What struck me about George Will’s recent column on immigration reform is how quaint his view of today’s immigration was. Consider this:
Many Republicans say immigration runs counter to U.S. social policies aiming to reduce the number of people with low levels of skill and education, and must further depress the wages of Americans at the bottom of the economic ladder, who are already paying the price for today’s economic anemia. This is true. But so is this: The Congressional Budget Office says an initial slight reduction of low wages (0.1 percent in a decade) will be followed by increased economic growth partly attributable to immigrants. Immigration is the entrepreneurial act of taking the risk of uprooting oneself and plunging into uncertainty. Small wonder, then, that immigrants are about 20 percent of owners of small businesses, and that more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
The emphasis is mine and the highlighted sentence expresses a view of immigration rooted in pure nostalgia. It was true a century ago. Now the other side of the world is a plane ticket and a sixteen hour ride by air. That’s quicker than travelling from New York to Chicago in 1900. In point of time Mumbai is closer to closer to Los Angeles than New York was to Philadelphia at the time of the American Revolution. The children of today’s immigrants frequently return home to spend the summer with Grandma. And only the most secluded and isolated countries in the world have actual uncertainty about the United States. The Cosby Show is shown everywhere. Today’s immigrants might have a rose-colored view of the United States but “uncertainty” is too strong a word. These are not yesterday’s immigrants.
Many Republicans see in immigrants only future Democratic votes.
reflects a different kind of misconception. Democrats who see an unending stream of newly-arrived Mexican immigrant conferring on them a permanent electoral advantage are kidding themselves, too. A minority of the immigrants legalized in the 1980s sought citizenship. Advances in travel and communications (not to mention Mexico’s changing social and economic conditions) will probably reduce that rather than increasing it if there’s a new move towards legalization (whatever it’s called).
I wish that U. S. immigration policy and politics were geared to the realities of today’s immigration rather than the immigration of the imagination. Our agricultural sector needs a guest worker program. We should establish such a system that’s targeted at today’s realities rather than the glow of a nostalgic yesteryear or an imagined present reality.