The Cost of Uncontrolled Immigration
America is facing a foreign invasion — or more precisely, a massive peaceful invasion of foreigners. Our country has never before experienced such immense waves of immigrants as have crossed our borders in the past thirty years. There are currently thirty-six million foreign-born residents in the United States, almost as many immigrants as the total who came to our shores in the 358 years from 1607 to 1965. An additional 1.5 million enter the country every year, half of whom are estimated illegal. A Bear Stearns study last year concluded that there might be as many as twenty million illegal immigrants residing in our country.
Previous periods of peak immigration were marked by the waves from Europe — primarily Germans, Italians and Irish, and Jews of various nationalities. There was a degree of shared cultural background with our predominantly English and European forebears, and those who spoke only their native tongue soon adopted English as their own. Assimilation was fairly rapid: These new arrivals were soon able to make significant contributions to our country’s economic and social fabric.
The picture is quite different today. Immigration is out-of-control, and one of the culprits is the Immigration Act of 1965 which has had unintended consequences. Prior to that act, 95 percent of the immigrants had come from Europe. Of the forty million who have entered the country since its passage, 95 percent are from the Third World. Roughly a third are from Mexico, the great majority with little or no education. Spanish is their only language, and because Congress has authorized Spanish as a second language, there is no need for them to learn English. Latinos have brought their culture with them and formed their own society, a roadblock to assimilation.
The migratory wave of Hispanics from Mexico, including those from the Caribbean and Central and South American countries, is unlike anything in the past. In the border states of California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, the huge number of Mexicans represent a potent political force. According to Patrick Buchanan in his book State of Emergency, the declared agenda of some of their leaders here and in Mexico is to retake those lands they claim were forcefully or illegally taken from them in the last century — retake them by encouraging immigration, legal or illegal. The birth rate of Hispanics is working in their favor. In 2002, 23 percent of all births were to immigrant mothers (with 10 percent to illegal immigrant mothers), up from 6 percent in 1970. Because our laws confer American citizenship on a foreign child born here, whether to a legal or illegal mother, these “marker babies” constitute a Trojan horse as they grow to reproductive age.
Some liberals have called Buchanan a racist and ultra-conservative for sounding a warning that we are in danger of becoming a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, culturally polyglot nation, that our common historic legacy will soon be lost. But his point of view echoes that of many thoughtful observers dating back to George Washington, John Quincy Adams and John Jay. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in Disuniting of America expressed deep concern that the centrifugal forces pulling America apart had begun to overwhelm the ideas and ideals that hold us together. In 1967 CBS commentator Eric Severeid referred to the “tidal wave of human beings” from the Third World as one of the “truly major issues” and warned, “There is fragmentation going on in this country. At what point does cultural, racial diversity become a kind of social anarchy? How do you get national cohesion this way?”
Americans have been proud of our country’s ability to offer refuge and opportunity to the world’s needy and to assimilate them with relatively little impact on our culture or our economy. But times have changed. The challenge of assimilating so large an invasion of impoverished migrants has no precedent in our history. Defenders of our present immigration policy tout the contribution that low-cost Hispanic labor makes to our economy, yet too few people speak out about the real cost of this “cheap labor.” An analysis by economist Lester Thurow found that each one percent growth in population requires approximately 12.5 percent of the nation’s GNP to provide the infrastructure to support it. Putting it in hard cash, each immigrant to the U.S. costs $328,000! For the 400,000 Mexicans who enter the U.S. each year, the cost is a staggering $132 billion. While somewhat more than half of this is labor cost, offset by jobs created, the rest is taxpayer-financed expansion of educational facilities, water, sewer, roads, public transportation and health care.
How important is the issue of immigration to America’s voters and specifically to us here in Connecticut? The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) recently completed a national survey with detailed polls in four contested Senate states and ten contested House races, including Connecticut’s District 4. Immigration was one of the top three issues both nationally and here, led by the Iraq war and health insurance. Opinions across the country were overwhelmingly in favor of reducing the flow of immigrants, and nearly half of those surveyed wanted stricter enforcement of existing laws. Twenty-eight percent wanted to see better border control and believed that enforcement efforts by the government were “grossly inadequate.”
In District 4 the greatest concern of voters was that immigrants placed too much burden on taxpayers for health services and schools. This was followed by “failure to assimilate or become part of American culture.” On the question of the need for unskilled immigrant labor, over 70 percent agreed with the statement that there were “plenty of Americans to do low wage jobs that require relatively little education.”
When Congress again addresses the issue of immigration after the elections, the Hagel-Martinez bill in the Senate (S-2611), and the quite different House bill will be the subject of intense debate on this nonpartisan issue from which, hopefully, some sensible compromise will emerge . Meanwhile, based on the experience with the 1986 amnesty, the CIS has estimated that passage of Hagel-Martinez will result in amnesty for ten million illegal aliens. This includes 7.4 million who will be legally eligible, 2.6 million who will obtain amnesty fraudulently, and another 4.5 million spouses and relatives who will be allowed to join them. The estimated number of 14.5 million legalized immigrants is far above the number found acceptable to those surveyed.
The favored course of action, based on the results of the CIS survey, is not the process of legalization proposed in the Senate bill that opens the door to so many illegals and their families, but something much closer to what the House proposes. Forty-four percent of the people surveyed wanted stronger enforcement that would discourage illegals from staying in the country, while only 31 percent favored legalization.
In the end, the degree of control over who and how many enter our country, and how many illegals will be qualified for amnesty, will hinge on the ability of Congress to withstand political pressure from the Hispanic community and its allies. Unfortunately, among those allies are the owners of farms and industries who take advantage of low-cost Hispanic labor and who will resist efforts to curb the hiring of illegal aliens. More than our porous borders, these employers are the problem. Until we remove the irresistible lure of employment and access to the benefits of residence in the United States, no amount of legislation will stem the tide.