Is Immigration Permanent?
John J. Miller offers a fine overview of recent policy making in "The Politics of Permanent Immigration" (October). But his conclusion that high levels of immigration are unassailable--and might soon be increased--is less reliable.
To begin with, the intellectual consensus regarding the benefits of immigration is changing. Converging research findings from the National Research Council, the
RAND Corporation, the Urban Institute, the Center for Immigration Studies, and elsewhere reveal deep problems caused by current immigration policy, overturning the assumptions of immigration as an economic and fiscal free lunch. Just as in other areas--welfare reform, school choice, and airline deregulation come to mind--this new thinking on immigration will take time to percolate into politics, but percolate it will.
Furthermore, there are inherent political contradictions within the high-immigration united front Miller describes. Many of the libertarian and business-oriented members of this coalition combine pro-immigration views with an anti-immigrant animus, manifested most luridly in the dogged efforts of Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) and others to deny welfare benefits to legal noncitizens. But this view of immigrants as disposable commodities is also clear in the push to increase the number of indentured computer programmers and in the refusal to aggressively pursue worksite enforcement, thus tempting foreigners to risk their lives illegally crossing the border.
And it is precisely this anti-immigrant sentiment, not differing views on the level of immigration, which has turned some immigrants off to the Republican Party. Sen. Abraham and his allies on the high-immigration right are thus part of the problem for the
GOP, not the solution.
We could see the emergence of a pro-immigrant, low-immigration coalition that is not a shill for business but rather serves the interests of individual Americans and Americans-to-be. It may not happen, but Miller was wrong to ignore the possibility.
Center for Immigration Studies
John J. Miller replies: For a political movement to succeed, first it needs intellectual leadership, then a constituency. Mark Krikorian's Center for Immigration Studies is certainly laying the foundations for the former; supporters of high admission levels ignore its serious and substantive scholarship at their peril. On the other hand, Krikorian's imagined "pro-immigrant, low-immigration coalition" is far from a political reality. A severe economic downturn might change that, but even then its success wouldn't be assured.
Contradictions surely exist within the so-called right-left (i.e., business-ethnic) pro-immigration alliance, but they're a sign of majoritarian strength. If restrictionists ever rise to ascendancy, they'll have their own contradictions to fumble over, such as combining the interests of Democrats concerned about how immigration hurts the economic opportunities of low-income Americans and Republicans worried about cultural and political disruption. These fissures already exist in the environmental movement: Some greens believe immigration cuts are necessary to keep population growth in check, and others see these cuts as, at best, a subtle form of racism. In the meantime, the restrictionists are a minority voice among the political elite. That may be a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view. But it's a hard fact.
Markets and Media
I appreciated Rick Henderson's recent piece about the power of market forces to improve accuracy in reporting ("Discovery Channels," October). I was reminded of the infamous lack of veracity which characterized the state-owned media of the USSR. The "owner" and managers of those outlets valued their "journalists" chiefly for their fiction-writing talents.
So it would seem that eliminating all competition from the "media marketplace" results in eliminating all but accidental or trivial truths as well. To the extent that a few large conglomerates come to own America's media outlets (reducing competition among those outlets), accuracy in their reporting will undoubtedly suffer as well--wouldn't you suppose?