June 19, 2007

Immigration Reform

Part of what utterly disgusts me about how immigration is handled in the US is that there are baseline facts that need to be determined before you can figure out how many immigrants can be absorbed into a society and we aren't calculating them. There are several inflection points that are relevant (these are just highlights, there are more):

  • The point below which you are being inhumane by splitting up families or preventing their formation

  • The point below which you are impeding economic growth by favoring labor over capital so high wages choke growth

  • The point below which you start to get cultural stagnation due to cultural insularity

  • The point below which you are turning away great political assets to the nation

  • The point above which you are favoring capital over labor by crashing wages and destroying bargaining power

  • The point above which you lose cultural solidarity and cohesion

  • The point above which you lose political stability

  • The point above which you lose military control and eventually territorial control

Even before you get to defining the inflection points though, you need to understand how an immigrant changes over from a "them" to an "us", how they assimilate. Now I've been doing retail assimilation before I hit puberty and I still work on it via my church, friends, and family (though by now, most of those who have wanted to come to the US have already come). It's no mystical process and it's also not something that just happens by osmosis. It's a real process of hard work, relatively simple rules, and persistence.

Assimilation is the process of "clearing the job queue". The immigrants of today are tomorrows' citizens most capable and most inclined to help out with assimilation because they've gone through the process. It's not something you can really demand because this sort of thing is true charity work. Few people are actually paid to help others learn english, find a job, navigate the political, economic, and social system that is the USA. Most of the people who do it do so part time, often unconsciously.

The common sense outline of the solution for immigration is not too hard to figure out. You need to determine what the inflection points are, set immigration numbers that are above all the "too low" inflection points and below all the "too high" inflection points and make sure that your assimilation machinery works well so that you end up clearing the queue quickly and allow the next round in.

Now is anybody talking like this? I haven't found any and thus my disgust with the present debate. I haven't found anybody who's properly defined assimilation in all its political, economic, and social glory in a way that everybody can agree on. I haven't found anybody doing the hard work to identify all the relevant inflection points so that we can identify a safe range of immigration where we can set numbers without getting this country into trouble.

Instead, what I find are posturing and falsity up and down the entire range of mainstream debate. Restrictionists don't want to look to closely at our ability to absorb new immigrants because they're afraid that the numbers are going to be higher than they'd like to satisfy their interests. The free borders crowd doesn't want to look at assimilation either. The multiculturalists don't believe in assimilation at all while others in that camp are too afraid that the numbers will come out as being too low to further their interests.

At the heart of a lot of this discomfort is that doing the debate right will require a frank admission that english and canadian immigrants in 2008 are going to be more easily assimilable than mexican or somali immigrants. Pat Buchanen was right as far as that bit of analysis went. Like much of the paleo-right though, accurate analysis of the problem has little relationship to the wisdom of his proposed solution.

Just because a significant number of somali muslims have the annoying habit of instituting underground sharia court systems today and are thus less assimilable than immigrants who do not does not mean that this is a permanent problem and thus we should permanently reduce their immigration quota. Just because mexicans have the bad habit of unabashed, naked racism (or did you think they're kidding about what "La Raza" means?) and the nasty habit of coddling territorial irredentists doesn't mean that this is a permanent condition either.

A frank definition of what assimilation means and the adjustment of future immigration quotas based on the present community's actions to further assimilation would ease most of the fears of the restrictionists because it would align the immigrant communities more fully with native born attitudes. The offer "if you want your relatives and friends from the old country to be able to come, learn english, get a job, keep your nose clean, and become an american" is a decent one and empowers immigrants while reassuring natives. I think it would also garner wide support from both the restrictionists and the legalizers.

I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by TMLutas at June 19, 2007 01:22 PM