ON THE EVE of President Fox's state visit to Washington (scheduled for September 5) it behooves the American people to take a good, hard look at Mexican immigration to their country, and ask themselves if it is really in America's best interests. If the American people don't take an interest in the subject, the matter will soon be out of their hands anyway. After all, President Bush has taken immigration policy, once considered a domestic issue , and has made it a subject of negotiations with the government of Mexico.
It's crystal clear what the Fox administration wants – continued high immigration of Mexicans to the U.S., with full benefits paid for by American taxpayers, and eventual open borders. It also appears that the Bush administration is moving in the same direction.
America's mainstream media support mass immigration, and coverage of the issue is structured accordingly. Americans are constantly told that the vast people movement now occurring between Mexico and the United States is both inevitable and beneficial for all concerned, while its critics are ignored or slandered.
All the more reason to note the appearance of a well-documented study released by the Center For Immigration Studies, which demolishes conventional wisdom on the subject and raises various troubling issues. "Immigration from Mexico: Assessing the Impact on the United States," though highly unlikely to be alluded to on President Bush's bilingual Saturday radio address, should be required reading for every American policy-maker and concerned citizen.
The report shows that present-day Mexican immigration , rather than meeting the needs of today's economy, is a net drain, since most Mexican immigrant laborers are considered unskilled workers. According to Steven Camarota, author of the report, "because such a large share of Mexicans are unskilled at a time when the U.S. economy offers limited opportunities to unskilled workers, Mexican immigration has added significantly to the size of the poor and uninsured populations, and to the nation's welfare case load...."
Since most of today's Mexican immigrants have low levels of formal education (almost two-thirds of them have not completed high school), their presence in the work force poses a direct threat to the 10 million of your fellow American citizens who have not completed high school. Camarota explains that "Mexican immigration is overwhelmingly unskilled... unskilled immigration... tends to reduce wages for workers who are already the lowest paid and whose real wages actually declined in the 1990s." The report estimates that during the '90s, salaries of Americans without a high school education probably dropped 5% due to Mexican immigration.
Promotors of high immigration are fond of saying that "Immigrants only take jobs Americans don't want." But the Camarota report shows us that Mexican immigrants are in direct competition for the jobs of America's most vulnerable working poor. Certainly, Mexican immigrants are not competing for Paul Gigot's position at the Wall Street Journal, or with the host of other well-paid jounalists and pundits who promote mass immigration, but they do threaten the jobs, and reduce the wages, of the most vulnerable workers in the American economy – those without a high school education.
One might respond by saying that the fact that our country has people without a high school education is a problem that should be dealt with. Most assuredly it is, but how do you solve a problem by increasing it? If the U.S. already has plenty of poverty, why import more? And present-day Mexican immigration is a poverty-importation scheme, as Camarota informs us. "Although they comprise 4.2 percent of the nation's total population, Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) account for 10.2 percent of all persons in poverty and 12.5 percent of those without health insurance." Recall that during the 2000 debates, when Gore correctly pointed out Texas' high rate of the uninsured, Bush refused to correctly blame immigration even to defend his own record (!).
Camarota points out that since Mexican immigrants earn less than American natives, they pay less in taxes and have a higher welfare dependency rate. The report states that "Even after welfare reform, welfare use among Mexican immigrant households remains much higher than that of natives. An estimated 33.9 percent of households headed by legal Mexican immigrants and 24.9 percent headed by illegal Mexican immigrants used at least one major welfare program. In contrast, 14.8 percent of native households used welfare." In fact, according to the Camarota report, "the estimated life-time net fiscal drain (taxes paid minus services used) for the average adult Mexican immigrant is negative $55,200."
Libertarians who defend open borders on ideological grounds should be aware that present immigration policies are increasing the size of the American welfare state and of government in general. Rather than being an example of the free market in action, today's immigration system is really a vast subsidy scheme, in which cheap labor profiteers get their cheap labor while the American taxpayer foots the bill.
And shouldn't any comprehensive appraisal of the costs of Mexican immigration include addressing the wide range of social problems exacerbated by high levels of immigration, of which Mexican immigration forms the largest percentage? This is not a question of "blaming immigrants," as those who wish to stifle debate mischaracterize it. It is rather an honest recognition that such problems as crime, poor education, inadequate health care , and environmental degradation are exacerbated by a system of immigration which takes in a million legal immigrants a year, the majority of them whose only qualification is being related to previous immigrants (nepotism); plus the millions of illegal aliens about to be rewarded for successfully flouting American law.
An honest look at California, America's immigration laboratory, should by itself dispel much of the euphoria promoted by mass immigration boosters. The former Golden State now has the second-smallest middle class in the nation, its once renowned public schools are in crisis, illegal aliens have become a political force despite being non-citizens, anti-American secessionists openly peddle their venomous rhetoric, and there is a power shortage despite the fact that California has a low per-capita electricity consumption. Yet it's considered bad form to connect these disasters to immigration policy. And you know the saying, "As California goes, so goes the nation."
What about the argument that allowing such high Mexican immigration is a way to help Mexico? If that is the real justification, then President Bush should be forthright about it. Imagine Bush addressing the nation: "My fellow Americans, immigration from Mexico is costing our country a bundle. You poor folks are in danger of losing your jobs, and you middle-class folks will pay more in taxes. You can also expect school overcrowding, a higher crime rate, and other social problems. But it's all worth it because immigration is helping our Mexican neighbors achieve a higher standard of living, and in another generation or two they will have the same standard of living that we have. Thank you Americans, for your sacrifice, and my good buddy Vicente appreciates it also!" As outrageous as it seems, such an approach would be refreshing compared to the present one of denying an amnesty while simultaneously preparing for it under another name! Nevertheless, I would even question the validity of the assertion that immigration is really helping Mexico.
As an American who lives and works (legally) here in Mexico, I would certainly agree that a prosperous Mexico would be in the best interests of both Mexico and the United States. I just do not see the present immigration system as being very conducive to that end. It certainly does enable Mexico's white-minority government to retain power and gives aid and comfort to Hispanic ethnic identity activists in the U.S. – but it seems to exercise a corrosive effect on Mexican society as a whole.
Rural villages are depopulated and families separated. The economy is distorted in various ways. For one thing, Mexicans who already have employment are constantly tempted to quit their Mexican job and go north. Meanwhile, other Mexicans refuse available employment because they can earn more from their remittances from the U.S. than by working locally. Now there are even complaints of labor shortages in regions and industries of Mexico – including construction and agriculture (which is solved by importing workers from poorer parts of Mexico and Central America who work for even less!): How can Mexico's economy mature if its principal asset remains cheap labor?
Besides, if the United States is required to accept massive Mexican immigration until Mexico achieves economic parity, how long will that take? At least a generation, under the best-case scenario, I'd say, and in the meantime, what happens to the unity and sovereignty of the United States? That question also must be asked and dealt with. As Samuel Huntington has pointed out in another article that deserves wider circulation , "Mexican immigration looms as a unique and disturbing challenge to our cultural identity, our national identity, and potentially to our future as a country." Millions of Mexicans are immigrating to the United States, and more and more of them are not assimilating, and appear to have no intention of doing so. Even the acquisition of American citizenship, once thought to be the decisive point in crossing the line from one loyalty to another, is for many contemporary immigrants just a means to an end. The fact is, most prospective Mexican immigrants to the U.S. go there for the money and don't have a burning desire to become Americans . With the increase in double citizenship, immigrants can have their cake and eat it too. If Fox is able to legalize absentee voting of Mexicans in the U.S., there is a potential for millions of double citizens to be voting, Fox hopes, in the interests of the Mexican government. Influential Mexican writers view present immigration trends and the growth of a Hispanic bloc in the U.S. as a projection of Mexican power. Just recently, for example, Mexican writer Elena Poniatowski, visiting Venezuela, stated clearly that "Mexico is recovering the territories ceded to the U.S. with migratory tactics."
Or consider the declaration made on August 23rd in El Paso, Texas, by Fox's cabinet officer Juan Hernandez (himself a dual national), who said that "the Mexican population is 100 million in Mexico and 23 million who live in the United States."
That figure of 23 million Mexicans in the United States necessarily includes American citizens of Mexican descent – which means that the Mexican government Bush is negotiating immigration policy with is claiming jurisdiction over and allegiance from, American citizens.
If unchecked , the continued mass immigration of Mexicans combined with a high rate of non-assimilation can only lead to disaster. Whether it leads to a full-fledged secession of the Southwest, a globalized corporate merger of the U.S. and Mexico, or simply the balkanized America reduced to the "squabbling nationalities" Roosevelt warned against a century ago, or some combination thereof, it means the end of the United States of America as we know it . It also means the end of the republican form of government envisioned by the framers of the constitution. All of which is much too high a price to pay for the present system to continue or be expanded.
Which means it's high time for an end to mass immigration from Mexico. Close the gates now. Allow the free market to function for America's working poor, thus justifying the work ethic. Permit the immigrants already in the U.S. to assimilate, prosper, intermarry , and become Americans. And when our gates are shut, Mexico's leadership will be forced at last to look inward and get serious about the plight of its own people, in its own country. That's what Bush should tell Fox when the latter comes calling, and if Bush doesn't – and he probably won't – the American people should tell him so, in no uncertain terms.