igntircd the connections between immigration,rneeonomics, and poverty, preferringrnto extend the 1964 Ciil RiglitsrnAct and the spirit of the “Great Society”rnto the entire world. While thern1965 act is best remembered for its removalrnof national origin quotas, thernmeasure also established famiU’ reunificationrnas the dominant criterion forrngranting immigrant status. The fact ofrnwhom you are related to in the UnitedrnStates crowded out the question of whatrnvou might do for the country.rnAlready by 1965 the United Statesrnwas well into a period of economic transition.rnThe labor force was growingrnrapidh’, and its composition was changingrndue to an influx of bab’ boomers,rnwomen, and minorities seeking jobs.rnManufacturing was declining as arnprovider of high-wage, semiskilled jobs.rnEmployment in services was spiraling,rnAmerica’s public schools were laggingrnin providing the skills needed b- postindustrialrnAmerica. Industries were migratingrnto the Sun Belt, along withrnmuch of the population. The flight torntire South or to the suburbs left the innerrnneighborhoods of once-prosperousrnindustrial cities crowded with poor andrnunskilled people chasing fewer and fewerrnjobs, while declining resources for socialrnservices and job training werernstretched further still by rising numbersrnof needy immigrants.rnW: hat Briggs calls the “humanrncapital” characteristics of therns\ elling immigrant flow have run completeK’rncounter to the changing requirementsrnof the job market, hnniigrationrn(partly illegal immigration) has becomerna major contributor to adult illiteracy inrnthe United States. A majorit of immigrants,rnlike many inner-city Americans,rnlack the skills needed in a changingrneconomy. I’hey must seek employmentrnin declining sectors like goods-producingrnindustries, services, and retail—such asrneating and drinking establishments.rnIhese are the same sectors—and oftenrnthe same urban labor markets—wherernless-skilled American minorities seekrntheir jobs. The result, Briggs warns, isrnfurther racial polarization and the expansionrnof the underclass. Regardingrnthe explosion in Los Angeles, he hasrnsince written, “Whether intended orrnnot, the present immigration policy is arnrevived instrument of institutionalrnracism. It provides a way to bypass thernnational imperative to address the employment,rnjob preparation and housingrnneeds of much of the urban black population.”rnBriggs speculates on what opportunitiesrnwould exist for the country’srnurban unemploed if immigrants hadrnnot collected in sensitie labor markets.rnSocial scientists such as George Borjas,rnLars Jensen, and Barrv Chiswiekrnhave documented the dechning skillsrnand adaptabilit’ of immigrants since thern1960’s: less education on arrival, lowerrnearnings, higher rates of unemplomentrnand welfare dependence, and povertyrnrates half again as high as the nationalrnaxeragc. These findings will eonre as arnsurprise to man’ Americans. Politiciansrnglide over the realities of these trendsrnwith anecdotes about Vietnamese valedictorians,rnChinese tennis champions,rnRussian emigre entrepreneurs, and Salvadoransrnwith big savings accounts, hirnflight from the consequences of unseleetivernimmigration, politicians andrncommentators substitute nostrums andrnincantations for debate and inquiry.rn”Admissionists” suggest that immigrantsrndo not use welfare (over 20 percent ofrnCalifornia’s welfare clients are foreignrnborn), pay more in taxes than the takernout in ser’ices, provide needed skillsrnwhile somehow taking onl the jobs nornone else wants, create jobs, and abstainrnfrom crime. A lot of immigrants do fitrnthis mold. But a large and growingrnnumber do not and ncx’cr will.rnSadh’, in Vernon Briggs’ opinion, thern1990 immigration oxcdiaul is just asrnblind to economic needs as the 1965 actrnwas: immigration remains a politicalrnpolicy, not accountable for its economicrneffects; famiK reunification and refugeernarrangenrcnts w ill produce higher numbersrnof immigrants than eer, and immigrantsrnchosen for their skills will bernfewer than 10 percent of the total; admissionrnof long-staying temporar workersrnhas becoirre easier and more frequent,rnfurther discouraging the trainingrnand recruitment of American workers;rnthe 1990 act offers little help in curbiirgrnillegal immigration, while opening therndoor to further settlement of the lessrnskilled through irtuall open-endedrn”tenrporary protected status.”rnBriggs wonders how there can bernlooming shortages of less-skilled laborrn(an argument made in support of thern1990 reforms) in a nation with 36 nrillionrnfunctionally illiterate residents.rnSpot shortages of skilled workers can bernmet by better training these Americans,rnb- allowing market forces to operate.rnand by using in limited numbers andrnonly as a last resort transitory foreignrnworkers. Briggs’ altcrnatie to inrnrigrationrnas a labor-market renied is to “retrainrnthe unskilled and relocate thernskilled.” Meanwhile, the number ofrnpeople entering the labor force will beginrnto increase again in the mid-1990’s:rnby 2005, almost three million will bernadded each year to a base level set inrn1990. But apparently Washington’srnfaith in the self-adjusting powers of thernfinancial market does not extend to itsrnmanagement of immigration and labor.rnNow more than cer, our immigrationrnsstem is more polities than economics,rnmore ideology than polic}’. Thernunspoken justification underlying all nationalrnanalysis or debate is nothing morerncomplex than “We’ve always done it thisrnway.” Policy choices are driven by special-rninterest pressure with rarely a nodrntoward any larger national interest orrnmanipulated by the self-serving claimsrnof church, ethnic, and civil rights lobbiesrnwho argue that the special interestsrnare the national interest. Among thernmost effcctie plaers in this game arernthe wiK lobbists of the nation’s law industry,rnthe American Bar Association,rnand the American Immigration LawyersrnAssociation. Writing before the Los Angelesrnriots, Briggs warned that continuingrnthe prevailing policy of unguidedrnimmigration can onl- worsen social tensions:rn”by providing competition and alternatives,rnthe large and unplanned influxrnof immigrant labor will serve tornmaintain the social marginalization ofrnmam citi/en blacks and citizen Ilispanics.rnIf so, the rare chance afforded brnthe empknmeiit trends of the 1990’s tornreduce significantK the economicallyrndisadvantaged population and the underclassrnwill be lost for another generation.”rnBriggs’ conclusion is that Americanrnimmigration polic’ has become “mechanistic,rnnepotistic, legalistic, and inflexible.”rnIf that enerable American institution,rnthe Federal Reserve, ran onrnsimilar principles, the money suppKrnwould be expanded in times of Inperinflation;rninterest rates would be basedrnnot on current and future trends but onrnnumbers and assumptions set in stonernin 1965 and 1990; and preferential interestrnrates would go to relatives ofrnyesteryear’s borrowers. But then money,rnunlike the welfare of American citizens,rnis something the federal governnrent reallyrncares about. crn32/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn