Immigrant Nation Forever?

By Sy Schechtman

It is always hard to have your cake and eat it. In the next ten years the Bureau of Labor statistics estimates that our economy will create more than 56 million new jobs, half of which will require no more than a high school education. Meanwhile in today’s labor market we find that most native born high school graduates go on to college. Only about 10 percent do not. There is now far more of a shortfall in the availability of handymen, waiters, construction workers, carpenters, telephone line men, truck drivers, etc. than our economy can afford, even threatening the long term growth potential of home building, restaurant management, and other labor intensive business. Since most of us still believe in the fast track model of steady economic growth as the magic elixir to maintain and foster our economic well being it is of some concern that now only 10 percent of men drop out of high school to look for unskilled jobs, not the almost 50 percent who did so in 1960.

Most of the work that these non skilled workers do are heavy labor jobs requiring much brawn as well as motivation. Work that is usually disdained by whites and many of the minority blacks. Many illegal aliens of Hispanic origin are in this group. About 1,000,000 immigrants are admitted annually and over the years a total of over 12 million illegals have resulted. Some estimate the total as high as 16 million illegals. However, a strong case can be made for the Illegal Hispanic worker paying his fair tax share of federal and state services he (or she) receives. According to reliable estimates, two thirds of them have income tax withheld from their paychecks, and the Social Security Administration collects some $7 billion a year that goes unclaimed, most of it probably coming from illegal, unauthorized workers!! And, as indicated above, they do much of the work unwanted by others, and also comprise most of the job mix in new small business enterprises probably because of the lower wage costs of immigrant illegal labor.

A large portion of our populace seem to understand that there many advantages to the low cost of immigrant and illegal labor flow across our borders. Most of the opposition comes from male, white workers lacking college degrees who feel threatened with job loss or the lower competing wage of the newcomers. But most economists agree that placing immigrant low skilled workers is a net plus for the country. Not only do they allow us to compete at some levels with certain low wage foreign rivals to the advantage of our own native consuming poor people, but to create among these groups viable producing enterprises such as flourishing lawn care businesses and the almost universal growth of beauty parlors and manicure salons. Moreover all these new economic participants on the lower steps of our economic ladders are customers themselves, as are their children, for their daily sustenance of food and the like, and on the weekends for longer term necessities supplied by hard goods retail needs of department stores and other upscale specialty outlets----to say nothing of the obvious need for plumbers, carpenters, and electricians. And they also need the services of our own vital health care industry, which is ever becoming a greater part of our gross domestic product. These added consuming aspects of their presence here is estimated to run in the billions of dollars, while still only a small part of our 13 trillion dollar GDP, still not to be ignored. Besides which most of them seem to be industrious, obviously hard working and amenable.

And yet there is unease and anxiety among many people about the seemingly rapid increase of our non native born population and the seeming threat to our Caucasian majority. At present our nation is still comfortably white skinned, but with the annual influx of about a million and half legal and illegal mostly Hispanic Mexican and Latin American workers, the projection is that in 25 years we will have a about half our population non white. As Pat Buchanan puts it “…… but this 50 per cent increase in global population will come entirely in Asia, Africa and Latin America, as 100 million people of European stock vanish from the Earth. But the immigration tsunami rolling over America is not coming from ‘all the races of Europe’. The largest population transfer in history is coming from all the races of Asia, Africa, and Latin America and they are not ‘melting and reforming’.

There are many woes and jeremiads promulgated about immigration future course in this country that resonate very well with the Pat Buchanan credo. To wit, America is becoming Mexamerica….Immigration tsunami will make whites a minority in the US,…Terrorists are among us as undocumented immigrants ….Secure us now with a 700 mile wire fence and troops on our southern border…make English our national language….Cut immigration to 250,000 a year etc., etc.

Behind many of these fears is the uneasy feeling that if “it’s not broke why fix it?” For centuries the US has evolved into the most powerful and prosperous nation in world history despite its shortcomings, which in its continued deference to free speech and press, allowed these alleged negatives continued airing and publicity. But still the most opportunity laden place to live The racial balance up until now that was the dominant part of that coalition of over two hundred million people that lead our country in the last century thru two World Wars, many smaller wars---Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War One,--- the long Cold War against Soviet Russia, and the equally splendid many years of peaceful technologic triumph that our nation has enjoyed, and the almost equally great success in the entertainment and artistic world, that racial mix was overwhelmingly white skinned European (Caucasian). And most of the celebrated feats of the intellect and history before that also had great input from white people. And one of the key questions, therefore among many disgruntled anti immigration people is that we are “dumbing down”, that the genetic pool is now being lessened by supposedly inferior unions that mitigate against superior intelligent human beings that would be more likely if more superior genes were in the total mix. This is a highly controversial supposition but always depends on motivation as well as initial brilliance, and Thomas Edison the famous inventor, once said that his success was due to “one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration” Also of great importance is to remember that the pure white lower class unskilled whites of 100 years ago who had just arrived here were whole heartedly deprecated by the established mostly Protestant residents who were once immigrants or only one generation removed. The Italians were the Wops, the Germans the Krauts, the Irish the Spics, the Poles the Polacks the and the Jews the Kikes and Sheenies. The Swedish immigrant was treated more benignly evidently for he was merely “The Swede”. And there was inter street rivalry and fights if one should venture beyond his own ethnic turf. The Jew in particular had great difficulty with the prevailing anti semiitc attitude with signs such as “no dogs or Jews allowed”. Indeed many Jews once here had to down play their ethnicity by shaving off their traditional beards and even working on Saturday, their normal Sabbath day of rest. There were many areas of employment, such as banking, real estate and the airline industry that for many years did not hire Jews. Essentially most new immigrants, including Jews, helped their fellow country men, even if they differed in their Jewish affiliation. Indeed the newly arrived Jew from eastern Europe was an especially deprived person, very poor both financially and even culturally, knowing only Yiddish and some words in Russian. The New York City school system in 1912, one of the most advanced in the country, even despaired of ever educating this foreign horde of Yiddish speaking, very shabbily dressed rabble. Several teacher communications at that time expressed despair of ever teaching these children and even hoped that they could be sent back to the Polish ghettoes they came from.

But now, a little over a hundred years later, the Jewish Diaspora in this country has been the most successful in all its long 2000 year history, contributing mightily to all our country’s success in the last century. And so has it been with the other minorities, if not quite as extensively as with the Jews, they too have made our American scene richer both for themselves and the country. Will our current legal and illegal immigrant mix have the same success? Will they assimilate and integrate as most of us have? We have no choice in this environment of competitive globalization, to which we are seemingly committed, to utilize the cheap labor of immigrants, legal and illegal, as part of our competing cost structure---and hope for the best. After all, it did work in the past, and hopefully history will repeat itself!

1 Page