The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Republicans And Democrats Join Forces to Call for Immigration Reform

Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch, and Thomas Menino (the liberal Democratic mayor of Boston who threatened to block Chick-Fil-A from opening new stores in that city) walk into a hotel…

This isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. Last week, this unlikely trinity gathered at a Boston hotel to issue a united call for immigration reform. Doing so, they argued, would help kick-start the torpid economy.

Menino spoke about the myriad benefits that immigration has had on Boston:

Menino ran through some local numbers. There are 8,800 immigrant-owned small businesses in Boston, he said, producing nearly $3.7 billion in annual sales and employing more than 18,000 people. New Americans have swelled Boston’s population to 625,000, its healthiest level since 1970 — healthy because “more people mean more talent, more ideas, and more innovation.” They also mean more revenue: Boston’s immigrants spend $4 billion per year, generating $1.3 billion in state and federal taxes. For generations immigrants have rejuvenated Boston, said the mayor. “They make this old city new again and again.”

And what Menino sees in Boston is occurring throughout the country:

A study by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of mayors and business leaders advocating for more rational immigration laws, is awash with eye-opening data on immigrant entrepreneurship. More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, and immigrants are now more than twice as likely as US natives to start a business. Though the foreign-born account for less than 13 percent of the US population, they created 28 percent of all new American businesses in 2011.

There are legitimate questions about immigration. Via Meadia thinks the U.S. needs to prevent illegal immigration and control the legal flow, but legal immigration has been a boon to the U.S. for centuries and still is today.

It’s true that unskilled immigrants (especially illegals) may temporarily cause problems for low-skilled native workers and impose costs on the communities where they are most heavily concentrated; 200 years of American history also suggest that, in the long run, they boost wealth and productivity for the country as a whole, and their kids and grandkids are powerful forces for growth as they work to improve their economic and educational status. And high-skilled immigrants are a boost from day one, as the jobs they create and the taxes they pay improve the situation for natives as well as newcomers.

One important lesson: we should be easing restrictions on skilled immigration. America is fortunate that people like this want to join us. One of the solutions to the temporary problems of low-skilled immigration is high-skilled immigrants. Especially at a time of slow growth, America needs to put out a welcome mat for job creators from all over the world.

Published on August 21, 2012 9:00 am
  • Mrs. Davis

    Every graduate from a foreign country of a US tertiary school should receive a green card with their diploma. Every single one. Anyone depositing $200,000 or more with the Federal Reserve to be used exclusively to purchase a house should be given a green card. Anyone.

  • Jim.

    So why has it been so hard for politicians to come together to ease restrictions on H1B’s while simultaneously tightening enforcement of existing immigration laws?

    Isn’t that one of the easiest centrist compromises possible for a critical US interest?

  • http://crusaderwarcollege.org PA

    Totally agree. Less illegal immigration, more legal immigration. If anyone thinks thats “unfair”, then change the law. If you can’t change the law, then deal with it the same as us pro-lifers have to.

  • Kenny

    “One of the solutions to the temporary problems of low-skilled immigration is high-skilled immigrants.”

    Perhaps, but the best solution for ‘low-skilled’ illegal immigration is 1) stiff employer sanctions and 2) aggressive deportation policies.

  • JT

    Hi Walter.
    Let me give you a take home exam.

    1. Are you proponent of unlimited immigration?
    If yes, please explain. End of exam.
    2. What’re limits? Be specific.
    3. You propose to accept legally low skill workers. How many ?
    4. How do you propose to enforce the limitations How do propose to deal with people who will find a way to stay illegally in US for some time and started. to get roots, i.e. have US born children.
    5. Please do a search on the following keywords “diploma mill immigration fraud”
    Please comment

  • Beauceron

    Let’s be clear, by “reform” they mean granting amnesty to the tens of millions of people who entered the country illegally and all the children they’ve had since they have been here.

    That is not reform, that is rewarding bad behavior.

    And it’s great that a very, very small percentage own business and create jobs– but as usual in this debate the MSM and the Left take the results of an incredibly small percentage and try to make it representative of the whole. It’s a lie.

    As a study released last week from the Center for Immigration Studies shows, based on the 2010 Census 36 percent of immigrant-headed households receive benefits from at least one welfare program. 57 percent of immigrants from Mexico are enrolled in welfare programs. The majority of them aren’t coming here to work or because this is where the jobs are. They are coming here because they can get money for doing nothing.

    Immigrants, legal and illegal, comprise 20% of the current prison population; they’re a mjor source of crime.

    Republicans want lots of immigration because it satisfies their big business donors’ desire for cheap labor. Democrats want lots of immigration because, as former President Bill Clinton put it during a weak moment in an interview, they want to “change the demographics”. Too many whites are bad for Democratic business.

    Stories of recent immigrants who have started successful businesses are certainly heartwarming, but they are not representative. The truth is that we are not going to ever have immigration “reform”. They will grant asylum to millions, then wait until we have built of millions more “undocumented americans” and then grant them asylum.

    We don’t have immigration laws.

    And, considering we are not even permitted to have an adult conversation about immigration (someone shots racism and then, as intended, all debate stops), it is absurd to think we are going to reform the law.

  • Andrew Allison

    Lost in this debate is the enormous damage being done by educating the children of immigrants, legal or illegal, in their native tongue. This not only discourages assimilation but imposes a life-long disadvantage.

  • LarryReiser

    There are two separate problems our legal immigration system often discourages the most promising future citizens,while allowing a ceaseless flow of illegals too many of whom are or become involved in criminal activities .

  • Nathan

    Worse than that Larry, I’m convinced that the tattered state of our legal immigration laws *encourage* illegal immigration. If a fairer balance could be found for people to immigrate legally then the illegal problem would (hopefully) subside somewhat.

    Even if that hope isn’t true, though, reform of our legal immigration system is an important but ignored part of our politics today. We should find ways to alleviate the bureaucratic logjam that immigrants face.

  • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

    I have an alternative interpretation. These characters want no controls on immigration. Advocacy of [vulgar reference removed] amnesty program is a way to achieve what they want.

  • Corlyss

    Hint: They don’t mean it now any more than they have for the last 25 years.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    America already allows over 1 million new legal immigrants per year into the country. I don’t think anyone has much of a gripe with the legal immigrants, and most think they add vigor to our culture and economy. It’s the 12 million illegal aliens filling our jails and prisons, using government services like welfare, food stamps, and schools, as well as unfair competition with taxpaying citizens for very scarce jobs that Americans object.

  • Luke Lea

    To me immigration reform means something like what happened in the 1920′s: a sharp reduction in total numbers followed by serious efforts to integrate and assimilate the ones who are already here, legal and illegal alike.

    Enough of this immigration-so-good-for-us stuff. We can tap the talents of foreigners without taking them in as American citizens. They can study here and they can work here in places like Silicon Valley without moving here permanently. And let’s not forget: innovation and invention is not a zero-sum game. If Google had been developed overseas the whole world would still get the benefit, as it does now.

  • http://wwrtc.blogspot.com Art Deco

    Especially at a time of slow growth, America needs to put out a welcome mat for job creators from all over the world.

    No. America needs to put out a welcome mat to people abroad with an affinity for things American. If they have the entrepreneurial sense to start and maintain businesses, that’s gravy. Jamaican mechanics welcome. Egyptian engineers with a hypertrophied sense of the deference they are due, not so much.

  • Kris

    “a coalition of mayors and business leaders advocating for more rational immigration laws”

    Lord knows I would welcome a change to the current irrational system we have (cf Larry@8), but cynic that I am, I’m not sure that the “coalition” and I agree on the changes needed.

    Art@14: “Egyptian engineers with a hypertrophied sense of the deference they are due, not so much.”

    I see you’ve met some acquaintances of mine. :-)

  • Pincher Martin

    JT,

    You’re not going to get any clear answers from WRM because he has none to give. His aim in discussions involving immigration is not to enlighten, but to obfuscate.

    There is no evidence whatsoever that more immigrants to the U.S. provides any increase in the per capita general welfare of Americans living here. Of course more warm bodies in the country doing any form of economic activity will provide an increase to the aggregate GDP, but that isn’t going to make the lives of most Americans already living here any better, and it could make them much worse.

    Bloomberg, Menino, and Murdoch are not economists. They are not making an economic case. They are businessmen and politicians. The business case for lax immigration is clear: the more cheap labor, the better. In Murdoch’s case, he became an American citizen to get around U.S. laws preventing foreign ownership of U.S. television stations, so we can expect him to have a particularly cynical view of U.S. immigration laws. Yet WRM’s link plays off Murdoch’s reputation as an arch conservative to dishonestly suggest some sort of meeting of the minds on this issue because the parties involved see some clear objective good for the country. What horseshit! Murdoch was never a nativist or immigration restrictionist. He would become a Chinese Communist tomorrow if he thought it would help him break into the lucrative Chinese media market.

    Menino’s litany of statistics is laughable. Of course if you have lots of immigrants in your city or state, you’ll have lots of immigrant-owned businesses. (Boston is also blessed with probably the best immigrants in the country.) So what? California, New York and New Jersey are the top three states with the highest rate of foreign residents. How well are their state economies doing? Why should we expect that Bloomberg and company’s “hair of the dog” strategy for growth will make them any better?

    Good Americans would do well to ignore these dishonest portrayals of “bipartisanship” on a serious issue that deserves far better analysis than WRM is giving it.