The following is a transcript of a panel discussion held on the new book The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today's, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, October 30, 2007. -- The Editors.
Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies
Heather MacDonald, Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Contributing Editor, City Journal
Victor Davis Hanson, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution; Contributing Editor, City Journal
Steven Malanga, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Senior Editor, City Journal
MARK KRIKORIAN: Good morning. My name is Mark Krikorian. I’m executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. I appreciate your all coming. We’re hosting an event today for a book that we actually weren’t involved in producing. But it’s an interesting volume with a lot of provocative material in it that I think will help move the debate along over immigration in years to come. And the book is called “The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan than Today’s.” This is the book. I think this is the only copy of it here in Washington, so you have postcards outside. I believe the formal publication date is next week. So I’m not even sure if it’s on – does anybody know if it’s on Amazon?
STEVE MALANGA: Oh, yeah. And it is actually in some Barnes & Nobles in Manhattan. I don’t know; I haven’t checked in Washington yet.
MR. KRIKORIAN: So we’re going to have each of the three coauthors give their spiel, talk a little bit about their chapters in the book. And then, we’ll take Q&A for those who are interested. Let me introduce everybody now.
Heather Mac Donald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, contributing editor of City Journal, has been writing on a variety of issues – policing issues, welfare, and over the past few years, immigration as well, and has really made some important contributions in writing about that.
Victor Davis Hanson is senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, contributing editor at City Journal, and has written mainly as a military historian and writes on classics; has written – his immigration contribution is “Mexifornia” from several years back, which started out also as an article in City Journal.
And Steven Malanga is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a senior editor at City Journal, and has started writing also, not just in City Journal, but in a variety of other publications on immigration as well.
So I’ll let each of them give their spiel and then we’ll take some Q&A. You want to start, Heather?
HEATHER MAC DONALD: Sure, I’ll start. Yesterday, Victor started, so we’re going to toss it up a little bit. And thank you very much, Mark. I’ve been enormously assisted by having Mark on a debating team with me on this immigration team in New York. And I want to say, if you ever want a strong ally, it’s Mark. He’s just totally astounding. So we’ll hope that he gets some thoughts in today.
I’d like to start by asking if anyone here has ever noticed the following phenomenon: Let there be the most modest effort to enforce immigration laws – an arrest of a factory owner with a history of knowingly hiring illegal aliens, say, or the deportation of a dozen illegal gang-bangers – and a cry will go out across the nation: government acting unfairly towards immigrants. Disapproving headlines will blare from newspapers, quote, “Fear Spreads among Immigrants,” unquote. Mexican consul generals will complain bitterly that we are psychologically harassing their fellow countrymen by causing them to worry about their status.
Now, note the details of these charges. The problem, according to illegal alien advocates, is not just the enforcement of the law against a handful of violators. The real problem is that by enforcing the law, the government is causing millions more violators to worry that they may face an infinitesimal risk of being apprehended themselves. The breakdown of our immigration laws has come to this: Not only do illegal aliens have a de facto right to live here without penalty, but they also have the right, it seems, to live here without having their piece of mind disturbed by the possibility that they face any chance of being deported.
This sense of entitlement does a great injustice to the thousands of law-abiding foreigners who are patiently waiting to enter the country legally, and it makes a mockery of our laws. It is now people living outside our borders who determine our immigration policy, rather than Americans. To be sure, on paper, our elected representatives continue to make our immigration rules. In reality, however, with a net half-a-million illegal aliens taking up residence each year, the power to decide who comes into the country and on what conditions, the most basic attribute of sovereignty, has passed from Congress to the world at large.
Now, this reversal in the traditional roles of sovereignty leads to the most puzzling aspect of our current immigration debate. As I’ve been debating immigration policy over the last several years, some of my most vituperative opponents have been fellow conservatives. I know that my conservative colleagues who support open borders and amnesty are doing so with the best of intentions and in good faith. But if conservatives stand for anything, it should be the sanctity of the rule of law. I would like today to make the case that conservative principles require that we start taking seriously the concerns of communities who are struggling with the consequences of today’s border breakdown.
If conservatives have demonstrated anything over the last decade-and-a-half, especially New York City, it is that enforcing the law works. Liberals long claimed that crime could not be lowered until poverty disappeared. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner William Bratton begged to differ, and began the most rigorous, accountable, and humane campaign of policing that the city had ever seen. Crime dropped 70 percent and stayed down.
Yet conservative open borders advocates incessantly claim that immigration enforcement can’t work, without explaining why policing brings down domestic crime, but can have no effect on border crime. In fact, until a few months ago, there has been almost no immigration enforcement in the interior of the country. In 2004, a mere three employers were issued fine notices for hiring illegal aliens out of the hundreds of thousands of such lawbreakers across the country.
To be sure, the country has progressively put more agents on the border. But once an illegal alien got across the border, he entered a three million square mile sanctuary zone. Where immigration enforcement has been tried, it has had an enormous impact on behavior. After 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security deported 1500 illegal Pakistanis living in New York City. Fifteen thousand Pakistanis then left voluntarily.
This attrition affect, which is something that Mark has I think most persuasively outlined, means that contrary to the scare tactics of open-border advocates, mass deportations are not required to revive our immigration laws. Increase the risk of apprehension even slightly, and calculations will change. The illegal flow into the country will drop, and the flow of illegals out of the country will increase.
The second conservative principle supporting immigration enforcement is respect for facts on the ground. If someone proposed a program to boost the number of Americans who lack a high school diploma, have children out of wedlock, sell drugs, or use welfare, he would be deemed mad. Yet, our current immigration chaos is doing just that. Hispanics now have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. The Hispanic-out-of-wedlock birthrate is 50 percent, two times that of whites, and three times that of Asians. The Hispanic dropout rate is the highest in the country. And Hispanic children are joining gangs at younger and younger ages.
These facts can be confirmed to a visit to any heavily Hispanic school in the country. Talk to students there, and you’ll hear something like this, told me by an illegal Guatemalan girl in Los Angeles: quote, “Most of the people I used to hang out with when I first came to school have dropped out. Others got kicked out or got into drugs. Five graduated and four home girls got pregnant.”
Yet, conservative open borders advocates cling against all evidence to the myth of the redemptive Hispanic, whose superior values, it is said, will save Americans from itself, from themselves. To be sure, many Hispanic immigrants are industrious strivers who seize every opportunity available to them, but too many of their children are assimilating into the underclass and adopting its values. The incarceration rate of Mexican Americans jumps eight-fold between the first and second generation, to a rate three-and-a-half times that of whites.
This summer in Southern California, in two separate incidents just weeks apart, Latino gang members fatally gunned down two grandmothers who had tried to intercede with their effort to paint – spray paint gang graffiti. The gunmen were not recently arrived illegals, but part of the burgeoning Hispanic-American gang culture. As California goes, so will go the nation.
Americans who bear the costs of mass immigration have started grassroots campaigns to crack down on immigration lawbreakers. Dozens of cities and counties have passed ordinances requiring employers to comply with the law and prohibiting illegals from collecting welfare, among other measures. Liberal judges swat down such ordinances as soon as MALDEF or the ACLU can haul the offending city into court.
Ordinarily, conservatives would deplore such judicial activism and interference in local initiatives, except when those conservatives put open borders ahead of the public will. Then they suddenly find themselves denouncing the American public as nativists and relying on the intercession of elites in Washington and New York to keep the bigots down. Lived experience, however, fuels these citizen movements for immigration control, and policymakers should pay attention.
Finally, the most important value that conservatives can bring to this debate is honesty. Many of the costs imposed by Mexican- and Central-American immigrants are a function of their lack of education, their poverty, and their own and their children’s behavior, not their legal status. Immigration reform that simply legalizes the present immigration mix is certain to expand the underclass, despite the admirable work ethic that the first generation of Latinos usually brings.
There are many educated foreigners patiently waiting for permission to migrate to the United States. The United States can better honor its immigrant heritage by accelerating their entry rather than by favoring the most low skilled of our neighboring populations. And Steve I think is going to make this much more detailed and complicated. And it can honor legal heritage by welcoming immigrants who have respected American law from the moment that they entered the country and in the way they entered it. Thank you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Heather. Victor, would you like to go next? I’ll just go in order of the book cover.
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Thank you. I came about an interest in immigration from both a personal interest – I live on a 40-acre farm in the center of the San Joachin Valley of California that statistics show is one of the nexuses of illegal immigration in the last 20 years.
And I noticed it in a very concrete fashion, that a local school that four generations in my family had gone to had been predominately Mexican American when I was there – I think there was only 5 percent that was not – had now become almost exclusively Mexican American. Towns that I used to go to all of the time and go to San Joachin partly or – had become not just predominately Mexican American and assimilated, but had become what I would call apartheid communities, where the only language being spoken was Spanish, where the police forces and the education establishments had become wards of the federal government because of the lack of a tax base, and where most of the written communication was in Spanish, brought home to me in my local school my children went to once when all of the information was sent to us in Spanish and a person from Oaxaca came up to me and asked me to translate the Spanish because he did not speak Spanish, and I was a professor of Latin at the time and was trying to translate what had been sort of elegant Spanish to someone who had come with an eighth-grade education. It just shows you the sort of Orwellian situation that we encounter.
And then when you look at the statistics to find the empirical evidence of those observations are accurate, there was two things that one notices. One, the statistics are pretty damning that as early as 2001, the figure 11 million was used as a conservative estimate for the number of illegal aliens here. And that has been a static figure, even though most people acknowledge at least 500,000, possibly 750,000 people are coming each year.
And that statistic by general mass should be much higher, but we still use that as an indication we don’t know how many people are here, we don’t know how many dollars an illegal alien contributions versus take in an entitlement. Some people in California suggested over the life cycle of a worker could be as high as $50,000. The nomenclature is even more bizarre.
Somewhere around 2000, it was considered impolite to use the word illegal alien, even though it’s an entirely descriptive phrase, term. People who come from Mexico illegally are illegal and alien is just a Latin root meaning not of this land, a person who is not a citizen. And the imprecise word, undocumented worker, is actually – doesn’t tell us very little at all about the people who are here. Not all are working. Some figures have suggested that 25 percent of those on California entitlement are here illegally from Mexico. And undocumented suggested that there was documents at one point, and they had been forgotten or lost. In most of the case, nobody had a document.
The other thing that became apparent at the beginning of the debate were there were two tactics, I think, of the opponents who wanted what I would call de facto open borders. One was to demonize people as racist who were concerned about enforcing the law, even though many of the people who were most outraged by the concept of open borders are people from the Philippines, Korea, and India, who have to wait in line sometimes seven and eight years, and are discriminated against the present non-system.
The second thing that proponents of open borders try to do is they try to confuse the issue of legal and illegal immigration. And they do that for two reasons. One is that, of all of the countries the United States has immigrants come into from, we are the most generous toward Mexico. I think it has got almost twice the number of legal residence and citizens that are accepted as India does. And then second, we are the most liberal of any country in the world. So the record of Americans toward legal immigration is one of record, but if the issue is confused and everybody is considered that they are anti-immigrant, which is a common word used, then these specters of racism or nativism or protectionism or race, rather than the issue being confined to illegal immigration, per se.
I had a debate once with the Mexican consul in San Francisco, and I asked him if he would object if freighters came in Northern California, and at the rate of 3,000 people a day just beached, and 3,000 illegal aliens from China came, and then we would have to accommodate that group who was not assimilating because of the numbers. He got very outraged. I said, why would you be angry. And it was very telling because he said that Mexico had a proprietary interest in the United States. And I think that gets to the heart of the unspoken argument, that Mexicans – remember, the Pew poll not long ago said that 57 percent of Mexican citizens would immigrate to the United States if allowed.
The second question that is often not quoted is even more disturbing. And 52 percent thought that they had some interest in the American Southwest in the sense of sovereignty because of a historical sense of theft or annexation. But notice how those are irreconcilable. Why would somebody think they wanted to leave their own country and go to the United States and yet at the same time believe that the country that they wanted to go to should replicate the country they are trying to leave?
And I think that is really telling because it also suggests a sort of schizophrenia in the entire emotional issue. I remember in the great debates over Prop 187 in California, my students would have flags saying we won’t go back, but they were Mexican flags. And I would ask them, why would you wave the flag of the country that you do not want to go back to and burn – and we did have some burnings – burn the flag of the country that under no circumstances that you want to leave. Again, it’s not rational; it’s an emotional issue.
Why then did it happen? What happened, say, from 30 years ago when estimates suggest we had 1 to 2 million illegal aliens. And the answer is it was of interest to a number of groups to have a present system, if I could use that word system. First of all, the middle class of the American Southwest would insidiously discover that cheap labor from Mexico – and remember, we’re talking in most cases of some of the hardest-working people in the world. There is nobody who could lay cement or hammer shingles harder than a 19-year-old who will stay in the shadows without legality, without education, without English and then work very hard and send back half of his wages.
But people learn very quickly that that could also be used to enhance an otherwise pedestrian middle-class lifestyle. Suddenly in California, for example, with 30 years – and I was interested in this once, and so I went to the local Honda dealer who made Honda – the best lawnmowers. And I asked to what degree his customers now were homeowners. And he said none of them were; they were all people from Mexico who were cutting other people’s lawns. And as I talked to them, I asked how many of your customers are wealthy. None of them were. They were cutting the lawns of middle-class people. And the same thing is true with pool cleaning, nanny care, and cooking and cleaning.
In other words, the presence of large numbers of people from Mexico willing to work at very cheap wages allowed people in the middle class to forget the issue of legality and find a type of lifestyle most people having two house – two members of the household working, that offer them a chance of a lifestyle that had been exclusively confined to the upper classes I think in the 1950s and ’60s.
Second, the government – and I mean that in the sense of the Republicans and Democrats – each had a vision that demographically, both through higher birth rates and also through illegal immigration, that Latinos were going to be a potent force. The Democrats felt that through entitlement they would be able to capture that generation, that new emerging generation of voters. Immediately the Republicans thought that ultimately they would be the real beneficiaries because of conservative values among a Catholic traditional community in Mexico. And hand in glove, they each then thought that open borders would some day enhance their political aspirations.
Third, the employer of course – and I speak as one who was watching a construction in the Sierra Nevada not long ago where every single person there was from Mexico. And as I talked to them, every person there was here illegally. And I talked to the contractor – and he said he couldn’t get anybody to go up 7,000 feet in the mountains to work under those conditions. And they were all excellent carpenters.
The key, remember, is not just that you’re hiring workers who are cheaper, but in most cases, they learn very fast and they are excellent workers. So the employer found out a great truth, whether being in the hospitality industry, whether in agriculture, whether in meatpacking, whether in landscape, simply that they were getting workers at a very cheap cost, often paid in cash – not always, but often.
And when the worker aged or was hurt – and remember, these types of occupations are not lifelong; a person can’t – none of us in their 50s can be a shingler very long. You can’t lay concrete on your knees till you’re 60 – traditionally those jobs had been entry level and then people who were here legally or citizens or New English or had some education, use that pragmatic experience to go on and evolve to be a foreman or a supervisor when they were older.
But what happened in the case so often of the illegal immigrant because of the language problem, the legality problem, the education problem, they became perennial jobs, and they were not able to do that. So we have sort of a lifecycle, where the employer uses, if I could say, the muscular capital of hardworking people from Mexico, and then after they are 40, to pick an arbitrary date, he throws them back on the entitlement industry.
So what had been a very good deal for an employer, and perhaps an overall good deal for the economy in general when a person is 18 to 40, quickly changes from 40 to 70 because a person did not acquire the skills or the education to capitalize on that experience when he was older and his body literally gave out. So it was in the interest of the employer to keep the present system.
There is a couple of other groups of course, and that is the government of Mexico. Mexico of course is a naturally bountiful country with everything from bauxite to oil to the coastline, to tourism, to rich agriculture. And, yet, it doesn’t seem to be able to house, feed, or offer education, and medical care to its people to prevent a half a million of them coming up to the United States per year. It doesn’t – I don’t want to say the word, “prevent.” It encourages it, and I mean that literally, whether in the sense of opening over 40 consuls in the United States to facilitate aliens that are here, or to print a comic book to instruct people how to break U.S. law with a supposition that they can’t read and therefore they will have to follow pictures to do so.
But it also gets between – and this is controversial – maybe 55 billion are sent to Latin American countries, and out of that larger figure, 20 to 40 billion – we don’t know exactly – are sent back to Mexico. And that subsidies the failure, if I could use that obtuse phraseology, of the Mexican government to supply what it’s obligate to its own people. It’s not that it can’t do it.
When it’s a question of attracting foreign capital and Americans own second homes in Baja, for example, suddenly you’ll see property law, the judicial system accommodate wealthy affluent Americans, even though that money and capital that goes into housing second homes does not commensurately apply to people in Oaxaca who need just one home.
But the point is what is cynical about it – and I want to get back to that debate I had not long ago with the Mexican consul – is that, as I pointed out to him, the Mexican government expects somebody in Firebaugh or Mendota or Five Points who is struggling on 10 to $11 to send half of that wage back to Mexico. And that would, de facto, mean that he would have to work and live in conditions that are somewhat deplorable, and it would have to be subsidized by another government. His educational, his medical needs, whether in the emergency room or in the school district would have to be subsidized by the United States simply because he didn’t have the capital not necessarily because the wages were low but because half of his wages were being sent to prop up the Mexican government.
Finally there is a group, not a large group, but an influential group of what I would call people who are tribalists and they believe that demography can somehow either address historical grievances or it can allow particular elites in journalism, politics, and the media to be representatives of collective interests. So we see, whether it’s the Voice of Aztlan or MEChA a type of nomenclature and a type of politicking that is outside the mainstream of American political life, and I mean that literally.
That was fatal to the campaign in California when Cruz Bustamante admitted his MEChA membership and people just went on to the MEChA websites, and they could not be – there were so many of them, 160-something, they could not be removed fast enough although they attempted to because blaring you on the screen was a brown state for a brown people; everything for their race, nothing for those outside the race. Those were taken down, or they said they were metaphorical. But people had not seen that type, had not noticed that nomenclature.
And when you couple that with the notion of la raza, despite the linguistic contortions in that case, la raza is from radix (?); in Latin it means the race. No other group, whether it’s so-called white, Asian or black, would have a national organization of the race; it just would be beyond the pale. And so that type of politicking hasn’t really earned scrutiny by the American people but to the degree it does. And we saw that I think for the first time in demonstrations last May on advocacy for open borders, and they were counterproductive. So the more the public learns about the racial separatism of some of these extremist groups who favor open borders, the more skeptical it becomes.
Where does that leave us? I think most of us have talked about attrition; we all have confidence in the formidable powers of popular culture in the nation at large, given its history of the melting pot to intermarry, integrate and assimilate people. And if the border were to be closed, whether through a combination of border walls, increased security and especially employer sanctions, and they changed mentality among American citizens which would emphasize sanctity for the law rather than seen this is as a civil rights issue, which it’s not, it’s a matter of legality. I think if people were to do all of those things, I think the static numbers would be encouraging, and we would have 11 million. But that 11 million, we could weed out people who were felons, perhaps a half a million or a third of a million – people would intermarry within that group and obtain citizenship that way, and then we could work with that group.
But the problem is that as successful as we still are, even under these adverse conditions of say, assimilating or bringing people out of that pool into the mainstream, we’re getting that exact number coming in from Mexico illegally. So the pool of people who are not being assimilated and living in these apartheid communities stay static, even though the faces change. So I think attrition is the right anecdote to it and it avoids this other, as Heather mentioned, this other boogeyman that everybody wants to deport instantly 11 million people and take 80-year-old Juan Hernandez out of his home and send him back to Oaxaca that he hasn’t seen in 40 years. I don’t think anybody wants to do that.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Victor. Steve?
STEVE MALANGA: Thank you.
My sections of the book –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Take the mike, would you Steve?
MR. MALANGA: Oh, okay. I tend to scream, and also I use my hands. I don’t want to smack Heather over here. So let me move all the way over here.
My sections of the book deal with the economics of immigration, and particularly the changing economics of immigration. And in particular, one of the things I try to do is deal with what I call the sort of economic myths of immigration. And I don’t just mean myths about the current immigration, but myths about immigration throughout American history, particularly what is known as the first great immigration, the immigration that proceeded from about 1880 to 1925. Sometimes demographers and economists talk about that as the first great immigration, and the immigration that began in the late 1960s, the mid-1960s to today, is the second great immigration.
What I want to do is sort of set the context between and look at those two, and to suggest by looking at those two how we might start thinking about economic solutions that make sense for America in terms of an immigration policy, particularly because around the rest of the world, other countries that are immigration magnets, and there are other First World countries with booming economies that are immigration magnets, are addressing these problems also, but perhaps without a lot of the baggage that we have. And they’re adjusting them in more interesting ways, in ways that we don’t even really discuss sometimes in the United States.
So first of all, it’s important to understand where our current immigration system, and again I almost want to use the word system in quotes if I could, our current immigration system comes from. The legislation in the mid-1960s that began the second great wave of immigration was not legislation that was debated based on the economic needs of Americans or even the economic needs of immigrants. It was, in fact, debated during the civil rights movement and it was couched as civil rights legislation. America’s immigration system at that time, which was based on national origins, was considered to be racist, nationalist; it was against the grain. Other countries around the world, other First World countries, were changing their immigration system, moving away from this idea of national origins.
The debate, and the Kennedy administration really began the idea but the legislation eventually was passed under Lyndon Johnson, although with a very strong support from Ted Kennedy in the Senate, for obvious reasons because his brother had, you know, opened the debate. It got wrapped up in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King talked about immigrants coming here and making common cause, political common cause, with black Americans because of their close economic status. And so the entire debate was wrapped in civil rights.
Now, the thing is that since then we’ve had various modifications in our policy, and almost always the debate is framed in these terms, although we don’t explicitly call it civil rights anymore because the civil rights era is – we’ve advanced from that. But if you look at, for instance, the notion of family relations as part of, you know, we can’t separate families, we can’t change our immigration policy so that we stop allowing family and their siblings, adult siblings, of those who are already here to come. It’s often couched in humanitarian terms. We’re essentially having the same debate with one difference, and that is that on an ad hoc basis, we try to address the concerns of businesses.
The concerns of businesses were not addressed in the 1960s legislation except when some businesses and industries raised their hands and said, oh this is great, but what about us. And then right away, they cobbled together a program that said, let’s do this or let’s do that. Kennedy had ended the guest-worker program, the Braceros program that had begun during World War II and had continued after the war, although it was meant as a program to shore up manpower during World War II. It had continued, and Kennedy had ended it under pressure from the AFL-CIO, so then businesses raised their hands and said, what about us, and so we had some ad hoc legislation. And periodically, every time we do reform, you know, it’s usually businesses saying or some industry saying, what about us, and then we get HB1 visas or whatever.
But it hasn’t been like there’s been a talk; there’s been a discussion about what’s good for America economically. It’s all about well, what’s good for that business that needs this right now; what’s good for Silicon Valley because they need this right now, and that’s a very ad hoc approach.
Now, the thing that you have to understand is that oftentimes the debate about this subject, particularly on the economics or on the emotional level, often begins and ends with the statement, well, we’re a country of immigrants. And it’s as if, well, once you say that, that’s enough. Those of us from New York City hear this all the time because you can’t go into a room in New York City with folks, you know, if there was a room of all you folks, you know, in New York City you would trace your roots back to someone overseas in one generation, two generation, maybe the most three generation. That’s typical of New York’s, you know, of a debate in New York City. So people say, we’re a nation of immigrants, you know, end of discussion.
Well, we are a nation of immigrants, but it’s very interesting when you look at the first great immigration and you see what actually happened there. And quite a number of economists have studied the first great immigration and written about it, including a groundbreaking study that was done by the National Academy of Sciences, who commissioned a bunch of our best economists back in the 1990s. They did this for the Jordan Commission, which was looking at immigration reform back then; remember former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan was appointed by Bill Clinton and Congress to do this.
And here’s what they said about the first great immigration: Well, you know, it was quite different from the immigration that we’re currently seeing. Number one, even though there’s that Emma Lazarus poem about the Statue of Liberty, which is give us your tired, give us your poor, that has all these very vibrant and evocative phrases like the wretched refuse of your shores, referring to Europe. In fact, in general those immigrants who came here during the first great immigration were on par or slightly more skilled than the American workforce that was currently here.
And most people can’t believe that, but if you think of America in about 1880, 1890, in fact, 35 to 40 percent of the workforce was still agrarian; what we had was an emerging industrial section but it was emerging, it was not a highly skilled, a high-tech industrial sector. So essentially what the National Academy of Sciences concluded was that this was a workforce that was actually in sync, if you will, with the American workforce of the time. As a result of that, these immigrants succeeded fairly rapidly. Within 20 years, those immigrants who stayed here – and I emphasize who stayed here – those immigrants were essentially on par with native-born workers of their generation.
Now, I said who stayed here. That’s important to understand because the majority of them didn’t stay here, and very few people understand this. In the first great immigration, America did not have a social safety net; we did not have welfare, we did not have Medicare, Medicaid, we did not have school lunch programs. We did not have any of those things. If you couldn’t make it here, you went back. And in fact, it’s estimated that more than half, we don’t know exactly how many, but more than half of all immigrants during the first great immigration went back. There have been some studies of individual ethnic groups, Italian Americans, it’s estimated 65 percent of all Italian-American immigrants went back, either because they never intended to stay in the first place or because they couldn’t make it here, or they got lonely or whatever.
So when we say we’re a nation of immigrants, what we really mean is we’re a nation of the immigrants who stayed. Now, that sounds obvious, except that we forget how great remigration was during the first great immigration. What that means is that one of the reasons, another one of the reasons why those immigrants succeeded, then, not only were they on par with the workforce at the time, but also they were the self-selected group. They were the ones who were best able to adapt to America. They were the ones who were the most entrepreneurial.
Now, not surprisingly, their children also succeeded. There is a myth of the children of immigrants which says, you know – I mean, I don’t want to – you know, like my parents were children of immigrants, so I don’t want to, you know – there’s a myth that children of immigrants did all these wonderful, great things in America. And in fact, some of them did wonderful, great things. Most of them just became sort of solid members of the middle class. And that’s an accomplishment too; I don’t mean to de-emphasize that. But we shouldn’t overemphasize it. In fact, what economic studies have shown is that the children of the first great wave of immigrants essentially did 10 percent better than their parents economically.
Now, if your parents are on par with the American worker, that’s pretty good, and in one generation or in two generations to come from a place where there was perhaps no economic mobility, which was true of a lot of places in Europe where these immigrants were coming from, to a place where you could actually slightly better yourself, that’s great. But it’s not like they made these great leaps. And in part, that’s because what economists say is that you carry some of the baggage of your parents with you, no matter who you are. So while there’s always the individual student or the individual worker in the next generation who can soar, essentially you’re somewhat limited by who your parents were, if you look at it generationally. But given where these particular immigrant workers were, their children had a pretty good deal.
Now, there’s a third reason why these immigrants were able to succeed, a reason that we never talk about in this current debate, and that is that there were so many immigrants coming that in fact, there was a political reaction against them. That political reaction were the series of immigration restriction laws starting in the 1920s that eventually helped to cut off virtually all immigration to the United States; that combined with the Depression, which turned America into actually a net exporter of people during the 1930s, one of the few decades in American history when we were a net exporter.
Why is that important? Because economic research shows that who do immigrants compete most with; well, they compete firstly with other immigrants, and then they compete with native-born workers. When we had what you could call an immigration moratorium – some people called it an immigration timeout – we gave all those immigrants who were here and staying here an enormous advantage. They no longer had to compete with other immigrants who were going to come here and compete with them. And that immigration timeout is another reason why that generation succeeded, okay. So when we say we are a nation of immigrants, yes, we are; we are a nation of immigrants. Here are the reasons why they succeeded, which we never discuss.
Now, that’s important because as economists have started to look at this second great immigration they see quite a number of differences. And believe me, there have been vicious fights within, you know, within academic-economic circles about these issues. And essentially, the economics today has turned around, if you will, the conventional wisdom of the ’70s and ’80s on, you know, on immigration. Here are some of the things that we see now.
First of all, the bulk of immigrants – and I’m not distinguishing between illegal and legal, although we can go into this in detail later – but that’s not really significant. Much of the bulk of our immigration today is low-skill, low-education immigration. In fact, a study by Harvard economists and economists with the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that about 63 percent of Mexican adult immigrants here in the United States, male immigrants, do not have a high school education. In essence, the educational levels and the skill levels of today’s immigrants are not much different than immigrants of the first great generation, but America is a hundred years advanced; the American economy is a hundred years advanced. The American workforce is not the American workforce of a hundred years ago.
That creates enormous differences. One of the things that’s done is that’s slowed down economic mobility among immigrants. A study done of Mexican immigrants who came here in the 1970s, using 2000 Census data at those same immigrants, found that when those immigrants came here, first of all they had a greater wage differential with the American worker at the time than the immigrants of the first great immigration had with American workers then; it was about a 30 percent wage differential.
But here’s the thing: By 2000, the wage differential hadn’t disappeared, that Mexican workers here today, and this goes to Victor’s point about people who come here, work hard in their 20s, but because they’re not learning the language, because we’re not really looking to integrate them into our economy because we’re just looking to throw them away, by the time they’re 40 or 50 they’ve still been in those jobs for all those years, and essentially they don’t really have a future. What the research from Harvard and the National Bureau of Economic Research found is exactly that: that the wage differential of these workers from the late 1970s to 2000 hadn’t changed; they were still about 30 to 40 percent behind the average American worker.
Now, that has all kinds of implications not only for them, but for their children because remember you carry some of this so-called baggage, if you will, of your children. The wage differential between the first generation of native-born Americans of those immigrants and the American workforce is fairly large. In one projection that I just saw suggested that the children of workers who came in the 1990s, immigrant workers who were recorded in the 2000 Census, those children in 2030 will have a 10 percent wage disadvantage to the American workforce. So that rather than that 10 percent wage advantage that the children of the first great immigration experienced, these kids are actually still going to be at a disadvantage because their parents are at such a big wage disadvantage.
Now, if you want to understand, you know – this is economic talk – where does all this come from, you read Heather’s stuff and you talk about very high dropout rates in school, you talk about social issues, out-of-wedlock birthrates. If you want to talk about poverty in America today, not even necessarily immigration poverty, you look at out-of-wedlock birth rates that are soaring in this country. And in most places that I’ve studied, 40 to 50 percent of women having children out of wedlock are already poor, so their children are being born directly into poverty. There are a lot of social issues involved in this that Heather really discusses, but the point is that we’re looking at very big wage disadvantages, very big economic disadvantages.
Now, talk just about wages doesn’t really get at the heart of the matter because wage disadvantages translate into unemployment, and they translate into a lot of social problems, too. Who are these immigrants competing with, that they have this great wage disadvantage? Well, number one is they’re competing with themselves. As we saw even in the first great immigration, successive waves of immigrants compete first with themselves. Secondly, they’re competing with our own unskilled workers, native-born unskilled workers, and especially according to latest research, with black Americans and with native-born Hispanic Americans because immigrants tend to come and live in close association with those groups in the United States. In fact, I saw one fascinating statistic recently that said in America’s top ten metro areas, blacks are more likely to share communities with Latinos now than they are with whites, so there’s been a very dramatic demographic shift in that term.
So who are these immigrant workers affecting when they’re not affecting the prospects of their own successive waves of immigrants? They’re affecting the economic prospects of American blacks and American-born Hispanics. A study done by economists published in 2006, economists at Harvard and the University of Chicago, estimated that immigration has been responsible for 40 percent of the decline in male black employment in the United States over the last 20 years.
Now, there are other factors that are responsible for that decline, too; the decline is a 15-percentage point decline in adult black male employment in the United States in the last 20 years. But 40 percent of that they attributed to immigration and the effects that immigration has had on the wages of blacks. What the study found is that while a 10 percent increase in immigration decreases the employment options of low-skilled workers across the board, meaning white, Hispanic, black, the effect on black low-skilled workers was three times greater than the effect on white low-skilled workers mostly because, again, immigrants in general are competing more directly with black workers.
So when you look at these sorts of issues you begin to ask yourself, what can we do to make immigration a plus for the American economy and to help immigrants succeed, and what kind of an immigration policy do we need. One of the things I started doing is looking at all these other countries around the world which are immigrant magnets because again, as I said, we’re not the only country that faces this issue although because of our border, we do have some unique issues.
Australia I found to be a very interesting case, and here’s why. Australia, as late as the mid-1980s, had an immigration system that was similar to our old immigration system in that it was sort of based on national origin. They favored people from Europe, and then of course when people from Europe stopped coming because, you know, they’ve got their own opportunities in Europe. Then they favored people from Asia, and then finally they said, why don’t we stop this national origin stuff; why don’t we figure out what our economy needs and try to attract people with the right skills who want to come here, regardless of where they’re from.
And so they shifted from a policy that was national-origins based and that favored people who had family relations to one that was based on skills, and they did something more detailed than any country I’ve seen. They did market surveys in which they said, what are the kinds of jobs and skills that we need in our country.
Now, our Department of Labor does these kinds of things too, and there are lists of, I think it’s 200 job categories that you can find that are growing in the United States, or they’re going to require workers. Now, in Australia as well as in the United States, that list includes a lot of blue-collar jobs, a lot of tradesmen jobs. You know, people sometimes say to me, well, are you advocating that we bring in more nuclear scientists. I don’t know what the situation is with nuclear scientists here in the United States, but that’s not what I’m advocating. Australia went out and said, what do we need, and they began attracting those people.
Once they knew what they needed, they did something that is revolutionary, I think, in immigration; it’s certainly revolutionary here in the United States. They actually went out and started trying to attract people from around the world, they hold job fairs; they say please come to Australia and work for us. Australia’s managed to completely turn around their immigration system. They used to have – 70 percent of the people who came to Australia used to be through the national origins system or through family relations; now, 70 percent of the people who are admitted legally in Australia come because they fit the various job categories. As a result of that, economic integration in Australia is much quicker than in the United States. The average Australian immigrant reaches parity with the average Australian worker within five years.
Now, I write in much more detail about what other countries are doing, and how we can shift the debate in the United States so that we not only talk about what is going to help the American economy but in doing so, we ensure that we target legal immigration that actually brings immigrants here who can succeed here. And I won’t go into detail about this; I see Mark wants to move on, and we can move on and maybe in the question-and-answer period we can discuss that. But in part, what my sections of the book do is by looking at the evolution of the economics of immigration, tries to sort of restart the debate so that we can actually discuss this in terms that are beneficial to the American economy, and I don’t think we’ve actually had that discussion for years.
And I’ll stop there. Thank you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Steve.
Any questions? I have some of my own, but I’ll give you guys first shot. Marcus?
Q: (Off mike.) First of all, I’ll start off by – (off mike) – also for Ms. MAC DONALD, which is that you seem to say that there is this ostensible contradiction between all of the open borders conservatives’ views on everything else and then their views on immigration. I’m wondering if it’s really just a product of this libertarian and neoconservative view of the universal nation and big business uber alles, and America isn’t a nation; it’s just the Declaration of Independence and Gettysburg Address and I Have a Dream speech, so that makes perfect sense to have open borders and also – (inaudible) – foreign policy and other aspects as well.
And to the entire panel, it seems that all of you seem to seem that all problems of illegal immigration, you all seem to say it applies to legal immigration as well. And specifically, about Ms. MAC DONALD and Professor Hanson’s, they seem to be that mainly pathologies of Latinos. It’s not assimilating into the underclass; it’s simply that they seem to have a culture, which is more compatible for an underclass. You don’t see Asians – at least Koreans or Chinese – or Europeans immigrants, legal or illegal, assimilating to the underclass. So would it maybe make more sense to be concerned about the demographic changes, more so than they illegal immigration, which – (inaudible).
MS. MAC DONALD: Yeah, excellent observations.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Get the mike, if you could.
MS. MAC DONALD: Yeah, however, I wouldn’t – on your first question of whether the conservative open borders advocates are displaying an ideological consistency, I don’t think that’s the case. You’re right. There is a libertarian strand of this. We’re here in Washington. You know, CATO has been very powerful in advocating an argument that if we have a free movement of goods, we should have a free movement of people, and there is no difference between people. People are all, from a libertarian perspective, fungible; culture doesn’t matter. The human being is, in essence, a worker. And workers should be able to move just as freely as goods.
But I guess I’ve been more directly engaged with – for instance to name names – the Wall Street Journal editorial board. And there, I do find real contradictions, because among many of the open borders conservatives, they have, over the last six years since 9/11, been absolute hawks on sovereignty and borders. They have insisted that the United States not participate in international treaties, that we have the national border and sense of sovereignty still matters – except, again, when it comes to immigration laws and the border when it signifies who shall be allowed to pass legally and not. And also, again, on the crime issue, most conservatives are very strong on the importance of it being the law, except when it comes to immigration.
So I don’t really believe that these inconsistencies are so easily ironed out. Now, they may turn around and say, well, you’re being as inconsistent yourself. If you believe in free trade, what about then the free movement of bodies across the border? And I would respond that a widget is not a human being. And the studies that Mark has looked at, the Jordan Commission, show that immigrants from these low-skilled communities with the culture that you’ve alluded to, are costing – low-skilled immigrants, without question – are costing more in welfare than they are adding to the economy. And that is a cultural issue.
As for your second point, does culture matter? Do sending countries matter to the success of immigrants in assimilating? Absolutely. And as I’ve discovered, this is the most dangerous thing to say. What I have found so bizarre is that conservatives have learned to speak about behavior and the relationship between behavior and poverty – above all, out-of-wedlock childbearing, which is the biggest source of poverty in this country.
Conservatives are willing to talk about this when it comes to blacks and say, if we want to solve black poverty, the first item on the agenda has to be recreating the two-parent family. Second item, stay in school; don’t drop out. Third item, don’t get involved in crime and drugs. So we can have that discussion.
But if you point out the identical difference only by this point an increasingly small percentage band among Hispanics, your conservative allies that are willing to speak about this when it comes to African Americans and talk about a need for cultural renewal will accuse you of being a racist and bigot. But the problems are the same. And absolutely, we’re not seeing that among Asian Americans for the reason of culture. It gets back to the first issue of whether free trade necessarily implies free migration movements.
So I would say, at this point, we have seen enough about assimilation patterns to know that, well, again, there’s no question that the vast majority of first-generation Hispanic immigrants are turning around communities. They are a boon to this country. It is undeniable that the second and third generation is running into problems. And the only way that my erstwhile conservative allies can deny this is by staying out of schools; because if you go into schools, you get gang counselors that are pulling out their hair saying, in Chicago, in D.C., it’s happening earlier each year. You know, you have nine, ten-year olds joining gangs. And the pregnancy rate – now it is for young Hispanic males, the way to be a player is to father children out of wedlock, and the stigma has disappeared. So I would say yes, we should take note of cultural and assimilation as well as economic issues.
MR. HANSON: I would just add that numbers are important too, that I think if we had 500,000 Asian immigrants coming each year, and we had 11 million Asian immigrants here illegally in concentrated populations, culture matters. You would see some of the same problems. But the Asian community, whether we define that as Korea, or India, or the Philippines, simply is not coming in that number. And they’re not suffering from that ratio of four times illegal people coming versus four to one legal versus illegal. So I’m sure that as I mentioned in my debate with the Mexican consul, if we were to have 500,000 people from China, for example, come, and four out of five were here illegally, there would be a lot more problems.
MR. MALANGA: And I would add to that, that I don’t think you can make broad generalizations in terms of, say, Asian, Latin American, because in fact there is a study that was about economic mobility of immigrants that broke down economic mobility by 20 nationalities, and the successive children. And there were quite a number of Asian – and I don’t have the study in front of me – Chinese were very successful; Koreans were very successful. There were a number of Asian countries from which immigrants were coming to the United States where there children were not successful. They were in a sense on par with Mexicans.
The difference is this: We’re not contiguous to those countries. And so, we have only small numbers. And so, I think that there are fascinating issues about who succeeds in America these days and what part of your national culture might matter. I don’t think you can make the broad generalizations that it’s Asians versus Latin American.
MR. MALANGA: Yeah, okay. But I just think that’s important to understand that for everybody in the room.
MR. KRIKORIAN: I mean, they’re the authors; I don’t want to answer their questions. But one of the other things that we need to keep in mind is – I mean, I’m happy to acknowledge differences in culture are real. But differences in immigration policy and how the various flows got started is also real. Because if Mexican immigrant flow sort of grew from the seed of rural peasantry, and Indian immigration grew from graduate students, then over time, the relatives and friends and connections that constitute the subsequent flow of immigrants are going to be, to some degree, reflecting the founder effect, if you will, of the original immigration flow.
So that Steve was talking about some Asian groups do in fact distinguish real – have real problems – Southeast Asians mainly. And Cubans among Hispanics are outliers in that group. And in both cases, the original flow, the flow started for different reasons coming from different elements of those populations. You see what I mean? So that you need to add both parts. Anyway, I don’t mean to answer your questions, guys. But anyone else have a question? Yes, sir.
Q: Yes, I wanted to raise the first wave of immigration versus the second and get your comments on this. In the first wave, 1880s to 1920s, there was an anti – there was an immigration restriction movement, which was frankly Tory in the United States. They were openly anti-Irish; and it was overlapping with the eugenics movement and so forth. This finally flowered in the 1920s with the Klan at the same time, and you got that restriction on immigration.
Today, you have some of the luminaries of this movement today, like Samuel Huntington, is an advocate for neoconservative in the extreme, for war against Muslims, per se. And he shifted then to having Hispanics as the enemy. I know Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished exponent of war against the East, more or less, in general. I mean, you talk about history as pointing to that.
MR. KRIKORIAN: What’s the question?
Q: So how would you compare – and you have what’s his name – Mellon Scaife financing this movement FAIR, and your group is an offshoot of FAIR. So how would you compare your movement to the first Tory anti-immigrant movement of about 1900?
MR. MALANGA: Well, let me just start. First of all, you’re right. There were those elements of the movement. But the first great immigration lasted for 30 to 40 years. Those elements did not succeed. Why did we get those immigration restrictions; because after World War I, during World War I, we had, first of all, the Russian Revolution, so that the rest of the American public suddenly became worried about the radicalization of workers, low-wage workers in the United States.
So those, the Klan, if you will, the Blaine amendment people, the no-nothing people, they didn’t succeed. It was in the turmoil of World War I and after World War I that the American public looked up and particularly the Russian Revolution scared the hell out of a lot of ordinary people. And that helped to create that environment. That was the trip. The no-nothings did not succeed. It’s important to understand that.
There’s no doubt that there’s a certain amount of xenophobia today, on one hand, and completely open borders advocates on the other hand. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have a discussion about immigration. That doesn’t mean that we, the only First World country in the world that doesn’t have an immigration policy that actually wants to deal with illegals – look at all the other First World countries. They’re far more – if we can use the word – conservative than ours.
That doesn’t meant that we can’t have a discussion about what makes sense for us. And in particular, when we talk about a legal immigration system, I don’t know what the number. I mean, what’s the right number? I think a legal immigration system could allow hundreds of thousands of immigrants in here legally. That’s not shutting down the borders. I think it’s important to understand that. Mark might have a different approach.
But there’s a middle ground between the two extremes. And what happens is, the people in this debate on both sides try to put you on the extreme when you try to talk about a system that is going to make sense for America and that will legally allow immigrants to come here.
MR. HANSON: I would just add that movement, you didn’t distinguish, was anti-immigrant. It didn’t distinguish between illegal or legal. It was against all immigrants, that no-nothing movement.
Q: (Off mike.)
MR. HANSON: Well, it doesn’t matter. Their position is they wanted zero immigration. I don’t know anybody on this panel who is against legal immigration. In fact, I favor legal immigration for Mexico. And as I said earlier, it’s the most generous policy of any nation in the world vis-à-vis Mexico.
We have 160,000 people from Mexico coming either as guest workers or resident aliens or citizens. So already, we accept more immigrants than any other country in the world, and I support that policy, so it’s imprecise not to distinguish between support – heartfelt support – for legal immigration in particular, and especially from Mexico, versus worries about having 750,000 illegal immigration, which violates the sanctity of the law.
Second, I kind of resent the impression that I advocate war against the East. I’ve written – that’s just as imprecise as ignorant. I’ve suggested that in two cases, the Taliban – don’t want to get off the topic – and Saddam Hussein required removal by the United States for a variety of reasons. But anybody who has read what I’ve written has seen that I’ve promoted engagement with the Middle East, especially support for reform from Lebanon to Libya to other places. But I think you’re falling into the fallacy that we outlined at the beginning to confuse the issue of genuine worry about illegal immigration at massive levels and support for legal immigration.
Q: Would you favor raising wages in Mexico?
MR. HANSON: What’s that?
Q: Would you favor raising wages in Mexico?
MR. HANSON: I have no control over that.
MR. MALANGA: How do we do that?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, neither do we.
Q: (Off mike.)
MR. KRIKORIAN: If I could – if I could respond just quickly too. Firstly, I just want to sort of clarify what the no-nothings were about. They were not an anti-immigration group; they were an anti-immigrant group. They never called for less immigration. They called for leaving immigration policy open and unlimited. They called for keeping legal immigrants from gaining access to citizenship. In other words, the no-nothings articulated essentially the Wall Street Journal editorial page’s view, which is let in lots of people, but make sure they never become comfortable.
And the other point about the restrictionist movement at the turn of the century is that it was actually a mix of Tory and progressive. I mean, when it finally succeeded, it was mainly because the progressive movement had embraced immigration restriction for a whole variety of reasons, and it was a broad-based social movement that eventually overcame, precisely for the reasons, ultimately, that Steve talked about, that anarchism and the Bolshevik Revolution made it possible. And I think, actually, the current security fears are one of the things that may –
MR. HANSON: And I think also a study of the eugenics movement, especially birth control, would see that that was not a Tory movement.
Q: And business’ shifting support of – (inaudible).
MR. KRIKORIAN: Let’s take another question. Jerry first, and then you, ma’am.
Q: I’d ask, Ms. MAC DONALD if you and Tamar Jacoby have ever sat down and tried to – (laughter, cross talk) – that immigrants are a net drain. I assume you mean low-skilled –
MS. MAC DONALD: The poor, the low-skilled immigrants are.
Q: And Tamar will say, well, they are so important to the productivity of entire sectors of our economy that they are a net-plus. Without them, the economy would suffer a tremendous loss greater than their cost. Shouldn’t there be a way to reconcile these two points of view or this issue?
MS. MAC DONALD: Well, you know, we’ve gotten ourselves into a condition now of dependency on illegal, low-skilled, low-wage workers. But in even the economies, the sectors that she’s talking about, with the possible exception of agriculture, the predominant role there is still being done by Americans. But I would say that there should be a gradual phasing-out. In the area of agriculture, for instance, we were pursuing mechanization to more efficiently use human resources, and not be reliant on just grunt labor in the ’60s until the border opened way up again, and that effort that was funded in part by the federal government ended. And so now, farmers will tell you that they cannot do anything without this endless supply of illegal, low-skilled workers.
I would say, start pushing the economy to do what they have done in Japan, in Australia, in other First World countries, which is to use labor more efficiently, and mechanize where possible. Overall, again, it seems to me that it is the American public that is bearing the costs. It may be that at a point in time, you’re benefiting a particular industry. But the costs are then spread out over taxpayers who are paying for the incarceration costs, paying for the emergency care, for the need for translators for remedial education for high school dropouts. And it seems to me that the public has as much of a say in how that’s affecting their pocketbook as any particular employer.
MR. MALANGA: Let me just add, I don’t think we have to resolve this between Tamar and Heather, because there are so many economists who have now looked at this. Again, to go back to the Jordan Report, 1998 publication, National Academy of Sciences, they commissioned economists to do two studies, two states: California and New Jersey. Look at the net contributions of immigrants; look at the net costs of immigrants, in terms of social programs. In California, they determined in 1998 that the average native-born California family was paying $1,200 a year in additional taxes because of the costs of immigration.
Now, their methods in these two studies – they did New Jersey and they did California – have been replicated by other economists. Most recently, in 2005, University of Florida economists looking at the Florida economy; I think the number there was $2,000. There is very little – now the California/New Jersey studies both, as the economists like to say, disaggregated. They went by group – contribution from Latin America, European immigrants – there are actually some in New Jersey – Canadian immigrants, Asian immigrants. And so, they can actually give you even more detailed numbers. But the overall numbers, very clear.
So these studies have been done. They’ve been done by nonpartisan academic economists commissioned to do them. We’ve seen them in California. Those numbers are now a bit old, but they’ve been replicated in places like Florida. So I think the debate among places that are immigration magnets, it’s fairly clear; it’s fairly settled.
Q: You know, David – (inaudible).
MR. MALANGA: Yeah, I know. Well, here’s what he’s done. Okay, you want to go through – I mean, I don’t want to have this economic debate here in front of all these people. But what David Card and others have done is said, well, but if you look beyond right now, that 10, 15, 20, 30, even 300 years, immigrants will have a net contribution.
And what Friedman and Borhas from Harvard both said – they wrote a letter to the New York Times – and they said, look. It’s true that we said that we said that 100 years, 200 years, these sons and daughters of these immigrants will actually have a net contribution to the American economy. But that’s like trying to predict what the weather is going to be like 100 years from now. It’s based on these numbers. And among other things, it was based on the fact that America in the 1990s no longer had a budget deficit. They said, well, what if we still have a budget deficit at various points in the 21st century? Well, we actually have one now. This is to give you a sort of –
So the point is, yes. Other economists said, well, but if you look at it right now – that’s true, but if you look at it 100 years from now, 50 years from now, there will be a net contribution. You know, but that’s like trying to predict the weather 50 to 100 years from now. This is what we know now. This is the impact on us now. And I think that that’s, again, you know, a number of economists are doing this. And I think they’re helping to settle the debate, although you know, you don’t find a lot of journalists who actually want to write about these studies.
MR. HANSON: I would just add that the agricultural industry had suggested that there was some sectors that would not be able ever to mechanize. And the two most notorious were the raisin industry and the strawberry industry. And if you look at what’s going on in California, the head of the California Farm Bureau, for example, said – I think it was four years ago when the unemployment rate was 11.5 percent in Fresno County – that we needed 30,000 people immediately from Oaxaca. There’s something wrong there spiritually, ethically, morally, not to have a wage that would pay the people here.
But what happened was, believe it or not, there’s a vineyard and there’s rows, and people have to handpick the grapes, put them in a pan, pour them on a paper tray, leave them out for 21 days, roll them into a ball, come back, throw them back onto a tractor, and a bin, take the bins back and then shake them. And what you see now is entire vineyards are being retrofitted where a machine goes through, cuts the canes, the raisins dessicate on the vine in a pergola system. Then they come back about two and a half months later, way into October, November. There’s no damage from rain as was in the handpicked case. Then they shake those raisins; they go into a bin, and they go through a conveyor belt. And the whole process is done in the field and two people can do what 30 did.
In the case of the strawberry, who could ever think you could pick a soft, perishable fruit like a strawberry? But you see, in the Salinas Valley, some of the machines now where one person, actually with a blower or fan cooling him down, and he’s laying flat in sort of an upholstered situation, and he’s going right over the top of the bed, doing like this. And one person can do the work of six. So the answer is not to eliminate all labor, but because agriculture competes sector against sector, there are people who are legal residents, American citizens who are working in agriculture; just not enough of them. But each time a sector frees up some, it reduces the tension for another one.
And now, with almonds and cotton and raisins, we’re getting to the point where we’re down to things like citrus, plums, peaches, and grapes that haven’t been mechanized. And even they, we’re creating devices that allow one picker to do mechanically. I mean, some of them are pretty frightening when you see a man dressed up with long tentacles almost to pick. But that’s where we’re getting to.
MR. KRIKORIAN: And even just as one last point, there’s a company in San Diego County that’s developing robotic orange pickers. Because I actually talked to the president of a company about this last year, and they have developed a way where one computer scans each tree, then maps where the oranges are. And then, a multi-armed picker does it; and the fact is that that kind of is less incentive for that sort of thing if you have large, artificially inflated pools of cheap labor.
Ma’am, let’s have you ask the last question, because people may have to get back to work.
Q: I actually, to respond to the point about mechanization – of course, we can mechanize under certain circumstances. The question is from an economic standpoint; is it efficient. If you force an economy to mechanize in the face of cheap labor that might be available, there is an inefficiency – (inaudible) – economies to appreciate that. But the fact of the matter is, that labor will be captured by somebody else. And those people will be more – (inaudible) – than the American economy.
But that aside, Mark, for you the question was, Victor said that nobody on the panel opposes legal immigration. But if I’m correct, the Center for Immigration Studies has proposed a moratorium on all immigration.
MR. KRIKORIAN: No, that’s a good question, and I’ll lay it out in much more detail in my book coming up this summer. We’ll have a panel for that and I’ll flak that when the time comes. But my approach actually – I don’t even think the moratorium idea is actually helpful, because even people who talk about moratoriums aren’t really talking about moratoriums, because moratoriums except spouses and minor children, except this – so it’s not really a moratorium; it’s a reduction.
My approach to legal immigration – and I don’t mean to take away from the panelists – is zero-based budgeting immigration. Not zero immigration, but you start from zero and then determine which narrowly defined groups – the admission of which groups – is so compelling that they be let in despite the problems that immigration creates. And if you add it all together – and there’s no magic number, but I would add spouses and minor children, a handful of Einsteins and some genuine refugees who will never have any other options ever in their lives – you still end up 3, 400,000 people a year. So I mean, that’s actually more than the average level of immigration over the course of American history. So I don’t know; is that immigration? I don’t know.
Q: Heather, for you I had a question, which was, you started your comments by alluding to some incident about illegal gang-bangers being deported, and a – (inaudible) – was that hypothetical or was it –
MS. MAC DONALD: No, it’s recently. We’ve had –
Q: Could you bring some details about that?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, you can – well, go ahead.
MS. MAC DONALD: Oh, are we finished? Sure.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, I mean, feel free to give her all the details you want. But I’m rather not have them now, if we could. Could we wrap it up now? Is that possible? Just because, people, we’ve been going for more than an hour here.
I just want to reemphasize, “The Immigration Solution,” on Amazon and some bookstores. Steve says in New York; I don’t think you have to go to New York to find them. There’s a Borders right across the street. You might check it out there. You have the postcards we have up front that has all the information on the book; I think the website too, to probably order it straight from the publisher so that they get more of a cut.
I’d like to thank Steve, Heather, and Victor for participating. And I’m not sure if they’re going to hang around. I’m happy to be accosted afterwards. And thanks all of you for coming. Thank you.