Three Cheers for Immigration!
I keep finding myself sucked into the ongoing immigration debate at 2Blowhards.
In this anti-immigration video clip, Roy Beck of NumbersUSA calls 1925-1965 a "golden era" of immigration in which there was "little or no resentment" of new immigrants. I couldn't help notice that the period in question included Jewish refugees being turned away to die and Japanese families losing their homes and being locked up in internment camps.
Roy creates the impression of a scary upward trend in immigration by (a) not adjusting for population size, and (b) leaving out the true golden age of immigration, 1820-1920. Immigration levels in the 1990s were actually quite low by historical standards - much lower percentage-wise than a hundred years earlier.
My dad's immigrant parents were poor and spoke little english. They started a deli in the Bronx and raised three sons - a businessman, a scientist, and a doctor. I expect the current round of immigrant families to produce many similar success stories.
We need new blood! More people with more ideas and skills and diverse backgrounds. Our current and recent immigration rate is anemic; we are turning away hundreds of thousands of people every year who could help make our country even more successful. These people believe they could be safer, happier or more productive here than in their current country, and who am I to question that belief? Just as I don't speak any Yiddish, I doubt the grandkids of current immigrants will speak much Spanish.
The reason immigration dropped precipitously (both in raw numbers and even more as a percentage of population) in 1925 is that we passed laws just prior to that to keep out all those Jewish refugees. I think it's pretty clear in retrospect that this was a mistake. Penniless or not, the Jews that fled eastern europe to make it here prior to (or during, or after) that crackdown have done very well for themselves. Their kids and grandkids were among our best scientists and academics and financiers of the last century.
That my dad and his brothers come from such stock gives me a personal stake in the matter but it's also a somewhat representative anecdote -- Jews in America in the 1900s have been a success story. But it sure didn't look that way at the time, did it? They looked like a bad bet. The jews were poor, they had ties to other countries, they didn't speak the language, they were insular, they came from countries with terrible policies and brought with them a lot of bad political ideas.
Just like Mexicans today.
In the last century we consistently tried to limit immigration from those who most wanted to come here for economic and political reasons - Jews, Chinese, Irish, Italians. The arguments against letting those groups in then were very similar to the arguments used against the Mexicans today. And these arguments were wrong then; all those groups assimilated.
The Mexican immigrants will too.