This post marks the beginning of a new category — social concerns. Mary Ann Glendon's article in First Things (June/July 2006) entitled "Principled Immigration" serves as a wonderful example of what I want to do. Namely, clarify the issues that can help facilitate intelligent and productive dialog on controversial issues. No hyper-emotional slogans to promote one side or the other. Rather, well articulated presentations of how to think about issues as potentially volatile as immigration.
She points out that the only way our social-welfare system can survive in the face of our low birth rates and greater longevity of our older population is to promote immigration. It takes anywhere from 7 to 9 active workers to support every pensioner. With increased longevity comes increased need for medical care, not to mention the increased cost of medical care. In order to maintain economic vigor in the context of our "birth dearth," we had better welcome immigration. She goes on to say that the issue is not who will do jobs that Americans don't want, but rather "who will fill the ranks of a labor force that the retiring generation failed to replenish."
On what grounds do people base their opposition to immigration? Glendon highlights several: (1) fear that immigrants will drive down wages and take away jobs, (2) exclusionist sentiments, (3) fear that our nation's cultural cohesion will be diluted or undermined, and (4) the increasing disregard for the law, which is a concept help close to the core of our national identity. I think this last issue will become increasingly significant, particularly in light of demonstrations and demands for concessions by the Latino community.
So what's the answer? We need a much fuller dialog based on a better-informed public in order to map a strategy for encouraging orderly and legal immigration. The US needs to look for creative ways to facilitate the adjustment to the more needy human beings who are seeking to improve their lives. The immigrants will need to look for ways to contribute to the greater good for everyone. "To move from the level of principle to specific programs and policies will require realistic discussion of the human and economic costs and benefits." Rather than shouting slogans across a chasm of polarized ignorance, I want to take to heart Glendon's challenge and become more informed of the issues that are in tension.
Some statistics came to me from someone who is opposed to immigration, but I include this because the numbers are part of the reality that needs to be addressed:
1. 40% of all workers in L.A. County (L.A. County has 10 million people) are working for cash and not paying taxes. This was because they are predominantly illegal immigrants, working without a green card.
2. 95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens.
3. 75% of people on the most wanted list in Los Angeles are illegal aliens.
4. Over 2/3's of all births in Los Angeles County are to illegal alien Mexicans on Medi-Cal whose births were paid for by taxpayers.
5. Nearly 25% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals here illegally.
6. Over 300,000 illegal aliens in Los Angeles County are living in garages.
7. The FBI reports half of all gang members in Los Angeles are most likely illegal aliens from south of the border.
8. Nearly 60% of all occupants of HUD properties are illegal.9. 21 radio stations in L.A. are Spanish speaking.
10. In L.A.County 5.1 million people speak English. 3.9 million speak Spanish (10.2 million people in L.A.County). (All 10 from the
Los Angeles Times) Less than 2% of illegal aliens are picking our crops but 29% are on welfare. http://www.cis.org/11. Over 70% of the
United States annual population growth (and over 90% of California, Florida, and New York) results from immigration. The cost of illegal immigration to the American taxpayer in 1997 was a NET (after subtracting taxes immigrants pay) $70 BILLION a year, [Professor Donald Huddle,Rice University]. The lifetime fiscal impact (taxes paid minus services used) for the average adult Mexican immigrant is a NEGATIVE 29% of inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens. I think that the plan, whatever it turns out to be, will need to address and correct these realities.