Thursday, April 20, 2006

Some Thoughts on Immigration

I really haven't delved into this topic too much, yet, because I've been trying to ponder on just what my view really is. Robert Samuelson has said this in his Conspiracy Against Assimilation op-ed in the Washington Post.

It's all about assimilation -- or it should be. One of America's glories is that it has assimilated many waves of immigrants. Outsiders have become insiders. But it hasn't been easy. Every new group has struggled: Germans, Irish, Jews and Italians. All have encountered economic hardship, prejudice and discrimination. The story of U.S. immigration is often ugly. If today's wave of immigration does not end in assimilation, it will be a failure. By this standard, I think the major contending sides in the present bitter debate are leading us astray. Their proposals, if adopted, would frustrate assimilation. ....... It's sometimes said that today's Hispanics will resemble yesterday's Italians. Although they won't advance as rapidly as some other groups of more skilled immigrants, they'll still move into the mainstream. Many have -- and will. But the overall analogy is a stretch, according to a recent study, "Italians Then, Mexicans Now," by sociologist Joel Perlmann of Bard College. Since 1970 wages of Mexican immigrants compared with those of native whites have declined. By contrast, wages of Italians and Poles who arrived early in the last century rose over time. For the children of immigrants, gaps are also wide. Second-generation Italians and Poles typically earned 90 percent or more compared to native whites. For second-generation Mexican Americans, the similar figure is 75 percent. One big difference between then and now: Immigration slowly halted during and after World War I. The Italians and Poles came mainly between 1890 and 1915. Older immigrants didn't always have to compete with newcomers who beat down their wages. There was time for outsiders and insiders to adapt to each other. We should heed history's lesson.
It is indeed not a good comparison, to compare the Italians of yesteryear and Hispanics of today. If we are to look at history as our lesson, we need to ask ourselves why did Italians stop coming over en masse after 1915? Sure, you have World War I, but, what changed about Italy after WWI? Did it begin to flourish? Did it not become pretty prosperous? A better comparison on the tales Italian and Hispanic immigrants is on growth, or lack thereof, of their respective countries, Mexico and Italy. How has Mexico been doing these past 20 years or so? How did Italy do after WWI? There is no valid comparison in history for what America has to deal with today in regards to immigration, legal and illegal, from Mexico. Mexico and the United States have the highest disparity in income of any two contiguous states in the world, most likely ever in the history of the world. When a Mexican worker can get a piddly job in America for five times what he would get in Mexico, would he not risk all so he can earn good money for his family? I would. The problem lies in Mexico, and in that country's inability to grow. It cannot be argued that their vicinity to the richest country in the world is a problem, as Canada does just fine to the north. And in actuality, what might be a good comparison, a good political research paper is on the contrasts between Canada and Mexico. Let us see just why one nation does well and the other still cannot really get itself off its feet.

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