Norman Matloff's Immigration Forum

Norman Matloff's Immigration Forum
A comprehensive list of links from both sides of the debate in an intelligently organized form. "Subjects such as immigration are seldom treated in any depth in the press. Our aim here is to remedy this problem, by assembling a collection of articles on various aspects of immigration, written by specialists in the field. The aim is to have a balanced, diverse set of viewpoints on this important topic."

From ravi on 2000-06-07 08:21:09 from the comprehensive web resource list department - recs (233)
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Please note that the comments written by visitors to this site are NOT the views of the webmaster. We welcome all viewpoints in the hopes to avoid "preaching to the choir" and if you are interested in our actual views, read our below essay.

Our View

    Increased immigration is important for both the economic and spiritual well being of the United States. Immigrants often take jobs which would otherwise go unfilled and increase overall productivity. Empirically, the United States has recently undergone a long period of increased immigration and has an economy which may have it's ups and downs, but is still the envy of the world, with significant immigrant contributions in the prominent high technology sector. The most convincing argument against immigration is usually their effect on wages, but current economic policy is already focused on fighting this wage pressure to reduce the threat of inflation and subsequent depression. As such, the chief argument against becomes an argument for increased immigration. Most importantly, let us not forget that these immigrants are people who simply want a better life, just like our parents and grandparents, who all came to the United States in similar situations. Helping them in their quest for a better life makes us rich in ways which transcend money.

    Those who argue against immigration often make seemingly common sense arguments. Arguments are made as to immigration causing increased use of schools, infrastructure, and housing. This certainly makes sense on it's face, but it hinges on the assumption that there is a finite amount of housing, when in reality, we can build as many houses as we want, assuming we have the needed labor, and immigrants often provide this labor. Immigration activist Yeh Ling-Ling writes that "Almost every week, we hear about thousands of our workers losing their jobs. Yet in 1992, more than 750,000 legal immigrants of working age were admitted to this country". This hinges on the idea that there are a finite amount of jobs, when this is clearly dependent on the health of the economy, to which immigrants contribute. She also asks, "Where are we going to find tax dollars to educate the additional thousands of immigrant children we invite to this country every year?". This hinges on the idea that there are finite amounts of tax dollars, when in reality, these dollars depend on the workers who pay their taxes, including these new immigrants. These are simplistic responses to simplistic arguments. In reality, the contribution of immigrants to society is hard to quantify, but it is important to realize that arguments which hinge on the myth of "finite resources" are rhetorical and ill suited to determining the real impact of immigration. Studies designed to determine the real impact of immigration on the economy differ in their results, but the United States is a country of immigrants and happens to be the strongest country in the world. Is this a coincidence?

    The lone resources which are indeed finite are environmental, but I cannot see how a truly responsible environmental organization can be anti-immigration. The environment is a global issue and it is universally agreed that with increased wealth comes increased awareness of the environment. As such, it is far better for the global environment to move people from low wage to high wage countries. Indeed, the United States has lost immense amounts of forest and biodiversity during it's industrialization, but recently has begun to reverse this trend as increased wealth has allowed us to focus on environmental issues.

    Arguments against immigration are often anecdotal and do have some basis. In certain urban centers of the country, new immigrants represent a disproportional amount of the population, often before they adjust enough to make up for it with contributions to the tax base. As such, it is natural for those who have experienced this to have negative attitudes towards immigration. Still it is important to realize the anecdotal nature of these experiences. We should work to alleviate these situations, but let's not lose sight of the big picture. Worse, some activists see reduced immigration as a necessity to reduce ethnic tensions. Legislating reduced ethnic diversity as a solution to racial tension hints of arguments for ethnic cleansing.

    So far, I have argued that we need immigrants in order to increase our economic well being, but I think the most important of arguments is a spiritual one. Simply put, this is a chance to help others and in a society as individualistic as the US, we need to take advantage of these chances. Few Americans can imagine the poverty that many immigrants are escaping. Given our relative economic strength, it's pretty clear that we need immigrants from a macroeconomic level, but we need them even more spiritually. We are in clear danger of becoming an isolationist, every man for himself, society. Remember the lessons of Ebenezer Scrooge or It's a Wonderful Life. If we turn away those in need, we will be poorer for it, both economically and spiritually.

    If you have an opinion on this, please respond by posting something.  I am certainly open to debate and willing to entertain the conclusion that I may be mistaken in some way.  One reason I felt that this essay needed to be written was because of the singularity of points of view which was being aired in this debate and I would not want to make the same mistake.  Posts will be screened, but only to weed out anything abusive, profane, or unrelated, and I welcome conflicting views. 

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