Immigration reform needed, however you say it
By JAY AMBROSE | Tribune News Service | Published: January 17, 2018
Once, when I was living in northern Virginia, I was in my front yard when I noticed crows flying around a tree going caw, caw, caw as more and more crows joined them. And then I noticed the owl. It was sitting there, probably none too happy as the number of crows grew to easily more than 100 pecking away at him as if they were journalists and he was President Donald Trump.
It’s called mobbing, this daytime gathering of birds to intimidate and maybe even kill an inherently hated predator that will sometimes track one down and eat it individually at night. We’ve lately seen something like that since Trump, in a private meeting about immigration reform, referred to “s---hole countries” such as Haiti, El Salvador and others in Africa. He’s a racist, racist, racist, it has been screamed as ever more journalistic commentators, politicians and others have circled the tree.
Look, Trump was unabashedly wrong in a variety of respects. He should shed the vulgarity that one TV outlet especially loved to repeat. He should not denigrate any country recklessly. He should have seen the intonations of racism in his remarks. He should have realized that some conniving politico would rat on him. He should have negotiated in calm, cool tones. He should have maintained the momentum his administration was beginning to build.
But keep in mind a context in which too many have seemed intent on making America more nearly a “s---hole country.”
Trump had aimed to restore the rule of law by undoing an unconstitutional Barack Obama edict legalizing the children of illegal immigrants who weren’t born in the United States, known as “Dreamers.” He said he would like to see it restored the right way by congressional vote, but also wanted more border security with Mexico and an emphasis on merit instead of family ties in the admission of legal immigrants. He wanted to do away with an unintelligible program in which legal immigrants are chosen by lottery from selected countries for the sake of “diversity.”
The heart of all of this, when a number of other items are included, is for the United States to establish its own immigration system instead of having lawbreakers establish it for us, and something else. That is to emphasize merit instead of the predominant criterion of family ties on who enters our country. Merit means bringing in more people whose education and skills allow easy, quick assimilation along with filling often technical jobs making the economy shine especially bright.
It is true that immigrants, disproportionately unskilled, add $50 billion to America’s wealth each year. That sounds great, and is preached incessantly by liberals overlooking a point made by professor George Borjas, of Harvard, who has studied the issue for 30 years. He tells us they also pay low taxes on average and get relatively high government assistance. The net cost is $50 billion, meaning you can subtract that from their financial contribution and end up with zero.
When Trump met with members of a bipartisan committee working out a compromise, he found that the compromise was no compromise. The liberals obviously wanted the Dreamers to be made legal, but also their parents. They were willing to give some money for a start on border security while doing little on behalf of meritocratic standards of admission. Much of the lottery system would go, but much of its money would be spent instead on giving green cards to Haitians and others brought here as temporary refugees.
Here is the issue that instigated Trump’s curse. A meritocratic system would not be based on the country of origin like the biased lottery system. It would be based on individuals. Asians, who have prospered more than any other large group of immigrants, would clearly benefit. Because of higher wages in low-skill jobs, so would low-skill blacks, Hispanics and whites already here.
Isn’t it time for the mobbing to focus on those against all of this?
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.