The Case Against Immigration
New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996.
Journalist, immigration scholar and active protestant layman, Roy Beck is pro-immigrant but anti-immigration- at least immigration at its present level of one million-plus yearly. His book is a powerful case against today’s mass immigration that is compassionate, racially-sensitive but not racist, and profoundly moral. Steering clear of concerns about the nation’s culture or racial composition, Beck sees the issue as not who the immigrants are, but how many. Numbers of newcomers, not their race or national origins, are burdening the environment, resources, and public services, disrupting labor markets, and diluting community cohesion. Today’s rigid, mechanistic immigration policy has tripled intake in three decades, something its legislative backers neigher wanted nor expected. The 1965 act’s enshrinement of principle of family reunification made it an engine of ever rising intake, while ignoring the budding problem of illegal immigration. America’s ossifield immigration regime permits no adjustments to changing conditions and serves no recognizable national interest. Instead, Beck argues, a careless policy has made immigration a pernicious spoiler of efforts to realize four great goals of American society:
Immigration is worsening income inequality, in the process helping diminish the once expansive American middle-class that has been central to high quality of civic, social and work life. Wage depression nurtured by cheap foreign workers now costs U.S. workers $133 billion a year. This “perverse Robin Hood scheme” robs from the middle class and gives it to the affluent. Established immigrants themselves are no less victimized by this process.
The admission of armies of complaint low-wage workers and their needy dependents through legal and tolerated illegal immigration has high moral and social costs. It undercuts the nation’s unfulfilled moral obligation to provide equal opportunity, the descendants of slavery. African-Americans are triply disadvantaged by imported job completion. Immigrants bring their lower wage expectations just as those of African-Americans have been justifiably rising. Blacks, who have long been pushed to the end of the nation’s hiring queue, must now face mounting employer preference for foreign workers. Inexplicably, a perverted concept of affirmative action allows employers and ethnic networks to hire minorities while shunning Black Americans. African-Americans also face tougher competition for quality housing, public education, and social services in areas of major immigrant settlement.
Harmonious and safe community life retreats under the pressure of hyper0 urbanization, population growth, churning displacement, transience, and alienation nourished in part by mass influxes of immigrants.
New immigrants and births to the foreign-born now are the main accelerant of U.S. population growth – a growth that complicates the solution to every environmental ill. Beck reminds us again that we must curb immigration, not because the immigrants are bad people, but because… Anything that adds to the number of Americans flushing toilets, riding in vehicles and consuming electricty is anti-environment. Immigration since 1965 has been “Congress’s forced population growth program:” under present trends, post-2000 immigrants and their descendants will account for 90 percent of the nation’s projected growth of 210 million in the 21st century. Without any net immigration since 1970, the country would have reached zero growth in 2030 at 245 million and begun receding by mid-century toward a more environmentally sustainable level. Beck does’nt argue that immigration is the sole culprit in these complex ills, but sees their solution as immensely more difficult as long as immigration-driven population growth persists. Polls consistently show the American people badly want lower immigration. For Beck the answer is a break with the myths and selective memories of our immigrant past for an excercise of political will to cut back immigration to its “average historical levels” between 175,000 and 300,000 a year. Specifically, Beck proposes a ceiling of 250,000 and an end to all illegal entries. Two hundred thousand slots would be exclusively for admission of spouses and children of U.S. citizens, a long-established privilege he finds too entrenched to end. The remaining 50,000 would be for bona fide refugees (maximum 30,000) and for commercial needs and intake of high skills unproduceable here. Beck’s 75 percent reduction is politically feasible. His 250,000 ceiling in close to the 300,000 upper limit an NPG-sponsored Roper Poll in 1996 found was backed by 70 percent of Americans (54 percent wanted fewer than 100,000 immigrants a year). He notes that an end to the self-expanding intake of extended family members would eventually bring down demand for entry of spouses and children and lower overall admission well below 200,000 approximately zero net immigration. Zero net immigration is absolutely critical to early attainment of a stationary population that can then progress toward what should be the vital national goal of a population below 200 million, a number environmentally sustainable indefinitely. Persisting in our present immigration habits will heighten the social and environmental evils that Beck so eloquently decries, while bequeathing to our descendants a tragically congested and environmentally devastated land.
© Copyright 1998 by NPG. Permission to reprint is granted in advance. Please acknowledge source and author, and notify NPG.
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