Immigrants and Immigration - Roy Beck's The Case Against Immigration

Immigrants and Immigration - Roy Beck's The Case Against Immigration

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Roy Beck's The Case Against Immigration


     One of the more remarkable aspects of the continuing debate over

American immigration policy is that the nation's liberal elites seem,

ever so gradually, to be finally catching up with the people. For years

opinion polls have shown that a large majority of the American people,

of all political persuasions and all ethnic backgrounds, want less

immigration. Yet year after year immigrants continue to flood across

our borders as "opinion molders," elected officials, business

executives, and professional eggheads insist that mass immigration is

really beneficial and its dangers are much exaggerated by "nativists"

and "racists."


     Only in the last couple of years have a few books been published

that dissent from that view, and the appearance of these books,

published by major New York houses, suggests that the elites are

finally beginning to grasp what uncontrolled immigration means for the

people and the country they rule. What began as a popular protest

against elite policies and preferences has now started influencing the

elites themselves, even if the elites still like to imagine that they

thought of it first.


     Roy Beck's *The Case Against Immigration* is the most recent

example of a book published by a major publisher that challenges the

conventional wisdom about immigration (Peter Brimelow's *Alien Nation,*

published last year, was the first), and although Beck has been

actively engaged in the movement to restrict immigration for some

years, he has done so as a card-carrying liberal. A former newspaperman

in Washington, DC who has been deeply involved in the social activism

of the Methodist Church, Beck has seen firsthand what immigration means

for ordinary Americans, not only underclass blacks but also middle and

working class whites. His book is an exhaustive documentation of the

evil consequences that immigration is causing for these groups as well

as for the nation as a whole.


     Beck's liberalism, however, is by no means of the polemical or

partisan variety, and the impression that his book gives is that he is

a man deeply and genuinely concerned about the injustices endured by

the real victims of immigration. He avoids most of the cultural

arguments against immigration that conservatives tend to use, his main

concern focusing instead on the economic effects of immigration on

workers and on the social consequences for those Americans whose jobs

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and communities have been savaged by increased populations they are

unable to handle and ethnic and cultural conflicts they neither wanted

nor anticipated. Because he deals in detail with the impact of

immigrant invasions on several local communities in the Midwest and

South, he winds up building a more credible and concrete case against

immigration than many conservatives who have written on the cultural

aspects of the issue. As a result, his book is not only persuasive in

its artful combination of facts, statistics, and analysis, but also is

emotionally wrenching, as the reader is introduced again and again to

communities that have been destroyed or stand on the brink of

destruction because immigration has served the private interests of the



     Beck's thesis is that "The federal government's current

immigration program primarily benefits a small minority of wealthy and

powerful Americans at the expense of significant segments of the middle

class and the poor. Attempts to protect the current level of

immigration by wrapping it in the language of tradition or

humanitarianism generally distort both history and the practical

realities of our own era while diverting attention from immigration's

role as a tool against the interests of the broad public." Put somewhat

differently, Beck has discovered that elites make use of liberalism to

justify policies that accrue to no one's interest but their own.


     He makes clear that current immigration policies are the result of

laws and policies deliberately adopted by the federal government over

the last 30 years. Since 1970, some 30 million people, "the numerical

equivalent of having relocated within our borders the entire present

population of all Central American countries," have been added to the

U.S. population because of immigration, and this influx has largely

been the result of a single legislative measure, the Immigration Act of

1965. During the congressional debates on that legislation, which was

seen at the time as part of the civil rights revolution, its liberal

sponsors argued repeatedly that it would not result in large increases

in immigration and that the immigrants who arrived because of it would

not alter the traditional ethnic composition of the American population

from its historic European base to a Third World base. This was

explicitly stated by Edward and Robert Kennedy, its chief sponsors in

the Senate, as well as by Representative Emmanuel Celler in the House,

President Lyndon Johnson, and various Cabinet officials. Within a

decade, however, they were proved to have been wrong, as conservative

critics of the act predicted, and the consequences are with us to this



     The 30 million immigrants who have arrived in the last quarter

century are overwhelmingly from non-European Third World societies, and

as a whole they bring with them many of the ideas, habits, and manners

that make their native countries Third World in character: the lack of

a work ethic, an inclination toward authoritarian and often violent

political behavior, and an unfamiliarity and uneasiness with the

religious, educational, hygienic, scientific, and moral conventions of

the West that most Americans take for granted.


     The U.S. Census Bureau has published at least two reports showing

that by the middle of the next century -- less than 60 years from now

-- the United States will cease to be a nation with a majority of its

population descended from Europeans and will acquire a non-European

majority. The conclusion is simple: Because of uncontrolled

immigration, the United States is in grave danger of becoming a Third

World country within the next half century.


     Of course, if immigration were halted now, there might be time for

non-European immigrants to assimilate, both by acquiring Western habits

of work and social relationships and by moving upward in the economic

scales. But because immigration is continuous -- because its apologists

refuse to consider any reduction in the number of immigrants

-- the constant flow virtually insures that unassimilated immigrants

will keep coming faster than those already here will begin adapting to

our culture and that America will assimilate to them rather than the

other way around. That, after all, is why police departments, schools,

and businessmen now find it necessary to train their personnel in

Spanish, Chinese and various other languages, and a polyglot babble of

other tongues virtually unknown in this country outside anthropology

and linguistics departments.


     While Peter Brimelow in *Alien Nation* concludes that even

advocates of immigration do not argue that immigration is necessary for

continued American economic growth, Beck goes him one better, arguing

that immigration has been demonstrably harmful to the middle and

working class. It has been harmful because by making available to

employers an inexhaustible supply of cheap labor, immigration has

destroyed the bargaining power of workers. Middle class wage levels and

living standards have certainly declined since mass immigration began

in the 1970s, but, not content with pointing to this curious

coincidence, Beck also argues that the decline has been in part the

result of immigration. Thus, he cites a study of various large American

cities by a team of economists that compared wage levels before and

after large waves of immigration. According to Beck, the study "found

that the average wage increase (not factored for inflation) was 26

percent lower in high-immigration cities than in the average U.S. city

-- and lagged a whopping 48 percent behind wage increases in

low-immigration cities." In California, state government studies have

shown that "during the 1980s, under the heaviest immigrant influx of

the state's history, California blacks lost much of their economic

advantage." In Los Angeles, wage increases lagged 31 percent behind

Birmingham, Alabama and 47 percent behind Pittsburgh, both of which

were low-immigration cities.


     Mr. Beck also points out that it was during the era of restricted

immigration, between passage of the 1924 Immigration Act and its

effective repeal in 1965, that black Americans made the most economic

progress. Cut off from bottomless supplies of cheap foreign labor,

employers were able to hire blacks, who moved from the South to the

North by the millions in those decades and were able to find rewarding

work in a restricted labor market. It was only when alien labor again

became easily available after passage of the 1965 act that black

Americans again started sliding toward their present underclass status.

And, of course, for every American displaced from his job by

immigrants, other Americans must pay through higher taxes for

unemployment compensation and other benefits, as well as for the costs

of controlling the crime and dislocations that result from an

immigration policy that has helped impoverish both middle class whites

and blacks and destroyed their social institutions.


     Beck's most compelling chapters are those that recount the effects

of mass immigration on small towns and cities in the Midwest and the

South, where industries like meatpacking and poultry processing have

abandoned the American workers who traditionally filled those jobs and

have deliberately imported cheap and often inadequately trained foreign

workers to replace them. The result has been unemployment for American

workers, the disruption of their communities at every level, an

increase in crime and ethnic tensions, the erosion of local education,

uncertainty about the future, distrust of neighbors, and conflict

between classes and races. Nor do the big corporations who import the

foreign workers care much about them either. Workplace injuries have

increased as foreign workers who lack the training to cut meat have

taken over. The companies don't need to be too concerned about the

safety of their new peons since there are always more to replace them.


     It is important to Beck that readers understand he is not talking

mainly about illegal immigration, a phenomenon that today almost every

politician assures us he is against. The workers who mainly take jobs

from Middle Americans and urban blacks, and increasingly from

managerial and technically skilled workers in high-tech industries, are

largely legal immigrants, as are the vast bulk of the 30 million who

have arrived over the last generation. The current political chatter

about "controlling the borders" and stopping illegal immigration is

merely a sop to make voters worried about the immigration crisis think

that their leaders are really doing something about it. But the truth

is that despite public opinion and despite overwhelming evidence as to

its real consequences, this year's immigration bill did nothing to

reduce or halt legal immigration.


     It is precisely the refusal of the political, business, and

cultural elites in the United States to take any measures to control or

stop immigration that is so frightening. The evidence for the real

meaning of immigration -- the lowering of wages, the displacement of

workers, the increase of crime, the heightening of ethnic and racial

conflict, the disintegration of the bonds of nation and culture, and

the sheer burden of numbers on natural resources and an eroding

infrastructure -- is now overwhelming, and still the political

leadership of both parties regurgitates the cliches about "a nation of

immigrants" and our "global responsibility."




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