I have always been pro-immigration — very pro-immigration — while of course being very much opposed to the illegal variety. But even before Paris and the ensuing refugee debate, I have been thinking, gradually, for some time now, that we in the pro-immigration camp may be overdue for a re-examination of our core presuppositions, in whole or at least in part.
A few of my growing, and less than entirely happy, thoughts:
1. Quite apart from the illegals — and the Democrats have now demonstrated not only the willingness but the intent to brazenly break any law in this area whatsoever — one million new legal immigrants each year is an awful lot of folks. Just since 9/11, that’s 15 million new people, not one of whom is an illegal alien.
For perspective, 82 million Americans voted in 2014. Are 15 million newcomers enough to change the outcome of such an election? Is it, as some suggest, unreasonable to care?
2. The Democrats have clearly abandoned even the pretense of vetting refugees or illegal immigrants from a security perspective (and I would suggest, given the foregoing, that more than security is at issue: a belief in America’s system of government, for instance, seems important). They do, however, want to give all of these folks the quickest possible “path to citizenship” once they’re here.
3. Bush was better…but not much better. The Chamber of Commerce is every bit as committed to cheap labor as the MoveOn crowd is to tipping the voting balance.
4. For the reasons just stated, it is exceedingly easy to come to America if you are a semi-literate peasant farmer who’s likely to vote socialist, exceedingly difficult if you are a highly skilled person from virtually anywhere other than Latin America or Syria.
An anecdote: I spoke to someone less than a month ago who is trying to hire a foreign national with multiple degrees for a highly skilled position for which the person is uniquely qualified. The immigration attorney said this person had the best application he’d seen in his entire career. INS was utterly dismissive.
Meanwhile, 10,000 unvetted Syrians were landing at your expense at the Port of New Orleans. The Obama Administration immediately “lost track” of their whereabouts.
Another anecdote: when I was in Silicon Valley, 50,000 Indian programmers had to leave the country in a six month span because, as a result of the tech bust, they’d lost their jobs and, by the terms of their H-1B visas, had to return home within ten days if they didn’t find a new job immediately. So of course they went home and started “The Silicon Valley of India” in Bangalore. 50,000 of the best and brightest gone, while unskilled farm workers kept pouring in.
5. Assimilation is now openly derided. I can’t remember when I heard the term “melting pot.” As a society, we are doing everything in our power to irrevocably throw away everything that is uniquely American.
6. About that cheap labor. I’m a tech guy, and I can tell you: the robot revolution is here. There’s a plant in China — China! Where there are 1.3 billion workers who are cheaper labor than any Mexican — that just replaced virtually all of its labor force with robots. Productivity is up 90%, quality too, with no sick days, no unions, nothing.
We are very close to the tipping point at which robots are cheaper than people, and they will be able to do everything from farm work to accounting: manual labor yes, but lots of things heretofore unsusceptible to automation.
I’m not as disturbed by this as I may sound: humanity was supposed to become unemployable because of the John Deere tractor and the washing machine too. But all of this does change the equation. Ten years ago we were looking at the geopolitics of demography and thinking that by the mid-2030s, western countries would be paying bounties to encourage Third Worlders to come and work. Now, I’m almost entirely certain that’s backward. Indeed, it is very possible — not guaranteed, but disconcertingly possible — that we will face an unprecedented unemployment problem without a single additional immigrant. Wage erosion might be even worse.
As I said, this line of thought echoes prior innovations, all of which turned out well. I haven’t thought this out completely. But we are all going to have to.
I could go on, and I certainly will at some point. But what I’m certain of is this: we can’t continue on autopilot as many of the leaders in both parties want us to. We have historically kept immigration to numbers that allowed people to integrate into society at a reasonable pace. Even so, it has always fundamentally changed the country, and we need to be realistic about that. Not all of those changes were good, and we need to be realistic about that too. It is glorious that America is not a race or a place but an idea: it would not be so glorious if the idea were rejected by a majority of Americans because we took in too many too quickly who don’t share it, don’t understand it, or actively oppose it. That would be a tragedy for the entire world.
And we have to be realistic about this too: it’s not like everyone can come. We are but 4% of the world’s population. The idea that absolutely everyone who wants to can just show up and vote is absurd; and ironically enough, such functionally unlimited immigration does indeed enrich a handful of companies — who may well end up having those companies taken from them ala Venezuela by all these new socialist voters — at the expense of our own middle class and working poor.
So while I remain very pro-immigration, I’m having to take a deep breath and consider how much of this good thing we can handle, at least right now given these circumstances. And that may be the biggest sea change in my thinking…ever.
Originally published on Rod Martin’s website.