Thursday, May 15, 2008

Immigration Ironies

On the same day yesterday two developments regarding immigration were interestingly juxtaposed. Federal agents conducted the biggest immigration enforcement raid of the year at an Iowa Kosher meat plant, rounding up about 300 people suspected of being in the country illegally and/or using a Social Security number fraudulently.

On the same day the Manhattan Institute (generally conservative with some mildly libertarian leanings) released a study that used various measures to show that recent immigrants (past quarter-century) are assimilating into the United States at a faster rate than did previous generations, even though they have less mastery of English and earning power than did those who came at the turn of the 20th century. The study used factors like rates of citizenship, military service, rates of homeownership and English facility to see how quickly immigrants came to resemble native-born citizens. The results seem to demonstrate, as Jacob Vigdor of Duke, who conducted the study, put it, "that the nation's capacity to assimilate new immigrants is strong."

A troubling aspect of the study was that Mexicans have a relatively low assimilation rate (as compared to Vietnamese, for example), which can mainly be attributed the the fact that so many are here illegally. Being illegal cuts off a lot of paths to assimilation. To me, the conclusion should be that we should get those people legalized as quickly as possible (if the buzzword "amnesty" doesn't make it politically impossible) and adjust or eliminate the quotas so the marketplace rather than bureaucrats laying down arbitrary numbers decides how many immigrants the U.S. economy "needs" and can absorb without undue friction. The workplace raids can't get them all and turn out to be disruptive (in this case a small town's primary business is crippled, at least for a while). We need to change our policies to be open to more immigration (but not to subsidize immigrants) which will make assimilation easier.

No comments: