Thursday, June 01, 2006

Immigration Follies

I found a new site this morning--The Center for Immigration Studies. Here is what they have to say about themselves:
The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization founded in 1985. It is the nation's only think tank devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration on the United States.

It is the Center's mission to expand the base of public knowledge and understanding of the need for an immigration policy that gives first concern to the broad national interest. The Center is animated by a pro-immigrant, low-immigration vision which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted.
CIS discusses the current level of immigration to the U.S., both legal and illegal:

During the 1990s, an average of more than 1.3 million immigrants — legal and illegal — settled in the United States each year. Between January 2000 and March 2002, 3.3 million additional immigrants have arrived. In less than 50 years, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that immigration will cause the population of the United States to increase from its present 288 million to more than 400 million.

The foreign-born population of the United States is currently 33.1 million, equal to 11.5 percent of the U.S. population. Of this total, the Census Bureau estimates 8-9 million are illegal immigrants. Other estimates indicate a considerably higher number of illegal immigrants.

Approximately 1 million people receive permanent residency annually. In addition, the Census Bureau estimates a net increase of 500,000 illegal immigrants annually.

The present level of immigration is significantly higher than the average historical level of immigration. This flow may be attributed, in part, to the extraordinary broadening of U.S. immigration policy in 1965. Since 1970, more than 30 million legal and illegal immigrants have settled in the U.S., representing more than one-third of all people ever to come to America's shores.

At the peak of the Great Wave of immigration in 1910, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. was less than half of what it is today, though the percentage of the population was slightly higher. The annual arrival of 1.5 million legal and illegal immigrants, coupled with 750,000 annual births to immigrant women, is the determinate factor— or three-fourths— of all U.S. population growth. Immigration to the U.S. has always been a part of the American experience.
While the U.S. has had some periods of high immigration, most of these immigrants came through Ellis Island where they were cleared for entry into the U.S. If they did not come through Ellis Island, they came through ports at other big cities, making immigrants identifiable and thereby giving the U.S. government control over the situation. One condition for entry historically has been a clean bill of health. I remain concerned that with illegal immigration we have no way to control for highly destructive, highly contagious diseases such as tuberculosis which had been all but eradicated from our nation. Now tuberculosis is making a comeback. (Previous post on tuberculosis.)

Additonally, in the past, immigrants to the U.S. were assimilated into our culture, hence the term "melting pot". Children had to learn English, and they learned about our Founding Fathers and adopted them as their own. Today's classrooms are not nearly as conducive to assimilation. Students can remain in English as a Second Language programs for years, and in California a judge ruled recently that requiring English to graduate from high school was discriminatory. (This case remains pending as final rulings have not been made.)

Also, today's textbooks tend to downplay our Founding Fathers or portray them as "dead white males" as if being white and male are shameful conditions and the only good thing about them is that they are "dead" instead of emphasizing that they were among the most forward thinking and brilliant men ever assembled in one time and place, regardless of their personal failings.

What are the costs of illegal immigration to the people of the U.S.? According to CIS:
The National Research Council has estimated that the net fiscal cost of immigration ranges from $11 billion to $22 billion per year, with most government expenditures on immigrants coming from state and local coffers, while most taxes paid by immigrants go to the federal treasury. The net deficit is caused by a low level of tax payments by immigrants, because they are disproportionately low-skilled and thus earn low wages, and a higher rate of consumption of government services, both because of their relative poverty and their higher fertility.

This is especially true of illegal immigration. Even though illegal aliens make little use of welfare, from which they are generally barred, the costs of illegal immigration in terms of government expenditures for education, criminal justice, and emergency medical care are significant. California has estimated that the net cost to the state of providing government services to illegal immigrants approached $3 billion during a single fiscal year. The fact that states must bear the cost of federal failure turns illegal immigration, in effect, into one of the largest unfunded federal mandates.

Can we afford this? With a looming fiscal crisis, I don't think so. (See previous posts on the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour, Parts 1 and 2.)

In my opinion, the U.S. Senate has behaved irresponsibly in passing their immigration bill. Apparently, many citizens of Delaware have agreed with me. One man related that when he called Senator Biden's office, the first words from the mouth of the woman who answered the phone were, "Please don't yell at me. I didn't write the bill." The excuse from the Senator's office for support of the bill is that the Senate was trying to be compassionate. Compassion, however, has two sides. Just as "compassion for the criminal means contempt for the victim," this kind of compassion from the Senate means contempt for the states most affected by illegal immigration and for the tax paying citizens of this nation who bear the brunt of financing the costs for the disproportionate cost to benefit ratio of illegal immigration.

For my part, I am hoping the House will hold the line. In the interim, I think the U.S. Senators need to hear from their constituents. If you have an opinion on this matter either way, you may reach your national representatives by internet at Congress.org.

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