Laudable cultural attitudes are distorting the immigration issue and leading to huge problems. Will the elites ever listen?
 Immigration cartoon

Political issues are deeply affected by cultural attitudes, and the arguments become distorted when such attitudes conflict. This is a particular problem when the wrong ideas are applied to an issue.

An area where this is most clearly true is in the issue of immigration. It has proven all but impossible for the U.S. elites to come to an agreement on the issue, although the American people are strongly for a commonsense set of limitations. Even young people, relatively lefward on many issues, agree.

Hence the current, very foolish system has remained in place, because the political assumptions of the left elite coincide with the perceived economic interests of influential people on the right. It is a toxic brew that has poisoned debate and caused much harm.

The amount of legal and illegal immigration has been astonishingly huge since 1965. The nation’s elites have resolutely refused to listen to the facts about the effects of such massive immigration, with elites of both left and right converging to protect their self-interests with a smokescreen of rights rhetoric that places nonexistent civil rights of foreign-born persons far above the definite rights of native-borns.

As a result, few voters actually know what the politicians’ positions are.

An interesting study by economist Ed Rubenstein outlines the real consequences of our immigration policies, as summarized in a superb editorial by Investor’s Business Daily. The problem with U.S. immigration policy is actually very simple: Since 1965 we have seen immigration as a civil rights issue, applying our national civil rights to people not born here.

If, by contrast, we were to look at immigration from a national-interest perspective, we’d recognize that skilled immigrants add value to the country and such immigration should be encouraged, while immigration of unskilled individuals should be strictly limited.

As Rubenstein’s study notes, more than a quarter-million immigrants are sitting in U.S. prisons for criminal acts and more than a quarter of the prisoners in all federal prisons are immigrants.

These statistics vividly show just how misdirected our immigration policies are. This is a powerful drain on state and federal budgets and a willful tradeoff of tragedy in countless people’s lives (the victims of crime and their families) for a source of cheap labor for business interests and other U.S. elites.

Immigrants to United States are very poorly educated 

The reason we don’t limit immigration to skilled individuals and their families, it is obvious, is that skilled people have more political pull, and hence are better at fighting off labor competition.

Thus we have floods of unskilled people and their dependents, and a shortage of valuable, skilled workers, as noted in an article in the forthcoming May issue of The Heartland Institute’s Infotech and Telecom News. (We’ll place a hyperlink when the story becomes available online.)

A classical liberal position on immigration would place the national interest and the rights of U.S citizens at the forefront. That points us toward a clear answer to the immigration problem and a sensible policy approach: skills-based prefernces, and strict limits on all other applicants.

The only question is, after forty-plus years of the current immigration regime, will the public ever be able to force the elites to listen?