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Why Such Colossal Favoritism Toward Mexicans?

From: John Derbyshire To: Gideon Aronoff Subject: Pardon my goyish skepticism, but…


Every statement of immigration restrictionism should begin with the observation that British restrictionist Enoch Powell took pains to include in all his speeches on the topic: Numbers are of the essence. This seems to be especially difficult for us Americans, with our individualist ethos, to grasp. The settlement of one (or ten, or a hundred) people from Algeria, Bangladesh, or Chile is of no consequence to America's future. The settlement of ten million is of mighty consequence. An individualist approach to immigration issues, while occasionally illuminating, does not scale up well.

After many exchanges of this kind, to-ing and fro-ing with advocates of lax immigration policies, I have come to the conclusion that the real gulf in immigration talk is not between conservative and liberal, cruel and kind, nativist and xenophile, or practical and sentimental. It is between those who are keen to discuss numbers and those who, for whatever reason, are unwilling to do so.

Your response (which, if you don't mind my saying so, is not really a response, more a mission statement) to my first post illustrates this truth in several places. Your second paragraph, for example, has this:

Today, we are witnessing a striking parallel to our own Jewish American history, as Latin Americans, Asians and others clamber to get into America like we did…

I'm afraid I don't see the parallel at all.

If, as I insist, numbers are of the essence, then we should scrutinize the numbers in the two cases. In 1900 there were about 11.2 million Jews in the world. About 9.0 million were in Europe; about 5.2 million in the Russian Empire (which at that point included Poland). The population of the U.S.A. in 1900 was 76.2 million. The worldwide pool of Jews from which the "great wave" came therefore represented about fifteen percent of the receiving population. The actual pool so far as the main sending countries were concerned was a tad more than half that— let us be generous and say ten percent. (And let us note that both figures are slightly inflated by the fact of substantial Jewish immigration 1881-1900.)

Now to your "parallel." Leaving aside "others" (I am determined to be generous to your argument!) your Latin American and Asian total—depending on precise definitions, and again I am trying to be generous to you, taking only the 1999 figures—is about 5,780 million. Dividing by the current population of the U.S.A. (estimated at 301.1 million) I get a sending-pool to receiving-population ratio of 1,920 percent.

Fifteen percent… ten percent… 1,920 percent… Forgive me, Gideon, but I don't quite see your "parallel"—though I'll admit that the numbers are indeed "striking."

Just so with all your other assertions, when I try to reduce them to numbers. You say, for example, that: "American immigrants founded or co-founded some of the world's most prominent tech companies, among them Intel, Sun Microsystems, eBay, Yahoo! and Google."

Well, let's see. Wikipedia lists a total of eleven people as founders of those five companies. Of the eleven, five are foreign-born: one each from Germany, India, France, Taiwan, and Russia. If you want to slice the cake a bit thinner, you can note that the French-born entrepreneur (Pierre Omidyar) is of Iranian parentage, while the Russian one (sergey Brin) is Jewish.

A cautious conclusion one might draw is that our immigration policy ought preferentially to admit more Germans, Indians, French-Iranians, Taiwanese, and Russian Jews. Further thought suggests that if (as is apparently the case), you, Gideon, want U.S. immigration policy to have, as one of its aims, the growth of imaginative entrepreneurship in our country, we ought to carry out a close numerical analysis of entrepreneurship by country of origin, education level, religious affiliation, and so on. Depending on what that tells us, we could then adjust our immigration policy to favor the most entrepreneurial groups.

Such studies have in fact been done. Here is one (though a bit out of date, I'm afraid—a more current one might throw the argument in your favor…) from the Center for Immigration Studies. Sample quotes:

…The difference between Middle Eastern immigrants who have a self-employment rate of 28.2 percent, the highest of any region, and the self-employment rate of 4.8 for Central Americans, the lowest of any region, is extremely large. By region of origin, immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and Canada … have self-employment rates that are four or more percentage points higher than those of natives. In contrast, immigrants from Mexico … and Central America have self-employment rates that are more than four percentage points lower.

Koreans, Cubans, Canadians, and immigrants from the United Kingdom have the highest self-employment rates, while immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines have the lowest rates of self-employment. There is also significant variation within regions. For example, Cuban immigrants are much more entrepreneurial than Haitian or Dominican immigrants, even though they are all from the Caribbean.

Age and education … do not account for all of the differences between immigrant groups. For example, 27.5 percent of college-educated Middle Eastern immigrants between the ages of 35-44 are self-employed. In contrast, college-educated Mexican immigrants in the same age group have a self-employment rate of only 10.5 percent. Thus, much of the difference between the two groups remains even after controlling for these two factors.

It is clear that current immigration policy does not produce a flow of immigrants that fundamentally alters the overall level of entrepreneurship in the United States.

Under a perfectly open immigration policy, several hundred millions, perhaps two or three billions, of people would come to settle in the U.S.A. This prospect is absolutely unacceptable to the American people. (Trust me on this one, Gideon.) It follows inescapably that U.S. immigration policy must perforce be selective. We must—we must—say to this one: "Yes, you may come and settle in our country." We must say to that one: "No, you may not come to settle in our country." We—we, the people, the citizens of America, not the Wall Street Journal editorial board, nor Gideon Aronoff, nor John Derbyshire—we Americans must decide, by consensus, how many immigrants we want, from where, with what skills and education.

If we shirk this decision, as in fact we have, we shall just get great numbers of people from nearby poor countries, with a weighting towards those willing to break American laws. Hence our huge population of Mexicans and Central Americans, unknown numbers of them present here in defiance of our laws. The 2000 census showed—see Table 2 here—Mexico running away with the percentage of our foreign-born population, at 29.5 percent. Number two, China (including Taiwan and Hong Kong) was far behind at 4.9 percent. France and Russia do not even appear in the top ten. El Salvador sends us more people than Germany. Perhaps, Gideon, you can point me to a high-tech company founded by a Salvadoran immigrant?

Since, as I have noted above, U.S. immigration policy cannot help but be selective, we really ought to give some thought to the selection criteria. Why such colossal favoritism towards Mexicans, for example? Mexico is not even a particularly poor country. Of the 179 nations listed here by per capita annual GDP, Mexico ranks No. 54 with $8,066. El Salvador is No. 98 with $2,619. Good grief: 47 countries—count 'em, 47!—have per capita GDP less than one-tenth of Mexico's. What about the struggling people of Cambodia ($503), Madagascar ($299) and Burundi ($119)? Around five billion people worldwide are poorer than the average Mexican. Are you not outraged, Gideon, that these unfortunates have such vanishingly small representation among our foreign-born population? Where's that famous Jewish compassion?

Having exceeded my word count, I can offer only sketchy responses to your other points—though if you would like me to expand on anything, please say so, and I shall.

To your invocations of the Torah and Talmud, I am afraid I must respond with goyish skepticism. The one thing that is plain to even the most casual inquirer into Judaism is that it is an exclusivist religion. What, otherwise, does the phrase "chosen people" mean? Many commentators fluent in the relevant languages and studies (this commentator, for example) tell us that "stranger" in these texts means "Jewish stranger." Some of these commentators tell us that the extension to Gentiles is a result of the Enlightenment liberalization of classical Judaism; some, that it is a well-intentioned but ignorant misapplication of the texts; some, that it is part of the conscious deception Jews engage in when presenting themselves to Gentiles. I am not competent to judge which, if any, of these commentators is correct. I must tell you, though, that if you want to confront the Kevin MacDonalds of the world, you had better be ready with responses to points of this kind. "The Torah says…" will pass with a general audience. With a skeptical—not even necessarily antisemitic—audience, you will have to do better.

The rest of your questions:

"How generous should we be to people who are fleeing persecution?" Not very, would be my answer. (1) It is in the nature of persecuting regimes that actual evidence of persecution is hard to come by, so there will be many bogus refugees. (2) The U.S. government should place the interests of U.S. citizens before all other considerations. Some people are persecuted for excellent reasons. The fanatical (and fanatically antisemitic) Muslim Brotherhood is savagely persecuted in Egypt and other Arab countries. Will you be generous to them? (3) Where persecution is the norm in a country, that country needs major reform. The only people who can carry out such reform are the people of that country. As Dr. Johnson observed, sometimes martyrdom is the only test of truth.

"If we practically can’t deport 12 million people…" Your premise is false. Not only can it be done, it has been costed. The National Policy Institute will email you Ed Rubinstein's report, whose conclusion is that: "No matter how high the costs of deporting illegal aliens may seem, the costs of not deporting them are larger still." (Ed actually computed the cost at "between $41 billion and $46 billion annually over five years." That's about the cost of 92 Space Shuttle launches a year.) The Eisenhower administration deported, or caused to self-deport, several hundred thousand illegal aliens in a few months, and it didn't even make newspaper headlines.

"What policies best serve to promote the integration of newcomers?" Well, some diversity would help. One of the most troubling aspects of our immigrant numbers in recent years has been the decline in diversity.

"Since we can't accept everyone in the world, what are the criteria for a controlled, liberal immigration system?" Aha! Why don't we ask the American people? But I am very glad to know that we are in at least general agreement on this central point: Numbers are of the Essence.

NEXT: The Torah, the Talmud, and the Undocumented Worker

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