Worried about Hispanic immigration to the US? Your worst fears have already come true

Post by John Lee (regular blogger for the site, joined October 2012). See:

More than any other country in the world, the US epitomises a country welcoming to immigrants. Its legacy of reaping the boons of immigration, and outsized influence on the world stage are why we so often discuss it on Open Borders, even if we firmly stand behind open borders across the world. In recent years, the US has been setting a bad example for the world on immigration, and we need to set the record straight. Americans today are happy to embrace their immigrant past, but reluctant to face their immigrant future. But these are two sides of the same coin — and the past tells us that American restrictionists’ worst fears have already come to pass — and gone.

Immigrants from Asia, Africa, and above all, Central and Latin America are taking centre stage in the US today. Hispanics especially represent the future of American immigration. As a result, any American can present you with a laundry list of concerns about Hispanic immigration:

  • They are low-skilled and poorly educated
  • They don’t learn our language
  • Their culture is rude, uncouth, and macho
  • They are migrating at an immense rate, far too quick for societal or political institutions to adapt
  • They bring their own language with them, and unabashedly force American institutions to accommodate their language
  • They are either apathetic or outright disloyal to the US, and pose a risk to national security

It is tempting for those on the left to dismiss concerns about immigration as rooted merely in the basest racism, bigotry, and prejudice. I would agree that anyone who has seriously examined the empirical data here will find these concerns to be overblown — even on the rare occasion that there’s a grain of truth to them, the situation is nowhere near as bad as restrictionists typically make it out to be. And it is true that immigration restrictions, especially in the US, have traditionally been founded primarily, if not entirely, on racial prejudice. But these are not reasons to casually dismiss reasonable people’s concerns about immigration today.

Now, for those who really think that, based on that laundry list I laid out above, Hispanic immigration is a major problem in the US and one that needs to be stopped at all costs, I simply say: your concerns, valid as they may be, were anticipated a long time ago. No less an American than founding father Benjamin Franklin expressed precisely the same sentiments about a new cohort of swarthy immigrants threatening to overwhelm the United States:

Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation… Not being used to Liberty, they know not how to make a modest use of it; and as Kolben says of the young Hottentots, that they are not esteemed men till they have shewn their manhood by beating their mothers, so these seem to think themselves not free, till they can feel their liberty in abusing and insulting their Teachers.

…now they come in droves, and carry all before them, except in one or two Counties; Few of their children in the Country learn English…They begin of late to make all their Bonds and other legal Writings in their own Language, which (though I think it ought not to be) are allowed good in our Courts…there is continual need of Interpreters; and I suppose in a few years they will be also necessary in the Assembly, to tell one half of our Legislators what the other half say; In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our language, and even our Government will become precarious.

Franklin went as far as to accuse these teeming masses of ignorant, uncouth immigrants of treason. When the colonies that would become the US fought the French, these immigrants refused to fight, and publicly argued that it would be better to surrender to the French instead:

…for when the English who were not Quakers, alarmed by the danger arising from the defenceless state of our Country entered unanimously into an Association within this Government and the lower Countries raised armed and Disciplined near 10,000 men, the Germans except a very few in proportion to their numbers refused to engage in it, giving out one among another, and even in print, that if they were quiet the French should they take the Country would not molest them; at the same time abusing the Philadelphians for fitting out Privateers against the Enemy; and representing the trouble hazard and Expence of defending the Province, as a greater inconvenience than any that might be expected from a change of Government.

Yes, the swarthy immigrants Franklin was talking about here were none other than the Germans. (While none of us would describe them as such today, he was quite explicit in his correspondence, describing peoples like the French, Russians, Swedes, and Germans as “swarthy” in complexion.) The early US faced a dramatic influx of a horde of immigrants, all from one particular country and cultural background. Even the most sympathetic immigration advocate would surely agree that at some point, “swamping” creates meaningful and dangerous risks to the established order and institutions of society.

But despite all the dangers he called out, Franklin saw no reason to demand mass deportations or even a closing of the borders. He simply wanted to encourage broader settlement of the new immigrants, greater funding for English-language schooling, and precautions against importation of criminals:

I am not for refusing entirely to admit them into our Colonies: all that seems to be necessary is, to distribute them more equally, mix them with the English, establish English Schools where they are now too thick settled, and take some care to prevent the practice lately fallen into by some of the Ship Owners, of sweeping the German Gaols to make up the number of their Passengers.

Maybe Franklin didn’t want to consider deportations or strict border controls because he didn’t believe in the feasibility of a massive militarised law enforcement apparatus that would be necessary to enforce these. We surely can feasibly have those things today (albeit at the cost of turning a leading democracy into a leading police state). But if we have learned anything from the German-American experience, why on earth would we want to?

In Ben Franklin’s day, Germans were swarthy, ignorant, unskilled, uncouth foreigners. They were alien to the people of the United States, and migrating in such vast numbers that they could have swamped and sunk the ship of state. But this clearly did not happen. Quite the contrary. Germans became truly American to a vast degree, despite continued immigration from Germany through the 19th century. If you keep ethnic descent in mind, then the Germans truly won World War II, as esteemed co-blogger Hansjoerg Walther has pointed out before:

Forget about General Eisenhower, and get used to Generalfeldmarschall Eisenhauer. Same for Chester Nimitz for the Navy (now: Generaladmiral Nimitz) and Carl Andrew Spaatz for the Air Force (now: Generalfeldmarschall Karl Andreas Spatz).

The Germans were as alien to the US Ben Franklin knew as Hispanics are alien to the US we know today. Actually, that’s wrong: the Germans were more alien. Hispanics have grown up in close proximity to the US, under the influence of its cultural and political leadership. They hail from democracies of some kind, and have a much better understanding of democracy than most any German growing up in the monarchic, aristocratic Germany of Ben Franklin’s day would have had. They have strong economic and cultural ties to the US. Many Hispanics are literally native Americans. Hispanics are far less likely to undermine the America we know today than the Germans were likely to undermine the America Ben Franklin knew in his day.

The Germans were truly alien to the US. But we no longer think of them that way. If I had told Ben Franklin that two centuries down the road, the largest single ethnic group in the country he helped found would be the Germans, he would have recoiled quite violently. But that is in fact the case: Germans are the largest single ethnic group in the modern United States, numbering almost 50 million. The Germans won World War II for the US. The Germans gave the US some of its greatest cultural contributions, including hot dogs and hamburgers. German-Americans include such American figures as Tom Cruise and Walt Disney.

Perhaps Ben Franklin would consider the modern US unimaginably impoverished by the supposed dilution of Anglo-Saxon culture and institutions. But the institutions that he established were preserved by generations of German immigrants. German-Americans gave their lives for these institutions in World War II. We don’t think of the hamburger as alien; it’s the quintessential piece of American cuisine.

If German immigration has taught us anything about swarthy, unskilled, uneducated, impolite, and politically apathetic immigrants, it’s that the United States will be just fine taking them in. The US admitted millions of Germans in an era of open borders when its institutions were unbelievably weak and newborn, and when those millions of Germans were coming in far greater numbers relative to the US population than anything we see today. The notion that US society and institutions are less equipped to cope with a similar influx under open borders conditions today than the US society and institutions of the Revolutionary Era is absolutely laughable.

We may be shocked to see what the America of 2063 or 2113 looks like. It may be even less familiar to us than the America of 2013 would be to Ben Franklin. But from all we’ve seen with German immigration, it seems quite clear that the waves of immigrants making the US their home today, Hispanic or otherwise, will turn out just fine.

And we can repeat this exercise ad infinitum. Other cohorts of immigrants have lessons to teach us too, after all. The Irish are the third-largest single ethnic group in the US today, numbering over 35 million, or over 10% of the population. And judging from the concerns of 19th century Americans facing a horde of Irish migrants, again, I think the US and its people will be just fine:

21 thoughts on “Worried about Hispanic immigration to the US? Your worst fears have already come true”

  1. John, this article is awesome. Also, it’s timely because this morning I was thinking about the whole property values thing. The argument is often put that immigrants come in and decrease property values, but it seems to me that restrictionists have it backwards: Immigrants move into Neighborhood X precisely because it is a more affordable place to live. This implies that the decrease in property value has already occurred. If so, then the arrival of immigrants is actually better for property values than if the immigrants do not come to Neighborhood X.

    It made me wonder how many other supposed immigration “ills” are really things that have already happened, which are in fact made better by the arrival of immigrants.

    1. As a German I don’t get how Americans can have such low expectations for their country: Put people in an environment where they can develop the best within them, and they will. All that went wrong with Germans in Germany never happened with Germans in America.

      And being able to go to a free country can also inspire those who stay behind. In a moment of deep despair over what was happening in Germany, the satirist Julius Stettenheim (who, after the revolution of 1848, was trapped in his hometown of Hamburg because the Prussians were out to get him) wrote this aphorism in 1858:

      “Amerika wurde 1492 entdeckt, damit Deutschland wisse, was des Deutschen Vaterland sei.”

      [America was discovered in 1492 so that Germany knows what the German’s fatherland is.]

  2. The fact that some stigmatized groups have exceeded expectations over time does not demonstrate that all stigmatized groups will do so under essentially all conditions. Bryan Caplan does not think the latter claim is true, and as far as I can tell Vipul Naik is also very skeptical. I recommend following their lead, at least if your goal is to construct a broadly convincing case instead of preaching to the choir. Otherwise you put yourself in a very bad position if e.g. new discoveries support some of Caplan’s beliefs about race.

    (Meanwhile, a minor technical point: it should be pretty obvious that more than 50 million Americans have significant English ancestry; most of them just don’t explicitly identify as “English-American”.)

    1. Most any empiricist will agree that past performance is no guarantee of future success. But unless you reject the empirical Bayesian approach altogether, past evidence of stigmatised-groups eventually assimilating and thriving is hardly irrelevant.

      I’m also curious what beliefs of Bryan Caplan you’re referring to in particular. When I Google the search term “bryan caplan race”, the following are the top three results (excluding his Wikipedia article):

      http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2006/03/are_lowskilled.html (criticises immigration restrictions which are premised on the notion that we should have no holds barred in pursuing the interests of low-skilled citizens)
      http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2007/05/are_lowskilled_1.html (ditto)
      http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/e321/lab7.htm (criticises the traditional history of anti-discrimination laws in the US)

      The rest of the results are not authored by Bryan and generally tend to criticise him for his views of Americans/white Americans. It’s possible Google has intentionally returned to me only search results that it thinks are appropriate for my “bubble”, but either way, I honestly am not sure what views of Bryan’s you’re referring to.

    2. “The fact that some stigmatized groups have exceeded expectations over time does not demonstrate that all stigmatized groups will do so under essentially all conditions.”

      That’s correct. All else would be a non sequitur and a rather silly one at that.

      But if in the past concerns about almost any ethnic or religious group of immigrants to the US proved wrong over time, then it is a reasonable conclusion that similar concerns about some new group of immigrants will prove wrong as well.

      It is not enough to point out that it is possible it could be otherwise. That is always so if it is not a necessary truth. The burden of proof is to show there is a high probability that this time it is different. (A reasonable conclusion does not mean that it cannot prove false, only that given current knowledge the probability is much higher than otherwise. Until you have found black swans, it is a reasonable conclusion that there are none.)

      As a challenge for you: Name one ethnic or religious group of immigrants that came to the US in the 19th century under open borders, were greeted with deep suspicion and where that suspicion turned out to be true or worse. I can’t think of a single one. And for all the groups I can think of concerns were completely off: the Irish, Germans, Jews, Catholics, people from Eastern Europe, people from Southern Europe, the Chinese.

      1. It’s also worth separating the claim that a migrant group would “assimilate” in a general sense, versus the more specific claim that the group’s outcomes (education, income, etc.) would reach parity with or exceed the median outcomes in the receiving country. The latter claim is stronger. But personally, I don’t think the latter is all that necessary or important.

        For instance, it may well be the case that the descendants of people from historically underperforming European ethnicities no longer seem to be underperforming, not because of absolute convergence in performance, but because intermarriage and the absence of visible markers of differentiation (such as different language) make it very hard to meaningfully distinguish people on the basis of the ethnicity of their ancestors. It’s possible that if you ran some really careful studies of genetic origin, you might be able to trace continuing differences based on ethnic origin. I don’t see the situation with Hispanics as qualitatively different — many people of partially Hispanic ethnicity don’t even seem “Hispanic” in a meaningful sense (I suspect it’s the case that people of Hispanic descent who still self-identify as Hispanic are negatively selected relative to all people of Hispanic descent, and I believe some people have argued that this makes Hispanic assimilation and catch-up appear worse than it actually is; but I don’t have citations offhand so take that claim with a bucketful of salt). The main reason why Hispanic ethnicity continues to be visible and salient is continued immigration from the area. Overall, then, even assuming that the strong hypothesis (of complete convergence) is false, I think that under the status quo, with intermarriage, what we’re confronting is a slight decline in the mean and median outcomes, as opposed to a huge and visible underperforming ethnicity.

        Open borders would present a different sort of challenge because the rate of migration would far exceed the rate of assimilation (whereby I mean the rate at which visible markers of difference disappear). This poses many significant short-run challenges. As I understand John’s post, though, it was more about migration levels under the status quo or modest expansions thereof in the US. The short-run challenges posed by more radical open borders on diversity, social capital, etc. are something we’ve talked about briefly in the past but need to investigate more.

        1. Two frequently given examples, concerning Hispanic performance over time, are:

          – Performance of Hispanics in New Mexico who’ve been around for more than a hundred years.
          – Puerto Rico, covered by a bunch of Steve Sailer blog posts (some of them quite recent). (I frequently find his tone offputting, but his actual observations tend to be valid.)

          Hispanic underperformance in America has been more of a 20-21st century issue than a 19th one, so it may not qualify as an answer to Hansjoerg’s query. I don’t have another answer in that case (the other major underperforming group in America today supports “don’t import slaves”, not “restrict voluntary immigration”). Which is why I wrote the following in a recent EconLog comment (http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2014/01/gochenour-nowra.html#317453 ):

          “…an obvious near-Pareto-improvement over the status quo involves slashing Mexican-source immigration by >90% while allowing increased immigration from similarly poor groups which have been assimilating better. This would be more popular, and far more beneficial, than all ‘immigration reform’ measures that have had a chance of making it through Congress lately.”

          If I saw serious support for that kind of measure (which would bring US policy more in line with both median US citizen opinion and Australian/Canadian policy) from many of you, I would no longer see much reason for political distrust. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

          I’ve repeatedly stated that I have no objection to high Hispanic immigration once the underperformance problem is solved, and I can make a very strong case that it is solvable. I cannot know for certain whether my real-life activities will actually cause that to happen sooner than it otherwise would–it’s too early to tell what the true distribution of causes is–but I am honestly trying to make this happen sooner, and I think Vipul knows this.

          1. Chris, I genuinely don’t understand this: “This would be more popular […] than all ‘immigration reform’ measures that have had a chance of making it through Congress lately.”

            I just don’t see where you are getting the “popular” part. Obviously, the current proposals aren’t sufficiently popular and won’t necessarily pass. But I can’t imagine seeing the proposal you are suggesting even getting off the ground. (I don’t know of anything of the sort that has gotten off the ground).

            • Hispanics are among the more politically powerful ethnicities in the US, and identify more closely with prospective migrants from Mexico than other ethnicities do with their co-ethnic prospective migrants (such as US whites with migrants from Europe, or US blacks with migrants from Africa). A measure that specifically cuts down on Hispanic migration (by 90%) without reducing overall quantities of migration would alienate many Hispanics, without appealing to other ethnic groups in a significant way (at least in the short run). The current push for new immigration legislation, to the extent that it exists, is motivated to a large extent by the need to appeal to Hispanic voters. Pursuing a reform that does something of the sort you suggest seems like politicians would perceive it as suicide (it may be the case that some politicians overestimate the importance of the Hispanic vote, and that they can pursue relatively restrictionist policies without alienating Hispanic voters. But a 90% cut? That needs some solid proof).
            • Cutting down on Mexican migration is a lot more expensive enforcement-wise than cutting down on migration from a distant land, not just because of more scope from illegal border-crossing, but also because of NAFTA etc. that allow for relatively free flow of goods and temporary movement of people across the US-Mexico border. I’m not saying this is impossible, but it’s certainly not cost-neutral.
            • It’s unclear that such a move would appease the restrictionist lobby. For instance, NumbersUSA has explicitly stated that it is the absolute number of migrants that they’re concerned about, and whether or not this is literally true, it’s unlikely that they’ll embrace — at least openly — a change that opens migration with, say, China, while keeping migration numbers the same.
            • Is there any reason to believe that ordinary Americans hate Hispanic immigration more than immigration from, say, China? The anecdotal stories I’ve heard don’t seem to suggest this — people I know from China and Korea who grew up in the US school system report instances of bullying or social non-acceptance probably at a somewhat higher rate than people I know from Hispanic backgrounds (admittedly, I don’t know a representative sample, and acceptance in school is unrepresentative of acceptance elsewhere). It’s probably true that people in the policy world share your prescriptions, but that’s not the same as the median American (I don’t have high confidence in this point, and would love to hear evidence from you suggesting otherwise).

            I can get back to responding on the morality of your proposal later, if you can convince me of your claim that it stands some sort of chance of being taken seriously. A priori, I don’t see this as desirable relative to pushing for more liberal migration policies at large, so I’d be inclined to consider it only if you can make a strong case that it’s substantially more viable.

            “I’ve repeatedly stated that I have no objection to high Hispanic immigration once the underperformance problem is solved, and I can make a very strong case that it is solvable.” To clarify, when you talk of the “underperformance problem”, are you concerned about a reduction in the average performance level of the population, or the specific existence of performance gaps by ethnicity? On a more specific note, how has New Mexico, with its less-than-stellar economic performance, been bad for the US? I was reading your comments on the California public school system here: http://openborders.info/blog/econlog-comments-policy-and-open-borders/ but the overall direction of your position is still unclear to me. (Incidentally, this may be somewhat tangential, but more evidence of the causal direction from immigration to the decline in the California public school system — one of your main examples of the alleged dangers of Hispanic immigration — would be welcome).

            1. Incidentally, it’s also not clear to me how your suggestion that our advocating for such a radical specific proposal for the US would reduce your distrust for us squares with your claim that our pushing for immediate change in countries like the US and UK (which we’re not really doing) is a bad thing.

              1. This change would make US policy a lot more similar to the more popular Australian and Canadian policies. In this sense, it is not radical at all, even though the magnitude of the change would be large.

            2. “I just don’t see where you are getting the ‘popular’ part. Obviously, the current proposals aren’t sufficiently popular and won’t necessarily pass. But I can’t imagine seeing the proposal you are suggesting even getting off the ground. (I don’t know of anything of the sort that has gotten off the ground).”

              I agree that it is extremely unlikely for something like this to get off the ground. I consider it to be an illustration of the US’s current political disadvantages relative to Australia and Canada, rather than a genuinely promising proposal.

              I believe that if you talk to a solid cross-section of US voters, you will find that a majority of them would prefer a world where this policy was magically implemented to a world where any of the comprehensive immigration bills actually considered by Congress was implemented. And this should be unsurprising, given what we see of Australia and Canada. (Okay, I’m getting repetitive here, and hereby swear to not bring up those two countries again in this comment.) But we don’t have access to magic.

              “Hispanics are among the more politically powerful ethnicities in the US, and identify more closely with prospective migrants from Mexico than other ethnicities do with their co-ethnic prospective migrants (such as US whites with migrants from Europe, or US blacks with migrants from Africa). A measure that specifically cuts down on Hispanic migration (by 90%) without reducing overall quantities of migration would alienate many Hispanics, without appealing to other ethnic groups in a significant way (at least in the short run). The current push for new immigration legislation, to the extent that it exists, is motivated to a large extent by the need to appeal to Hispanic voters. Pursuing a reform that does something of the sort you suggest seems like politicians would perceive it as suicide (it may be the case that some politicians overestimate the importance of the Hispanic vote, and that they can pursue relatively restrictionist policies without alienating Hispanic voters. But a 90% cut? That needs some solid proof).”

              I believe it really would be suicide, but the reasons it would be suicide relate to mostly-non-Hispanic political and media elite disapproval, rather than Hispanic voter opinion.

              “Cutting down on Mexican migration is a lot more expensive enforcement-wise than cutting down on migration from a distant land, not just because of more scope from illegal border-crossing, but also because of NAFTA etc. that allow for relatively free flow of goods and temporary movement of people across the US-Mexico border. I’m not saying this is impossible, but it’s certainly not cost-neutral.”

              True. Immigration (and ordinary childbirth, of course; Bryan is to be commended for “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids”) has large and compounding effects on society, though, so the expense would have to be very large to plausibly swing this analysis.

              The incentives to illegally migrate are smaller, of course, but Canada (oops! okay, swearing from me doesn’t seem to be fully trustworthy, but I hope the different context here makes my violation excusable) and US don’t seem to have a problem enforcing their even longer border.

              “On a more specific note, how has New Mexico, with its less-than-stellar economic performance, been bad for the US?”

              The consequences of turning half the country into a New Mexico/Puerto Rico mosaic would be considered negative by many. I am convinced this does not need to remain the case, but I believe a majority would agree with my stance that we should do a better job with New Mexico and Puerto Rico first.

              Meanwhile, there is an addition vs. replacement issue here. With an open frontier, the additive effect is likely to dominate. Without all the immigration to the US in the 19th century, for instance, it is not clear to me that the US would have had the capacity to dominate in WW2. (To the very end, individual German soldiers in that war outperformed individual Allied soldiers; but they got themselves outnumbered 10 to 1. This illustrates one way elitism can go too far.) However, the closing of the American frontier is commonly dated to around the 1890s. In light of this, I do not find it surprising that restrictionism in the US really took off in the early 20th century; many others have made this observation. When the marginal effect is closer to replacement than addition, it plausibly makes sense to raise the bar; I feel the exact details re: how to raise the bar (if they decide that’s the correct move) are best decided by the citizens already on the ground.

              Relative population of the source country matters, by the way. The early date of the Chinese Exclusion Act is more understandable in light of just how many Chinese could potentially have come at that time. The much larger number of Hispanics today, relative to the early 20th century (the population of Mexico was lower in 1930 than it was in 1519, iirc), is a crucial source of new motivation to reduce Hispanic immigration.

              “I was reading your comments on the California public school system here: http://openborders.info/blog/econlog-comments-policy-and-open-borders/ but the overall direction of your position is still unclear to me.”

              My preference is for a state where “good schools” does not need to be a primary consideration for a huge number of people re: deciding where to live. This is not the only reasonable preference one can have; Bryan’s “beautiful bubble” approach is workable too. But more people seem to like my vision than Bryan’s, and for now, our educators do not seem to know how to achieve that vision when a large Hispanic population is present (in contrast, that vision was apparently a reality in the 1960s). The larger the Hispanic population, the more difficulties they seem to be encountering.

              There are at least three ways to address this. If enough Californians are convinced to embrace the “beautiful bubble” idea, I’ll just accept political defeat. Or if we figure out how to assimilate and educate most Hispanics effectively enough that, even if the “achievement gap” isn’t fully closed, most parents are comfortable with having their kids educated with them, that would qualify as success in restoring the commons in my eyes. (I think Ron Unz’s Proposition 227 was a good first step toward this.) Or, if the problem really does have an irreducible neurobiological/genetic component, we live in a century where “high IQ misanthropes” will have nobody to blame but themselves if technologies to work around even that are not developed.

          2. Actually, German Americans do not have impressive incomes per capita:

            German Americans: $25,463
            Pennsylvania Germans: $21,031

            They can’t keep up with Americans of Polish, Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, Iranian or Romanian descent (which is all very funny because it goes so much against what many here in Germany would guess.)

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Per_capita_income_in_the_United_States_by_ancestry

            The Pennsylvania Germans (Amish, Mennonites) have been around for centuries and much longer than most other German immigrants, and they are still lagging behind.

            Now is this a problem? Would other Americans be better off if they were not there?

            I don’t think so. It just reflects certain historical developments. It was hard to make a living in agriculture in 19th century Germany. Much of the land was owned by huge estates that would not sell land to you. So immigrants were thrilled with the opportunities in the US, how you could have your own farm. And they ended up in rural areas, in certain parts of the country, lines of business, etc. which later meant that they did not make as much headway as others who happened to pick a better strategic avenue.

            As to your proposal: How about a swap? There are rather few Latin Americans in Europe (mostly in Spain and Italy). My guess is that prejudice against them is low (even some enthusiasm about them). So European countries could let more of them in. And I could get real Mexican food here. :-)

            In turn, the US would open its doors for some other group that Europeans get agitated about, e.g. from Muslim countries (there are hardly any Muslims in the US). Not that I think this is necessary, in my view both concerns are not that well-founded (which is not to say I would have to ignore problems with specific subgroups like Mara Salvatrucha or Jihadists).

            1. The data is from 2000, so all the numbers are probably lower than what they are now. Also, the GSS data paints a different picture. I think the reliability of these numbers in general is questionable (though some broad conclusions may still be possible).

              1. Sorry, should have mentioned that those numbers were for 1999 dollars. Sloppy on my part. Thanks for clarifying my omission.

                My point was about relative incomes for different groups where ratios are probably more stable.

                Here are more recent figures for median household incomes with a similar ranking. Pennsylvania Germans come out below immigrants from various Latin American countries (124 of 146).

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_United_States_by_household_income

                1. One other thing I should add: More recent immigrant groups have faced higher hurdles and so they are probably tilted in a high-skill direction. That may be the reason why they come out with rather high incomes. With (more) open borders such an effect could become less pronounced, vanish, or even change signs.

          3. I took immigration in the 19th century not only because that was a time of open borders, but also because “over time” can mean a few generations. There were certainly problems with many of these groups in the beginning. Most of them had their brand of gangsters, rioting, alien habits, etc. But in retrospect, most of the people were not a problem from the start, and what friction there was at first went gradually away.

            My guess why such concerns so often prove wrong is that such groups come across as much more monolithic than they are and as if there were some driving force, a “culture,” behind their behavior that is pretty unchangeable. In the short run, it may look like that, but then there are so many points where the “culture” can and will adapt, and there is not that much coordination like with some centrally directed organization.

            Religions might be more resilient, e.g. the Amish have really kept their way of life for a long time (which is, however, not such a problem). But also religions often tend to accomodate new circumstances. The only groups where I would think concerns could be warranted are not loose “cultures,” but organizations with a lot of structure. E.g. I would think that letting Communists in or Nazis or terrorist cells or criminal gangs can pose a problem. But then those are usually rather small which makes them manageable in a large country. The Communists were very disciplined and well-organized, but still could not make a dent in the US.

  3. Immigration is all fine and well, BUT what most of you are forgetting, is during Americas previous 2-3 Immigration waves we have ALWAYS had a 40-50 year time out, to allow the immigrants and their US born kids to FULLY assimilate in the US. The highest foregin born population % was 14.9% back in the 1910’s. In the 1920’s the US Closed its Borders and had a 40-50 year time out. Since the late 1960’s we have had mass immigration, from Europe/Lat-Am/Asia Etc. Common sense would argue that we have been very fair with a 50-55 year immigration window foreign born are about 12% – 12.5% of the US Population now…. and now its time for a immigration Time out. We can then focus on educating/assimilating and making the immigrants and their US Born Kids more upwardly mobile. Else as soon as 2 have assimilated another 2-3 come in…. We’ll end up with large parts of the US being like Southern California, with large Lower Class Ghettos/Ethnic Ghettos and Richer Areas and not much in between, (meaning a robust middle class).

    So my take is, I support sensible/limited and skills based immigration, BUT we have been generous and now need a time out for at least 1 maybe 2 generations…. To absorb the large foreign born population. PS I am a 3rd Generation Hispanic, even my folks and grandparents think Immigration to the US is too quick and fast, and we really need a time out. Think of it like Eating. We had a big breakfast, now we need a break to allow us to digest that food… Also some of you seem to think Immigration is a civil and human right, I don’t think so, the US has the right to allow/restrict anyone they want into the US.

    Thoughts??

    1. The notion of “time-outs” is not supported by the available data. From 1850 to 1930, over a span of 80 years (during which “time-outs” should have occurred two or three times), foreign-born persons consistently ranged between 10% and 15% of the US population: http://www.census.gov/how/infographics/foreign_born.html It is the post-1920 period of closed borders that is the historical aberration.

      Re California, it’s interesting how other states with similar experiences, such as Texas, Arizona, or Nevada are often overlooked. I do not think one can look at the data and conclude that California levels of immigration lead to impending ruin, when so many states with similar levels of immigration do fine: http://openborders.info/blog/comparing-us-states-by-their-unauthorised-immigrant-population/

      Does this mean that immigrant assimilation should be disregarded altogether in policymaking? Certainly not. But the use of immigration controls as a blunt instrument is highly suspect when there are far less coercive and costly ways to encourage immigrant assimilation.

      There is no unqualified right to immigrate, but there is really no unqualified right to do anything in our societies. Every right has to be curtailed to some degree.

      There is a right to immigrate, in the sense that any of us has the right to better our condition by visiting or moving to somewhere. These rights can be curtailed by all sorts of things, but the important thing is that they have to be restricted for good reasons. And I don’t see such good reasons to restrict immigration as things stand.

      It’s not like this is a strange line of thinking in the civil rights world either. Frederick Douglass spoke of mobility and immigration as fundamental human rights: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/04/10/frederick-douglass-on-immigration/

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