Legally Insane

Published on April 14th, 2009

Continued mass legal immigration is a recipe for disaster

By Mark Cromer

My colleague Rick Oltman recently appeared on the Glenn Beck show to discuss illegal immigration; and I noticed that Beck opened up by indulging what is now a time-honored disclaimer that is faithfully uttered by conservatives, liberals and every other variant along the political spectrum virtually anytime they are about to discuss immigration.

“Are you just anti-illegal immigrant,” the cable show host asked at the start of the segment. “Or are you anti-immigrant?”

Though Oltman was invited on the show to talk about President Obama’s aunt from Kenya who overstayed her visa in 2000 and has since ignored two deportation orders, Beck first had to make sure that Californians for Population Stabilization supports legal immigration.

When Oltman confirmed that CAPS obviously supports a legal pathway for people to emigrate to the United States, Beck declared with relief “You are for legal immigration! Ok, good.”

But just why is that “good” on the face of it?

Just what is it about mass immigration that makes it an intrinsic necessity for advancing our national interest? While the media is filled with pundits and politicos who vow fidelity to the notion that all legal immigration is apparently a Godsend, rarely if ever are they called upon to elaborate on just why that is—as if it is somehow a self-evident truth.

But this is not a Gospel truth and the questions remain.

Does the supposed goodness of legal immigration rest in the process itself because it is orderly and legal; or does its value lie in the sheer numbers that we allow in each year? Or is it the people who come to America legally that we determine must be, by their very destination, fundamentally good?

Should our willingness to accept virtually anyone be extrapolated into an invitation to everyone? Because that’s increasingly how it is being framed in the media.

America’s open character has inspired like-minded people to come to our shores for freedom and opportunity—there is indeed that thread of golden truth that runs throughout our national myth.

But when was the last time that someone waxing eloquent about legal immigrants and legal immigration was asked just how many people—period—should be allowed into the U.S., particularly as the country struggles through the most dangerous economic crisis since the Great Depression?

That question and others have been resting right under the surface of an immigration “debate” in this country that for too long has been divided into the tidy assumption that mass immigration is inherently good so long as it is legal.

That illogical and intellectually dishonest construct is a tribute to the success of the open border lobby—spearheaded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Council of La Raza—in framing any opposition to illegal immigration as a racist conspiracy. In reaction, opponents of illegal immigration up and down the political aisle have been conditioned to reflexively announce their support for legal immigration.

And that’s exactly what the open-border lobby wants: a defensive discussion about illegal immigration that leaves massive waves of legal immigration sacrosanct. This dynamic leaves unchallenged the absurd claim that America’s immigration system is “broken” and that “fixing” it means legalization, not enforcement of our laws.

The fact is that the United States has the most permissive immigration policy among the industrial democracies and grants admission to more legal immigrants every year than any other nation on the planet—more than one million annually. As many as three times that number come into the country illegally each year as well.

Those that favor unrestricted immigration into the U.S. cynically use the fact that millions of people broke into the nation as a sign that our system must be broken. But it’s not broken; it has been overrun.

It’s time America got serious about having an honest, open and civil discussion about immigration: the central question of which is how much immigration is too much to be in the interest of the American people? That question has to be the baseline for judging the system’s success; not whether it adequately supplies big business with enough cheap labor or ethnocentric groups with enough bodies to expand their political power base.

It must no longer be heresy to challenge the notion of continued mass legal immigration. The benefits of curtailing immigration are as clear as they are compelling, not the least of which would be relief to unemployed Americans seeking jobs and American workers now facing even greater competition in the workplace.

Seriously reduced immigration levels would also promote assimilation of new arrivals into American culture and give shared values time to work, which in turn would strengthen the common threads that bind us as a nation. The environment would benefit from reduced immigration levels and population growth, and so too would immigrants themselves, since they would have a better shot at more opportunities and resources that are spread among fewer people.

That is why CAPS, in fact, does want to see serious reductions in all immigration into the United States—including legal immigration—to levels that would effectively bring a halt to our country’s surging population growth. Since immigration and births to immigrants account for the vast majority of our population growth, a rethinking of policy, preceded by a lengthy “time-out” is the only thoughtful way forward.

There’s nothing un-American about that.

To the contrary, it’s a long overdue dose of good old American common sense.

Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow at Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS).

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