Dazzling Knowledge

Monday, October 09, 2006

Principled Immigration

This is one of the most thoughtful articles I've seen on the issue of "illegal" immigration. (Note that "scare quotes" are intentionally included around the "quotation marks.")

"Not for the first time, the world finds itself in an age of great movements of peoples. And once again, the United States is confronted with the challenge of absorbing large numbers of newcomers. There are approximately 200 million migrants and refugees worldwide, triple the number estimated by the UN only seventeen years ago. In the United States alone, about a million new immigrants have entered every year since 1990, bringing the total immigrant population to more than 35 million, the largest number in the nation’s history. Though Americans take justifiable pride in our history as a “nation of immigrants,” the challenges are more complex than those the nation previously surmounted. For sending and receiving countries alike, this is a time of exceptional stress—and yet, a moment that offers opportunities as well.

"Opinion leaders in the aging societies of Europe and the United States have generally avoided mentioning the relation between the birth dearth and the need for immigration. Consequently, there has been little discussion of what should be obvious: An affluent society that, for whatever reason, does not welcome babies is going to have to learn to welcome immigrants if it hopes to maintain its economic vigor and its commitments to the health and welfare of its population. The issue is not who will do jobs that Americans don’t want. The issue is who will fill the ranks of a labor force that the retiring generation failed to replenish.

"Overshadowing all other concerns is alarm over the fact that there are 11 or 12 million immigrants in the United States who have entered or remained in the country illegally. To comprehend the depth of feeling attached to that issue, one has to keep in mind that there is no country on Earth where legal values play a more prominent role in the nation’s conception of itself than the United States. That was one of the first things Tocqueville noticed in his travels here in the early 1830s, and, as the country has grown larger and more diverse, its reliance on legal values has become ever more salient. In the culture struggles of the late twentieth century, Americans had to rely more heavily than ever on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the rule of law to serve as unifying forces. Persons who come from societies bound together by shared history, stories, songs, and images can easily overlook or underrate the importance of this aspect of United States culture. Persons who come from societies where formal law is associated with colonialism may well find the United States’ emphasis on legality rather strange. But no solution to the challenges of immigration is likely to succeed without taking it into account."

The whole thing is a bit long, but a good read for those interested in the topic. Maybe not for racists and union protectionists.

If long articles aren't your thing, here's a cartoon about "the job-stealing, disease-carrying terrorist invasion from the south!"


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