Vikings. And what appears to also be halibut underneath them.

On top of it, that "we're a nation of immigrants" item is only sort of remotely true, and less true now than at certain points in our history.  Besides that, as an argument its unthinking and doesn't mean anything at all.  Just because the majority of Americans descend from immigrants doesn't mean that its a good idea for all time.

Indeed, most of the arguments of this type fall pretty flat.  A common related one is that we're a strong nation due to our diverse population.  Probably not.  We've historically been a strong nation as we had a fairly open economy and a continent of unexplored resources, which is the same reason taht Canada has done well or Australia has done well.  Openness to democracy, an English cultural value, a free market economy (also largely an English cultural value at the time) and a continent of unexploited resources. . . well that's going to work every time.

Or rather, that always worked where it existed.  Unexploited resources, at least on this planet, no longer exist.  Indeed, the opposite is quite true.  According to folks who like to worry about such topics the planet actually tipped over the excessive consumption point this year this month.  I'm sure that's debatable, but that there are no unexploited regions, in the European economic sense, is not.

But beyond that, and here's the point, you can't be a population importing nation forever on a large scale, unless your own population is declining on a large scale (a different topic entirely).

But Americans, or at least some Americans, seem to think so, as if the globe was a gigantic expanding ball.

At some point, immigration will have a population increasing impact that's an environmental and economic depressor, assuming it isn't right now.  It is clear that the American population has increased to the destructive level in regards to wildlands and farm ground.  How much further is out goal?

 Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand Country Almanac and the creating of "the land ethic" with Olaus Muire at the 1946 annual meeting of The Wilderness Society Council, Old Rag, Virginia.  We'd be a lot better off if the concepts of Leopold and Murie dictated out immigration policy than those of Schumer, Simpson and Kennedy.

Well, we don't have one.

We ought to think of that.

It's not racist or cruel to believe that, for example, your house is comfortable with four, but you can take in a couple of more and make it six. That doesn't mean, however, that you can take in sixteen.  If you doubt this, try it.

So, as a nation, at what point should we stop taking immigrants if it increases the population, and at what point must we?

We probably ought to figure that out soon, as in about ten years ago.  Maybe twenty.

But in the absence of a decade ago, we ought to figure it out now.

Okay, that's uncomfortable for many, but it's the first think we ought to figure out and consider.

In doing this, we need to be just.  Just because I might like there to be only ten people in the county doesn't mean that it shouldn't have 10,000, or 100,000, or whatever.  But by the same token, it might not work for it to have 1,000,000 people in it either.  We make, however, nearly no effort to figure any of this out.

At some point, rather obviously, we can so densely pack the country that its not pleasant to live in. We can.  Maybe we already have, based on the complaints I hear all the time from people who  live in big cities.  Beyond that, at some point we achieve a negative result economically as well as environmentally.  Were is that point? Not only do we not know, we've never even tried to figure it out. We should.

B.  Protecting the Internal Immigrants

The basic truth of American politicians views on immigration is that every Democrat sees immigrants as Democratic voters and every Republican sees them mowing their lawn, so a quiet little conspiracy of inaction has existed for a really long time on this.  Now people are mad.

Who is mad?

Well, people who lack good work are mad.

This is not the fault of our immigrants, legal or illegal, but rather its the fault of those who are encouraging this to go on and wink at the law in doing it. 

And this really hurts certain sections of our own population.

 Mixed race, white and black, children shucking oysters just before World War One. The original caption notes:  "Scene in canning factory showing a 7-year old girl who shucks 3 pots of oysters a day, and works regularly, and her 6-year old brother who helps some. Also a 11-year old boy who does six pots a day. Several others here under 12 years, but there were more last month. Mostly negro workers. The boss said "We keep only enough whites so we can control the negroes and keep them agoing." Lowden Canning Co. Location: Bluffton, South Carolina"  The children of the white laborers in this photo are doing better today than the children of the black laborers, which immigration policy never seems to take into account.

The late Richard Stroud, of The New Republic, believed that immigration ought to be halted completely until such time as African Americans achieved economic parity with whites.  His concept of halt was absolute, and I'm not arguing for that.  However it is undeniable that we take in economically distressed populations as we know that they will enter the laboring class.  We don't really care about those in our own laboring class as they've been largely silent for years and years, and we particularly don't care about t hem if they are African Americans or Native Americans. We should.

The American myth, for eons, is that all Americans rise up out of the laboring class. Well, they aren't.  Some people don't want to.  Some people, because the skill set they're born with, cannot. But some cannot because of history and demographics.  If you were born of a population that was brought over by force to labor without pay and without rights, and had your family structure destroyed by slavery, chances are that you or your fellows may still be having a hard time overcoming that.  Or if the same is true because you are a conquered people, you are in the same unfortunate boat. And that boat doesn't seem to rise at all with a rising economy.

It's not just, in these circumstances, to import people who compete directly with the native born for entry level occupations.  Particularly those native born who are basically internal immigrants because of their ethnicity.  Until such time as we've managed to truly make color and ethnicity nothing more than that, and not an economic depressant, we ought not to be taking in large numbers of immigrants who take these individuals chances at a better future.  That is not nice or just.

Many nations, Australia and New Zealand for example, strictly consider employment and cultural questions.  Years ago, when I was just out of high school, and thought maybe I could get a livestock operation in New Zealand or Australia I looked into it.  New Zealand in particular, I recall, didn't want you unless you had skills in an area they actually needed.  Otherwise, forget it. That was a sane, not racist, policy.

Which makes our you can come in if you have a lot of money and are going to create work policy a whole lot of bull.  This is how twits like the Vanderpumps, who should be polluting the United Kingdom instead of the United States, get in here.  It must be galling if you have to work nights at an inner city convenience store to put up with stuff like this and feel that the nation truly does not care about you.

C.  You can consider culture and ethnicity

To the extent we do need to take in conventional immigrants (i.e., not refugees, which are different and discussed below) it's not racist or bad to consider if they will fit fairly seamlessly into our culture, and we do have one.

Immigrant children in Boston, early 20th Century.

The one thing that Teddy Kennedy ever seemed to get done in the decades of political occupancy he had was to create an immigration bill that ignored this, and which has afflicted the United States ever since.  It was, truly, noble, and incredibly naive, at the same time.  Kennedy felt that basically all immigration should be economic.

Well, people still live in the real world.

Our immigrants have changed over time, but for the most part, most immigrants to the United States have been from European cultures, which doesn't mean that they are European.  European cultures, in varying degrees, are all subject to the leveling influences that have impacted them in the form of the Roman Empire's concepts of citizenship and the Catholic Church's concepts of the equality of all men. We are a European nation, whether we acknowledge that or not, even though we are not on the continent of Europe.

Not all cultures have those views.

Many have come to have them, over time, due to European influence. And for that reason there are many people in the world today who are far from European but are in culture. Frankly, a lot of African immigrants today from southern Africa hold more deeply traditional European outlooks than many Europeans.  So I am not saying, as some might assume, that all immigrants to the United States must be white European Christians. Indeed, frankly, right now I'd see very little reason, if we must bring in immigrants, to bring in Western Europeans at all. Their economies are fine.  This, indeed, is part of the reason why I wonder why we presently seem to have an endless number of English entertainment personalities polluting the country by their presence here. Go back to the UK.

I guess I should note, in this context, that this would suggest, and correctly, that I'm not hugely impressed, although I can see a basis for, the proposed requirement that an immigrant be able to speak English.  I don't tie cultural concerns to being able to speak English, although I can also see reasons why people might want this requirement.  A lot of it is simply a visceral reaction to the ever expanding presence of Spanish as a nearly second unofficial US language (keeping in mind we have no official language at all).  A better reason for the concern is that it gets expensive having to cater to more than one language, but all of this ultimately goes back to the fact that the US has simply been letting in far too many migrants.

Anyhow, in regards to whats noted above, although I have some to add to it below, that personally I'd likely favor Mexican immigrants over others for the cultural reasons noted above and which will be explored more below.  I  know that the Census Bureau believes that Hispanics are a mysterious entity, but they're a mixed race, European culture and fit in well.

Well, then, if that's the case, what am I saying?

I am saying that there actually is a basis to consider some groups carefully.  That doesn't necessarily mean exclude them all, but economic migrants from regions of the globe that have oppressed women, opposed democracy and have a lack of tolerance culturally for any other cultures are, frankly, suspect. 

 House of Russian immigrants, marked with Orthodox symbol, prior to World War One. There was a great deal of Russian immigration during this period.  Some of the immigrants, like Leon Trotsky, returned to Russia, and not always to good results.

I'd note that other nations do indeed carefully consider such things.  Only very, very recently has this not been the majority rule for most nations.  It ceased to be in the context of the European community just before the big flood of Middle Easter refugees and now is a major topic in many European nations, and not in a good way as a result.

I'm also not saying don't take any in. But being purely blind to this is a problem for them and for us.  Cultures that hold values that are strongly in opposition to our own can be accommodated, but not at such levels that the native culture is imported into our own and then defends itself against our own.  While it largely stems from other reasons, this is what has happened in Europe with recent Islamic immigration.  The migrants are not only not being absorbed, they're forming alien enclaves in European cultures that, in some instances, they become strongly opposed to.  Brought in, in smaller numbers, and this doesn't occur.

Jewish Polish farm girl, a migrant to what was then Palestine. This girl was part of a Zionist migration to what became Israel, something that is still debated in some circles, but which no doubt saved her from the gas chamber at the hands of the Germans just a few years later.

Indeed, one of the dirty little secrets of immigration is that it allows people to escape their cultures.  The American romantic view of immigration is that everyone brings their wonderful, wonderful culture with them and we all benefit from that.  Truth be known, however, plenty of people are seeking to escape their cultures in large and small ways. Some do this intentionally, and for some this will just occur.

By way of an example, a friend of mine descends from a Russian Jewish family that came over to Wyoming, changed their name, and went into ranching.  Chances are good that the immigrant family had some familiarity with Jewish communal farming in Russia, but they didn't do anything like that here.  We don't tend to think of Jewish ranchers in the US, but there were more than we might imagine. They'd escaped, however, a certain mode of life.

I'm not saying that every culture that comes into the US needs to forget its heritage. Far from it. But for some cultures that are really alien as compared to ours, the immigrants can end up going down a fork in the road. They can either end up in enclaves that reinforce their original culture, often to their own detriment, or in communities that completely lack it. When that occurs, they choose what they retain and what they dump.  Btu they can't do that if numbers are so vast that they're compelled by that fact to go into communities made up of people just like themselves, their personal wishes aside.

Indeed, an example of that is provided by the example of some teenage girls in Omaha from about two decades ago.  While people in New York or Los Angeles imagine everyone in Omaha as a hayseed, in fact its a large Midwestern city with a large immigrant population.  Some girls who grew up there, in Muslim families, found themselves being assigned to older men for forced chosen marriages. They bolted.  Islamic immigrants dumping part of their culture, as it were.  That was made easier for them in that they were primarily in a non Islamic society.

D.  You have to make an exception for refugees, no matter where they are from.

As is fairly clear, I'd grossly limit the number of immigrants we take in now down to a smaller number as I think the era of sensible mass migration into the United States is really over. But refugees are different.

Refugees you need to allow in, granted with controls, etc., as they're refugees. Its the humane and right thing to do.  There's just no two ways about it.

Can you make choices in doing that? Sure.  In a huge crisis, such as the one we have going on now, we can't take them all in.  And we shouldn't be doing what we have been doing in regards to Australia, which is having them pass their refugees from the north on to us. Australia needs to man up and take them itself.  After all, we don't pass on Cuban refugees to Australia, which would be immoral and dumb.

E.  You have to consider the situation where they are from.

This is a little harder to describe, but somehow some of the anger about immigrants has attached to where they are from, which is also wrong.

People should not be mad at migrants or where they are from.  It's not the fault of migrants, legal or illegal, that they saw better opportunities elsewhere.  If somebody from Chihuahua saw a better future north of the border, well they did. That doesn't mean we should have an open border, but it does mean that being mad, for example, at Mexico or Mexicans is not right.

We can't fix the reasons people are in bad straights all over the globe.  Indeed, we don't seem to be able to do that even as to ourselves, although we've come a long ways.  But we can fix some of it.

One of the things, for example, we should recognize is that Mexico, where most of our migrants are coming from, is our neighbor and that it has made amazing economic progress over the past 40 years.  Most Mexicans are now in the middle class for the first time in its history. That's absolutely great, and we ought not to mess with it.

Indeed, while I haven't always been fully convinced, by this point I think it would be best for North America if all three of the North American nations were economically integrated.  We darned near are now.  This doesn't mean opening the border, but if we can take final steps to really integrate all three economies, that would be great for everyone. It might complete the process of bringing Mexico into the First World and if that occurred, well, much of our illegal migration problem would evaporate.

Indeed, I'd like to see a Mexico that had to import farm laborers to work its fields and which became as much of a retirement draw to elderly American from New Jersey or Quebec City as Florida.

F. Economic Justice

As noted above, when considering immigration, you need to consider the economic impact on your own country.  You should also consider the economic situation, and development, for potential migrants.
As noted above, that's why I feel that the current policy that lets in folks who are doing okay if they have money is really dumb.  I don't care if the Vanderpumps make jobs.  First, I don't really believe it, but secondly, entertainers, celebrities and monied people can just stay, and should stay, where they are.  We don't need them and they really serve no purpose here. 

That would scale immigration to other classes, which is where it should be.  People in economically distressed regions, keeping in mind additional considerations, should be helped, but should also not be brought in to the detriment of people in the same category in the United States. Both should be helped in ways that really help them.  

This is why, in my view, the old immigration policy before the Kennedy mess made more sense.  It did help the poor, but largely the poor of regions that were at least vaguely assured of eventual assimilation. This wasn't always European cultures, but it often was.  And the rates were at a rate that could be handled.

A Sane Immigration Policy

So taking all of this, what's it mean.

 Mexican refugees entering the United States during the Mexican Revolution.  It was not until the Mexican Revolution that appreciable numbers of Mexicans entered the US, and they did so first as refugees, both economic and political.

Well our current policy is simply stupid. We take in far more migrants than we can absorb and I'd argue we have been doing that at least since the 1980s.  Teddy Kennedy apparently believed the world was a giant balloon and would get bigger and bigger.  It doesn't and it won't.  The era when the US can absorb an infinite number of migrants is now in the distant past.

We ought to figure out, therefore, how many we really need and how many we can actually take and at what point the whole thing works well for everyone. We just don't know what that number is.  We ought to address that.

Which doesn't mean that we can ignore the world.  Refugee crises are crises, and the whole world must react to them.  Refugees are different than other would be migrants and must be addressed with mercy.  If that means they fill the quota, or more than the quota, and nobody else gets in that year, so be it.   But also, the situation in their native lands needs to be addressed.  In other words, you can't address this with hot air and come out with a Justin Trudeau like "it's nice to be nice to the nice" statement and do a darned thing to address the root cause of the problems creating mass refugee migrations.

Finally, there's nothing really wrong with a nation limiting immigration to the people it can absorb both in terms of numbers and in terms of culture.  Many other nations do this.  Flat out ignoring this means that the cultural values of the in-taking nations will in fact be overwhelmed at some point in favor of the values of the nations that are exporting their populations.

Finally, I find myself here, as in other areas, giving credit to the Trump Administration, which I generally hold at arms length, for at least actually trying to take on this topic.  When people like Schumer say the proposal "doesn't make sense" it shows that they are way out of touch with the real world in ways that are disturbing.  Everyone wants to be kind, and should be, but simply pretending all aspect of this can be satisfactory addressed for everyone are erroneous.  That doesn't mean the Trump proposal is the correct one, but I'll give him credit for actually bringing it up and breaking through the quiet Democrat/Republican conspiracy on this one.

As part of that, however, it is also the case that nativist economic policies are the antithesis of sane immigration policies.  We have a duty to people no matter where they are.  Most of the world's migrants are economic migrants.  Making their economies worse, therefore, is directly contrary to what should be our goals.  When we succeed in making other economies ones that we'd wish to migrate to (and we have to some extent) we've achieved what we ought to wish for, assuming that we don't do that by destroying our own economy.

Finally, I think that we ought to consider that not only do we need a sane immigration policy, based on same numbers, and some cultural consideration, but we also ought to acknowledge that we may have a natural immigration/emigration relationship with Mexico that needs to be worked out.  I'm not for opening the border by any means, but it would seem to be fairly obvious that addressing our immigration relationship with Mexico is to both nation's advantage.  Mexicans are, basically, the Italian immigrants of the late 20th Century, early 21st Century.  I.e., they're of a European culture, as are we, but are economically disadvantaged and appear alien to certain groups.  We can't have an open border, but a sane immigration policy would likely be at least partially weighted in favor of Mexico. By the same token, however, we need to assist Mexico in its rapid transition from a poor country into a modern middle class one, and that is occurring.  The sooner that occurs, the better.  Mexico retains some economic policies dating back from before the Mexican Revolution, and those need to go. As part of that, and as much as Mexico probably views a lot of Americans the same way that I view the Vanderpumps, that means opening up the Mexican economy further to outsiders, including Americans.  

Indeed, I hope (truly) for a day in which the Vanderpumps relocate to Baja California.

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