Mass immigration is changing the fundamental character of America—our culture, institutions, standards, and objectives. Until recently, our society was the envy of the world, so why are these changes even necessary? In addition to the ruling class’s commitment to globalism and multiculturalism, the chief reason that is given in support of open borders is the economic benefit to both the United States and the world as a whole. The burdens, however, are outweighing the alleged benefits.
To get a sense of the size of the burden, we have to look at the demographics of the current immigrant population and compare them with those of native-born U.S. citizens. A study released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in November 2004 is a good place to start, as it succinctly summarizes the changing demographics of the immigrants. Since less than 12 percent of the foreign-born population arrived before the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, foreign-born residents here today are primarily representative of the immigrants that arrived since 1965.
As of 2003, foreign-born residents who arrived before 1970 made up less than 2 percent of the total U.S. population, and, of these, 81 percent were naturalized U.S. citizens. Total foreign-born residents, however, were 12 percent of the population, and 62 percent of them were not U.S. citizens. Those who had arrived before 1970 were primarily Europeans and Latin Americans—39 and 38 percent of the total, respectively. As of 2003, however, 53 percent of foreign-born residents were Latin Americans, 25 percent were Asians, and only 14 percent were Europeans.
Fertility provides a back door for immigration, as any baby born here is automatically a U.S. citizen. This, in turn, makes it easier for his parents to be eligible for naturalization. It is all too common for pregnant Mexicans, in order to secure citizenship for their children, to cross the border and present themselves at American hospitals that cannot legally refuse them care. According to the official demographics, however, the age distribution of immigrants by place of origin did not differ greatly from that of native-born Americans, although the latter appear to have a significantly higher proportion of children under the age of 18. This reflects the fact that most immigrants come to the United States as adults, while their children are classified as native-born. On average, immigrants have moderately higher fertility rates and will retire with a slightly greater number of offspring as workers.
The workforce-participation rates of foreign-born citizens differ little among ethnic groups, but they are moderately lower than native rates, primarily because fewer foreign-born women work. The unemployment rates of Asians and Latin Americans are higher than those of native workers, with significantly higher unemployment rates for women—whereas men make up the majority in the unemployment line among native workers. If we compare foreign-born to native workers by occupation, most of the numbers are similar—except those for Latin Americans, 72 percent of whom are employed in blue-collar jobs versus 36 percent of native workers.
The distribution of incomes among naturalized and native-born citizens is similar for both families and individual workers. This is not the case for non-naturalized immigrants, who are much more heavily weighted toward the lower-income brackets. Of those entering the United States from January 2000 to March 2004, six million immigrants had median incomes that were 41-percent below those of all native citizens and 20-percent below the incomes of those foreign-born residents who were already here.
Educational attainment is essentially the same between the native population and those born elsewhere, except among Latin Americans, half of whom are not high-school graduates, and a quarter of whom hold only high-school diplomas. Of this group, Central Americans and Mexicans account for two thirds of Latin Americans with even worse educational skills. The distribution of educational skills is a predictor of earnings distributions, particularly explaining earnings below median, as George J. Borjas has found.
Thus, it is no surprise that the distribution by age of naturalized citizens at the poverty level is very similar to that of native-born Americans. However, immigrants who are not citizens—whether children, workers, or retirees—are twice as likely as natives to be at or below the poverty level. Worse still, of immigrants who arrived between January 2000 and March 2004, 27 percent had incomes below the poverty level—again, no surprise, since 31 percent lacked high-school diplomas.
Since the inferior distribution of earnings for “Latin American foreign-born” mirrors that of “non-U.S. citizens,” and given the implications of the other demographics, illegal immigrants, it would appear, are primarily of Latin American origin (led by those from Mexico). And these are the immigrants who depress U.S. wages and salaries, increase the burden of welfare, and generally add to the costs of government.
Starting around 1972, the average real compensation (earnings plus fringe benefits, plus payroll taxes) of all U.S. private-sector employees, both salaried and hourly, per unit of output began to plummet—a trend that has continued to the present. Basically, during this period, all private business-sector employees were receiving a decreasing share of real Gross Domestic Product (the measure of output). Moreover, the earnings of all production workers (those paid by the hour) per unit of output declined by more than half, and, in manufacturing, by nearly 70 percent, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The general decline—nearly one quarter of all private-sector earnings—was far exceeded by that of the U.S. manufacturing sector, which declined by nearly one half.) Curiously, unemployment rates first rose and then fell over this period. Labor had little pricing power, but the reduction in the cost of labor created new service-sector jobs, which filled the gap.
The transition to the Information Age is supposed to have created demand for more skilled workers, but, over the past two decades, this was not apparent in the United States from the constant ratio of hourly to salaried workers in the private-business sector. Despite the rate of increase of productivity in manufacturing—twice that of the private-business sector as a whole—a rising flood of imports cut the U.S. workforce’s share of manufacturing workers by 60 percent, driving them to seek employment in other sectors. Workers with greater skills sustained their incomes by adjusting to the new technologies, but the surplus of unskilled workers found employment in highly price-sensitive services sectors and faced stagnant hourly rates and fewer available hours to work, which meant a severe cut in pay.
Even an increase in fringe benefits could not prevent the share of personal income for private-sector employees from declining. (Of course, along with more fringe benefits came higher FICA taxes, whose gleanings were redistributed from workers to retirees, as well as an inflation of health-insurance costs that provided lesser coverage and only favored healthcare providers.) The increase of women in the workplace, particularly married mothers whose families could not make ends meet, was as much an effect as a cause of the extra supply of labor and the depression of income among unskilled workers overall.
Some make the case that immigration serves a useful purpose for the United States by providing skilled workers who are currently in short supply—for example, doctors from India who help to fill vacancies and contain runaway healthcare costs. (Why the world’s largest producer cannot provide its own skilled workers in such fields is a separate question.) Even if the argument were valid, a similar case could not be made for the unskilled workers who currently account for two thirds of the U.S. foreign-born population and three quarters of Latin American immigrants. A comparison of earnings in current dollars from 1972 to 2005 shows what this increasingly excessive labor supply has done to earnings. Over this period, reductions of weekly earnings ranged from four percent to forty percent in those occupations that saw the greatest increase in immigrant workers and averaged nine percent for all hourly workers in the U.S. private-business sector.
The coming increase in the ratio of retirees to workers caused by the aging of the Baby Boomers has prompted fears that the Social Security and Medicare trusts will soon be insolvent. Immigration will help to solve this problem, but only if it is targeted at skilled workers; “next of kin” immigrants, as well as refugees and those seeking asylum, will push the unskilled labor markets to the limits, if they are to maintain civilized wages.
Since the passage of welfare reform in 1996, most Americans have assumed that entitlements for immigrants have been effectively terminated, but this is not the case. Naturalized citizens have not been denied access to welfare; they only have to wait for five years from the date of their naturalization to apply for it. Refugees and aliens granted asylum can receive welfare for seven years, under present law, which also permits the states to grant other need-based aid to most legal immigrants who have lived in the United States for five years.
While the welfare-reform legislation ended entitlements for illegal immigrants, other legal rights resulting from U.S. Supreme Court decisions have superseded much of this. Even though illegal aliens are not eligible for Medicaid benefits, no hospital can legally deny “emergency” treatment, which includes much of what Medicaid would cover (at twice the cost). Similarly, another costly welfare entitlement, public education, cannot be denied any resident child, legal or not, by public-school districts. Moreover, Mexican children who are not U.S. citizens are allowed to attend our public schools along the border without paying tuition.
According to James Bernsen of the Lone Star Foundation, the cost of providing public education to immigrants significantly exceeds the costs borne by the state of Texas for healthcare, human services, and criminal justice for immigrants. In total, Texas is spending a net $3.5 billion per year on immigrants ($4.5 billion per year minus $1 billion in estimated taxes collected). Bernsen considered various estimates and concluded that the best guess of the number of illegal immigrants currently in Texas is 1.5 million. Since Texas is relatively frugal in dispensing welfare, a conservative national estimate of the annual cost of welfare at the state and local levels for 13 million illegal aliens would be $30 billion.
When amnesty is granted to large groups of illegal immigrants, it is particularly costly, since they possess a lower level of skills and will therefore earn less than U.S. workers. And, as Bern-sen’s research shows, the paltry amount of personal income taxes and FICA taxes paid by these workers (often negated by the Earned Income Credit) does not come close to funding the composite cost of Social Security and Medicare retirement benefits they will receive.
If the current population of illegal immigrants is granted amnesty, the estimated cost of their retirement entitlements would be $350 billion dollars, an average of $157,000 per family—in current dollars. And Social Security and Medicare premiums and benefits are inflated annually based on increases in average employee compensation. Since the current batch of illegal aliens did not all arrive in one year, this potential $350 billion liability is an accumulated figure. But it does tell us that the current arrival of 444,000 new illegal aliens per year could carry a future actuarial amnesty bill of $44 billion per year for the cost of their retirement alone.
In addition, when any illegal alien becomes a naturalized citizen as a result of amnesty, his family—wife, children, siblings, parents—becomes eligible for citizenship, and, when the latter come, they generally bring with them a similar set of skills. The Census Bureau reports that, as of 2004, 82 percent of immigrants admitted to the United States were “family sponsored” and “immediate relative”; thus, the total cost of amnesty will be far higher than that of the illegal aliens themselves.
The cost of capital investment for infrastructure and employment for immigrants is another factor that is regularly ignored. The non-defense infrastructure that government provides for transportation, education, water supply, sanitation, and other public services has cost the public $8.4 trillion (at current value) since 1960—$58,700 per worker. At the same time, the average worker requires a private investment of $96,600 (based on $13.3 trillion in tangible assets, as estimated by the IRS at cost). Thus, a total investment of $155,300 will have to be allocated to each illegal alien who is a candidate for amnesty; we should have, therefore, some sound economic criteria for selecting such candidates before citizenship should even be considered.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2003, English was not the language spoken at home in 42.2 million U.S. households, which translates into 18 percent of the country and 35 percent of the households in the southern border states (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California). Of the 25 largest American cities, the highest proportion of households speaking a language other than English were found in El Paso (76.5 percent) and Los Angeles (59.9 percent). This balkanization of America is similar to that caused by the great wave of immigration that began in the 1880’s, which led to the public outcry of the 1920’s, culminating in the Immigration Act of 1924.
A study by the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank found that students in public schools on the American side of the border had higher illiteracy rates than those on the Mexican side, which is partly the result of the insistence of U.S. schools on bilingual education. The poor communication skills of these immigrants contributes to high levels of welfare dependency and crime; Latin American immigrants are twice as likely as native-born Americans to have incomes at or below the poverty level.
Ethnic areas in which immigrants are not assimilated are hotbeds for gang activity and organized crime, particularly the narcotics trade. It has been estimated that 70 percent of criminal behavior is related to narcotics distribution or addiction. The basic security of Americans is being threatened by immigrant gangs, as drugs imported by aliens are sold openly on the streets.
The United States is being invaded—literally—by Central Americans via our southern border. The disinclination of these illegal immigrants to speak English and assimilate, their welfare requirements, their depression of U.S. workers’ incomes, and their sheer numbers are intolerable. Washington must demand that the Mexican government stop this illegal invasion of our borders. With Mexican cooperation—military, if necessary—a regulated temporary-worker program can be possible. Without such cooperation, the erection of a physical barrier, reenforced by the U.S. military, will be necessary, along with the complete cessation of all employment assistance to their excess workers. The United States simply can no longer ignore the effects of excessive illegal immigration—and the eventual Mexican annexation of the border states, which is the inevitable consequence of our current policy.
The United States must adopt an effective temporary-worker program, much like the one Canada employs. Transportation and its costs are borne by employers. Wages are the prevailing level for Canadian workers. A large proportion of the earnings are withheld until the workers return home. The workers are employed on a yearly basis and must return home annually. Living quarters and working conditions must meet state standards. An agent of the Mexican government is available to police the workers and resolve problems. The Mexican government chooses the workers who participate in the program. The workers get the jobs they need, the effect on prevailing wages is regulated, employers get the workers they seek, and immigration of unwanted citizens is reduced.
Overall, the principal economic beneficiaries of U.S. immigration fall into three categories: the immigrants themselves; their employers, particularly in the service sector; and those consumers with higher incomes who desire more and cheaper personal services. Those footing the bill are both the native-born workers whose incomes have been depressed by the excessive supply of immigrant workers and the three fifths of Americans who pay the income taxes that subsidize, through welfare entitlements, the native-born and immigrant workers alike whose incomes are below the poverty level.
As the demographic statistics of immigrants following the 1965 Immigration Act show, the age, education, and income distributions of naturalized citizens are reasonably comparable to those of native-born Americans. It is the largely Latin American group of illegals who are the great drain on our economy, causing low wages and dramatically increasing the size of the welfare state.
There are several steps that we must take to stop the bleeding. First, we must begin to monitor our northern and southern borders diligently, allowing the entry of noncitizens only through immigration checkpoints.
Second, immigration policy should be based primarily on the acquisition of workers who possess desirable skills and character; and their next of kin, as well as bona fide asylum seekers and refugees, must meet these same standards.
Third, work visas should be granted only on a year-to-year basis and be subject to quotas set annually by Congress that are designed specifically to limit the depression of the wages and income of native-born workers.
Fourth, to obtain naturalized citizenship, immigrants should be required to acquire certified civic schooling and proficiency in English.
Fifth, any amnesty for illegal workers should be off the table. Those who are already here should be allotted green cards only to the extent necessary for a transition period, after which they should be returned to their native countries. If they desire to return, they should be required to apply for work visas or citizenship through the normal legal process.
Sixth, English should be the official language of public schools, with “English immersion” schooling required of every candidate for naturalization who lacks proficiency in English.
Seventh, employers should be required to authenticate visas and Social Security cards before offering employment, and state officials should meet the same requirement before providing immigrants with driver’s licenses, welfare benefits, and other state privileges. Those who violate this requirement should be subject to felony charges and, if convicted, suffer fines and incarceration.
Eighth, the U.S. Constitution should be amended, so that children receive automatic citizenship only if they are born to native or naturalized parents.
And, finally, the Mexican government should be held responsible if it refuses to stop encouraging this invasion of the United States and the violation of our borders by its citizens.
The United States of America has no special moral obligation to become an amalgam of every group of people that desires to relocate here. Immigration to the United States should be in the best interests of Americans. Furthermore, our government has no right to depress native-born workers’ incomes by opening our borders to excessive immigration or nonreciprocal free trade to enrich employers here or abroad, nor can it justly continue to allow the fabric of our nation to be unraveled by immigrants who spurn our language and culture. If America does have a unique obligation, it is to preserve her heritage as an example of how individual freedom, private property, and limited government can thrive and prosper when based on individual, family, and community responsibility and sacred ethics. Immigrants should be carefully selected as prospective guardians of that heritage, as were our immigrant forefathers.