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A Restrictionist's Confused, Convoluted Case for Less Immigration. By Roger Algase

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At least Donald Trump's crude rants against immigrants from Mexico, the same country from which he has sponsored almost a thousand workers himself, have some entertainment value. They have also put him in the running for the title of America's hypocrite in chief.

In the same way, Ann Coulter's dark warnings that Hispanic and other "third world" immigrants are turning America into a "hellhole" in her latest book Adios America does not pretend to be anything more than a new addition to America's long record of anti-minority hate literature, in the tradition of Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin and Gerald L. K. Smith, not to mention Patrick Buchanan, whose writings have combined the anti-Semitism of these earlier propagandists with Coulter's attacks against Hispanics.

While these transparent appeals to prejudice may grab headlines for a while, and be greeted enthusiastically by bigoted voters, especially in certain states which have tried to enact their own anti-immigrant laws, they are unlikely to have much effect on people who are looking for serious solutions to immigration policy questions.

Trump. for example, has already been disowned by most of the leading voices within his own party, and few serious discussions about immigration are likely to refer to Coulter's book.

The real danger to the future of immigration in America comes from a different source - arguments put forward by people who have pretensions of being serious policy analysts, who phrase their opinions in what appears to be an objective manner on the surface, but whose bias is no less real than the more openly expressed animosity of the Donald Trumps and Ann Coulters among us.

Anti-immigrant prejudice masquerading as serious policy analysis is far more dangerous and insidious, because it has more power to influence the people who actually determine and enforce our immigration laws and regulations. An example of this is an August 4 article by Michael Brendan Dougherty, who has written for The Atlantic and other major publications, in The Week entitled: The GOP's big problem isn't Donald Trump - it's immigration.

www.theweek.com/articles/569729/gops-big-problem-isnt-donald-trump--immigration

Dougherty begins his discussion with what has now become an almost obligatory (among immigration opponents) and inflammatory comment about sanctuary cities which "enable violent criminals to evade deportation", and then promptly moves on to a subject that has nothing to do with criminal immigrants, namely that America should "select immigrants likely to succeed in America based on their skills".

Dougherty then goes on to conflate immigration enforcement and border security with his argument for reducing immigration in general, including legal immigration:

"The political class has so far come up with amnesty and not much else"

and:

"There's been some fence building, but in 2014 the foreign born share of population in the US grew to its highest level since 1921, just before the restrictionist Immigration Act of 1924."

Then, Dougherty makes clear that his real target is not just illegal immigration, but all immigration:

"Nearly one in six adults in America today was born in a foreign country. As David Frum succinctly concluded, 'American immigration policy has built a population that is younger, less educated and poorer than it would otherwise have been.'"

Dougherty of course doesn't mention the contributions that young, working legal immigrants make to social security for the benefit of older Americans. Nor does he mention the fact that many immigrants who do not have legal status would be better educated and richer if they were allowed to attend school and work, as provided for in the president's DACA program, which Dougherty dismisses as "an Obama amnesty".

Dougherty then goes on to suggest that if America stays at the "top of the list" among countries with high levels of immigration, it may come to resemble other, less desirable, countries which have problems allegedly (in his view) resulting from excessive immigration:

"Among countries with large foreign-born populations, America is near the top of the list. It is joined by countries that are struggling with complete regional breakdowns and refugee crises, like Lebanon, and nations where foreign workers will never have rights of citizenship and are the victims of racial caste systems, like Qatar and Kuwait.

Is it relevant to compare the United States to Lebanon, Qatar and Kuwait? Unlike Lebanon, America is not next door to Syria (though it is next door to Mexico, which Ann Coulter thinks is a greater threat to America than ISIS), and we do have a system for allowing eligible foreign workers to become citizens. As long as we have the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship (which some of Dougherty's fellow restrictionists are trying to do away with) we will not have to worry about a permanent racial caste system in this country.

Dougherty then goes on to challenge the entire foundation of immigration in America, namely the belief that immigrants can be assimilated into American society. He dismisses this idea with the following pretentious, pseudo-intellectual language:

"America's immigration policy is partly the result of America's inflated sense of its own exceptionalism. In a sense, the can-do attitude on mass immigration is the flip side of the view that we can democratize the whole world through force of arms. If everybody can't be Americanized through migration or munitions, then America isn't America any more." (Bold added.)

It is one thing to demonize immigrants from an entire country as "drug-dealers, criminals and rapists", as Donald Trump did after sponsoring many hundreds of immigrants from that same country for legal visas.

But to compare peaceful immigration to this country with attempts to impose Americas values or political system on the rest of the world by force of arms is far more insidious. It is in effect saying that when the US issues a legal visa to someone it is the same as starting a war in Iraq.

But from this extreme statement, which would make Trump and Coulter look like liberal immigration advocates by comparison, Dougherty reaches an extreme conclusion, namely that America should call a halt to all immigration, at least for the indefinite time being:

"But it is long past time for one of America's historic pauses in mass immigration, combined with a new focus on integration and assimilation of this last great wave of immigration."

Which "historic pause" in immigration is Dougherty referring to? The late 19th and early 20th century Chinese exclusion laws? The above mentioned 1924 Immigration Act which barred virtually all Italians, Jews, Poles, Armenians and members of every other immigrant group from the old world that did not fit into the "Nordic" racial definition?

Dougherty has moved a long way from his original emphasis on reducing crime and enhancing border security. He is in effect saying that the great majority of immigrants. legal or illegal, are not able to assimilate into our society or fit to become Americans. We have been hearing this mantra from nativists and xenophobes for at least 150 years, from the time of the Know-Nothings. Is it any more true now than it was then?

Apparently without trace of irony, Dougherty then concludes his argument by saying that the best way for America to reduce immigration is to emulate the point system of Canada and Australia, both ethnically diverse countries with a reputation for being immigrant friendly.

Comparing the immigration systems of those two countries is beyond the scope of this post, but it would not be hard to find examples, especially for Canada, of policies that make it easier for many immigrants to move to that country than to the United States.

Neither country could exactly be called an example of a "time out" on immigration.

If Dougherty's confused, illogical and self-contradictory call for reducing immigration in the US is what passes for a serious discussion of immigration policy, then I'll take Donald Trump's ranting and raving instead any time.
_______________________________
Roger Algase is a New York lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been helping mainly professional and skilled immigrants obtain work visas and green cards for more than 30 years.

Roger's email is algaselex@gmail.com

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Updated 08-05-2015 at 07:00 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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