A History Lesson Your Kid Won’t Hear in School – Share It with Them



The issue of legal immigration tends to get lost because the discussion is always focused on illegal immigration, but many of the same problems apply.

Probably most important is just the sheer volume of new arrivals. For most of our history, immigration has been very limited. The exception was 1905 to 1914 when America admitted about 900,000 people per year. Even though it was a very short period of time out of the entire century, many people assume that “Ellis Island” period defines our immigration history. It doesn’t. In fact, starting in 1915 America cut immigration in half for the next 70 years! One benefit we’ve seen from this period of lower immigration is that those who came had time to assimilate and succeed because they had less competition from other immigrants. In addition, it assured that American workers were not being displaced or their wages depressed by a surplus of new immigrant workers. Continued low levels of immigration after the Depression and World War II helped grow the American middle class which prospered while our economy flourished.

But then, starting in about 2000, America started admitting over one million immigrants annually. That’s like adding a new city the size of Dallas, Texas, every year. As a result, we’ve had large population increases and heavy demands placed on water, energy, schools, health care and overall mounting urban sprawl.

One important consideration is that legal immigrants coming in nowadays face a much different job market than existed 100 years ago. Our present economy demands high-tech skills, yet our admissions process continues to grant green cards based mostly on one family member petitioning for another family member. This is called “chain migration” and because it does not emphasize needed job skills, it creates a flow of poorly skilled immigrants who are often dependent on government.

Excessive levels of legal immigration strains limited resources and puts poor, elderly, disabled and minority Americans in stiff competition for scarce public benefits. And of course, all those immigrants need jobs so they compete with native-born workers who by any standard of fairness should have the first shot at any opportunity. Even if immigrants do find jobs, many don’t pay taxes. Since many are poor, they are eligible to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit which exempts them from paying taxes and in some instances the IRS writes them a check. With a high unemployment, a bad economy, and massive federal, state and local government debt, how many more people can America subsidize before the entire country sinks under its own weight?

The fact is that America’s immigration policy used to be adjustable; we turned the tap on when we needed workers and slowed the flow when times were tough. Unfortunately for the past 40 years, someone forget to turn off the faucet. A careful consideration of what the right levels of immigration really should be and how it helps or hurts us is long overdue. That is, after all, the purpose of immigration – to serve our country’s broad national interests.

We can have legal immigration – and should always welcome immigrants – but we need more sustainable and sensible levels so we better serve the needs and interests of those already here.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

4 Comments

  1. avatar

    I believe US policy or law on immigration is not force enough to stop Latinos from crossing the border in search of work to support themselves or their families. People will move where they can eat and be safe… that’s what’s happening and laws will not stop them from seeking food and safety. The changes to stop Latino immigration (or African/Asian immigration in the UK) are changes that create a safe environment to live and raise a family; not armed border guards nor a big barrier.
    The U.S. must consider taking the power of vast money away from the Latino drug lords who make billions from illegal U.S. drug demand and corrupt Mexican law enforcement by legalizing drug business. A great transformation would be had and There are vast savings to be had by transforming costly enforcement, interdiction, adjudication, and incarceration into regulation and taxation. The goal of a safe and productive society can be reached but not by neglecting the lessons of Prohibition… we created the mafia then, it persists. We are entrenching an international drug mafia as well as undermining national security of the U.S. and Mexico by not managing our own domestic drug demand.
    Additionally, U.S. policy (NAFTA, “Free Trade”, etc.) only promotes international corporate exploitation that undermines our own work force and economy. The corn farmer of Mexico can no longer make a living due to importation of factory farm GM corn from the U.S. thus is driven north to find work. Out sourcing to MX and other countries avoids worker protections from unions, environmental costs from government regulations, etc. Such “costly” restraints on production are in place for good reason and should NOT be avoided at the price of workers lives and environmental degradation.

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  3. avatar
    Patrick Hebert on

    @ Pam Sigman…….The people against them legalizing all the illegals are the people that voted them in… They need to listen to the people… If they legalize that then I guarantee you I will be voting for someone else… The illegals should have no voting right at all unless they become a citizen…. Not a green card holder,,, a citizen… I paid good money to get someone here from the Philippines and i am still paying for paperwork…. We are married and they can still send her back… unless she falls under the same amnesty……..

  4. avatar

    You know, prob NONE of our Congresscritters is going to fight against legalizing all the illegals here because of re-election chances! It appears that they will probably receive some sort of amnesty due to the fact that no one in Congress has any balls! If that is the case, there should be some pretty harsh disincentives that go along with that amnesty; no state or federal assistance of ANY kind for 5 years; no voting rights for 5 years, re-do the amendment causing anchor babies to stop that and ABSOLUTELY no relatives of these new Americans can come in. End this dumb *** chain migration – if one part of the family is on welfare, it is likely that the relatives are not rocket scientists!