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Thirty Years in America:

In addition to being the 65th anniversary of D-Day, today is the 30th anniversary of my arrival in the United States from Russia, at the age of five. Nothing else that has ever happened in my life had a greater positive impact on me than my parents' decision to leave the Soviet Union and come to this country. The gains in both standard of living and - even more so - personal freedom have been enormous.

Life in post-Soviet Russia is in many ways better than in the days of communism. But living standards for most people remain far lower than in the West, and the regime of ex-KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin rolled back some of the political freedoms that Russians had begun to enjoy in the 1990s.

The advantages of life in the US over life in Russia are perhaps too obvious to dwell on. Less often appreciated are the ways in which life for immigrants in America is much better than in most other affluent liberal democracies. Although the US is not free of racism and nativist xenophobia, on the whole immigrants are much better accepted by natives than in almost all of the many other countries I have seen. We take it for granted that a person born in Russia or China or India can become as much a "real American" as the descendants of the Founding Fathers. Yet such ready acceptance is far less common elsewhere. In trips abroad, I have seen Russian immigrant communities in several countries, including France, Germany, and Israel, and spoken extensively with relatives and other Russians living there. In each case, they are less assimilated, worse off economically, and have much more tense relations with native-born citizens than the Russians who have come to the US over the last several decades.

In addition to the greater acceptance of immigrants by natives, an important advantage of the US for recent immigrants is that of relatively free labor markets, which make it much easier to get jobs. In Western Europe and Israel, I saw many Russian Jewish immigrants who either depend on welfare or are seriously underemployed. Both are far less common among Russians in this country, except for the elderly. European and Israeli labor regulations make it far harder to fire workers; but that also makes employers more reluctant to take a chance on recent arrivals from abroad. Obviously, jobs are an essential prerequisite for moving up the economic ladder and a crucial pathway to acceptance and assimilation.

Life for immigrants in the United States isn't perfect, and I of course recognize that many have not been as lucky as I was. But we immigrants have reason to be grateful that it is so much better than anything we could have found anywhere else.

Kenneth Anderson:
Ilya, that's wonderful and a wonderful post.
6.6.2009 9:48pm
geokstr (mail):
Ilya, you were probably too young when you left Russia to make a valid first hand comparison between what it was like to have very few freedoms and little opportunity at all and what you have here.

If your parents are still alive, can you tell us how they view the direction we are going in now? Via forums like this, I have heard from many other immigrants from totalitarian states who are aghast that they see us heading where they originally escaped from.
6.6.2009 9:56pm
Bob from Tenn (mail):
Accepting immigrants is not just an advantage for the immigrants, but for us "natives," too. We get the benefit of their skills, will, and experiences that few other countries take advantage of. I am continually amazed, for example, at how many of the scientists that developed the atomic bomb for the U.S. came from foreign countries from which they fled or out of which they were driven. Likewise, I think the U.S. is lucky to have you Volokh brothers. Cheers! (or whatever toast would be appropriate in Russian)
6.6.2009 10:12pm
Desiderius:
"the 30th anniversary of my arrival in the United States from Russia, at the age of five"

Our great gain, their lamentable loss. In our history, there has been no more valuable citizen of this country than the first generation immigrant.
6.6.2009 10:18pm
Desiderius:
"The advantages of life in the US over life in Russia are perhaps too obvious to dwell on."

Would that this were so.

"Less often appreciated are the ways in which life for immigrants in America is much better than in most other affluent liberal democracies. Although the US is not free of racism and nativist xenophobia, on the whole immigrants are much better accepted by natives than in almost all of the many other countries I have seen."

Muslim youth in Paris riot. Muslim youth in New Jersey get rich. It's not about religion.
6.6.2009 10:20pm
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
Although the US is not free of racism and nativist xenophobia

I saw something like that coming from the first sentence, I just wasn't expecting Ilya Somin to try for a hat trick.

Perhaps Ilya Somin could present the other side of the issue, such as the negatives associated with various forms of imm. from various countries and by various groups.

Just using Russian imm. as an example, haven't there been downsides too? What's the cost of those downsides? What would have been the downside to the U.S. as a whole - not just to particular people - if we'd disallowed all Russian imm.? What would have been the cost of that?

If anyone wants clear-headed coverage of the imm. issue, do a search at my site for the names of various politicians and subscribe to my feed.
6.6.2009 10:23pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Mazel Tov, Ilya. A few quibbles:

(1) Plenty of Russian immigrants in NYC and elsewhere have lived off the government. They weren't on "welfare," but as I understand it they did qualify for some sort of "refugee" benefit that most immigrants didn't get.

(2) Israel has over 1 million "Russian" immigrants out of a Jewish population of just over 5 million. I daresay that if over 60 million Russian Jews had landed in the U.S. since you arrived, there would be a lot more tension here between the Russians and the natives. Recent Russian immigrants are surely at least as accepted in Israel overall as, say, recent Hispanic immigrants are in the U.S., a somewhat more apt comparison, population-wise.

(3) This may not apply to your family, but a lot of the Russian Jews I know who came to the U.S. benefited from HIAS and other charities that helped them get on their feet. This is indeed a virtue of the U.S., that we have such private organizations that help people, but this is less a question of "opportunity" than an available helping hand. Not surprisingly, in more statist societies, immigrants turn to the gov't instead.
6.6.2009 10:25pm
J. Aldridge:
Good points, Ilya, however I take one issue with your remark "the US is not free of racism and nativist xenophobia, on the whole immigrants are much better accepted by natives than in almost all of the many other countries I have seen."

The states had reserved control over immigration for themselves as evidenced by state constitutions and the fact all the states maintained immigration bureaus to encourage/control state immigration through the entire 19th century.

Once the Supreme Court slowly eroded the rights of the states to control immigration through the commerce clause, great resentments developed. No people will ever be happy when forced to accept a flood of other people when they have no control over the matter.

When Congress begain to enact strong immigration quota's in the early 1900's they did so for a very good reason. Those quotas were removed in 1965 for the only reason Kennedy felt they were "bigotry."

Federal usurpation fuels racism and nativist xenophobia. Don't go ridiculing the natives for feeling the way they do because they are victims of a tyrannical government run amok.
6.6.2009 10:27pm
Eilers Ellison (mail):
ShutTheFuckUpLoneWacko.
6.6.2009 10:41pm
Larry Sheldon:
Living here for the native born is not perfect either.

In fact, list of tings that are wrong with the olace if very long, and getting longer.

But it is still way better than any place I have ever heard of.

Welcome.
6.6.2009 10:52pm
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
A good way to deal with commnts like the "Eilers Ellison" is to reveal the person's IP address, although I might be able to get it from another blog he commented on.

P.S. For no particular reason, this is interesting.
6.6.2009 11:28pm
Bryan Long:
"Life in post-Soviet Russia is in many ways better than in the days of communism."

If I had the unenviable choice, I'd sooner live under Gorbachev than Putin. I'd accept marginally greater statism for a significantly smaller chance of being disappeared by the Kremlin or running afoul of organized crime. Then again, I've never stood in a queue for bread.

Re: immigration, I doubt anyone but the most die-hard nativist wants to turn away immigrants with valuable skills, whatever their place of origin. The issue is that the United States already has a glut of unskilled and semi-skilled labor, and as more of it pours illegally and imperfectly (perhaps by design) contained over the US-Mexican border, it does nothing but undermine the already tenuous position of those citizens at the bottom of the economic pyramid. We simply have no need for these people, and the fact that a majority come here illegally speaks nothing in their favor.

For there to be a need, we'd have to see a restructuring of the US secondary and tertiary education systems to put our dormant human capital to better work, rather than graduating eighteen year-olds with no discernible skills except those developed independently of an educational institution, or frittering away resources at the college level on fields that do nothing to add to our international economic competitiveness.
6.6.2009 11:46pm
Dawn:
I can appreciate the sentiment. My family immigrated from Korea 35 years ago when I was 2. I give a silent thanks to my parents every day. Ironically, I'm now married to a Foreign Service Officer and living as an expat in Asia and raising my children here. My biggest concern is that they won't share the fierce passion I have for America.
FWIW, I have to add that the nastiest racism I've ever seen or experienced was as a child growing up in Philadelphia from the black community towards asians. This is up to and including travelling and living the better part of 20 years in the deep South and Texas.
6.7.2009 12:10am
Hadur:
Glad to have you here.
6.7.2009 12:13am
Paul B:
David Bernstein makes some excellent points that I'd like to elaborate on.

The Russian immigrant communities, especially the older generation, by virtue of middle class education and their life in a (poorly run) welfare state are often excellent players at tapping public programs. A good friend who owns and manages subsidized housing complexes and holds standard American Jewish liberal views goes into apoplexy when he talks about his Russian tenants. From a landlord's perspective he much prefers them as tenants, but when he hears them talk on and on about about new and exciting ways to even more government programs, you'd think he was Rush Limbaugh.

I don't think your comparison of Russian immigration to Israel to Hispanic migration here is valid. First, the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews have only been in the country a generation or two themselves. More importantly, bulking up the Jewish population (even though I keep hearing that many of the Russians are not really Jewish) in the face of a far larger and hostile Arab population in and around Israel creates a completely different dynamic.
6.7.2009 12:44am
Buddy DeNunzio:
Great post. Were all of our immigrants so productive and outstanding.

What are the objections to intelligence and psychological and skills testing prior to admittance to America? How about the old-fashioned guarantors certifying that newcomers would not become a burden? How about asking that undocumented workers perform various tasks for no pay until they have made up for their detection, prosecution, and detention costs?

Anyone?
6.7.2009 12:50am
Cornellian (mail):
I like that "Find Your Russian Beauty" Ad on the upper right hand of the page. Talk about targeted marketing.
6.7.2009 1:10am
Ellen K (mail):
One of my favorite students is a boy named Pavel who came to the US with his family 12 years ago. At the age of 16, he's become "the All American Boy" playing football (not soccer-American football), basketball and even becoming a member of the high school JROTC where he is an officer. He wants to join the airforce and become a helicopter pilot. His family lives in a safe neighborhood in a nice house. I am smiling at your story-it could have been Pavel's.

Where Pavel and his family differ from immigrants that may come here illegally is that his parents are educated, had jobs waiting for them when they arrived and they never depended on the American taxpayer to pay their way. This is much different than many of the immigrants who come here illegally. Many pundits try to frame America's story as one that is toxic towards immigration. Immigration has not been the issue, it's always been about those who come over by cutting through lines of people who have been waiting to come here legally. Nobody likes a cheater.
6.7.2009 1:35am
joby m. (mail):
Mr. DeNunzio,

An obvious objection would be the cost of providing that kind of testing to millions of people annually in several dozen languages.

Foreign nationals are still inadmissible if an immigration official determines they are "likely to become a public charge." See 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4). Foreign nationals are then required to produce the "old-fashioned" affidavits of support. Foreign nationals who do in fact become a public charge within five years may be deported under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(5).

We would have to pay them something, or offer some benefit. They could not be compelled to work, for obvious reasons. The question remains what the benefit would be, and what work they could perform in return that wouldn't require things like training, insurance, etc.

Cheers buddy.
6.7.2009 1:51am
joby m. (mail):
Oh and it's interesting that no one seems to think that the illegal immigration problem is caused by the difficulty and expense of migrating legally. Are we be surprised that when the government controls and limits a resource, a black market develops? Isn't it incongruent to expect that further government controls would solve the problem?
6.7.2009 2:01am
Vish Subramanian (mail):
No question that the immigrant experience in the US is order of magnitude better that most other countries. The major exception is Canada, which is slightly superior to the US in being friendly to immigrants.

Having said that, things have gotten a little worse in the last 15 years since I arrived. After 9/11, several friends of mine in heartland country like Texas felt their lives measurable worse - strangers stared at them, followed them around and made them feel unwelcome and unsafe. Much more seriously, the government immigrant bureaucracy is much much worse, canbe nasty and hostile in a way it wasnt before.
6.7.2009 2:39am
Aleksey:
What about your own ethnic identity, Ilya? Do you speak Russian? Do you maintain your culture? Other than your name and your lineage, would you say you're more Russian than American? Does assimilation mean shredding the old cultural and ethnic identity and embracing the new one as your own? When do you celebrate Easter? Christmas? Is it according to the Western, or American, calendar, or is it according to the Russian or Orthodox calendar?
6.7.2009 2:50am
Aleksey:
What about your own ethnic identity, Ilya? Do you speak Russian? Do you maintain your culture? Other than your name and your lineage, would you say you're more Russian than American? Does assimilation mean shredding the old cultural and ethnic identity and embracing the new one as your own? When do you celebrate Easter? Christmas? Is it according to the Western, or American, calendar, or is it according to the Russian or Orthodox calendar?
6.7.2009 2:51am
Aleksey:
What about your own ethnic identity, Ilya? Do you speak Russian? Do you maintain your culture? Other than your name and your lineage, would you say you're more Russian than American? Does assimilation mean shredding the old cultural and ethnic identity and embracing the new one as your own? When do you celebrate Easter? Christmas? Is it according to the Western, or American, calendar, or is it according to the Russian or Orthodox calendar?
6.7.2009 2:54am
David M. Nieporent (www):
When do you celebrate Easter? Christmas? Is it according to the Western, or American, calendar, or is it according to the Russian or Orthodox calendar?
Uh, Ilya has said that he's Jewish (though not religious), so I'm going to go with "neither." For all three times that you asked the question.
6.7.2009 5:12am
Gabor (mail):
The large measure of influence Somin's autobiography appears to have played on his legal thinking certainly colors his discussion of the degree to which Sotomayor's biography influences her legal philosophy. It appears that he is not against such an influence, but rather against a biographical influence that would lead in a direction other than his own.
6.7.2009 5:55am
jb (mail):
It appears I got here 3 years before you did Ilya, as I prepare to celebrate my 33 years here. While I may not agree with your sentiments 100%, the vast majority of points you have made are very much in line what I feel about this great country and the opportunities I had (and I was old enough in USSR to know the nightmare my mom took me out of).
6.7.2009 7:57am
Brett Bellmore:

Oh and it's interesting that no one seems to think that the illegal immigration problem is caused by the difficulty and expense of migrating legally.


That's probably because most illegal immigrants couldn't legally immigrate even if the process was perfectly transparent and free, because, like most countries, our official policy is to not admit unlimited numbers of unskilled functional illiterates.

The expense and difficulty is a problem for skilled immigrants, that's true, but that's not most of the illegal immigrants.
6.7.2009 8:40am
Sarah Hoyt:
I first came to the US 29 years ago at 17 (my parents didn't have the foresight to immigrate, so I had to do it) and I second these remarks.

When I was getting ready to move here my aunt who had lived most of her life in France, pulled me aside and said "Reconsider this. No matter how much better life is, you'll have accept that you'll never, ever belong. You can live there, you can naturalize but you can't be an American."

She was, of course, referring to her experience in France, since she'd never been to the US. I'm happy to report that, having been an American for twenty years, I feel NONE of this allienation.

In fact my sons have been taught to answer any teachers who say "So your mother is Portuguese?" with "No sir/ma'am, she's American. She was born in Portugal due to an inexplicable cosmic accident." :)
6.7.2009 8:56am
M (mail):
How about the old-fashioned guarantors certifying that newcomers would not become a burden?

Note that likeliness to be a public charge is grounds for inadmissability, and that for all family-based immigration the family must show the ability to support the would-be immigrant at 125% of the poverty level for the size of the family, including the immigrant. Immigrants are not eligable for means-tested forms of public assistance for a minimum of 5 years, and often are not eligible for much longer as the assets of their sponsors are "deemed" to be available for them. Sometimes individual states make benefits available to immigrants, but they are authorized not to do so by federal law. Whether these laws are wise or not I'll leave to others, but those discussing immigration would do well to know of them.

Interestingly, as noted by David Bernstein above, these restrictions largely didn't apply to the first several waves of Russian immigrants, including Illya's family, who, under a political fiction, were deemed refugees, despite the fact that only a tiny percentage of them would have qualified as refugees under the normal rules for such determinations. Refugees were not limited in receiving government benefits by IRAIRA and other laws and have long received other special benefits. This was true of Russian "refugees" as well. Now, this immigration was almost certainly a large net plus to the US (and a big loss to Russia, as it lost many able and active people, something it could use), but I find it sad and ironic that those who received preferential treatment for transparently political reasons begrudge aid to others or thing the state should have a small part in helping others now less fortunate than themselves.
6.7.2009 9:09am
A. Non E. Mouse (mail):
Another immigrant here. I briefly entertained the idea of moving back to the mother country, for fondness of relatives and the stories my parents told and several trips back and wearing rose colored glasses. But the country was hostile to its own people returning. They wouldn't accept me. So they lost my skills and talents and college education (not funded by one penny of their taxpayer dollars). It turned out to be a providential thing. I follow a blog about that country's news, and it is really surveilling the populace and trimming back freedoms that I always thought existed there by law and charter but apparently don't. I don't know how their people tolerate it. And, personally, it saved my life. A necessary part of my treatment for breast cancer is not allowed by their national health service system, even if you pay for it yourself. This treatment makes a big difference in recurrence and mortality rates. Not going back to the mother land saved my life.
6.7.2009 9:27am
NotALawyer:
Sarah Hoyt wrote above that he grandmother said she would never be considered an American, but that her grandmother was wrong. She is considered an American, by herself and others.

I think we substitute regarding whatever the state equivalent is of nationality. (Statality?) I've lived in Minnesota for 12 years, but I'm not, and never will be, considered a Minnesotan, either by myself or others. Of course, this is not a big deal, since "statality" doesn't enter our consciences or sense of self the way nationality does. I believe this is true for a lot of other states as well.
6.7.2009 9:28am
Sarah Hoyt (www):
I hesitated to comment twice -- but in referrence to the questions about "keeping one's culture" I simply have to.

I have to because this one of those things that gets me on top of a soap box. My children, in school, are being taught multi-culti in the worst way. The worst way involves conflating culture with genetics and giving a "ten countries in twenty days" view of foreign cultures. (And they're being deprogrammed at home as soon as they're programmed at school, in case you wonder.)

Both of these are poisonous, the first more so because it leads to racism and also to otherwise inexplicable public policy.

If I need to explain how this leads to racism -- my sons, both US born, with a US father, routinely get asked why they're not preserving their Portuguese culture and I routinely get taken to task for not teaching them "their language." (The second one I feel slightly guilty about, since I think every human being should speak as many languages as possible. OTOH I make my living from writing and speaking Portuguese regularly interferes with the structure of my English expression, so they learn their languages like other human beings: in classes. Since both view learning as fun, this is not an issue. They learn languages recreationally, as they learn math. The older one is on his third which curiously seems to be Russian.)

I object to this because culture is not genetic. My children's culture is that of the society they're growing up in. While we eat some Portuguese dishes, we also eat Chinese dishes and Greek dishes. In fact, since I'm a recreational cook, I tend to become enamoured with a national cusine and cook nothing-but for a few months, then integrate it into my "normal" rotation. We don't read many Portuguese books, though I've shared some poetry (Mostly to a chorus of "mom, you have to be translating that wrong.) And they're well... American. (They're far more influenced by the fact that I write science fiction and fantasy professionally and that we do several conferences a year than by my national origins.)

And that brings us to the next point -- tourism culture -- culture is NOT the food or the clothing or -- at least not in the US -- the religion. This is how cultures are taught in US schools, and it is wrong. These are trappings and the sort of thing a tourist might think is "neat." Teaching it this way is poisonous because kids get this "foreign cultures are just like us, except for neato traditions we don't have" view at the same time they get the MOST jaundiced, sin-oriented view of American history and culture possible. They have no idea that if they actually studied other cutlures in depth, their historical "sins" and their modern ones too would FAR outweigh those of the US. (No, I'm not going to apologize for that qualitative judgement. I voted with feet, remember?)

Culture is deeper than this. Culture colors how your psyche is formed and incorporates everything from the language you think in to how you expect strangers to react to you in public.

I realized how far I'd accultured when my mom came to visit and we clashed over such things as "what is decent to wear to the grocery store." and "why aren't there any obvious common traits to these people? I can't take all these crazy different looks." The second one being her remark and shocking me. There were also issues with "filial obedience" and how much a child -- even grown and married -- is "family property." All of which is part of her culture, not MINE. Because I neitehr got it from birth nor drank it in the milk.

Is my culture pure US? I think so. For the rather elastic definition of American identity. As I said, writing science fiction and fantasy probably makes me deviate more from median than my having been born abroad.

Is my kids' culture US? Well... what the heck else would it be?

Culture is not genetic. Everyone knows that objectively. (At least you should, unless you're speaking in whatever language humans first used, living in caves and mammoth-bone shelters, painting your dead with ochre... You get the idea. If you're doing all this, tell the person who brought a computer into your cave that they're violating your cutlure and forcing you to integrate, the bastages.)

However, the words are used interchangeably in our schools and our media, leading to a subliminal belief that they are one and the same. This belief accounts for this bizarre idea that immigrants must keep their ancestors' language forever, the even stranger idea that speaking Spanish (Portuguese is not much different, guys) makes you a separate race and the truly mind-boggling idea that critizing a culture makes you racist.

At the other end of this bizarre conflation lies the antithesis of everything that's American -- if you think culture is genetic, then you cannot think all men are born with equal opportunity or right to the pursuit of happiness. If you think culture is genetic, you can't say that anything a culture does is wrong, because that's racist. If you think culture is genetic, you either think immigrants of any kind shouldn't be admitted, or you think we should eventually end up in little isolated "separate but equal" communities. (And how the heck do you make them equal if things such as competitiveness or insularity or freedom of speech/commerce is genetically derived?) If you think culture is genetic, you deny the very American idea that anyone can re-invent him or herself and become successful and integrated in their new homeland.

Your experience may vary, but I first learned English at 14 and I now -- despite a tendency to idiosyncratic spelling and being capable of untold cruelty towards the common comma -- make my living as a professional novelist in the US.

In the interest of full disclosure, my family still eats codfish on Christmas Eve and my kids both can swear in Portuguese (since they spend time around me in the kitchen where objects and appliances like knives and stoves have it in for me.) Somehow I don't think either of those are hardwired or even that I had a moral obligation to perpetuate them.

Sorry for the second comment and also for the length of it. I shall now take my little soap box and go back to editing the overdue novel.

Congratulations on having got here, Ilya. In my not at all unbiased opinion, this is still the best country on Earth.
6.7.2009 9:43am
Desiderius:
Gabor,

"The large measure of influence Somin's autobiography appears to have played on his legal thinking certainly colors his discussion of the degree to which Sotomayor's biography influences her legal philosophy."

Ilya's not a judge.
6.7.2009 9:54am
sputnik (mail):
15 years for me, Ilya
and in much different age, being adult already and making my own decision...

David B is correct, most do not get the HIAS support , so many had to start not as advantaged as your parents.

But I mostly agree with your post, great country, I love it here dearly, so is my family.
Thankfully the neoconservatives and Cheneites attempt to turn USA into some kind of Western version of scared but belligerent society did not succeed.
6.7.2009 9:55am
geokstr (mail):
No apologies necessary, Sarah.

Those who came here from elsewhere have a much greater appreciation of this great country, and understand, that, while not perfect, it sure beats the living tar out of anything else out there.

By contrast, the natural born citizen here often takes for granted what we have, and, never having had to sacrifice for any of it, or even known anything else, thinks that it will always be that way, without having to work hard just to keep it this good.

The left, and their apparatus, the Democratic party, have succeeded by separating our population into smaller victim groups who can more easily be pandered to. Many of us no longer look at ourselves as "Americans" who happen to have different ancestral roots, but first and foremost as "African", "Hispanic" (whatever that is), "GLBT", "Wymym", who just happen to coincidentally be living in the nation called "America".
6.7.2009 9:58am
Bored Lawyer:

A necessary part of my treatment for breast cancer is not allowed by their national health service system, even if you pay for it yourself. This treatment makes a big difference in recurrence and mortality rates. Not going back to the mother land saved my life.


Not to worry, the glories of socialized medicine are coming here, courtesy of President Hope and Change.
6.7.2009 10:10am
sputnik (mail):
also, geokstr, the immigrants are able to see the alarming changes the last 8 years brought in, which reminded them of some bad experiences and governmental excesses they had to live through elsewhere
6.7.2009 10:11am
Tammy Cravit (mail):
Another immigrant here -- I immigrated with my father from Canada some 17 years ago. I have to agree wholeheartedly about the extraordinary lengths America goes to, relative to other countries, to welcome immigrants. I can think of only one instance where my being an immigrant created difficulty for me -- I once was denied a job because the position required a security clearance and the company's security officers judged that getting a foreign citizen cleared would be prohibitively expensive.

@joby m: The cost and difficulty of anything dealing with USCIS is, in my mind, a definite factor that encourages non-compliance with the immigration laws. Even routine stuff is expensive and cumbersome. The last time I needed to renew my green card, I think I waited nearly 13 months for the replacement card -- and it's not like they needed to do (or, so far as I know, actually did) a full background investigation again. A citizenship application -- by someone who's already here legally -- seems to take about 9 months to process at the moment.

@Sarah Hoyt: Hear, hear. My adopted daughter was born in the United States (to Mexican migrant farm worker parents) and has, so far as we can tell, lived here something like 80% of her life. She's been in our home -- being raised by a Canadian-born Jewish woman and an American-born Jewish woman -- for more than 1/5th of her life. And yet, the social services system from which we adopted her beat a constant drum of "make sure you support her cultural needs". As if culture is as simple as "you had a birth parent who was Mexican, so of course you're strongly connected to, and need to be immersed in, Mexican culture." Frankly, we allow her the same freedom all kids should have to define themselves and their culture, and we support her in learning more about the culture(s) she's chosen for herself. But to say that exposure to Mexican culture is a vital need of hers simply because she has brown skin is, in my view, ridiculous.
6.7.2009 10:13am
rosetta's stones:
Somin,

Skilled immigrants are always welcome.

The Roooskies can send another Pavel Datsyuk over to the Red Wings anytime they want! What a brilliant performance last night, and playing on one leg, too.
6.7.2009 10:30am
Cornellian (mail):

I think we substitute regarding whatever the state equivalent is of nationality. (Statality?) I've lived in Minnesota for 12 years, but I'm not, and never will be, considered a Minnesotan, either by myself or others. Of course, this is not a big deal, since "statality" doesn't enter our consciences or sense of self the way nationality does. I believe this is true for a lot of other states as well.

Here in California huge numbers of people are from other states and other countries. I don't think I've ever heard the subject of whether one is a "Californian" ever come up. It doesn't seem to be something anyone ever thinks about.
6.7.2009 10:31am
NotALawyer:
Cornellian,

I think you are right about California. There is so much immigration to California, that being born there is not a big deal. Like America, California might be a state of mind - you're a Californian if you live there and think of yourself as one. I'm almost positive this simply isn't true for a host of other states, and this correlates with how much immigration there is and for how long this immigration has been going on.
6.7.2009 10:37am
Cornellian (mail):
If I need to explain how this leads to racism -- my sons, both US born, with a US father, routinely get asked why they're not preserving their Portuguese culture and I routinely get taken to task for not teaching them "their language."

This also annoys me. Why can't I just like Italian food, the French language and German composers regardless of whether my ancestors came from any of those countries?

Why should I have to "preserve" the culture of some country I care nothing about just because my grandfather was born there? Aren't the people back in the Old Country already doing a perfectly good job of that?

Why should I be more proud of my ethnic heritage than I am of my neighbor's ethnic heritage? It's not like either of us had a choice about being born into it.

The US is (and should be) a cultural smorgasbord, make the most of it and don't feel restricted by where your ancestors lived.
6.7.2009 10:43am
Cornellian (mail):
I'm almost positive this simply isn't true for a host of other states, and this correlates with how much immigration there is and for how long this immigration has been going on.

I'd also posit some correlation with the urban/rural nature of the state, with the more rural states more likely to classify new arrivals as lacking the quality of "stateness."
6.7.2009 10:45am
sbron:
Without some measure of nativism, what is to prevent the U.S. from losing the unique attributes that attracted so many immigrants in the first place?

As an very young immigrant myself back in the 60's, there was no choice but to assimilate as we "were lost in a sea of natives." Now in California, I feel lost in a sea of immigrants who have no particular affection for the U.S. nor understanding of what makes it a unique place.
6.7.2009 10:52am
vicneo (mail):
As someone who immigrated here from India 25 years ago in my early 20's I have a few pertinent comments to make.

The India that I grew up in (pre 1994 liberalization) was a statist, quasi socialist, state- capitalist, crony capitalist state, with what western economists derided as a a country with a "hindu" rate of GDP growth (as in negligible GDP growth).

Post the 1994 libralisation of the economy, India has become an engine of growth. I am, on the other hand, truly worried that my adopted country is slowly but surely abandoning the foundations of its success and moving topwards the situations and circumstances I abandoned. Having lived in that Statist model in my formative years, I am perhaps exceedingly sensitive to that foul atmosphere descending on my or my childrens lives again.

My other comment is directed at my progressive friends and colleagues (I am greatly outnumbered at my workplace), who constantly make a point of deriding american imperialism and hegemony. To those and others like them, my only comment would be: While others may legitimately disagree, I do think that America is an imperialist/ hegemonic nation (depending on how you define Empire). However, I have come to the sad conclusion that perhaps empire and hegemony are the natural state of affairs for humanity. Now, nature abhors a vacuum, and if the american empire were to fail / flounder, it is unlikely to be replaced by utopia. It would be replaced by another empire/ hegemon. So let us see, who would my progressive friends rather have as the imperial power that fills the vacuum upon the fall of American power that they so fondly wish for: China ?, a resurgent Russia ? Or even perhaps - as some of my Indian Chauvanist friends dream about- India?

Boy, they need some serious waking up, if they think the condition of humanity will improve under any of those circumstances.
6.7.2009 10:54am
Tony Tutins (mail):
As I recall, American Jews were eager to welcome Soviet immigrants, get them resettled, and find them jobs. As one example, all through the 70s, synagogues in the US actively campaigned to "Save Soviet Jews." When they were finally able to get out, the synagogues made good on their promises.

Europe has never been a melting pot -- a tossed salad would be a more appropriate metaphor. You can live side by side but never fit in with the locals, irrespective of race color or creed. Unless you're a hot babe -- that will bridge cultural gaps.
6.7.2009 10:59am
Tony Tutins (mail):

my sons, both US born, with a US father, routinely get asked why they're not preserving their Portuguese culture and I routinely get taken to task for not teaching them "their language."

Because, when they grow up, your kids will wish you had. They will try to learn through night school, years too late to become fluent.

A child can naturally grow up perfectly fluent in multiple languages, using "code-switching" to move from one to another. A toddler soon learns if she wants to talk to Mom and Dad she has to use one language, but if she wants to talk to Abuela she has to use another.
6.7.2009 11:04am
Ricardo (mail):
Much more seriously, the government immigrant bureaucracy is much much worse, canbe nasty and hostile in a way it wasnt before.

This is a point that bears repeating. While U.S. immigration agents are doing an important job, too many of them possess the horrible combination of the bureaucratic mentality and the power-tripping personality. Immigration law is filled with absurdities: for instance, someone applying for a student visa is obliged to somehow prove to the U.S. consular official conducting the interview that he is so attached to his native country he intends to move back there after spending $150,000 and four years of his life at a U.S. university. This is a waste of time and an exercise in fiction: most foreign students stay on in the U.S. anyway and no 18-year-old has solid life plans in the first place.

There are plenty of appalling stories of people being mistreated and detained at the border because a U.S. border agent either doesn't understand the law, doesn't exercise even a modicum of discretion or simply decides for no reason the entrant is suspicious.
6.7.2009 11:29am
Amanda Green (mail):
Because, when they grow up, your kids will wish you had. They will try to learn through night school, years too late to become fluent.

This might be true for some kids, but not for all. My take on it is that this is a decision to be made by each family, and is not something they should be taken to task for one way or the other. Also, your comment makes it seem as though one cannot become fluent in another language unless it is learned as a child. Sorry, but that is wrong. People can and have become fluent in other languages as adults and will continue to do so long after the rest of us are gone.

Yes, it is possible Sarah's sons will one day wish she'd taught them Portuguese. It's just as likely they won't, especially given the fact that, as she stated, she is a writer and having to switch between the languages would have hampered her ability to write, and sell, in English, something that will have helped them in many ways learning another language could not.
6.7.2009 11:32am
pluribus:
I heartily endorse the views you express, Prof. Somin. That the strength of the United States derives in large measure from its immigrants seems perfectly clear. Unless you are an American Indian, all of our ancestors came here from elsewhere--and even in the case of the American Indians, their ancestors originally came from elsewhere (almost certainly Asia). I am curious, however, as to why you think that xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiment are so much more prevalent among self-professed conservatives than among liberals. It was the self-professed conservatives who defeated Bush's immigration plan and helped to defeat McCain because he supported it. Xenophobia is rampant in what is left of the once-great Republican party. This is indeed sad. Lincoln was welcoming of immigrants and opposed to the Know-Nothings whose political appeal was entirely xenophobic. There is a strong strain of Know-Nothingism in today's Republican Party.
6.7.2009 11:36am
RKV (mail):
"A child can naturally grow up perfectly fluent in multiple languages." Or, as in the case of so many Mexican immigrants of my personal acquaintance, can grow up marginally competent in multiple languages. Better to have one that you have down perfectly, than two or more that you limp along in. In the case of California, for instance, fluency in English is correlated with academic and financial success. Fluency in Spanish, not so much. My wife's mother was sent home from kindergarten because her fluency in English was weak, returned a year later and ended up salutatorian of her high school class. That was a long time ago. It wouldn't hurt us to do the same now.
6.7.2009 11:37am
pluribus:
sbron:

Without some measure of nativism, what is to prevent the U.S. from losing the unique attributes that attracted so many immigrants in the first place?

In my opinion, immigration should not be so huge as to overwhelm the culture in place, nor should it derive from any one source (e.g., Latin America). A controlled flow of immigrants from different parts of the world will continue to enrich our culture and economy while encouraging assimilation into the mainstream, so that we can preserve a single language (English) and American ideals of freedom and law.
6.7.2009 11:43am
Cornellian (mail):
Now in California, I feel lost in a sea of immigrants who have no particular affection for the U.S. nor understanding of what makes it a unique place.

That's what people have always said about each wave of immigration to arrive on these shores. Heck, I expect the Native Americans probably said something like that about the rest of us back in the day.
6.7.2009 11:46am
Sarah Hoyt (www):
Tony,

not true in my experience. I studied linguistics (spoke 8 languages once upon a time) and was led to expect what you said. Didn't happen. I'll preface this by saying that unlike most immigrants I'm not part of a "group" of immigrants, be it even the small group of immediate family. I came here alone and I married an American.

I tried speaking Portuguese to my older son to confer on him the benefits of "natural bilingual ability." He ignored it. COMPLETELY. At a year and a half of age he spoke in complete sentences in English. He completely tuned out Portuguese, as if it had been gibberish. I've since figured out it's because he heard me speak English to other people -- father, cashiers, etc. But I only spoke Portuguese to him. He didn't see any reason to learn this "baby language" I was pushing at him, I guess.

And as I've grown older and started doubting the stuff I learned in college, I've started doubting the "benefits of natural bilingual." Why? Well, because according to ALL I read, i shouldn't relate to English the way I do. English is now functionally my native language. I think and work in English and Portuguese is at the same level as French, which I learned at 11.

Maybe I'm different from the rest of the human race, but my take on this is that if the kids desperately need another language, they can do what I did. More importantly, they will learn the language they want/need, not the language their ancestors happened to speak, which might not be relevant to them.

That I continuously find myself having to answer heated queries "Have you taught them your language?" from everyone ranging from teachers to supermarket cashiers is probably responsible for this response.

I'm not sure if this popular desire to enforce my linguistic choices hinges upon the confusion of culture/genetics; some bizarre Rousseaunian illusion of the "natural" thing; or simply a belief in the myth of bilingual-from-birth superiority. (Are there any studies proving that bilingual speakers are more competent than devoted later-life learners? Other than maybe in the matter of accent? Because I have a vague -- very vague -- memory of a study from the early nineties that said bilingual speakers often had losses in their native fluency in the dominant language. But I don't remember where I found it, and I can't link it, since this would be a magazine or newspaper. I've been away from the field for fifteen years, at least.)

I do know however that I abandonned my stunningly non-successful attempts to teach my older son Portuguese and then shortly after realized the attempts had been short-circuiting my fiction writing in English -- which has so far contributed material (though far from stunning) economic advantage to their upbringing.

So far the eighteen year old has not taken me to task for this, particularly since the languages he's chosen to study are French and Russian -- and his brother who is studying French and making noises about Chinese is unlikely to, also. Again, it's quite possible we're different from the rest of the human race.
6.7.2009 11:47am
Tony Tutins (mail):

having to switch between the languages would have hampered her ability to write

Yes, that happens when you don't learn language as a native speaker. That was pretty much my point.

Or, as in the case of so many Mexican immigrants of my personal acquaintance, can grow up marginally competent in multiple languages.

These immigrants grew up with one English speaking parent and one Spanish speaking parent, (or other household member) and they still had communications problems?
6.7.2009 11:50am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Hi Sarah,

Yes, for code-switching to work properly you would have had to speak only Portuguese around your tots.

My parents' generation has listening comprehension only, from picking up their parents' conversations. It makes for half-duplex conversations, where their parents speak their native language to them, and they answer in English.

To speak without an accent you have to learn the new language before puberty. You might have come here young enough and flexible enough to develop true fluency. Everyone else I know can feel the difference between their native fluency and their second language fluency.
6.7.2009 11:56am
Nudnik (mail):
Congratulations on the anniversary, Ilya. I celebrated the 30th anniversary of my family's arrival to the US from the Soviet Union about a year and a half ago. I have also spent a good deal of time in Israel (my wife's family immigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union in 1982). I would agree wholeheartedly with your points about acceptance to America. I think, the differences between immigrants' acceptance in Israel and the US has other reasons besides the labor policies. One is army service. Since many immigrants arrived as adults, they did not serve in the IDF, and therefore did not have the very important network created by one's military service. Additionally, the vast majority of Russian immigrants to Israel came in the 1990's, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Unlike those that immigrated in the 70's and 80's they had a choice - they could always go back to Russia if things didn't work out. (The same is true of the US). From my observations, both of Israel and the US, it seems that those that arrived in the post-Soviet immigration are on the whole less assimilated, less well off, and have more strained relations with the native population than those that arrived at a time when they had no choice.
6.7.2009 12:01pm
sbron:
Here's a real example of nativist xenophobia. There's a chapter of this xenophobic organization at every major university in the Southwest.



We are free and sovereign to determine those tasks which are justly called for by our house, our land, the sweat of our brows, and by our hearts. Aztlan belongs to those who plant the seeds, water the fields, and gather the crops and not to the foreign Europeans. We do not recognize capricious frontiers on the bronze continent

Brotherhood unites us, and love for our brothers makes us a people whose time has come and who struggles against the foreigner "gabacho" who exploits our riches and destroys our culture. With our heart in our hands and our hands in the soil, we declare the independence of our mestizo nation. We are a bronze people with a bronze culture. Before the world, before all of North America, before all our brothers in the bronze continent, we are a nation, we are a union of free pueblos, we are Aztlan.

For La Raza to do. Fuera de La Raza nada.
6.7.2009 12:18pm
Desiderius:
Sarah Hoyt,

"I hesitated to comment twice"

Twice isn't nearly enough. Please, more!
6.7.2009 12:37pm
geokstr (mail):

sputnik:
also, geokstr, the immigrants are able to see the alarming changes the last 8 years brought in, which reminded them of some bad experiences and governmental excesses they had to live through elsewhere

Sheesh.

The "alarming changes" that you apparently saw in the last 8 years are what exactly? How Bushitler tried to subvert free speech by forcing varieties of the Orwellian "Fairness Doctrine" on media that wouldn't kneel before him? Maybe how he tried to take over the entire health care industry after nationalizing the auto industry? Or perhaps how he had the legacy media falling all over themselves to declare him some kind of near-deity?

Oh wait...
6.7.2009 12:38pm
Tammy Cravit (mail):

These immigrants grew up with one English speaking parent and one Spanish speaking parent, (or other household member) and they still had communications problems?

This was certainly the case with my daughter before she came to our home (at age 10). She grew up with some family members who spoke only Spanish, some who spoke only English, some who were bilingual but spoke one or other more strongly, and some who spoke neither. When she came to live with us, she had communication problems in both languages that she's still struggling to overcome.
6.7.2009 12:55pm
ATS (mail):
Happy anniversary!
6.7.2009 1:03pm
MAM:
What's the view when the immigration is not voluntary? How does that change one's view of the greatness of America? How does such a group embrace many of the things voluntary immigrants extol?
6.7.2009 1:07pm
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
Regarding joby m.'s comments, a few years back IIRC an L.A. County supe wanted to charge the sponsors of those who came here legally for costs that those sponsors should have taken care of. IIRC, that was shot down by the Dems on the council. What joby m. describes sounds good, but it fails in practice.

Regarding his second point, there will always be a "black market" unless we had complete open borders because there will always be millions upon millions more people who want to come here. So, that argument doesn't work in practice. He's also confusing a free market with a crooked market; libertarians seem to be pefectly OK with subsidies just as long as they're going to crooked businesses that employ illegal labor.

pluribus says: There is a strong strain of Know-Nothingism in today's Republican Party.

pluribus is funny.

P.S. I've been covering this issue over literally thousands of posts since 2002, so if you want some background information on politicians or groups, come on by. For an example of what can be found at my site, compare this to anything you'd hear from either the MSM or almost all bloggers about that group.
6.7.2009 1:10pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

"Although the US is not free of racism and nativist xenophobia"

As someone who immigrated from South Korea at an early age I absolutely oppose illegal immigration as a violation of national soverignty and the law.

As for racism. Frankly I've experienced racism of varying levels in my life. So what. Man up, suck it up and move on.

IMO there is no "although". The USA is the greatest nation on earth bar none.
6.7.2009 1:22pm
Danny (mail):
Thank you for your flattering statements about our ability to welcome new Americans. As an American who grew up in a rural area where virtually everyone's family had been in the US for over 150 years, my attitude toward immigrants was not merely one of magnanimous welcoming. Growing up, I actually craved contact with foreign-born people, particularly Europeans who actually spoke foreign languages, who were able to have a conversation about history, politics or geography, and who were able to break through our provincialism and isolation. Try talking with rural Midwesterners about World War II or the Cold War, they don't even know where Berlin or Moscow are. You can hardly indulge your curiosity or interest in the world with such people. Particularly Russian Jewish immigrants have brought priceless contributions to American intellectual and academic life -- I would call them a civilizing force in North America, which is really mostly a continent of the Sarah Palins and the Mike Huckabees. It seems that whenever an important book comes out in the US, it is from a first or second generation Russian Jew.
So happy anniversary and thank you for coming.
6.7.2009 1:34pm
sputnik (mail):
geo, you don't have to talk to voices in your head.

FOX/Rush will not pay for the extensive brain damage they caused to you...

One just had to witness the intensive pro- unnecessary war (Iraq) propaganda and the total collapse of the "independent" press to expose it.

And that we have to remember the Terry Schiavo thing, the interrogation kerfuffle and so on and on, - for the immigrant from the totalitarian country to recoil at some memorable things from his/her past...
6.7.2009 1:53pm
cbunix23:
It's not immigrants that we love. We love competence. We love hard working people who don't impose costs on the rest of us such as crimes or welfare. If you're incompetent, lazy, and impose costs on the rest of us you will be disliked and rejected by most of America. It doesn't matter if you were born in America or Siberia. America is a meritocracy. Enjoy it while it lasts, which isn't long.
6.7.2009 2:17pm
Danny (mail):
Also I would like to add as an American immigrant in Western Europe that the European and Canadian dreams are also alive and well alongside the American dream.. it's very much the "rich Western democracy dream"
6.7.2009 2:24pm
pintler:

I'd also posit some correlation with the urban/rural nature of the state, with the more rural states more likely to classify new arrivals as lacking the quality of "stateness."


IMHE, that is a regional thing. Growing up in rural VA, you knew who the damyankees were, because they talked funny :-). In e.g. MT, my understanding is there wasn't much of that, largely because most of the population were recent arrivals (i.e. no earlier than late 1800s). Also, I have been told that as recently as the 1950s, it was considered a little rude to ask where someone might have come from, an attitude that went back to the frontier where many people who moved west wanted to leave behind a few skeletons in the closet.

As an aside, we have friends in MT, who are the proprietors of a bison ranch. They adopted two Korean infants, who have grown up in a rural ranch house. Their parents report no problems with xenophobia at all. It is wonderful to realize that what sets them apart from mainstream America is growing up without trips to the mall and cable, not their place of birth.
6.7.2009 2:25pm
wilky (mail):
Thanks for all the interesting stories from those who chose to live here. Your the ones that are the backbone of what makes us great. We natives have bred our children to be soft, both mentally and physically.

pluribus I got to agree with geokstr. Yeah Bush presented problems, but he's an amatuer compared to our current Pres. who, with a compliant media, scares the living daylights out fo me.

And pluribus, self-professed conservatives aren't anti-immigration. They are against ILLEGAL immigration. I wonder what all the immigrants who have responded above feel about illegal immigration?
6.7.2009 3:29pm
ArthurKirkland:

America is a meritocracy. Enjoy it while it lasts, which isn't long.


I do not share any concern that Americans are likely to veer from their long-term trajectory toward meritocracy. The United States, to its credit, has had the courage to discard much of its shameful and costly mistreatment of women, racial minorities, religious minorities, the disadvantaged, etc., and benefits greatly from the progress. The long-term trend of America is toward reason, justice, equality of opportunity, open government, fairness and meritocracy, and away from allocating opportunity and benefits based on race, gender, religion, inheritance and the like. I expect this progress to continue, and see no strong reason for pessimism.
6.7.2009 3:38pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
Welcome, Ilya. My family's been here much longer, but I've traveled enough (including behind the old Iron Curtain) and made enough friends to understand a little. Even wrote a story, Tanya's Itch about a woman who immigrated just after the Berlin Wall fell. Not a few publishers thought it was unrealistic, which ticked off the people who helped me research no end.
This is indeed a virtue of the U.S., that we have such private organizations that help people, but this is less a question of "opportunity" than an available helping hand.
I'd say rather that the U.S. tradition of helping neighbors, born in "barn raising" type interactions, is part of the opportunity. Helping new immigrants succeed helps society as a whole.
The issue is that the United States already has a glut of unskilled and semi-skilled labor, and as more of it pours illegally and imperfectly (perhaps by design) contained over the US-Mexican border, it does nothing but undermine the already tenuous position of those citizens at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
Nope. If there wasn't a need for unskilled laborers there wouldn't be a market for such. If U.S. employers wouldn't hire them, they wouldn't come. The fact that such laborers are most likely to be hauled off job sites indicates they aren't sitting around without work.
We simply have no need for these people, and the fact that a majority come here illegally speaks nothing in their favor.
Actually it speaks nothing in our favor. There are Mexican workers who need jobs. There are U.S. employers who need workers. If there was only a legal way to get the two together, then illegal "immigration" would dry up.
Many pundits try to frame America's story as one that is toxic towards immigration. Immigration has not been the issue, it's always been about those who come over by cutting through lines of people who have been waiting to come here legally. Nobody likes a cheater.
Except given the reality of our immigration system, the waiting line for most people is endless. This includes many people who would undoubtedly be assets. I had Mexican citizen immigrant soldiers with me in Vietnam who said a year in combat was easier than dealing with the INS.
Oh and it's interesting that no one seems to think that the illegal immigration problem is caused by the difficulty and expense of migrating legally. Are we be surprised that when the government controls and limits a resource, a black market develops? Isn't it incongruent to expect that further government controls would solve the problem?
Bingo.
That's probably because most illegal immigrants couldn't legally immigrate even if the process was perfectly transparent and free, because, like most countries, our official policy is to not admit unlimited numbers of unskilled functional illiterates.
Wrong on several levels. First, most of them are not illiterate, they just don't speak and write English. Second, many of them are skilled, for instance in laying stone, in ways the U.S. doesn't recognize. Third and most important, most of them don't want to immigrate. They want to come here, work hard at jobs most folks here don't want, then go home. A simple guest worker system would work wonders for all sides of the equation.
I've lived in Minnesota for 12 years, but I'm not, and never will be, considered a Minnesotan, either by myself or others. Of course, this is not a big deal, since "statality" doesn't enter our consciences or sense of self the way nationality does. I believe this is true for a lot of other states as well.
Just curious, if you don't consider yourself a Minnesotan, can you really expect others to? Down here in Texas (where we have one of the strongest state identities) there are a lot of Texans who weren't born here, but they got here quick as they could.
6.7.2009 3:41pm
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
"Tanya's Itch"?

While I'd like to be as optimistic as ArthurKirkland, I can't be for various reasons. One of the major ones is that it's now considered acceptable by the elites for lower-level elite politicians to outright promote illegal activity and help banks profit from money that was earned illegally. Everyone expects LarryCraig-style stuff occasionally, and that's not that big of an issue (aside from him trying to pull rank). However, when most of the political class has no problem with massive illegal activity, that indicates a very major problem.
6.7.2009 3:56pm
ShelbyC:


The issue is that the United States already has a glut of unskilled and semi-skilled labor, and as more of it pours illegally and imperfectly (perhaps by design) contained over the US-Mexican border, it does nothing but undermine the already tenuous position of those citizens at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

Nope. If there wasn't a need for unskilled laborers there wouldn't be a market for such. If U.S. employers wouldn't hire them, they wouldn't come. The fact that such laborers are most likely to be hauled off job sites indicates they aren't sitting around without work.

We simply have no need for these people, and the fact that a majority come here illegally speaks nothing in their favor.

Actually it speaks nothing in our favor. There are Mexican workers who need jobs. There are U.S. employers who need workers. If there was only a legal way to get the two together, then illegal "immigration" would dry up.




The economics is pretty simple. By lowering the equlibrium price for unskilled labor, illegal immigration:

1. Hurts the suppliers of unskilled labor who are here legally
2. Helps illegal immigrants who come to supply unskilled labor
3. Helps direct and indirect consumers of unskilled labor (which is most of us)
6.7.2009 4:03pm
DG:
24ahead - are you here for some reason other than promoting your anti-immigration website? I find it ironic that you would do such in a thread that explicitly celebrates immigration.
6.7.2009 4:03pm
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
Shorter DG: "I don't like hearing from the other side, but I have no ability to develop a counter-argument so I'll just lie."

As for Shelby's comment, there's more to economics than just money. For instance, the presence of millions of foreign citizens from one country inside the U.S. gives both that country and U.S.-based politicians and racial power groups a great deal of power. And, that has a cost: we are no longer sole masters of our domain. In some cases we're getting close to actually having a de facto power-sharing arrangement with the MX government.
6.7.2009 4:27pm
pluribus:
24AheadDotCom:

pluribus says: There is a strong strain of Know-Nothingism in today's Republican Party.
pluribus is funny.

You may find it funny. I find it sad. It says little for a party that, in the time of Lincoln, embraced immigrants and foreigners. Now the same party seeks to blame "those people" for the problems that beset us, seemingly oblivious to the fact that "we people" are responsible for our own problems. We condemn the "tired," the "poor," the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" honored on the Statue of Liberty--and think it's funny.
6.7.2009 4:38pm
MarkField (mail):

It says little for a party that, in the time of Lincoln, embraced immigrants and foreigners.


The history of the party is more complicated than that. Lincoln was, as you correctly note, generally pro-immigrant (there were times in his political background when he opposed, e.g., voting by Irish immigrants). However, a good many Republicans came to the party from the Know Nothings, and there was always a wing in the party which generally opposed immigrants. This wing was mostly in the Northeast, but not exclusively. After WWI, this wing was responsible for shutting off immigration in the Immigration Act of 1924.*

*I should note that this Act had widespread bipartisan support. I say it originated in the conservative wing of the Republican party because it fulfilled a long-standing goal of nativists who tended to be members of that party.
6.7.2009 4:52pm
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
The only thing pluribus got right is that we're responsible for our own problems. Too many people who oppose massive illegal activity are only capable of whining and doing ineffective things, and my attempts to change that have so far failed.

However, the rest is wrong:
1. The poem it mentions is just on a plaque that was tacked on to that statue years later. It's not, for instance, the Constitution.

2. It has no clue about the split within the GOP over this issue (hint: follow the money).

3. It falsely implies that the GOP (actually the base) is opposed/scapegoats others, when a) those others are indeed responsible for large costs to the non-elite, and b) very few Republicans have actual malice against individual foreigner or IllegalAliens.

4. It didn't realize that the "funny" part links to a page showing how clueless it is.
6.7.2009 5:00pm
Desiderius:
Danny,

"Try talking with rural Midwesterners"

Your classmates grew up too. Try talking to them now, without the chip on your shoulder.
6.7.2009 5:00pm
Brett Bellmore:

Wrong on several levels. First, most of them are not illiterate, they just don't speak and write English.


Larry, in an English speaking country, that counts as functional illiteracy. You aren't aware that not speaking a country's native language normally hurts your chances of legally immigrating there?
6.7.2009 5:15pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
"To speak without an accent you have to learn the new language before puberty. You might have come here young enough and flexible enough to develop true fluency. Everyone else I know can feel the difference between their native fluency and their second language fluency."

This is wrong. Linguistic research has consistently shown that children have no special faculty for foreign languages. An adult given the same amount of instruction and practice as a child will in fact develop foreign language skills as fast or even faster than children. Many people are even able to completely lose their accents with the help of speech therapists.
6.7.2009 5:18pm
Tammy Cravit (mail):
As far as the discussion of immigrants who can't speak the native language(s) of their chosen country goes...I happen to think Israel has a good solution to this problem. Immigrants to Israel need not learn Hebrew when they arrive in the country. However, those who do not already speak the language (at a minimum level of fluency) are required to attend an ulpan -- an intensive course in basic Hebrew literacy -- upon arrival.

The Wikipedia article linked to above notes that the ulpan system is facing challenges of its own, and it's certainly not a perfect system. I think, though, that expecting people to develop functional literacy in the language of another country without providing an organized vehicle to enable immigrants to develop that literacy is somewhat foolish.
6.7.2009 5:23pm
MarkField (mail):

Linguistic research has consistently shown that children have no special faculty for foreign languages. An adult given the same amount of instruction and practice as a child will in fact develop foreign language skills as fast or even faster than children.


Do you have a cite for this? I've read the exact opposite in a number of works.
6.7.2009 5:40pm
sbron:
Here's a deal. Amnesty in exchange for absolute prohibition of bilingual education and affirmative action. Any takers?
6.7.2009 5:54pm
ArthurKirkland:
Does "affirmative action" include the preferences associated with legacy admissions and low inheritance taxes?
6.7.2009 6:04pm
Cato The Elder (mail):
Legacy applicants average like 20 points below the average SAT of their admitted institutions. "Affirmative action" beneficiaries average hundreds of points below those that institutional average. Anyone who is innumerate can conflate the two, which is why your warped analogy appeals so much to liberals when discussing the nevertheless unpopular issue in front of the public.
6.7.2009 6:18pm
Brett Bellmore:

I think, though, that expecting people to develop functional literacy in the language of another country without providing an organized vehicle to enable immigrants to develop that literacy is somewhat foolish.


But I don't expect that. I expect people to already have functional literacy in our language before immigrating here. After all, why should we admit anybody AT ALL who doesn't speak English, when we're turning English literate college grads away?

I suppose it would be rational to make exceptions for exceptional people. But your average illegal immigrant isn't a concert pianist or nuclear physicist. They're an unskilled laborer. We've already got an excess of those, we don't need to drive their wages down, and their unemployment rate up.
6.7.2009 6:28pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
M:

Sometimes individual states make benefits available to immigrants, but they are authorized not to do so by federal law. Whether these laws are wise or not I'll leave to others, but those discussing immigration would do well to know of them.


I have personal experience with this, given my unique story. While I am a native-born American, my wife is Chinese-Indonesian. The INS was taking forever to process the I129F petition, so eventually I quit my job, moved in with her inlaws, and re-filed through the embassy (I was the financial guarantor as well). I arrived back in the US with a wife and a kid (citizen) and a non-citizen wife at the worst of the dot-com crash. We ended up accepting WIC coupons to supplement our food budget for about six months while I started my business (easy decision to start a business when you can't find a job). We did not apply for food stamps but might have qualified.

On the whole, perhaps due to my unique circumstances, I think that some benefits SHOULD be available to immigrants under circumstances where the benefits are likely to be short-term. In this case, past employment history, current economic climate, etc. should factor in to the decision. I do think it is worth holding the immigrant/guarantor to a higher standard, but in most cases where the guarantor has been accepted as sufficient this should be reasonable.

The end result of course is that I now pay a fair back in state taxes and I am somewhat thankful that I was given some assistance in starting my business during that economic downturn. Also, the one advice I have for out of work folks today is "if you can't find a job, start a business."
6.7.2009 6:33pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Brett Bellmore:

But I don't expect that. I expect people to already have functional literacy in our language before immigrating here. After all, why should we admit anybody AT ALL who doesn't speak English, when we're turning English literate college grads away?


Ummm.... There could be many reasons why someone might be allowed to immigrate over here who is not functionally literate in English. These fall inside various other programs as well, such as fiancee/spouse visas (I-129F),* Family reunification visas, etc.

* I-129F fiancee visas are technically non-immigrant visas, but for spouses they are immigrant visas. For fiancees they function as a single-entry non-immigrant visa for the purpose of being converted after marriage to an immigrant status.
6.7.2009 6:38pm
MarkField (mail):

But I don't expect that. I expect people to already have functional literacy in our language before immigrating here. After all, why should we admit anybody AT ALL who doesn't speak English, when we're turning English literate college grads away?


I guess I don't see what this has to do with immigration policy. We want immigrants who can be functioning, productive members of society. Whether they speak English or not seems at best a very indirect way to measure this.

My wife's grandparents spoke no word of English when they came here (East European Jews like Prof. Somin), but they were no less useful citizens for that. More importantly, their children grew up with English as their native tongue and served this nation with honor, including 5 of them in WWII. Why would we not want such immigrants?
6.7.2009 6:39pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Oh and it's interesting that no one seems to think that the illegal immigration problem is caused by the difficulty and expense of migrating legally. Are we be surprised that when the government controls and limits a resource, a black market develops? Isn't it incongruent to expect that further government controls would solve the problem?


Exactly why I was in favor of Bush's guest worker program proposals.
6.7.2009 6:43pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Except given the reality of our immigration system, the waiting line for most people is endless. This includes many people who would undoubtedly be assets. I had Mexican citizen immigrant soldiers with me in Vietnam who said a year in combat was easier than dealing with the INS.


I remember those days. I got frustrated and decided not to deal with the INS. Caused a few (minor, bookkeeping) problems* but I was glad I handled things the way I did.

Now, I wasn't the immigrant in this case but the I-129F sponsor. I ended up withdrawing my petition, moving oversees, and dealing with the embassy alone. Saved me a bunch of problems and meant that the only areas I had to deal with the BCIS (once I got back) were thins like adjustment of status petitions which were pretty straight-forward (not any more stressful than getting one's passport renewed really).

* The only problem we had was the fact that the BCIS did not properly handle the withdrawn petition. I ended up getting a nastygram from them later because I filed a change of address and they said I should have filed two (one for the withdrawn petition too-- I kid you not). An hour on the phone, and a written response cleared it up, but that was still minor in comparison to the endless delays I was facing before.
6.7.2009 6:54pm
pluribus:
Mark, I accept your correction. Yes, the Know Nothings were a part of the original Republican coalition, so that anti-immigrant feeling was in the party from the beginning. I'm aware of Lincoln's strong statements against nativism, which he believed contradicted the ideals stated in the Declaration of Independence, though he was willing to accept the support even of nativists (though not to embrace their goals) if they shared his more immediate objectives--preserving the Union and putting slavery on the road to extinction. I'm not aware that he ever opposed Irish voting, or if he did why. Not saying he didn't, just that I wasn't aware of it, and would be interested to know.
6.7.2009 6:55pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Jerome Cole:

This is wrong. Linguistic research has consistently shown that children have no special faculty for foreign languages. An adult given the same amount of instruction and practice as a child will in fact develop foreign language skills as fast or even faster than children. Many people are even able to completely lose their accents with the help of speech therapists.


Hmmm.... Depends on what exactly you mean. Children DO have special faculty with language in general, but this may be overestimated in some cases. For example, there is a LOT of linguistic research which shows that only languages acquired before a certain age condition certain forms of thinking. George Steiner's book "After Babel" contains some interesting insight into this (he is natively trilingual).

At the same time, it IS possible to develop high-level fluency in a foreign language and lose one's accent. However, having a good degree of functional literacy and even a native accent is not the same thing as having the same sense of the language that a native speaker has.
6.7.2009 7:00pm
MarkField (mail):

I'm not aware that he ever opposed Irish voting, or if he did why. Not saying he didn't, just that I wasn't aware of it, and would be interested to know.


Voting by the Irish was a big issue in IL in the 1840s. At that time, IL law allowed any white male to vote, no citizenship required. This became a cause celebre to IL Whigs, who believed they were losing elections because the railroads brought in Irish immigrants and moved them around for electoral reasons. This book contains a lengthy discussion of the issue.
6.7.2009 7:03pm
MarkField (mail):
Just to follow up on my earlier response to Jerome Cole, I went back and checked Pinker's The Language Instinct. He confirms what I said before, namely that age make a HUGE difference when it comes to learning a language.
6.7.2009 7:05pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
I'm glad y'all joined the family, Ilya.

A belated "Welcome Home!"
6.7.2009 7:05pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

This was certainly the case with my daughter before she came to our home (at age 10). She grew up with some family members who spoke only Spanish, some who spoke only English, some who were bilingual but spoke one or other more strongly, and some who spoke neither. When she came to live with us, she had communication problems in both languages that she's still struggling to overcome.


Something doesn't sound right there. My son (now age 5) did struggle from about age 2 through 4 due to long visits back to Indonesia. However, these disappeared somewhere around his fourth year. Sure the speech competence was delayed but he overcame it, even though he was moving back and forth between COUNTRIES where one language only would be spoken.

We are now talking about more radical moves between the US, South America, South-East Asia, and elsewhere. Personally I think the kids will do just fine (more worried about my wife, but she is usually eager and only sometimes worried).

My experience has been that kids do just fine in bilingual environments.
6.7.2009 7:08pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Also I would point out that most famous linguists came from native bilingual backgrounds.
6.7.2009 7:11pm
Careless:
Einhverfr:

I have personal experience with this, given my unique story. While I am a native-born American, my wife is Chinese-Indonesian. The INS was taking forever to process the I129F petition, so eventually I quit my job, moved in with her inlaws, and re-filed through the embassy (I was the financial guarantor as well). I arrived back in the US with a wife and a kid (citizen) and a non-citizen wife at the worst of the dot-com crash.

Oddly, Jakarta wound up being one of the fastest embassies on earth for processing K-1s by the middle of the decade. They approved our 129f in under a month. Sent in the initial paperwork in late September and she moved here before Christmas. Another Jakarta embassy story: of the dozen or so cases I know of people going to get tourist visas for the US, they have a 100% rate of failure to figure out if the person was going to overstay (all people granted now living here illegally, all people rejected were legitimate tourists)

(our daughter will be going to Indonesia for the first time after Thanksgiving. Lot of pressure on my wife to get her some level of Hokkien proficiency.)
6.7.2009 7:25pm
Careless:
oh, and that was with one RFE because I forgot to sign the check
6.7.2009 7:32pm
Brett Bellmore:

We want immigrants who can be functioning, productive members of society. Whether they speak English or not seems at best a very indirect way to measure this.


Seems to me that the capacity to communicate with most of your fellow Americans is a very direct measure indeed of whether you will be a functioning, productive member of society.

If you have two groups in a country who can't talk to one another, you don't have one society, you have two.


Why would we not want such immigrants?


Because we have enough potential immigrants who DO speak English to fill our needs, and then some. We can afford to be choosy.

The question, in the long run, is whether we can afford to NOT be choosy.

BTW, I'm quite familiar with the I-129F; It's how my English literate wife got here.
6.7.2009 7:37pm
MarkField (mail):

He confirms what I said before, namely that age make a HUGE difference when it comes to learning a language.


In fact, I hear that if you learn a language early enough, you can even master subject-verb agreement.
6.7.2009 7:37pm
MarkField (mail):

Seems to me that the capacity to communicate with most of your fellow Americans is a very direct measure indeed of whether you will be a functioning, productive member of society.


But present ability to communicate is a very changeable fact. Your test would exclude babies from being born.

Nor is current language ability a "direct" measure of productivity, as you state. The obvious presence of many people here who speak only Spanish, yet manage to work productively, demonstrates the flaw. It also would have excluded my wife's grandparents, yet they were, in fact, productive.


Because we have enough potential immigrants who DO speak English to fill our needs, and then some. We can afford to be choosy.


This doesn't seem plausible. Somehow we end up with literally millions of immigrants who speak little or no English (at least not initially), yet find jobs. If there were enough potential English speaking immigrants to fill those jobs, the best that can be said is that we do a piss poor job of letting them in.
6.7.2009 7:44pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Sarah Hoyt:

I have to because this one of those things that gets me on top of a soap box. My children, in school, are being taught multi-culti in the worst way. The worst way involves conflating culture with genetics and giving a "ten countries in twenty days" view of foreign cultures. (And they're being deprogrammed at home as soon as they're programmed at school, in case you wonder.)


Yeah. Multiculturalism isn't a bad idea, but the implementation here is pretty bad. Often it becomes an exercise in self-esteem building, as if the schools can provide what the parents can't in this area.

To make it worse, many of the cultures which do matter regarding our history but have been ignored (Anglo-Saxon England, for example)* are even more taboo.

* How many people here know who Aethelflaed was, and why this person was significant in British history? Heck how many people even know why Alfred was Great? I bet those who did learn these things didn't learn them in public school.


Both of these are poisonous, the first more so because it leads to racism and also to otherwise inexplicable public policy.

If I need to explain how this leads to racism -- my sons, both US born, with a US father, routinely get asked why they're not preserving their Portuguese culture and I routinely get taken to task for not teaching them "their language." (The second one I feel slightly guilty about, since I think every human being should speak as many languages as possible. OTOH I make my living from writing and speaking Portuguese regularly interferes with the structure of my English expression, so they learn their languages like other human beings: in classes. Since both view learning as fun, this is not an issue. They learn languages recreationally, as they learn math. The older one is on his third which curiously seems to be Russian.)


Personally I think all families get to pick their ways.


I object to this because culture is not genetic. My children's culture is that of the society they're growing up in. While we eat some Portuguese dishes, we also eat Chinese dishes and Greek dishes. In fact, since I'm a recreational cook, I tend to become enamoured with a national cusine and cook nothing-but for a few months, then integrate it into my "normal" rotation. We don't read many Portuguese books, though I've shared some poetry (Mostly to a chorus of "mom, you have to be translating that wrong.) And they're well... American. (They're far more influenced by the fact that I write science fiction and fantasy professionally and that we do several conferences a year than by my national origins.)


Hmmm.... I hate this argument because it tends to lead to a lot of confusion regarding what people mean by genetically related cultures (what you mean is that culture isn't biological, but that, strictly speaking, is a different question).

Genetics, as a general field outside of biology and nucleic acids, is applicable to the study of languages and cultures. In short we can look at inherited elements of cultures, where these come from, which ones are spontaneous, what sorts of drifts are indicated, etc. Particularly in historical linguistics, genetic dependency is a key question.

Cultures aren't biological. We aren't born with culture. However, cultures as a whole exhibit genetic tendencies of their own. Consequently, we have the question over whether kleos aphthiton (in the Iliad) is genetically related to sravas aksiti in the Rig Veda. Current evidence is that it is. Here we can posit that both formulae (meaning, roughly, "imperishable fame") derive from an ancestor formula in Proto-Indo-European (I will have to look up the reconstructed version in PIE).

However the Neogrammarian Hypothesis regarding sound shifts (that they are regular and exceptionless) has allowes us to elucidate the genetic relationships between languages, poetic elements, and so forth to a degree not otherwise possible. So while culture isn't biological, it is "genetic" in a more general use of the term (such as the term used in the study of linguistics and structural anthropology).

And that brings us to the next point -- tourism culture -- culture is NOT the food or the clothing or -- at least not in the US -- the religion. This is how cultures are taught in US schools, and it is wrong. These are trappings and the sort of thing a tourist might think is "neat." Teaching it this way is poisonous because kids get this "foreign cultures are just like us, except for neato traditions we don't have" view at the same time they get the MOST jaundiced, sin-oriented view of American history and culture possible. They have no idea that if they actually studied other cutlures in depth, their historical "sins" and their modern ones too would FAR outweigh those of the US. (No, I'm not going to apologize for that qualitative judgement. I voted with feet, remember?)


A lot of this comes from a misunderstanding of the tools of cultural anthropology. Typically one sees cultural elements as existing in categories (material culture, ethical culture, ethnic culture, and linguistic culture), and these are all tightly interconnected. Religion is an element of ethical culture (because this is the domain of ideas and ideology), while marriage requirements are in the ethnic domain, and language is part of the linguistic domain. Most teachers are clueless on these topics and few have actually lived outside the US enough to understand how limited it is to focus on religion (one aspect of ethical culture) and material culture.

Short end of it is that, provided proper tools, you would be better qualified to teach kids about foreign cultures than the teachers at school.

Further, it is often said that humans are cultural animals. Culture is fundamentally about how humans interact with eachother. If one misses that, one misses everything else.

I would add one point about the poisonous effects of tourist cultural studies. Typically, there are segments of Western culture which sees cultural ideals as human rights. Consequently, we see things like human rights talks going nowhere because of folks saying that it is a human right to seek sexual satisfaction (don't laugh-- you might remember a news story from 1993 or so about this). This problem occurs because, as you say, people are taught that other cultures are just like us, except for cute nicknacks and religious ideas. A lot of the drive of some on the left towards internationalism is based on this mistake.


However, the words are used interchangeably in our schools and our media, leading to a subliminal belief that they are one and the same. This belief accounts for this bizarre idea that immigrants must keep their ancestors' language forever, the even stranger idea that speaking Spanish (Portuguese is not much different, guys) makes you a separate race and the truly mind-boggling idea that critizing a culture makes you racist.


In the ancient world what we might think of as racism was really just xenophobia (fear of other cultures). When I was in college, I wrote some papers that were extremely controversial in my classes which argued that this hasn't changed and that racism today is nothing more than xenophobia with some weird veneers of pseeudoscience attached.

BTW, I do believe it can be reasonable to criticize other cultures, but I think that this done be done in a way which recognizes the right of the other culture to find their own way and make their own mistakes. One real frustration I have with the internationalist community is that there is a feeling that we should make a human rights platform more robust because we can save other cultures from themselves.



In the interest of full disclosure, my family still eats codfish on Christmas Eve and my kids both can swear in Portuguese (since they spend time around me in the kitchen where objects and appliances like knives and stoves have it in for me.) Somehow I don't think either of those are hardwired or even that I had a moral obligation to perpetuate them.


See, the moral duty issue is where I draw the line. More recent studies of exogamy in traditional cultures shows that when women move from one tribe to another in traditional cultures, they tend to be hyper-correct about imitating the new culture. This is one reason why intermarriage is no longer seen as a means of technological transfer between cultures regarding things like pottery making in the archaeological record.

The traditional thing to do is to bring up the kids in the new (American) culture. Sure there will always be some elements of your old culture in you (due to native language if nothing else), but there is no moral duty to pass that on.
6.7.2009 7:52pm
ArthurKirkland:
Cato defends legacy admittees (and mocks those who disagree with him) by claiming that they have test scores a scant 20 points below those of average admittees.

The first report of a study I found indicates that the advantage associated with being a legacy (getting a head start by being associated with someone who had a head start in the days of racism) approximates 160 SAT points.

Even an "innumerate" can see the logical flaw underlying an argument that the 20-point difference, even if accurate, is telling. Some legacy admittees have higher-than-average scores, some lower-than-average. The real injustice of legal admittees is concentrated in the lower range, where someone customarily wouldn't have had a chance of admission save for inheritance of privilege. It isn't the 20-below average (striking for conflict with the customary expectation that children of well-educated parents would tend to have better scores) that's the problem; it's the 200-below applicant who robs a deserving candidate of admission.

Feel free to take another crack at defending legacy admissions, low inheritance taxes and other anti-merit factors, Cato. So far, however, your arguments are not persuasive, and until you establish why you focus on affirmative action yet disregard other anti-merit factors it will be difficult to infer an attractive motivation for your position.
6.7.2009 8:23pm
Brett Bellmore:

But present ability to communicate is a very changeable fact.


Yes, I hear there are "English as a second language" classes available outside the US. I recommend adults planing to immigrate here legally take advantage of them.

Your test would exclude babies from being born.


Didn't know we expected newborn babies to be productive members of society.
6.7.2009 8:24pm
MarkField (mail):

Didn't know we expected newborn babies to be productive members of society.


We don't. That's the point. You are demanding from immigrants something we don't demand from children.
6.7.2009 8:51pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Brett Bellmore:

How much literacy do you expect to require for the beneficiary of an I-129F petition? Would it make a difference to you if the couple was already married rather than merely engaged (when I brought my wife to the US, the same form was used both to petition for a spouse and for a fiancee though it was, strictly speaking, an immigrant visa only when used to petition to bring a spouse over)?

What about a family who seeks to bring aging grandparents over in order to support them?

There are MANY legal options for immigration which don't seem to admit of a literacy requirement.
6.7.2009 8:55pm
Careless:


We don't. That's the point. You are demanding from immigrants something we don't demand from children.

I give up. What was your point?
6.7.2009 9:32pm
ShelbyC:
I don't understand the legacy admittee issue anyway. When folks criticize GW standing on the steps of the UofA, nobody, says, "hey, why are white supremacist admittance policies different than legacy admissions"
6.7.2009 9:43pm
Ken Arromdee:
Actually it speaks nothing in our favor. There are Mexican workers who need jobs. There are U.S. employers who need workers. If there was only a legal way to get the two together, then illegal "immigration" would dry up.

Actually, what should happen in a completely libertarian society (on both sides) is that US companies would start buying property in Mexico (which they would be allowed to actually own, not have for 100 years through a Mexican bank) and employing workers there. Running such a factory in Mexico would be as good as running it in the US, because there would be no unusual degree of government corruption interfering with getting it running, and the products of those factories would then be imported to the US without any customs or other government-imposed cost. Furthermore, Americans, who make money in the United States where salaries and costs are higher, could earn money in the US and live in Mexico, because (contrary to real life), Mexico wouldn't have any problem with people immigrating toMexico. This would continue to take place until the influx of Americans and American companies equalizes both the salaries and cost of living between Mexico and the US, at which point there would be no immigration problem.

Allowing unlimited immigration from a country with a nonlibertarian government just lets that government export the effects of its policies elsewhere.
6.7.2009 9:50pm
NotALawyer:
JustCurious wrote

Just curious, if you don't consider yourself a Minnesotan, can you really expect others to? Down here in Texas (where we have one of the strongest state identities) there are a lot of Texans who weren't born here, but they got here quick as they could.


I believe that non-native Minnesotans not considering themselves Minnesotan is pretty universal, at least in my experience. It isn't just me.

As for Texas, I think Texas, like California or America, is also a state of mind. If you consider yourself a Texan, you're a Texan. I like Texas. I like Texans. Might move there someday.
6.7.2009 9:51pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Ken Arromdee:

Actually, what should happen in a completely libertarian society (on both sides) is that US companies would start buying property in Mexico (which they would be allowed to actually own, not have for 100 years through a Mexican bank) and employing workers there.


Pretty much my strategy, regarding my business.

However, it doesn't address the need for FARM labor, which is kinda tied to the land. I can do it with my business because we make software.
6.7.2009 10:12pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Brett Bellmore wrote:

BTW, I'm quite familiar with the I-129F; It's how my English literate wife got here.


My wife is English-literate too. However would you REALLY want to have her go through embassy-related literacy tests (presumably of the sort used in lieu of poll taxes to limit black folk's ability to vote in the South)?

Personally whether my wife can function in the US is a factor regarding whether we should live in the US, but it should be between us, and not the government.
6.7.2009 10:15pm
Anon E. Mouse (mail):
Bored Lawyer: If Obama keeps getting his way, I will be praying for the sweet release of death. Which I'm sure ObamaCare will be happy to deliver through their denial of treatment.

I think America should BE the tax haven of the world and fling the doors open to the cream of the crop--the educated, creative, intelligent, productive top echelon of talent of the world. Let's steal the best and the brightest from around the world.

Coming to America...it's not just for grape pickers any more.
6.7.2009 11:38pm
Ken Arromdee:
Pretty much my strategy, regarding my business.

However, it doesn't address the need for FARM labor, which is kinda tied to the land. I can do it with my business because we make software.


There's no reason Americans wouldn't be running farms in Mexico if everything was perfectly libertarian. Furthermore, the wage in America and Mexico should equalize and it would not be any cheaper to pay Mexican unskilled workers than American ones.

As for your business, outsourcing software has its own problems from a libertarian point of view. For instance, programmers in other countries are often paid less because the general cost of living there is much lower. If everything was perfectly libertarian, Americans would be able to take advantage of that cost of living discrepancy in other ways until their doing so reduced it down to the level of the difference between, say, Iowa and New York. Another example may be foreign government subsidy of education that produces programmers--if that exists, the government is basically dumping programmers like it might dump cheap products.
6.8.2009 1:38am
The River Temoc (mail):
if we'd disallowed all Russian imm.? What would have been the cost of that?

No Googleplex in Mountain View, for starters.
6.8.2009 2:43am
The River Temoc (mail):
If I had the unenviable choice, I'd sooner live under Gorbachev than Putin. I'd accept marginally greater statism for a significantly smaller chance of being disappeared by the Kremlin or running afoul of organized crime.

People are not disappearing in Putin's Russia in the way they did during the Stalin period or during Brezhnev and his successors. Khodorkovsky's case is exceptional, for the most part (which does not justify it, of course). The bigger problem is the state takeover of the media (for which alternatives ARE available online, much more so than during the samizdat era) and the harassment and targeted killing of independent journalists.
6.8.2009 2:52am
The River Temoc (mail):
The major exception is Canada, which is slightly superior to the US in being friendly to immigrants.

I think it is important to remember that there ARE other countries that are reasonably welcoming to immigrants -- Canada, as the above poster mentioned, as well as Australia and Singapore, for example. The UK is welcoming to highly skilled immigrants -- more so in the U.S. in terms of actually securing permission to come there -- as are places like Dubai.

We should not assume that we have a monopoly on attracting foreign talent. I was reading the other day that U.S. business schools are starting to lose professors to European ones, which have a greater footprint in Asia. I also attended an Arab-American friend's wedding in the Middle East a few weeks ago; I was impressed by how many countries my friend's relatives flew in from.
6.8.2009 3:00am
The River Temoc (mail):
I've lived in Minnesota for 12 years, but I'm not, and never will be, considered a Minnesotan, either by myself or others.

This is nonsense, at least out West. Most Californians are not from California, to take but the biggest example, but they all fit in perfectly well.
6.8.2009 3:03am
Ricardo (mail):
I think it is important to remember that there ARE other countries that are reasonably welcoming to immigrants -- Canada, as the above poster mentioned, as well as Australia and Singapore, for example.

Yes, a friend of mine had a visa application for the U.S. turned down the first time she applied -- the multinational she worked for wanted to send her to the U.S. to work on a project for a few months. So instead they sent her to Singapore where she stayed for two years. During that time, she was receiving advertisements sponsored by the Singapore immigration authority encouraging her to apply for citizenship.

If you come to the U.S. on an H1B, by contrast, you have to engage in a farcical interview with a consular official where you have to convince him that you have so many ties in your native country that you would never want to permanently live in the U.S. That's something a lot of people don't realize: U.S. policy officially discourages highly skilled people who actually want to live in the U.S. from coming here. Those highly skilled immigrants who have remained in the U.S. did so either because they either fabricated a story of those permanent ties they have to the native country or they lucked out in the interview and nobody raised the issue.
6.8.2009 3:28am
Brett Bellmore:

That's the point. You are demanding from immigrants something we don't demand from children.


Yes, I make demands of adult immigrants I wouldn't make of children. You think there's something wrong about that?

I don't think, as it happens, that we should be obsessive about requiring all immigrants to be English literate. It should, however, be a default requirement, with exceptions made on a case by case basis.

The point, though, lest it be lost, is that illegal immigrants are NOT, typically, people who'd have been able to enter legally if they'd understood the rules, and had the money for the fees. They're generally people who entered illegally because they wouldn't qualify to enter legally.

And, yeah, we make it way too hard for the well educated to immigrate here. I think it's a kind of compensation behavior on our government's part. They're trying to make it up in the public's eye for all the illegal immigration they deliberately permit, with some visible harsh enforcement somewhere else.
6.8.2009 7:48am
bandit (mail):
My 2 cents - I work with mostly immigrants and have a lot of interaction with Europeans and Asians on a daily basis. Whenever I here any of them criticize the USA as being racist, and they do, I have to laugh at both their ignorance and hypocrisy. Nothing quite matches the ingratitude of someone on a H1B visa complaining about how much the US sucks. One time I was on a conference call with our 'colleagues' in Ireland and they were going thru CV's and rejecting Africans as stupid, Russians as smelly and saying they had 'enough Hindus'. I was amazed first that they thought this way and secondly that they had no compunction about revealing it. Give them points for honesty though.
6.8.2009 10:16am
MarkField (mail):

Yes, I make demands of adult immigrants I wouldn't make of children. You think there's something wrong about that?


No, I think there's something wrong with your logic. By your logic, we shouldn't allow people into the country if they don't speak English because then they won't be productive members of society. Putting aside the flawed conclusion in that which mentioned above, and putting aside the implicity assumption that people are unable to learn English once they get here, and putting aside the fact that even such people, if they did fail to meet your criteria, might have children who turn out to be very productive indeed, we get to this:

We allow people into our country in 2 ways: immigration and birth. You'd have to concede that children are born unable to speak English (though, like immigrants, they can and will learn to do so) and that children are for some time unproductive. Nevertheless, we allow them in. At the same time, you want to exclude immigrants who might very well be productive with little or no English, or who can learn English very quickly. This logic strikes me as contradictory.


And, yeah, we make it way too hard for the well educated to immigrate here.


Agreed.
6.8.2009 10:45am
Brett Bellmore:
The logic is that non-citizens <i>don't have a right to be in the US</i>, citizens do. So we can <i>pick and choose</i> among the former. The US government, at least theoretically, is supposed to be operating for the benefit of US citizens. Given a finite capacity to admit new residents, and an excess of people wanting to move here, it makes sense to be chosy, and pick those people who will provide the maximum benefit for the people <i>already here</i>.

All else being equal, a capacity to speak our language makes a potential immigrant a more likely to benefit society.
6.8.2009 11:25am
Danny (mail):

My 2 cents - I work with mostly immigrants and have a lot of interaction with Europeans and Asians on a daily basis. Whenever I here any of them criticize the USA as being racist, and they do, I have to laugh at both their ignorance and hypocrisy.


I often have similar conversations with Europeans, even "left-wing, progressive" ones. Europeans definately preferred Obama over McCain, but I still got many questions like this leading up to the election:
European: So how can there be a black man running for president? Americans are really racist, they won't let him win, I'm sure of it.
Me: Actually he's currently the leading candidate.
European: (stunned) Wow, interesting. (Now almost imploring) But seriously, they won't actually elect a black guy will they?

Most were happy, but you could see that some were deeply embarrassed by the election of Obama. It was delicious after years of being crucified at dinner parties because of my nationality
6.8.2009 11:47am
MarkField (mail):

The logic is that non-citizens don't have a right to be in the US, citizens do. So we can pick and choose among the former.


Children aren't citizens until they're actually born. Thus, we should be able to pick and choose there too.


All else being equal, a capacity to speak our language makes a potential immigrant a more likely to benefit society.


To a first order approximation, everybody has the "capacity" to speak our language. I assume you mean "present ability".

I agree that the person is more likely to benefit society if s/he can speak the language. But the large number of examples of those who came here unable to do so and yet were productive makes me unwilling to give much weight to this factor.

There are some practical problems with using language as a factor in any case. Fluency is a spectrum. Do we take the non-English-speaking mathematician or the fluent gardener? I have no idea what trade-offs might be appropriate. About all I'd say is that I'd agree that if we had two candidates for entry who were otherwise identical except one was more fluent in English, we should take the one who's more fluent.
6.8.2009 12:21pm
FWB (mail):
That we have more freedoms than Russia is great. That Ilya sees this is fantastic. But those of us who grew up during the 50s and 60s know how much freedom we have lost in the US.

Immigrants most often come from places with fewer freedoms. They are often thrilled or overwhelmed with the extent of freedoms here even when those freedoms have been eroded greatly with respect to what was.

IMO, this is one of the reasons the feds wish to grant amnesty to the illegals. All these folks see are the gains in freedom. They never knew what was and what has been lost.

Tiochfaidh ar la!
6.8.2009 2:01pm
ShelbyC:

Canada, as the above poster mentioned, as well as Australia and Singapore, for example. The UK is welcoming to highly skilled immigrants -- more so in the U.S. in terms of actually securing permission to come there -- as are places like Dubai.



In Ireland a couple of years ago, I saw a BBC documentary on Muslims in England and other Anglo countries, and it found that folks weren't treated terribly well in any of the AS countries except, suprisingly, the US>
6.8.2009 2:27pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Brett Bellmore wrote:

The point, though, lest it be lost, is that illegal immigrants are NOT, typically, people who'd have been able to enter legally if they'd understood the rules, and had the money for the fees. They're generally people who entered illegally because they wouldn't qualify to enter legally.


Agreed, but part of the problem is that we have a large market for unskilled labor and a lot of native folk on the dole who would not want to get a job in it.

This is one reason why I support a guest worker program. It prevents illegal immigration by giving such workers an ability to take jobs here without immigrating. Given your comments, I am sure you support such a program. Correct?
6.8.2009 2:34pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Also a nitpick but:

All else being equal, a capacity to speak our language makes a potential immigrant a more likely to benefit society.


Are you asking for fluency or literacy? I am confused..... I can read some languages far better than I can speak and I can speak some languages far better than I can read.....
6.8.2009 2:35pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
One more important point:

The logic is that non-citizens don't have a right to be in the US, citizens do. So we can pick and choose among the former. The US government, at least theoretically, is supposed to be operating for the benefit of US citizens. Given a finite capacity to admit new residents, and an excess of people wanting to move here, it makes sense to be chosy, and pick those people who will provide the maximum benefit for the people already here.


One issue here is that maximal benefit might include family reunification regardless of capacity to contribute (as long as they are otherwise supported). My wife and I have talked about having my mother-in-law come to live with us. We would support her. It would be an immigrant visa but her English would be quite limited. I don't understand why some folks have a problem with allowing an elderly woman to come and live with us at our expense.
6.8.2009 2:38pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

It says little for a party that, in the time of Lincoln, embraced immigrants and foreigners. Now the same party seeks to blame "those people" for the problems that beset us, seemingly oblivious to the fact that "we people" are responsible for our own problems.
I must have missed this. I'm quite active in Republican Party politics, and the only complaint that I hear is about illegal immigration. Reaction to legal immigrants ranges from neutrality to enthusiasm.

The problem associated with illegal immigration is largely that some employers are socializing the costs, while individualizing the benefits, of having unskilled, poorly paid employees. At the same time, unskilled U.S. citizens and legal residents are injured economically by the damage to wage rates that having this supply of cheap, easily scared labor available.

Note: it is not that illegal immigrants are coming here to do bad things to us (although there are some criminals mixed in, as is usually happens with any immigrant population), but that some employers choose to take advantage of lax enforcement and the welfare state's ability to spread the costs onto the rest of us.
6.8.2009 7:28pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I don't understand why some folks have a problem with allowing an elderly woman to come and live with us at our expense.
Sometimes, these situations don't work out--and the concern is if she becomes a burden on the welfare state.
6.8.2009 7:33pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Allowing unlimited immigration from a country with a nonlibertarian government just lets that government export the effects of its policies elsewhere.
Allowing unlimited immigration to a country with a nonlibertarian government also creates serious problems.
6.8.2009 7:35pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Clayton:

Sometimes, these situations don't work out--and the concern is if she becomes a burden on the welfare state.


Sure, there is a tiny risk of that sort of thing happening, but it is small. If we can show that this is not likely, why should it be a major worry for others? It isn't likely that she is going to take a job from someone or anything.
6.8.2009 7:54pm
Danny (mail):

I don't understand why some folks have a problem with allowing an elderly woman to come and live with us at our expense.

Sometimes, these situations don't work out--and the concern is if she becomes a burden on the welfare state.


In Europe if you are a permanent resident you are AUTOMATICALLY allowed to bring your elderly parents IF they are dependent on you. Those are real family values, not the Rethug imitation.
6.8.2009 11:04pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
After all, why should we admit anybody AT ALL who doesn't speak English, when we're turning English literate college grads away?
Because the Mexican carpenter can communicate with the Spanish-speaking construction superintendant who can't find enough carpenters, and the overflow of English-speaking college grads are taking jobs at McDonalds?
Actually, what should happen in a completely libertarian society (on both sides) is that US companies would start buying property in Mexico (which they would be allowed to actually own, not have for 100 years through a Mexican bank) and employing workers there. Running such a factory in Mexico would be as good as running it in the US,
I'll be really interested in learning how a company based in Mexico can provide labor to pick fruit in Florida, do landscaping in California, cut Christmas trees in Oregon, teach people to ski in Colorado, and nanny children in New York.
There's no reason Americans wouldn't be running farms in Mexico if everything was perfectly libertarian.
Political philosophy won't help you grow Christmas trees in the desert.
6.9.2009 12:58am
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Political philosophy won't help you grow Christmas trees in the desert.


For that matter, it isn't as if apples grow very well in tropical and subtropical climates either.....
6.9.2009 12:16pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

There's no reason Americans wouldn't be running farms in Mexico if everything was perfectly libertarian.
Flying pig syndrome. "Perfectly libertarian" is found in the same place where my high school physics teacher obtained his dimensionless points, frictionless surfaces, and infinitely long lines.
6.9.2009 1:53pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Sure, there is a tiny risk of that sort of thing happening, but it is small. If we can show that this is not likely, why should it be a major worry for others?
My guess is that the law is concerned with this because it was happening often enough to become a concern. I would be curious to know when the law provided this requirement.
6.9.2009 1:57pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Clayton:


My guess is that the law is concerned with this because it was happening often enough to become a concern. I would be curious to know when the law provided this requirement.


Umm.... The law just requires showing support if it is direct relatives (parents, etc). I was using current currency against another poster's proposals of literacy.
6.9.2009 5:31pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(hence my surprise was as to PEOPLE's objection rather than legal obstacles)
6.9.2009 7:11pm
Danny (mail):
People have no right to object as it is a private family issue. There is no law saying that every person living in the USA has to speak English, last time I checked. The USA doesn't have an official language.

Even if they needed Medicare and spoke no English, who cares? It's worth the expense. What priority is more important than people providing for their parents when they are old? Typical American Rethugs will rail about "family values" and try to stop other people from marrying, while they dump their parents who made every sacrifice for them in some nursing home
6.9.2009 8:51pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Typical American Rethugs will rail about "family values" and try to stop other people from marrying,
Are those like typical homosexuals, hanging around schoolyards looking for little boys to molest?

When someone starts using "Typical" to describe a group as diverse as the Republican Party, I smell a bigot.
6.10.2009 12:17am
Danny (mail):

Are those like typical homosexuals, hanging around schoolyards looking for little boys to molest?



Yeah same to you buddy
6.10.2009 12:52pm

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