December 15, 2003
by Carol M. Swain
Written like a textbook lesson in political correctness, the article referred to illegals as “undocumented immigrants.” The young man was described as a “child of immigrants who have no proper immigration papers.” (His parents arrived as tourists and deliberately overstayed their visas).
There are several issues that cry out for discussion. One is the politically correct language that sanitizes situations and redefines them as immigrants rather than illegals. A recent rally in Washington was held to gain legal status for an estimated eight to ten million illegal aliens. Dubbed “The Immigrants Freedom Ride,” it was touted by civil rights leaders as the moral equivalent to black Americans’ civil rights movement. However, unlike black Americans who were citizens seeking constitutional rights, the illegal aliens marching on Washington were seeking yet another amnesty similar to the one Congress offered during the 1980s. Rather than curb illegal immigration as its supporters argued, those changes encouraged more people to enter illegally.
Second, discussions of immigration need to be freed from the constraints of political correctness; they deserve a more balanced treatment than is currently being given. Discussions often fail to mention studies such as the one by Harvard economist George Borjas, who cites evidence suggesting that high levels of Mexican immigrants depress the wages of native-born blue-collar workers and result in declines in immigrant income. Scholars such as Christopher Jencks have noted a decline in immigrant wages and a widening of the gap between native-born workers and immigrants. Most directly affected by the competition with illegals are Americans with low levels of education and low skills: African Americans, poor whites, and the descendants of legal immigrants.
Since the last amnesty was granted, it has been estimated that the illegal population has grown as high as six to ten million. A report produced by the Center for Immigration Studies states that between 1990 and 2000, the population of illegal aliens from Mexico grew by more than 2.8 million, accounting for 80 percent of the growth in the illegal population. Moreover, it is estimated that over-half of the Mexican-born population in the United States is illegal. Surely, this has a direct impact on diminishing opportunities for all Americans, including groups like African Americans and American Indians who compete alongside Hispanics for racial preferences in employment and educational opportunities.
Presently, there are many American citizens reaching unsuccessfully for their shot at the American Dream at a time when the economy is stagnant and job security is in flux.
In their quest for votes, Senate Democrats and Republicans are now pushing several immigration bills, including a proposal that would grant U.S. residency status for illegals that came here before age 16, and have lived in this country for at least five years. “The Dream Act” purposes to make this segment of the illegal population eligible for federal grants and loans and in-state tuition. Already, an estimated 126,000 illegal aliens are in U.S. colleges and universities receiving subsidies. This is occurring at a time when the supply of freshmen seats at many colleges and universities are limited.
Driven by the quest for Hispanic votes, several Republicans and Democratic presidential candidates have called for amnesty for illegals from Mexico. Before this is granted, legislators should study the lessons of the past and allow themselves to be fully informed about the impact that Mexican immigration is having on the entire nation. Reading Victor Hansen’s new book, Mexifornia, would be a good place for them to start. While they are at it, they should peruse the late historian Hugh Graham’s book, Collision Course, which discusses the growing tension around affirmative action programs and growing immigration.
According to polls, a majority of Americans favor the enforcement of immigration laws and procedures. State and local officials, however, find their hands tied when dealing with many issues involving illegal aliens. Immigration reform is clearly needed.
We are all affected by the decisions that congressional Democrats and Republicans make about reforming our national immigration policy. Let us work together to ensure that their decisions are driven by the right principles and values rather than the simple quest for the growing Hispanic vote. We need a public policy that takes into consideration the needs and aspirations of all racial and ethnic groups, including white Americans. We should not allow our leaders to pass laws that favor one ethnicity group over another nor should we allow American citizens to be placed at a disadvantage as they negotiate for fair wages and a decent standard of living in a nation where the minimum wage remains at $5.25 an hour for its neediest citizens.
Carol M. Swain is Professor of Law and Political Science at Vanderbilt University Law School and the founding director of the Veritas Institute.
Click here to view the full list of Journal Articles, Op-Eds & Blogs.
Home | Learn About Hudson | Hudson Scholars | Find an Expert | Support Hudson | Contact Information | Site Map
Policy Centers | Research Areas | Publications & Op-Eds | Hudson Bookstore
Hudson Institute, Inc. 1015 15th Street, N.W. 6th Floor Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202.974.2400 Fax: 202.974.2410 Email the Webmaster
© Copyright 2013 Hudson Institute, Inc.