In a recent commentary on this site, I addressed one of the great myths to which Americans cling in the immigration debate: that opposition to immigrants has nothing to do with racism. It’s time to address another: that it’s only illegal immigrants that Americans have problems with, and that legal immigrants are still welcome.
Baloney. If that were true, there wouldn’t be such a strong movement in this country to limit all immigration, both legal and illegal. There wouldn’t periodically be bills introduced in Congress to establish a moratorium on legal immigration or to deny legal immigrants access to social services.
And the landscape wouldn’t be so cluttered with anti-foreigner groups such as the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and NumbersUSA — all started by the eugenicist John Tanton and dedicated to not just eliminating illegal immigration but also limiting legal immigration to an absurdly low level. Roy Beck, the head of NumbersUSA, wants to see the United States return legal immigration levels to what they were 40 years ago. Mark Krikorian — the executive director of CIS and author of The New Case Against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal — would admit about 150,000 legal immigrants a year and limit admission to the spouses and adopted children of U.S. citizens.
Many Americans oppose additional legal immigration for the same reason they oppose illegal immigration: not because of how immigrants get here, but the impact they have on their surroundings once they arrive. For many, the continued influx of foreigners — legal and illegal — is changing America’s cultural landscape in ways that are unsettling and frightening. Former Congressman Tom Tancredo, R-CO, figured this out and exploited that fear to raise money and win votes by railing against the tyranny of having to “Press 1 for English.” Meanwhile, people call into talk radio shows and complain about how Main Street is turning into Little Mexico right before their eyes and how they can’t get a job unless they speak Spanish.
There is also resistance to competition. And while many low-skilled illegal immigrants threaten U.S. workers by doing low-paying jobs that might otherwise go unfilled, many high-skilled legal immigrants threaten the native-born for the exact opposite reason — because they take high-paying jobs that are in great demand. What are American workers to do? One thing that the U.S. government has done is cut the number of high-tech visas as a way of eliminating the competition for native-born workers. It has also put in place a series of bureaucratic hurdles that almost seem intended to discourage foreigners from settling in the United States.
According to a recent article in USA Today, many legal immigrants who play by the rules to get to the United States often find it difficult to stay here. People from around the world come to study in U.S. universities on temporary visas. They often excel in their studies and earn their degrees with ease. After graduation, many of them beat a path back to their home countries to help improve the lives of the people who live there. But, for those who want to find a legal way to remain in the United States and earn a living here, the deck is often stacked against them. Just when these individuals are about to enter their high-productivity years — when they might generate income, consume goods, and pay taxes — they are all but run out of the country.
In the United States, only about 65,000 H-1B visas are granted to allow high-skilled foreigners to come legally each year. Not only is that number terribly low considering the demand, but the quota is also filled on a first-come, first-served basis regardless of what jobs need to be filled.
Private companies and advocates for legal immigrants want an increase on the cap on visas for foreign professionals. Among those who have taken up the cause is Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who has spent years pleading with members of Congress to increase the number of H-I B visas so that his company can attract more software engineers. Meanwhile, many of those who oppose those efforts do so in the name of preserving well-paying jobs for American workers.
Nonsense. These jobs are on U.S. soil, but they’re not an entitlement for U.S. workers. In the global marketplace, American workers must compete with people from around the globe.
It’s time to cut legal immigrants a break. These people didn’t jump a fence or cut in line. They did everything right to get here, and yet we continue to do everything we can to get rid of them. What part of legal don’t we understand? Unless, of course, what we’re really concerned about is foreign competition — regardless of how the foreigners got here in the first place.
It’s also time to stop claiming that Americans are only concerned with stopping illegal immigration, all evidence to the contrary.