I was thinking this weekend about the immigration issue, regularized1 borders, and differences in modern immigration vs. historic immigration. It occurred to me that much of the open immigration supporters seem to assume that the level of immigration would remain constant even if entry were easier. I don’t think that’s likely.
If getting a green card required only showing up at a border station and filling in some forms, then I don’t see why we should not expect something like the
Muriel Mariel Boat Lift on a continuous basis. I doubt we’d get the level of criminality that characterized that incident, but one wonders why a significant fraction of the population of, say, Haiti, wouldn’t leave as fast as they could load up on boats. Could the nation handle yearly inflows on the order of 10% of the population? There are habits and social conventions that keep our nation the successful place that it is. Even if all these immigrants were willing to adopt, could they in that kind of flood?
As I have mentioned in the past, and I only feel more so as time passes, the USA seems to have a unique culture that, for some reason, just does not seem to take anywhere else in the world2. There must be some reason for that, and it’s not clear to me that whatever that is would survive the level of dilution that unrestricted immigration would create. I don’t think it’s completely narcissistic to think that the world is better off with the USA to which only a few can immigrate than a world without a USA.
Of course, the unrestricted immigration proponents will bring up the point that the USA had unrestricted immigration in the past without these dire effects. That’s true but irrelevant. I think there are several differences that are large enough to be qualitative.
This is not to say that the USA cannot and should not support much higher levels of legal immigration than it does now. It is to say that I don’t think the USA could handle unrestricted immigration without losing that vital spark that makes this nation what it is. Historically, the previous high water mark for immigration was in the 1900-1910 decade with a rate of 1.6%. I would be fine with something close to that, say 1.5% per year, or roughly 4.5 million. I think even that would be a severe strain, but on the other hand it might strain the socialist tendencies enough to help work for their rollback.
1 By “regularized” I mean the Orrin Judd style borders, strongly enforced but with a “must admit” stance. I.e., everyone is checked coming in (no sneaking) but the burden is on the border patrol to show why an immigrant should not be admitted. Without a specific reason, the immigrant gets a green card automatically.
2 With the arguable exception of Australia.