By Joe Guzzardi
August 26, 2011
Earlier this week, I debated via email a New England-based immigration lawyer who I’ll call Mr. Moore. I had responded to Moore’s editorial in a major business journal that advocated for more H-1B worker visas as well as higher overall levels of immigration.
Up front in my response, I noted that opinion columns written by immigration lawyers suffer from a credibility gap. Lawyers profit from more immigration so it’s hard for readers to ignore their financial gain. Such editorials are essentially well-placed advertisements.
Moore wanted to know what credentials I have to be an immigration critic. Here in part is what I told him.
In the mid-1980s, I embarked on what would be a 25-year second career as an adult ESL instructor at a large California public school. I directly interacted with immigrants from all over the world but mostly Southeast Asian refugees and Mexican migrant workers. My colleagues and I not only taught them (or tried to teach them English), we drove them to their appointments, taught them to drive, loaned them money, filled out their complicated federal, state and school forms and tried to do everything within our power to make their lives easier.
The vast majority of my students did not contribute economically or in any other significant way to American society. That’s not their fault; it’s simply a fact. And it’s also a fact that this disproves the age old canard that “immigrants come for a better life.” My experience was that most would have been better off had they stayed at home where they spoke the language, were comfortable with their native customs and lived among family rather than coming to a city like Los Angeles or New York to work at a menial job for the minimum wage. While staying behind was not an option for the Southeast Asians, their assimilation process was slower, more painful and less complete than most.
Even though I strongly disagree with Moore’s position that the U.S. needs more H-1B visas, for the sake of our debate, I allowed it. But then I pressed Moore on all the other non-immigrant visas. I asked about the K-1 fiancée visa that helps middle aged American men bring pliant brides (and eventually their families) from Russia and other nations in exchange for a green card. I wanted to know why the J-1, the P-1, the R and so many other visas that are abused couldn’t be eliminated.
In his editorial, Moore like all other lawyers referred to various studies that indicate that immigration is a good if not vital thing for the U.S. I told Moore I could point to other, more compelling and detailed studies that conclude that it is not.
In an effort to get to the crux of the immigration issue, I boiled it down to the basics. I asked Moore to explain to me how the federal policy that admits about one million legal immigrants each year, skilled and unskilled, and gives them work permits cannot be hurtful to 14 million unemployed Americans.
To that question, and all the others I posed, I got no reply. Moore’s silence sums up our debate. The cold, hard fact that too much immigration hurts too many Americans cannot be argued away.
Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns, mostly about immigration and related social issues, since 1986. He is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns are syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. Contact him at [email protected]