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John P. Calvert, Fargo, Published August 03 2013

Letter: Must nation undermine its identity?

Does immigration, whether legal or not, serve any national interest of the United States?

Many businesses and agricultural interests do benefit from immigrant labor, and lots of upscale households are also pleased to get low-cost child care, domestic servants and groundskeepers. When billionaire Michael Bloomberg was asked about deporting illegal workers, he replied, “You and I are the beneficiaries of these jobs. You and I both play golf. Who takes care of the greens and fairways in your golf course?”

Poor hurt

But cheap labor is less beneficial to low-skilled Americans whose wages are driven downward by foreign rivals. Though proponents claim that immigration stimulates the economy, it defies all reason to believe that uneducated and impoverished people could contribute more to the country than they draw from it in medical care, education for their kids and other entitlements that are diverted from America’s own poor. Immigration, as the New Republic’s T.A. Frank writes (NR Online), is an “immense blow to America’s working class and poor” because it “undermines unions and labor standards, lowers wages, heightens social tensions, strains state budgets … subverts the rule of law and exacerbates class divides.”

What about immigrants with high-tech skills? We constantly hear that America is in peril because it can’t produce enough people in science, technology, engineering and math. This is nonsense. The National Science Board reports that we are graduating three times as many STEM graduates as there are jobs available; and last year, the Census Bureau reported that the country had 1.8 million engineers who were either unemployed or stuck in jobs that were unrelated to their training. Immigration helps fuel this glut. Currently, 45 percent of engineering graduate students are foreigners whose numbers weaken career prospects of their Americans peers.

STEM myth

The myth of shortages in STEM fields has been cultivated for decades by university administrators who routinely use misinformation to boost enrollments. High-tech businesses exploit the same fiction. The Wall Street Journal has noted that U.S. firms want to “staff their operations with Indian expatriates who earn significantly less than their American counterparts.”

If immigration’s economic effects are negative, then what about its cultural effects?

In the 19th century, huge resources, both public and private, were devoted to turning immigrants into Americans because assimilation was a serious goal. Today, it isn’t. New arrivals are now so numerous that they simply bypass assimilation by settling into self-sufficient colonies with their own schools, native-language newspapers, radio and TV stations. They have little need to join the core culture, to absorb Americana, even to learn English. They are in the culture but not of it.

Multicultural dogma

Further, America has lost its self-confidence. Rather than proclaim our best traditions, elites in government and education – in thralldom of the multicultural dogma – zestfully deconstruct them. Western civilization, they say, is so vile that immigrants should not wish to join it; instead, they stoke ethnic grievances and encourage separateness. Multiculturalism is, as A.M. Schlesinger Jr. once put it, a “cult” in opposition to “the original theory of America as ‘one people’ a common culture, a single nation.”

Most immigrants are Hispanics who simply want a better life. Nevertheless, they arrive not just as individuals who are temporarily poor but as a self-replicating culture of poverty. Their third generation tends to be poorer than the first. They have the nation’s highest school dropout rates, and those who are U.S-born are twice as likely (42 percent to 19 percent) to be on welfare as U.S.-born whites. Fifty-three percent of their births are out of wedlock.

Over time, Hispanics and others will surely improve their lot. Meantime, for the nation, the costs of mass immigration surely outweigh its benefits. So while we are a nation of immigrants, we have the right to ask: Does America really have an obligation to import poverty and therewith to sacrifice its national identity as well?

Calvert is a retired college educator, and occasional contributor to The Forum’s opinion/commentary pages. Email johnpcalvert@aol.com