Legal Immigration in the Age of Trump

by Dominic DeCinti

In my previous article, I wrote on illegal immigration and the extent to which President Trump is keeping his promise to end it. While massive strides have been made away from the permissiveness and weak enforcement of the last several presidents, America is still struggling to bear the costs of a legal immigration system which has been barred from criticism for decades. Trump’s movement of the “Overton Window”, the spectrum of acceptable or relevant political discourse, has now placed all aspects of the immigration system squarely in the crosshairs of his populist movement. American workers, especially those in the blue-collar industries, have seen how immigration, legal or otherwise, has been steadily displacing them from their jobs and futures. They have known that immigration harms Americans for far longer than this past few years but were forced to stay quiet, accepting more than a million foreign born people into our country in 2015 with barely a peep of opposition in national media. Now that Middle America has a platform and a voice in the wake of Trump’s coup of the establishment, the issue isn’t going away any time soon.

According to census figures, the foreign-born population has increased exponentially, reaching percentages not seen since the 1920s and total numbers far beyond anything the country has seen. And yet, questioning these patently outrageous numbers unleashes a moralistic firestorm against the poor sap naïve enough to question why the country needs a million more Latin American immigrants. Yes, America has always been a place of hope, a shining city. We took in large numbers of the poor and famine-ridden from many countries. The Irish have come over in waves. Italians, like my family, came over in waves. Yet, waves of immigrants in the past have always been limited, as we operated on a quota system for years. Coming to America was special, because America is special. Even when the numbers of foreign immigrants were exploding, people pouring into the harbors of our nation, America never surrendered the right to determine exactly who was and who was not permitted, likewise how many.

Policy was designed to ensure that when these immigrants stepped foot on Ellis Island for the first time, they committed to the principles of America. That they learned our language, English. That they did not take from the government, but instead gave back through hard work. And most importantly, that they raised their children to be Americans. Laws were framed explicitly to encourage integration and designed to encourage it, by setting the largest quotas for groups similar in religion, culture, and ability, and smaller quotas for those more dissimilar.

In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Johnson-Reed Act, also known as the Immigration Act of 1924. It contained a comprehensive update to our nation’s immigration system for the sake of national security after World War I. Visas were handed out to 2% of all national origins based of the total population of that ethnicity in the United State as of the 1890 census numbers. It also gave immigration officials more flexibility to enforce the laws as they see fit. Included at the time were continuations of the older ideological tests barring people who held anti-American ideas, such as Anarchists and Communists. This Act would be defined today as nothing less than BIGOTED WHITE SUPREMACIST TERRORISM by Jim Acosta and the crew at CNN because, of course, America at this time was roughly 90% white with the remainder the descendants of former slaves and a handful of American Indians and other tiny groups. Therefore, the National Origins test became essentially an exclusionary act barring non-Europeans. Once you get past the buzzwords and low IQ arguments, a few very valid reasons for that Act come to mind.

  • WWI was still fresh in our minds and this act was intended to keep us safe from revolution and ideological radicalism abroad. Nations or groups hostile to the U.S. could not send boats full of their citizens to the United States. This is a lesson for today’s refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.
  • This small percent of a certain population made it a privilege to be admitted into America. This privilege served as a constant reminder of American Exceptionalism and the fundamental belief in America.
  • This Act, along with the literacy test instituted in 1917, helped to foster and cement a national culture of America. When immigrants buy into this culture, they assimilate. Assimilation brings a nation together, and the future generations benefit from this. Recognition of American identity as a fundamentally Christian European diaspora went a long way towards national unity in thought as well as policy.
  • Immigration from Europe, with its great similarity to America in culture, religion, language, economy, and general way of life, promoted stability and domestic harmony, where immigration from very dissimilar nations had proven a source of division and discontent. While prejudice certainly played a role in this divisiveness, the inability to tell a Frenchman from a Swede on surface-level certainly contributed to ease of integration and was a valid reason for European exclusivity.

This all changed in the 1965 Immigration Act, the Hart-Celler Act. Though promising not to upset the ethnic or demographic balance of the country, it has done exactly that by opening the door for mass immigration from around the world. This may be seen in the dramatic shift away from Europe and towards Asia and Latin America as the source of immigration, combined with the massive increase in raw numbers of immigrants at this time. This not only upset the cultural, ethnic, and demographic structure of the country, people from these regions often were and are paid far less and contribute to the economic displacement of native-born Americans.

We have ventured far from an immigration system which puts America First, we have opened ourselves up to foreign competition in every regard, at the expense of the American worker who must see his wages cut and opportunities slashed, all while paying out for people who never paid in. At Penn State, many students must have an economics credit to graduate. Econ 102, microeconomics, teaches students the basic of things like the law of supply and demand. All products, no matter whether the product is iPhones, golf balls, or automobiles, adhere to these laws. The labor supply and demand operate under these same guidelines. So when the demand for a job increases, the price for that labor decreases. In a stroke of simplicity seemingly beyond the mental faculties of immigration advocates, that means that when you flood a border with over a million new people in a single year, the wages will decrease when all conditions hold. The only way to fit this downward wage trend is to increase the supply of jobs in the United States. When the United States has less than 3% economic growth for eight years, the supply just is not able to fight the demand.

Lower wages for the blue-collar class means more money for the people at the top. For years, our immigrations system has let our working class down while propping up the employers who benefit from lower wages and higher availability. We often see from publishers such as the Economist, with their endless obsession on money and profits, arguments that removing borders would generate billions in productivity. What they do not say is that this benefit is pocketed entirely by the wealthy, while the worker who they presuppose to benefit has in fact had his standard of living slip dramatically in such a situation. The immigrationists have depressed wages with mass migration of low-skilled workers. This depression of wages isn’t a marginal loss. Natives without a high school degree have seen a 5% depression in wages both from exportation of jobs and importation of labor. When immigrants start their own business, they also tend to hire within their own communities. Not only is this a form of discrimination, it hurts our native population because they are removed from the consideration of jobs in their communities.

One of the solutions to our lack-luster immigration system is a comprehensive reform. A reform that would be the most meaningful in decades and that would RAISE many Americans from the mire they exist in. Did you get that little hint? Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, both Republicans from Arkansas and Georgia, respectively, have proposed a bill that would be a tremendous solution to our “Americans Last” immigration system. The RAISE act, formally titled , would turn our immigration to a merit based system that prioritizes English-speaking people and those with the skills to contribute to America. It also intends to cut the green cards handouts by 50% within the next ten years. It will effectively end the chain migration, or practice of family members constantly bringing new members to America, practice that has harmed Americans and lead to a lack of assimilation.

Remember the economic argument I made a few paragraphs ago. This is a key point to make and it must be made. The National Immigration Forum has claimed that there will be a 7.5 million job gap by 2020. Many of those jobs will be blue-collar jobs that do not require a degree. If we cut immigration numbers, what will happen to wages for those jobs? The wages or other non-salary benefits will appear and grow. More money will be earned by those at the bottom and the people at the top will get less of the pie, not as a Sanders-style redistributive scheme but as a result of sensible policy which incentivizes stability and labor. Preservation of a national culture and identity is equally important, and this Act is the best legislation we have seen to do that by reducing total numbers of non-compatible people entering the country.

A second solution to our issues related to legal immigration is the elimination of DACA. DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was a gross overreach of Constitutional authority by former President Obama to shore up another identity group the growing Hispanic base of the Democratic Party. This Executive action has done nothing but incentivized foreign nationals to send their children on thousand mile journeys, across deserts, past gangs and human smugglers. The compassion the former President showed is slightly morbid when you think about how the children, particularly from Latin America, have to get here.

As I write this, President Trump has not yet made a decision on DACA*, but he announced it will be given on Tuesday (9/5/17). His decision is said to have heard from all sides, like any good business executive would. Though all sides might disagree, the facts point to a better opportunity for the American worker, particularly young workers who need to get their foot in the door. Mark Zuckerberg’s open doors thinktank found, ironically enough, that 700,000 jobs would open up to Americans if DACA was eliminated. The group found that around 30,000 jobs will open up each month. How amazing would that be if those jobs were given to Americans? Each worker gaining more job experience, earning a wage, and paying taxes. The elimination of DACA would truly be an America First policy decision and the RAISE act will be a better deal for America.

*Editor’s Note: The rescinding of DACA was announced this morning at the time of publishing.