Shelton A. Gunaratne, Published August 17 2013
Letter: Calvert’s basic thesis is in errorBeing a former college educator, J. P. Calvert, in the column “Must nation undermine its identity?” (The Forum, Aug. 4), should have been more careful about hiding the darker side of his right-wing ideology by using the term national interest as a cover-up for his obsession with deep-seated ethnocentrism or his desire to revert to the days of Western supremacy.
Calvert has done some homework to understand that the immigration issue has divided the nation between the yin (liberal/protagonist) and the yang (conservative/antagonist) forces. Calvert has chosen to be on the antagonist camp by focusing on the thesis that immigration, legal or not, does not serve the national interest of the United States. That thesis is false.
First, Calvert claims that the economic effects of immigration are overall negative. He is genuinely concerned with the consequences of legalizing the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants, 75 percent of whom are Hispanics/Latinos. Obviously, he fears that the addition of so many poor nonwhites would affect the capitalist economy of the country and further widen the gap in wealth between the upper class and the middle and lower classes.
Calvert writes, “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.”
Professor Francine Lipman of the Boyd School of Law, however, has a different opinion. She asserts that the belief that illegal migrants are exploiting the U.S. economy and that they cost more in services than they contribute to the economy is “undeniably false.”
Lipman adds that “illegal immigrants actually contribute more to public coffers in taxes than they cost in social services” and “contribute to the U.S. economy through their investments and consumption of goods and services; filling of millions of essential worker positions resulting in subsidiary job creation, increased productivity and lower costs of goods and services; and unrequited contributions to Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance programs.”
Calvert goes on to debunk the preference given to international students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields as a misplaced priority for immigration on economic grounds. He claims that today the country has a glut of students in these fields who cannot find employment. Employers prefer to recruit STEM graduates from developing countries because they agree to work for lower wages.
A report by Salzman, Kuehn and Lowell released by the liberal think tank Economic Policy Institute in April 2013 confirms the “STEM myth.” The report says that “the United States has more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations.”
However, the untold truth, as businessinsider.com (May 2013) puts it, happens to be that “there is a shortage of ultra-elite American-born talent, and Silicon Valley wants to hire the very best in the world. The view from Silicon Valley is that a lot of the U.S. talent, while bountiful in number, just doesn’t stack up.”
Second, Calvert raises concerns about the cultural effects of immigration. I got the impression that Calvert’s gripe is not with immigration as such but with the ethnicity of the migrants seeking permanent residence. Statistics show that more than 38 percent of the
1.03 million people granted U.S. immigrant status in 2012 came from Mexico, China, India, the Philippines and the Dominican Republic.
Calvert presumably would prefer the restoration of the ethnic quota system abolished in 1965. His contention is that Hispanics have “a self-replicating culture of poverty [and] … the nation’s highest school dropout rates,” among other ills. He blames multiculturalism for the immigrants’ failure to assimilate into mainstream American culture. Thus, Calvert forgets that American society is already multicultural with a twice-elected black president leading the nation.
Calvert’s arguments debunking multiculturalism show his inability to comprehend the impact of the digital revolution on the velocity of globalization. This revolution was the work of a multicultural team of STEM geniuses from both developing and developed countries.
Immigration trends are a reflection of the accelerated pace of globalization. All civilizations must face these changes.
Professor Emeritus Gunaratne formerly taught mass communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He is author of several books.