FLORIDA, August 17, 2012 — There are few issues so meaningful to the future of the United States as the immigration policy.
In this election season, immigration control has found its way into the headlines on more than a few occasions. The overwhelming majority of the time, however, it has been manipulated for purely partisan ends. Needless to say, such a monumental subject deserves a far more detailed examination.
Thankfully, that’s what the Center for Immigration Studies is for.
Mark Krikorian, the organization’s executive director, has devoted his career to crafting and supporting programs which emphasize the quality — not quantity — of immigrants to this country. As the grandson of Armenian immigrants, and one who did not know how to speak English until grade school, he brings a truly unique perspective to the table.
In a detailed interview with me, Krikorian explains why there should be more control over who is allowed to enter America, the economic impact of illegal aliens, how the DREAM Act will really impact our nation, and much more.
Joseph F. Cotto: Immigration control is a concept with which most of us are familiar. Why, in your opinion, does the United States strongly need it at this time?
Mark Krikorian: Immigration control is an inherent part of national sovereignty — if a government doesn’t decide how and when foreigners come and go across its borders, it is not in control of its national territory. At this time in particular, with a sluggish economy and 22 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, why wouldn’t we do everything possible to prevent the entry — and encourage the departure — of illegal foreign workers?
Cotto: How should the federal government manage current immigration trends? What advice would you give Congress on the matter?
Krikorian: Too much of the debate over immigration control focuses on the border. Border enforcement is important, of course, but the benefit of the next dollar spent would be greatest on interior enforcement, specifically at the job site. This is because turning off the magnet of jobs is the key to reducing illegal immigration. To that end, it’s imperative to make electronic verification of a new hire’s eligibility to work universal for all employers. The federal government’s E-Verify online system is free for businesses to use and screens out a large portion of the illegal workforce — but it’s still voluntary, putting the public-spirited firms who use it at a competitive disadvantage with regard to crooked competitors who don’t.
The other major driver of illegal immigration is *legal* immigration, since the family networks make illegal settlement possible. That’s why family chain migration needs to be ended, so that special immigration rights are limited to the nuclear family — husbands, wives, or little kids of U.S. citizens, rather than all the other categories that immigrants use now.
Cotto: Some believe that America needs mass immigration now more than ever. They say that such a thing will reinvigorate the economy. Do you have an opinion on this view?
Krikorian: If mass immigration invigorates the economy, why isn’t it doing so now? Although illegal immigration is down somewhat, due to a combination of enforcement and recession, legal immigration never decreases — last year we gave green cards to more than 1 million people. How much more immigration are supposed to accept before it starts invigorating the economy? This is like the stimulus debate — statists keep telling us that if we’d only borrowed another $800 billion from the Chinese it would have worked.
And discussion of immigration and the economy often overlooks the different impacts on different groups of people. Research is pretty clear that there is a small net benefit from immigration — but that comes from concentrated harm to the poor and the young, by lowering their earnings and elbowing them out of jobs, spreading out that benefit thinly over the rest of the population. And even the small net benefit to the economy is wiped out by the increased costs to taxpayers from the immigration of less-educated workers.
In fact, the theme of my 2008 book is that we have *outgrown* mass immigration — that what worked for us in our national adolescence is actually harmful in our national maturity, for economic reasons, to be sure, but also with regard to assimilation, security, sovereignty, etc.
Cotto: How do our current immigration trends impact the environment and public education?
Krikorian: These are two different areas, of course. Regarding public education, all of the increase in the school-aged population — and thus the increased need for school spending — is attributable to immigration, either immigrant children or the children born here to recent immigrants. Combine this with the fact that immigrants are less educated and poorer than Americans, and thus pay much less in taxes, and you end up with a real problem. What’s more, the immigrants aren’t spread and inch thick across the country — they are concentrated in the most troubled school districts in the country, districts that are utterly failing to educate the students they already have.
As for the environment, the problem is that mass immigration is government social engineering. If Americans decide to have more kids, that’s nobody’s business. But the federal immigration program represents Congress’s decision that Americans are failing to have the number of children Congress wants, and so they’re importing more. Over the next 50 years, immigration and the children born to those future immigrants will increase our population by 100 million more than the increase (already substantial) that would take place naturally. And it’s not that we won’t be able to feed those extra people — the scaremongering by some environmentalists is just not correct. But 100 million additional people decreed by Congress will mean 50 million extra cars on the road, 40 million more houses built on open land, etc.
We can do this without any difficulty — but do we want more sprawl, less open space, denser living conditions (and the increase in the size of government that inevitably accompanies increased density)? Maybe we do, but no one’s even asked the question.
Cotto: The DREAM Act has become a tremendously contentious issue. If passed, how do you think that it would impact the United States?
Krikorian: Well, it no longer needs to be passed because President Obama has illegally implemented a version of it without congressional assent. With the watering-down of the criteria that were in the original DREAM Act, the president’s DREAM decree is now estimated to apply to 1.75 million illegal aliens. This will have several effects. Most immediately, it will offer jobs to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens (or legalize them in jobs they already hold), closing off those jobs to the millions of Americans who are unemployed. In the longer term, it creates new networks for increased future *legal* immigration of the relatives of the legalized illegals. And most fundamentally, it sends the message to illegals here, and to prospective illegals abroad, that sneaking into the US (or overstaying a visa) is worth doing because if you hold out long enough, you or your children will be amnestied.
Illegal immigration, needless to say, is a political lightning rod. What might be the most effective manner of handling it?
Despite the federal government’s numerous attempts to stimulate the economy, America remains caught within the Great Recession’s clutches. Is our current immigration policy is somewhat to blame for this? What role does it play in our national security?
Many political forecasters are saying that the future of the American center-right belongs to libertarians; specifically those of the Ron Paul variety. Would U.S. immigration policy fare well under strong libertarian influence? In the second and final part of our interview, Krikorian explains about all of this as well as his life and career.
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