Muddling Massesrnby David Simcoxrn”My opinion with respect to immigration is that, except of usefulrnmechanics and some particular descriptions of men or professions,rnthere is no need of encouragement.”rn—George WashingtonrnMass Immigration and thernNational Interestrnby Vernon M. Briggs, ]r.rnArmonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.;rn287 pp., $49.95 (hardback),rn$19.95 (paperback)rnIn Mav 1991 rioting Central Americanrnimmigrants looted and burnedrnstores and destroyed poliee cars inrnMount Pleasant, a declining, “multicultural”rnWashington neighborhood thatrn()’crlooks the hite House and CapitolrnHill two nriles awav. Never beforernhad the failures of anachronistic imnrigrationrnpolicies been so blatanth displavcdrnon the doorstep of the policvmakers.rnA car-long incjuirv into thernriots b- a D. C. special panel and thernU. S. Ci’il Rights Commission not surprisingh’rnfingered “poliee insensitivitv”rnand the denial of “political voice” andrn”adequate services” to Latinos as rootrncauses of the violence and cited the ad-rncrse effects of joblessness, crowdedrnhousing, and lack of social assistance onrnCentral American immigrants.rnThe fact-finding commissions andrnD. C. citv officials were nearly unanimousrnin ignoring immigration as a factor,rnexcept to score the Immigration andrnNaturalization Serxicc for harassmentrnof illegal aliens. Only city councilmanrnCrawford (who is black) risked suggestingrnthat the immigrants themselvesrnmight be causes as vell as victims of joblessnessrnand crowding and that thev arernin competition witli local residents forrnjobs, space, and services. None of therncit’s public officials were prepared tornrecognize the INS officers as guardiansrnof urban peace protecting the communityrnfrom an accumulation of just tliernsort of social tinder that flared at Mt.rnPleasant. But Vernon Briggs, a laborrneconomist at Cornell Uni’crsitv, believesrnDavid Simcox is a senior fellow at thernCenter for Imuiigration Studies.rnthat urban tensions, a growing underclass,rnrising illiteracy, and chronic imbalancesrnin the labor market are inevitablernfruits of three decades ofrnmisguided immigration policies. Tliesernpolicies have, without much thought orrndebate in regard to the national interest,rnaccepted mass immigration as a permanentrntransforming feature of our socialrnlandscape.rnBv Briggs’ definition, “mass immigration”rnimplies more than just numbers.rn(The nation accepted its highest-cverrnannual influx in 1990 when 1.8 millionrnimmigrants received green cards, morerneven tlian during the peak years of EllisrnIsland.) For Briggs, immigration is alsornmassive in its accumulated momentumrnand in its effects on American societyrnand the American economv. Most troublingrnfor the author is the fact that therncurrent flood offers no prospect of a letup,rnsuch as the nation experienced betweenrn1921 and 196S, giing the countryrnan opportunity to acculturate the newcomers.rnInstead it persists and swells inrndisregard of economic trends and socialrnstresses in the United States. Withrngo’crnment statrsties chronically understatingrnthe inflow, Briggs urges honestyrnin assessing the full magnitude of thernimmigration problem, which includesrnlegal and illegal innnigrants, refugeesrnand asvlces, unsuccessful asylumrnclaimants who remain anyhow, and thernproliferating category of long-stavingrntemporary workers—all of whom accountrnfor 1.2 million new settlers perrnear. More than half of these entrantsrnenter the labor market. Forty percentrnof the new job-seekers concentraternthemselves in New York, Los Angeles,rnChicago, and Miami, all areas that haernbeen plagued b major job deficits forrnthe past two years or more.rnBriggs, whose sensitivity in dealingrnwith thrs loaded issue matches hisrncourage in arguing it for nearly tworndecades, does not blame the immigrants,rnwho are only responding rationallyrnto opportunities stemming fronirnAmerica’s absence of mind. But theirrneffect is no less pernicious. Huge numbersrnof unskilled and often illegal immigrantsrnpour into labor markets awash inrnunemployment, into communities withrnlow-cost housing shortages, onto thernpublic assistance rolls of cities alreadyrndeeply in the red, and into strugglingrnurban public school systems already unablernto produce literate graduates. AndrnAmerica’s political class will not evenrntalk about it.rnI low did we inherit an immigrationrnpolicy that in Dr. Briggs’ delicate phrasernis so “unaccountable” for its eonsequenecs?rnBriggs traces the crisis to thern196S reforms of the Immigration andrnNationality Act. President LvndonrnJohnson declared war on Americanrnpo’erty in 1964. ‘et no irony was perceivedrnthe following ear when LBJ andrnCongress agreed on sweeping new immigrationrnlegislation that would step uprnthe importation of poverty. WashingtonrnJANUARY 1993/31rnrnrn