The United States has been, and is, more welcoming to immigrants than any other nation in the world. We are also the richest, strongest, most stable nation in the world. This, comrades, is no coincidence.
Japan was going to run the world — remember the 1980s and “Japan as Number One”? Fast-forward to present-day: Japan’s population is falling, and it has severe cultural roadblocks to immigration. China, thanks to its “one-child policy,” is getting old before it gets rich, and its general population will begin to decline while its working-age population declines even faster. Europe has similar demographics, and you can live a long time in Germany without getting an opportunity to become German.
Americans have been complaining about immigrants since the Germans were sneaking into Pennsylvania in the 1700s. Voices were saying the most awful things about Irish Americans, German Americans, Jewish Americans, and Catholic Americans of every nationality. Now they are our neighbors, in-laws, and coworkers. One shudders recalling the initial hostility to Japanese and Chinese Americans. The descendants of those “unskilled,” “unassimmilatable” Asians now fill our elite colleges and populate Silicon Valley. The “yellow peril” turned to gold. And now, once again, the children and grandchildren of those “waves” of immigration are free to make snarky comments about those who didn’t get around to immigrating to America until recently.
The arguments against immigration are as old as our founding and consistently wrong. Only this issue resurrects Malthusian economics, the consistently disproven predictions of Paul Ehrlich, and the “Limits to Growth” certainty that more people make us weaker and poorer.
The cycle continues.
This week, Marco Rubio is targeted on National Review’s cover. The article’s complaint about today’s immigrant population is that it is too large. The author of the piece has a recent book that argues against all immigration; he contends that both legal and illegal immigration is bad for America. This is refreshingly honest, at least, after years of pretending the goal was less illegal immigration alone.
The article tosses the word “amnesty” around 21 times, the way a teen wields a cherished new cuss word — uncertain of its meaning but gleefully aware of its shock value. This suggests it was written before the Senate legislation was put online.
After World War II there were hundreds of thousands arrested trying to enter the country to work. Eisenhower established a guest-worker program that would allow Mexicans to legally migrate north to work. Border arrests fell 95 percent. Then, to please the labor-union bosses, JFK and then Johnson killed this program, and arrests spiked upward over 1,000 percent, toward one million a year.
With no legal way to put willing workers and jobs together, millions of jobs were filled by those “without papers.” In 1986, those who had been working in the United States for more than four years were given legal status, but there was no change in immigration law to allow for guest workers or skill-based legal immigration. Thus, the process began again.
The legislation introduced by eight senators, including conservative stalwart Arizona senator Jeff Flake — the one cropped off the National Review cover photo to give the false impression that Rubio is the lone conservative working on this project — has learned from Ike, 1986, and 2007. Conservatives should learn from history.