America’s Immigration Catastrophe

With a compliant occupant back in the Oval Office, America’s immigration policy reverts to a strategy that all but guarantees further social disunity and destruction of the middle class. It is important to emphasize, however, that resumption of a loose and thoughtless immigration policy is not by itself enough to destroy life in America as we know it. The political and cultural environment into which we feed new immigrants is equally, if not more, to blame.

President Biden’s actions since taking office less than two months ago, without exception, are designed to make things worse on both counts. Here’s a partial list of those actions compiled by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Biden has placed a moratorium on deportations of criminal aliens. He’s sent a bill to Congress that includes amnesty, reduced border security, and expanded refugee resettlement. He issued executive orders reducing immigrant vetting and greatly increasing refugee admissions—including so-called “climate change” refugees. He’s scrapped implementation of Trump’s H-1B visa lottery reforms. He’s abolished the “remain in Mexico” program, meaning the Border Patrol has to revert to the practice of catch-and-release. He’s watered down the civics test required for naturalization. He cancelled the immigrant visa suspension put in place during the pandemic. And he’s reinstating chain migration and policies whereby families can reunite and relocate to the U.S., receiving a range of benefits from tuition assistance to legal advice.

Not least, claiming “declaration of a national emergency at our southern border was unwarranted,” Biden has canceled further construction of a border wall.

The consequences of these changes have been well documented. “Caravans” of migrants, primarily from Central America but including people from all over the world, began to form several months ago in anticipation of Biden replacing Trump. They’re now pouring over the border in a surge that approaches the historic levels seen in early 2019. Even CNN is now calling it a “border crisis.”

The economic and social consequences of America’s immigration policies—both deliberate and by default—are among the most hotly debated issues of our time. According to the latest data from Pew Research, there are 35 million lawful immigrants and 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States today. But this data is contested.

The Brookings Institution puts the number at between 10.5 and 12 million. The Center for American Progress claims there are only 7 million “unauthorized” immigrants in the United States. On the other hand, the Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates 14.3 million, and in 2019 the acting director of DHS’s citizenship and immigration services put the number at 22 million. As reported in The Hill, a 2018 Yale/MIT study estimated the number to be in a range between 16.5 million and 29.1 million.

Estimates of how many immigrants will arrive over the next few decades are equally nebulous. But a 2019 study from the Center for Immigration Studies offers insight into one of the primary goals of immigration proponents: To maintain a stable ratio between Americans of working age and retirees. The study also makes use of assumptions that are wildly speculative.

According to this study, based on the age demographics of current immigrants, for America in 2060 to have the same ratio of workers to retirees as it does today, the population would have to more than double to 706 million. The point the authors are making is that immigration, at least as it is currently structured, is not going to result in a healthy worker to retiree ratio. But it’s useful to explore their basic assumptions because they expose flaws in America’s current policies.

For example, if immigration were not focused on family reunification, the so-called chain migration, and instead restricted admittance to younger people, the number of immigrants required to maintain a youthful population would be proportionally reduced. But some larger assumptions cut to the core of immigration policy, and call into question the entire economic justification for mass immigration.

The first of these assumptions is that a growing, youthful population is required to ensure healthy economic growth. This assumption is verified by historical data, but fails to address and cope with the inevitable future, wherein the total population on earth is destined to level off and begin to decline by around 2050. This trend, unlikely to be reversed, correlates with growing prosperity and freedom around the world. In fact, the only regions where rapid population growth continues is in parts of the Middle East, Africa, and Central America.

This fact, that global population is destined to stabilize, with the average age climbing, should point to the urgency of reevaluating how to nurture economic growth. The current model is almost a pyramid scheme, wherein the dependency ratio between workers and retirees cannot be altered. But why? Worker productivity is increasing faster than the dependency ratio is decreasing. Japan, a highly advanced nation with age demographics a few decades ahead of the United States, is already confronting this challenge. Sooner or later, we must do the same.

Another assumption, even bigger and more fraught, is ruling out any chance that Americans will choose to have bigger families, reversing or at least arresting the aging trend. Why is this unthinkable? And why is it preferable to replace the American population with the foreign-born, instead of nurturing and restoring a healthy natural increase via more babies born here? Answering these questions is to explain how America’s current immigration policies have moved from controversial to catastrophic.

How Current Immigration Policies Will Destroy America

There are crucial qualitative differences between immigration trends in America today, compared with past centuries in America.

In the past, immigrants came primarily from European nations with cultural values—educational, religious, and political—that were, if not identical to American cultural values, at least on a shared trajectory towards achieving those values. Immigrants today come from nations that, relatively speaking, have far fewer cultural similarities to America than past waves of immigrants.

Similarly, in the past, immigrants pretty much renounced the nations of their origin. They made a one-way trip, and they adopted the language and values of America. Today, retaining cultural unity with one’s country of origin is a few clicks away on the internet, a cheap telephone call, an affordable airfare. Technology has greatly eroded the forces that used to impel immigrants to become Americans.

Immigrants in the past arrived in an America that had a voracious need for unskilled workers. Today the American economy is relentlessly automating jobs that used to require unskilled labor, and the American population already has a surplus of unskilled workers.

Immigrants today are arriving in a welfare state, where they are assured of food, shelter and medical care that is, in general, orders of magnitude better than anything available to them in their native countries. This creates a completely different incentive for today’s immigrants. In past centuries, immigrants came to America to find freedom and to work. Today they are offered taxpayer-funded social services.

Immigrant students today—especially in the coastal urban centers where most of them settle—enter a public education system that teaches them with an anti-white, anti-capitalist bias. They are taught in our public schools not to assimilate, but to celebrate diversity; not to earn opportunities through hard work, but through fighting discrimination. They are taught, often in their native languages, that they have arrived in a nation dominated by racist and sexist white males who oppress the world.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how these factors combine to create a problem. It wouldn’t be so bad if America was admitting immigrants who, though more diverse than in the past, were still being encouraged to assimilate. But “assimilation” has become stigmatized as racist, and every cultural and corporate institution in America has declared war on the American way. Everything is under attack: capitalism, free enterprise, private property, Christianity, traditional values, patriotism, history, masculinity, and “whiteness.”

If new immigrants are taught that they live in a hostile nation, that the cards are stacked against them, and at the same time they are offered free benefits that constitute a standard of living many times greater than what they knew in the countries they came from, why work?

Finally, there is a negative dimension to immigration today that receives far less attention than it deserves. At the same time as America’s corporate and cultural elite believe immigration and population growth in America is beneficial, these same special interests have made it increasingly difficult to build anything. From public infrastructure to private land development to extraction of vital natural resources, everything in America is on hold. Cities can only grow via “infill.” Instead of new water projects and nuclear power plants, there is rationing. Supposedly it’s to save the earth, but it’s funny how financially lucrative the artificial scarcity is for established multinationals and billionaire investors.

This final point is not intended to render a judgement on either immigration or expanding cities and infrastructure. The point is we must do one or the other, or the squeeze of adding millions of people without building anything will be yet another nail in the coffin of the middle class. Making people compete with immigrants for jobs and housing, especially when the housing stock is deliberately constrained, will elevate the cost-of-living at the same time as it drives down wages—and birthrates. This process has already begun, with states like California offering prime examples of how it plays out.

America’s immigration policy as it currently stands is a catastrophe unfolding in slow motion. If you’re going to allow mass immigration, then remove the incentives of free social services. If you’re going to increase the population, then let people build things. And if you’re going to change the ethnic composition of the nation, then encourage people to assimilate and love their neighbors.

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About Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is also the director of water and energy policy for the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).

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