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Brimelow, a senior editor at both National Review and Forbes , and an immigrant from England to this country himself, has been ringing alarm bells about immigration for several years. Indeed, an article he wrote in helped launch the current debate. Thus, he presents evidence that over the past few decades the level of skills and education which immigrants bring to the United States has been in a steady decline.
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He also draws attention to the fact that in the same period the flow of immigrants has increased steadily from year to year independently of economic growth, whereas in the past immigration fluctuated with the cycles of the economy. Brimelow suggests that this decoupling can be attributed to the expansion of the American welfare state, which enables immigrants to remain even when jobs are scarce. The net effect of these trends, he concludes, is that immigration brings few if any economic benefits to the United States. It is not, however, the economic drag caused by immigration that appears to trouble Brimelow most.
A Flawed Jewel | Center for Immigration Studies
Rather, it is the dramatic increase in the non-European share of the total immigrant mix. Brimelow would have it otherwise. Border Patrol; sealing the U. Finally, he advocates repeal of the clause in the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing citizenship to anyone born on American soil including the offspring of illegal aliens. The proposals for dealing with legal immigration in Alien Nation are equally sweeping. He would eliminate affirmative-action benefits for all immigrants, legal and illegal, and would also do away with special categories of immigrants like refugees, who should wait in line, he says, like everyone else.
And do his proposals for curtailing it make sense?
About some things Brimelow is certainly right. Larger numbers of low-skilled, poorly educated immigrants from Asia and Latin America are coming to the United States than ever before. A growing number of immigrants are relying on the welfare system. But about much else, Brimelow is either wrong or, at best, half-right. Thus, his discussion of the economic effects of immigration is one-sided and ignores evidence that contradicts his case. He pays virtually no attention, for example, to the many ways that labor performed by immigrants—as farm workers, janitors, maids, factory operatives, nurses, not to mention doctors and scientists—serves the economic interests of ordinary Americans.
His argument is so broad-brush that a number of important details are obscured. Everyone else admits that the de facto open-borders policy that has prevailed since has not only failed on its own terms but has exacerbated the problems of a society increasingly divided along ethnic lines. When Muslim legal aliens bombed the World Trade Center in , many experts on national security and foreign policy finally awoke to the public's justified concerns over lax policing of U.
A Flawed Jewel
More mundane events added to elite disenchantment. America's intervention in Haiti, for instance, resulted in part from fear of a mass refugee exodus to Florida similar to the Mariel boatlift. Diseases Americans once thought of as licked - such as tuberculosis, measles, cholera, malaria, and leprosy - reappeared in the United States thanks to Third World immigrants. Thus, several state and congressional races in hinged heavily on the candidates' positions on immigration, and current opinion polls indicate that more than 70 percent of Americans want to restrict both illegal and legal immigration.
As a result, for the first time in more than seventy years, federal immigration policy became a major issue in a presidential election. President Bill Clinton and Bob Dole vied with each other to see who could be tougher on immigration, and both the Democratic and Republican platforms took positions that would previously have been denounced as "nativist.
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- Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster?
Several estimable books chronicle this sea change in American attitudes toward immigration policy. The three authors reviewed here all take pains to explain the historical origins of the current situation. All three eschew the sentimental and lachrymose attitudes "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" that often have marred studies of immigration.
And although the style and tone of their approaches differ markedly, all three authors work their way to conclusions that severely criticize the permissive mindset toward foreign immigration in particular, and ethnic politics in general, that characterizes the federal bureaucracy, media, universities, think tanks, and most large corporations.