A bold plan to solve America's illegal immigration problem
We can end the political stalemate if we summon the courage to end illegal immigration, provide amnesty at a price, and be more selective about who we welcome into the country.
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The second crucial step is to end multiculturalism as a national value and be much more selective about who we welcome into our country. Immigration isn’t just about quantity. It’s about quality. Since immigration should serve the national interest, it’s fair to ask:Skip to next paragraph
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• What does America’s work force need? What choices leave our children the best, most sustainable America?
• Aren’t there significant differences in the speed and completeness of assimilation among different immigrant groups?
• Doesn’t it make a difference whether we take 1,000 Chinese, Japanese, or Koreans as opposed to 1,000 people from south of our border? Just look at the astonishing Asian success rates, and the failure of so many Latinos to graduate even from high school – and the divisive evolution of Spanish to become, de facto, our second national language.
With an unemployment rate near 10 percent, why are we importing close to a million people a year? America has experienced zero job growth since 2000, yet we have added 10 million legal immigrants plus millions more illegally. By the Jordan Commission standards, we are importing too many immigrants, particularly too many unskilled immigrants.
America in 2050
In 2000, the US population totaled 281 million, of which 36 million, or nearly 13 percent, were Latinos. By 2050, the Census Bureau projects our population will reach 420 million, of which 103 million, or 24 percent, will be Hispanic. That’s nearly a tripling of the Hispanic population in a half-century. Indeed, it means 1 in 4 Americans will be Hispanic. How might that change America and American values?
The late Mexican-American columnist Richard Estrada captured the essence of the problem in a letter he wrote in 1991:
“The problem in which the current immigration is suffused is, at heart, one of numbers; for when the numbers begin to favor not only the maintenance and replenishment of the immigrants’ source culture, but also its overall growth, and in particular growth so large that the numbers not only impede assimilation but go beyond to pose a challenge to the traditional culture of the American nation, then there is a great deal about which to be concerned.”
The policy implications are clear:
• We must end illegal immigration by enforcing the laws on employment and strengthening our control of our southern border.
• We should calibrate legal immigration annually to (1) the needs of the economy, and (2) past performance of immigrant groups with respect to acculturation and contribution to our society.
• We should declare our national language to be English and discourage the proliferation of Spanish language media.
• We should end birthright citizenship, limiting citizenship by birth to children with at last one parent who is a citizen.
• We should provide immigrants with easy-to-access educational services that facilitate acculturation, including English language, citizenship, and culture.
In his controversial final book, “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity,” the late Harvard scholar Samuel Huntington got it right – as he usually did – when he identified growing Latino immigration and avoidance of the melting pot as the principal threat to our unity and progress as a nation.
If we can begin to speak honestly about who we are and where we’d like to go as a nation, we can meet this threat.
Richard Lamm was the governor of Colorado from 1975 to 1987. He is currently the codirector of the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University of Denver, where he is also a university professor. Lawrence Harrison directs the Cultural Change Institute at the Fletcher School, Tufts University. He is the author, most recently, of “The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save It from Itself.” Both Gov. Lamm and Mr. Harrison are members of the advisory board of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR); however, the views expressed above do not reflect FAIR’s position on amnesty.