It’s Time to Reconsider Immigration

I have often heard it said that the United States is a nation of immigrants; that the less we have in common with our neighbors, the better; that immigration is the key to the success of the United States; and that immigrants are our key to success.

This is not the early 1900s. Our factories are no longer the workshops of the world, our biggest industrial competitor is no longer the mills of Northern England and the Ruhr but behemoths of a billion personages, and the Homestead Act is no longer in effect. Since the situation has changed so drastically since the early 1900s, why has much of the rhetoric not changed? Most politicians concede we should do something about illegal immigration, but almost no one talks about tightening up legal immigration. Why?

In the run-up to the 2016 election, there were many conversations about immigration, mostly a partisan back-and-forth of little value. Yet one exchange on the campaign stuck out to me. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was being interviewed by Vox’s Ezra Klein and was asked by the sympathetic interviewer, “What do you think about open borders?” Sanders dismissed the idea, remarking, “Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal . . . which says, essentially, there is no United States.”

Klein, taken aback, replied, “It would make a lot of the global poor richer [if the US opened its borders], wouldn’t it?” to which the aged Vermont statesman finished, “It would make everyone in America poorer. You’re doing away with the concept of a nation-state . . . . What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy.”

Although Sanders was using left and right in strictly economic terms, I believe he was 100 percent correct. (Sanders has since changed his opinion.) Open borders and mass immigration have never been for the benefit of the average citizen, only for the elites. Adding more workers to a labor market in which millions already struggle to make ends meet and live paycheck to paycheck will only further dilute the labor market and drive wages down, which is the point.

The reason the leaders of large corporations and titans of industry want more immigration is it drives wages down, and driving wages down means higher profits. Liberals (both neo- and classical) and university-style progressives are two sides of the same coin on this issue: Both are fine with legal immigration on a nearly endless scale to serve, and only a handful of conservative Republicans and union-backed Democrats still raise a fuss about the further dilution of the American workforce.

There is no reason the United States should continue to accept immigration without restriction. Would it be justifiable for a man with 20 children to take on a further 10 if five were already sleeping outside in the cold and lacked proper food? No, we would consider it insane, and rightly so. We have poverty, homelessness, and drug addiction in this country. It is the duty of a nation to take care of its own citizens first and foremost, and our citizens are already suffering enough without adding all of the world’s poor to the problem.

Some would counter that it is our duty to help the world’s poor by bringing them to the United States and that we must take in more people. To them, I say no. Dying is dying, and where one dies of starvation or exposure is immaterial. With the limited resources of one country, even if that country may be the wealthiest nation in world history, we ought to take care of our own children first. We must ensure all of our own countrymen are fed, clothed, cared for, housed, and meaningfully employed before we even consider taking in more.

One could counter, “What of foreign experts?” or, in an unguarded moment, a champagne socialist could ask, “Who will pick my strawberries and take care of my lawn?” To the first charge, I say we have enough domestic talents. Accepting foreign experts into this country is to the benefit of rich people in other countries and the detriment of poor people in our country. To the second charge, I ask, how poorly do you think of your own countrymen? You believe they would rather die than work, and starve than live. Perhaps the better question is why the hacienda overseers see fit to pay $2 an hour and not a livable wage.

Our country’s social fabric is tearing. Poverty, murder, drug addiction, and other societal ills are rampant, and our government must step in to protect our citizens. Adding more people at this point, with no restriction, is not only irresponsible but represents a callous contempt for the American people and a relentless loyalty to the forces of capital. GDP is not the only measure of success, nor is the amount of foreign plastic crap you can stuff in your house (more likely apartment). In the words of then-Sen. Hubert Humphrey (D-MN):

The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.

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About Gabriel Ervin

Gabriel Ervin is a contributor to the Michigan Review. Ervin is a former representative of the LSA Student Government and has been highly involved in local politics, including running for village council in his hometown.