Immigrants aren’t the problem

Adam Milasincic

Half a million immigrants are dancing in the streets, and about as many politicians are foaming at the mouth.

With an election just seven months away, congressmen need their constituents to be good and mad about something (other than corruption, the War in Iraq and the looming bankruptcy of Social Security). When all else fails, blame a foreigner.

Camps of supposedly dueling Republicans have introduced two immigration proposals that contradict each other. You don’t suppose this is related to GOP chair Ken Mehlman’s recent call to shift attention from congressional-lobbying scandals by recasting the 2006 midterms as another social issues free-for-all?

The issue du jour is an old favorite. From the 19th century to “South Park,” immigrants have always provided an easy scapegoat in times of turmoil. At one time or another, Germans, Italians, Eastern Europeans, the Irish and the Chinese were behind all that ailed America. Today, it’s Mexicans.

Fixing America by ending immigration is like treating leprosy with a Band-Aid. If we shut off the flow of new citizens tomorrow, government would still grow, taxes would increase and companies continue to relocate overseas.

It might be true that immigrants – both legal and illegal – have crowded school districts and drained welfare programs. It’s also true some recent immigrants prefer permanent subcultures to the “Great Melting Pot.”

Immigrants aren’t the culprits here, however. That honor belongs to our homegrown politicians. They’re the ones who created the handouts, regulated companies out of business and elevated multiculturalism to become the primary focus of public education.

Immigrants, on the other hand, are contributing to U.S. economic growth by reviving a work ethic largely dead in native citizens. As consumers, immigrants add $10 billion per year to the economy, according to the Immigration Forum. During the 1990s computer boom, firms opened by immigrants created 68,000 jobs.

As cities like Cleveland suffer from massive population loss and the attendant decay of infrastructure, U.S. cities with the highest rates of foreign immigration actually experienced a 14 percent spike in property values over national averages.

During the most extensive period of immigration in U.S. history, from 1900 to 1910, the United States emerged as the world’s preeminent economy. Because the “stolen jobs” veneer is disintegrating fast, immigration is now being tacked onto the terrorism bugaboo. The storyline supposes a turbaned ne’er-do-well slinking from Tijuana to California, smirking at its success in duping paper pushers.

The problem with the scenario is that most suspected terrorists have attempted to cross from Canada, not Mexico – and none have applied for legal status. All of the Sept. 11 hijackers entered the United States on temporary visas.

The opportunistic Republicans who say otherwise should review Ronald Reagan’s “Shining City” speech: “If there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Adam Milasincic is senior journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].