Canadian vs. American Immigration

In a front-page New York Times article on Canada’s Manitoba province, Jason DeParle appears puzzled as to why Canada seems more welcoming of “immigrants” than is the U.S. To be sure, the article acknowledges the crucial difference between Canadian immigration and the bulk of American immigration: Canadian immigrants obey Canadian law in entering the country; millions of American immigrants flout American law. DeParle also observes that Canada seeks out skilled and educated immigrants, whose children “typically do well.” Though DeParle does not spell out the American obverse, it is the following: Many children of Hispanic illegal aliens are doing poorly, with rock-bottom high-school graduation rates, sky-high teen-pregnancy rates, persistent academic difficulties, and rising levels of gang involvement across generations. (Of course, there are plenty of admirable exceptions to this reality.)

These differences makes any implied comparison between the two countries’ immigration politics wholly unjustified. However much DeParle’s article acknowledges the crucial ways in which Canadian immigration diverges from the current American situation, to even put the two immigration universes side-by-side implies that there is a common basis of comparison and that illegal and legal immigration are more alike than not. This idea is of course the dominant conceit of the MSM, whereby reporters almost never scruple to distinguish legal from illegal immigrants. I may be wrong: DeParle’s article may in fact be a subtle and welcome endorsement for the Canadian skills-based immigration system. But I have a hard time avoiding the impression that to the contrary, it is an implicit rebuke to America’s lowered tolerance for what DeParle calls “more pluribus and . . . less unum.”

Recently released data from California underline why illegal immigration has produced a backlash in the U.S. Over 50 percent of children in California public schools are now Latino, a demographic shift that American voters have never formally endorsed. Unless educators quickly figure out how to close the achievement gap between Latinos, on the one hand, and whites and Asians, on the other, the consequences of this demographic development for California’s economic future are bleak. California spends billions trying to bring its Hispanic students up to speed, but finds that millions of students born here continue to be classified as “long-term English learners” throughout their school careers because their cognitive skills are so low. Each year brings new tutoring ventures and pedagogical methods, but the apparent cultural blocks to high academic achievement have so far been intractable. Perhaps California’s high-tech economy can find all the innovators it needs from other sources, but the costs of trying to overcome the achievement gap will drain public money away from investments in infrastructure and elite R&D. 

Heather Mac Donald — Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The War on Cops

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