Ross Douthat’s Mendacious New York Times Column on Immigration
While Arizona’s Governor compares undocumented workers to terrorists New York Times columnist Ross Douthat desperately tries to put a more palatable spin on the GOP’s position on immigration,
Just because this is the wrong way to enforce America’s immigration laws, however, doesn’t mean they don’t need to be enforced. Illegal immigrants are far more sympathetic than your average lawbreaker: they’re risk-takers looking for a better life in the United States, something they have in common with nearly every living American’s ancestors.
It’s nice of him to concede that actually these “lawbreakers” are really just trying to attain the good ol’ American dream. But instead of talking about enforcing our current laws I think its obvious that we should completely overhaul our present system. The evidence is quite clear that our current laws don’t work – there are millions of people who want to enter the United States every year and there are employers who are willing to hire them. Under current immigration practice though it can take the better part of a decade for people to gain legal entry which all but ensures that people will disregard the legal practice and take their chances with illegal entry. If people want to come here and work and there are jobs available surely we can devise a system to accommodate all parties.
Douthat continues and again makes a sensible point – that diversity in immigration would be just and fair,
There’s a good argument, on moral and self-interested grounds alike, that the United States should be as welcoming as possible to immigrants. But there’s no compelling reason that we should decide which immigrants to welcome based on their proximity to our border, and their ability to slip across.
It takes nothing away from Mexico or Mexicans to note that millions upon millions of people worldwide would give anything for the chance to migrate to America. Many come from nations that are poorer than our southern neighbor. Many have endured natural disasters, or suffered political or religious persecution. And many have spent years navigating our byzantine immigration bureaucracy, only to watch politicians in both parties dangle the promise of amnesty in front of people who jumped the border and the line.
He’s right, the realities of geography necessarily exclude tens, perhaps even hundreds, of thousands of immigrants from the American dream. Again though this speaks to reforming our immigration laws to provide a more responsive bureaucracy. A more efficient immigration system would be kinder, gentler and probably more economically beneficial. Short of immigration air lifts I’m not sure what else we do about providing greater access to those would-be immigrants who are not located on our continent.
In a better world, the United States would welcome hundreds of thousands more legal immigrants annually, from a much wider array of countries. A more diverse immigrant population would have fewer opportunities to self-segregate and stronger incentives to assimilate. Fears of a Spanish-speaking reconquista would diminish, and so would the likelihood of backlash.
This entire paragraphs is little more than warmed over 18th century nativist agitprop. Immigrants have always self-segregated particularly through the first generations or two. There is nothing out of the ordinary in the way that Hispanics self-segregate today. The allegation that there is a lack of assimilation by today’s Hispanics is demonstrably false as a 2007 PEW report demonstrated,
Most children of Hispanic immigrants in the United States learn to speak English well by the time they are adults, even though three-quarters of their parents speak mainly Spanish and do not have a command of English, according to a report released yesterday by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.
Only 23 percent of first-generation immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries said they spoke English very well, the report found. But 88 percent of the members of the second generation in Latino immigrant families described themselves as strong English speakers, a figure that increased to 94 percent for the grandchildren’s generation.
“The ability to speak English and the likelihood of using it in everyday life rise sharply from Hispanic immigrants to their U.S.-born adult children,” the survey reported.
The Pew Hispanic Center is a nonpartisan research organization that does not take a position in the contentious immigration debate. The new report is based on an analysis of six surveys the center conducted from April 2002 to October 2006, covering more than 14,000 Latino adults over 18 years old…
The Pew report found that Hispanics are generally eager to master English, believing it is “necessary for success in the United States.”
Hispanics today assimilate in the same manner as our past immigrant populations. The first generation is comprised of adults who may struggle with the language but the second generation through public schooling and their young age pick up the language. Anyone playing, as Douthat does here, to fears about assimilation is woefully ill-informed.
In his next sentence Douthat argues that if only we had fewer Spanish speakers coming to America the crazy xenophobic conspiracy nuts would have nothing to be crazy xenophobic conspiracy nuts about! Look, the people who believe in a reconquista are per se irrational. If the immigrants coming to this country were from Germany, Kenya or Japan these people would cook up a conspiracy theory about their presence. That’s what bigoted nativists do. In the mid-19th Century Irish-Catholic (my people) were believed to be evidence of a grand Catholic conspiracy to over-take the United States.
Once one studies the history of nativist movements in the United States it becomes clear that today’s fears about un-assimilated Mexicans who are here to destroy the United States is quite literally the same argument that we xenophobes were making in the mid-19th century. Some advice to my conservative friends, if you find yourself relying on discredited arguments from 150 years ago to support your position it is time to rethink your position.
But Douthat isn’t ready to just leave his argument at a mere reprisal of Know-Nothingism though. Instead he goes on to completely distort the actual immigration process in this country,
And instead of being heavily skewed toward low-skilled migrants, our system could tilt toward higher-skilled applicants, making America more competitive and less stratified.
Douthat is simply smearing Hispanic immigrants as a bunch of low-skilled laborers crowding out more productive workers with this statement. First and foremost the type of “green card” at issue when discussing high-skilled professional immigrants is the H-1B Visa, of which only 65,000 are granted each year(though Congress is looking to expand that number). That visa allows the holder to stay in the United States for six years. The H-1B Visa is designed specifically for those individuals who posses specialized skills in business, sciences etc. Seasonal agricultural workers, as many of the low-skilled immigrants at discussion here are, enter the United States on one of 30,000 H-2A visas that are granted annually.
In other words, the H-1B Visa applicants are, by definition, not low-skilled laborers. The immigration of low-skilled Hispanic workers has nothing at all to do with the immigration of more highly skilled workers. Douthat though wants to play on fears of teeming masses of unskilled Mexicans who are crowding out the highly-skilled H1-B applicants. That’s simply not a true depiction of our immigration system.
When it comes to stereotypical anti-immigrant rhetoric Douthat’s diatribe in Monday’s New York Times is a perfect specimen plucked. He seemingly plucked his column from the depths of America’s long standing xenophobic fear-mongering tradition and placed them neatly in the context of modern American conservatism. His positions are wrong on the merits, his arguments are mendacious at best and he plays to the same baseless xenophobia that has plagued this country for centuries. It’s either knowingly dishonest political theater or shamelessly uninformed invective.
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