Several of the ideas on my immigration columns will come from one of my favorites sources: The (London) Economist. In an opinion piece called "Keep the Borders Open," the magazine's sub-head is: "The backlash against immigrants in the rich world is a threat to prosperity everywhere."
The Economist's general point is this: ". . . Most often migration is about young, motivated, dynamic people seeking to better themselves by hard work. History has shown that immigration encourages prosperity."
In other words, the standard anti-Hispanic rhetoric of the far-right, the nativists, is far removed from reality. More to follow this weekend . . .
Here's more of what The Economist says about immigration, which sounds a lot like what Senators McCain, Kyl, and Graham say about it:
"History has shown that immigration encourages prosperity. Tens of million of Europeans who made it to the New World in the 19th and 20th centuries improved their lot, just as the near 40 million foreign born are doing in America today. Many migrants return home, with new skills, savings, technology, and bright ideas. Remittances to poor countries in 2006 were worth at least $260 billion -- more, in many countries, than aid and foreign investment combined. Letting in migrants does vastly more good for the world's poor than stuffing any number of [checks into appeals from charities]."
The Economist points out that immigrants play a critical, positive role in the American economy. For example:
- Roughly one-third of the Americans who won Nobel Prizes in Physics in the past seven years were born abroad;
- About 40% of science and engineering PhDs working in America are immigrants; and,
- Approximately one-third of Silicon Valley companies were started by foreign-born individuals (mainly Indian or Chinese).
However, what about low-skilled workers, many of them from South of the U.S. border? In fact, their skills levels are about the same as those of our immigrant grandparents or great-grandparents. There's a tremendous need in our country for people who will do work that native-born Americans avoid.
What The Economist is saying is what John McCain believes. Oh, and those beliefs happen to be accurate.
More to follow on Saturday . . .
A SANE VIEW OF IMMIGRATION
In The Economist, January 5-11, 2008, the London-based publication has a fascinating 14-page special report on “migration” (called “immigration” in the U.S.).
In our country, immigration has been an extremely contentious issue, and Senator John McCain’s support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) has hurt his candidacy. He’s been accused – falsely, I believe – of favoring “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, and that kind of accusation can be the kiss of death in Republican politics.
The Economist’s position is that immigration is a good thing – a source of diversity, technological advances, and prosperity. In other words, it thinks people like McCain (which the magazine generally favors) are right, while their critics are wrong.
The publication says, “. . . Most often, migration is about young, motivated, dynamic people seeking to better themselves by hard work.” It adds, “History has shown that immigration encourages prosperity. Tens of millions of Europeans who made it to the New World in the 19th and 20th centuries improved their lot, just as the near 40 million foreign-born are doing in America today.”
Much of the debate over immigration involves sloganeering, such as “the rule of law.” In fact, the U.S. has modified many laws that were irrational or immoral, such as the “law” that Black people counted for three-fifths as much as White people. It also eliminated the law that said women couldn’t vote. In the past generation, the country modified the law for those fleeing Communist Cuba, allowing those who reached our shores to stay.
The real issue will immigration – legal or even illegal – boils down to this: Is it a good thing, or a bad one? That is, do people immigrating to this nation provide more benefits than debits?
The Economist admits there can be negatives associated with immigration. It notes that politicians have a tendency to pander to “xenophobic fears. Also, it admits that large numbers of immigrants can provoke job fears among natives. What’s more, it’s clear that huge disparities of income across borders could result in a stream of incomers turning into a flood.
Yet, the magazine sees immigration mainly as a plus. It notes that “many migrants return home with new skills, savings, technology, and bright ideas. Remittances to poor countries in 2006 were worth at least $260 billion . . . Letting in migrants does vastly more good for the world’s poor than [sending off charitable contributions.”
In addition, “The movement of people also helps the rich world. Prosperous countries with graying workforces [America, Europe, and Japan, among them] rely ever more on young foreigners . . . . Around a third of the Americans who won Nobel Prizes in physics in the past seven years were born abroad. About 40% of science and engineering PhDs working in America are immigrants.”
In short, The Economist disagrees sharply with the nativist wing of the Republican Party. The points the magazine makes are the same kind that motivated John McCain, Jon Kyl, Lindsay Graham and others to support Comprehensive Immigration Reform. In the face of persuasive arguments, anti-immigrant slogans aren’t enough.