- For much of the George W. Bush administration Washington
has swirled around the topic of how to control immigration to the United
States. The talk tends to center on so-called "immigration reform"
which is the usual Washington poli-speak for "do something to stop
the illegal Mexicans from crossing our southwest border". But the
real debate centers on subjects that either do not need fixing or that
involve choices that will not be popular no matter how any new law turns
out. Immigration law qualifies perfectly on both counts, because the law
is not the problem, while efforts to "reform" it run into a passel
of conflicting interests that are unlikely to respond to any one line of
- The Baseline Problem
- There are actually at least four subjects that need to
be addressed to even get close to the heart of this matter. One, of course,
is the more or less constant flow of people to the United States through
the broad window of the invitation on the Statue of Liberty. That flow
has built the American character, has populated our country with samples
of the entire human condition, and has made our country the most effectively
diverse of any so far. The pressures for that flow have been the enormous
wealth and opportunity of the United States when compared with any other
country, but the larger driver has been the great disparities in human
condition that widely prevail outside our borders. Of a present global
population of 6.5 billion people today, upward of 2 billion of them are
close to dirt poor.
- That number is close to seven times the population of
the United States. Thus no legal action American lawmakers can take to
deal with immigration is likely to reduce the pressures in the outside
world on people to find a better and safer place. That place in many minds
is the United States, but increasingly Western European countries face
the human flow. Visit any refugee camp in Sub-Sahara Africa or the Middle
East and you will know how enormous those pressures are.
- The great disparity between income and opportunities
in the United States and in most of Mexico accounts for much of our immigration
problem, both legal and illegal. Go look at the Mexican outback and you
will see the conditions of poverty and endemic illness that drive people
in our direction. No law can make that problem go away, and no wall, even
the enormously costly 24 foot concrete travesty the Israelis use to cage
the Palestinian people, will relieve the pressure that disparity generates.
- Washington Interests Are Narrowly Focused
- Washington's legislative effort is predictably self-centered.
In being self-centered, the effort basically ignores everything said in
the preceding paragraphs in favor of trying to treat the more obvious symptoms.
Those symptoms include a burgeoning number of undocumented aliens, illegal
immigrants, possibly exceeding 12 million individuals, roughly one out
of every 25 people in the United States. The symptoms also include pressures
on the country's welfare, health, and education systems as well as housing,
job opportunities and wage structures.
- But the picture is far from all negative. Many of the
illegals belong to families legally here; most of them work and contribute
to their own upkeep; many of them perform mundane tasks that are not covered
by native born workers or legal immigrants, and all of them contribute
to the economy through their demands for goods and services. Finally, many
of them fill niches in the labor force, e.g., agricultural field labor,
that are not usually filled by citizens. To set one point straight, by
no means all of the illegals are Latinos.
- Designing a system to frustrate illegal entry and deal
with illegal entrants is the primary thrust of HR 4437, the House bill
now before the Senate. It speaks lavishly of defending our 96,000 miles
of frontier, only 7,500 of which are land borders. To do that we presently
have a Border Patrol force that is focused on less than 10% of that frontier
(2,000 land and 6,000 maritime), and we have a Coast Guard of less than
40,000 full time uniformed personnel for surveillance of over 88,000 miles
of coastline plus numerous ports and waterways. Those capabilities more
or less suffice to deal with a law-abiding population on both sides of
our frontiers. They are obviously insufficient to deal with any large scale
of lawbreaking; but bringing the two organizations to staffing and technical
support scales equal to the rigorous protections contemplated by HR 4437
is improbable if not outright impossible.
- Immigration Law Is Not The Answer
- The foregoing discusses only the baseline and historic
human flow problem. There are other important sets of human/economic flow
issues that must be considered to get the whole picture. There are three
additional sets of issues that need to be covered in this article.
- The second important set of issues concerns the categories
of foreign-born workers. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics
(BLS), during 2006 foreign-born workers made up over 15% of the civilian
labor force in the United States. Thus in 2006, out of a US civilian labor
force of about 151 million about 23 million were foreign born and roughly
11.5 million were Hispanic or Latino. In effect, one out of every six or
seven workers in the United States in 2006 was foreign born, while one
out of every 15 workers was Hispanic or Latino. These numbers underscore
the importance of foreign-born labor to the overall health of the American
- Where foreign-born workers fit in the economy is a major
problem for the congressional designers of a visa or immigration system.
In some respects such workers cut across the range of employments from
seasonal agricultural and household labor to high tech scientific and technological
professionals. Since they do not fit into any single category the task
of defining a simple set of rules for one size fits all is virtually hopeless.
- Advocates of an open employment system at the high tech
end argue cogently that it is not possible to make a bureaucratic rule
that will serve a wide range of skill needs for a diverse body of corporate
requirements. Employers essentially prefer an opportunity to pick and choose
as is necessary to filling critical gaps in their staffing structures.
Government officials worry properly about the potential of those corporate
moves to displace skilled American candidates for such jobs; the potential
is real because employers can get foreign-born candidates more cheaply.
Labor unions worry about displacing American workers across a broad range
of skilled and non-skilled employments. The decline in the American labor
movement is attributable in part to that process.
- Foreign Workers Put Pressure On The System
- In both highly skilled and non-skilled categories, native-born
workers and professionals can show that available jobs and wage rates are
depressed by the competition from foreign-born candidates. This is true
whether the foreign-born competitors are legally or illegally in the country,
but it is influenced by whether they are unskilled or highly skilled. The
highly skilled are well paid, if not necessarily as well paid as their
- Market signaling is an important and relatively recent
aspect of this situation. Job information is widely and readily available
on the Internet and through other institutional media. That means competition
for specific jobs is increasingly global, while the wage rates are depressed
by a diversity of candidates for any attractive job. The impact of these
factors on people movements is likely to grow as the global economy expands.
- How companies think about where they do various parts
of their business is also a factor and has been for some time. As high
tech activities have diversified globally, the centers for technical achievement
have diversified, and along with that, the sources of highly skilled, in
some instances the most skilled resources, have become international. This
has complicated the search for skills as well as the environment for employing
- Business Process Outsourcing Affects The Whole Picture
- The third dimension of the people flow process is loosely
called Business Process Outsourcing or BPO. That is in many respects a
much broader disturbance of job markets than product outsourcing, and it
differs firm-by-firm depending on what primary line of activity the organization
pursues. An international firm may find it necessary, for instance, to
recruit and employ foreign-born workers to sustain its core missions in
the home operation, while sending key domestic employees abroad to train
them as well as to maintain the company's standards or technical practices
abroad. In simple terms, they are outsourcing jobs that native-born Americans
can do, but typically at higher wages. In important degree, moreover, they
are taking advantage of economies of scale that go with tying into international
infrastructures such as in communications and IT.
- An important aspect BPO concerns where new innovations
and markets develop. The shift of a sizeable portion of global IT activities
to India is a case in point, but it is not the only one. American firms
oversubscribe the H 1-B visa quota by 100% or more each year as they seek
skilled foreign help to sustain their core operations in the United States.
At the same time, they outsource significant support functions to Bangalore
or elsewhere. In simple terms, both practices outsource jobs.
- Many people may gripe about the fact that the 411 (information)
operator has a south Indian accent, but Americans have been brought up
on extending their incomes by buying cheap foreign imports. That presently
includes a large range of items in the food, clothing and appliance baskets.
It is usually beneficial in the sense that products cost less on the average
than they would if made in the USA. However, that kind of outsourcing is
and long has been an export of American jobs (balanced of course by our
exports that may displace foreign worker jobs). The conventional business
response to that argument is that the American economy is broad and deep
enough for displaced workers to find jobs. So far, with unemployed rolls
hanging at 4.5% or below, that argument appears valid.
- Globalization Occurs At Many Levels
- These levels of international traffic engage the most
intricate processes of globalization. In reality, this dimension of system
behavior probably has been growing ever since the first Atlantic cable
initiated instant transatlantic communications. The difference now is that
global communications are diverse, instant, cheap and readily available
to most of the planet. The point is that no country these days can hope
to manage an elaborate economy without constant and intimate relations
with the rest of the global system. How that set of relations works in
a given instance is subject to a host of considerations including costs,
prices, materials availabilities and flows, market demands and habits,
and ultimately the skilled and unskilled labor to run the system.
- It simply matters less and less where the labor is or
where it comes from in terms of nationality, and that means that national
systems for maintaining the character of their populations, the "nativity"
of their operating systems, the fullness of their employment rosters, or
the integrity of their borders have been contravened by globalization.
This system is characterized by heightened demands for currency of information,
breadth of awareness, diversity of skills, and capacity to react to change.
No country has everything it needs to respond to this set of challenges.
- There Are Rewards And Penalties
- Every country is discovering that it both gains rewards
and pays penalties for participating in this system. However, the rewards
and the penalties do not land on the same desks or at the same times. The
rewards go on the one hand to the corporations that run international operations
and outsourcing, to workers abroad who gain jobs they may not otherwise
have, and to consumers who enjoy less costly goods. The penalties typically
land on workers at many levels who are displaced over time by BPO consequences,
and on governments whose officers are tasked to mitigate the side effects.
- Legislating Solutions Is Difficult
- Drafting and obtaining passage of a piece of legislation
to serve all of those interests would be quite remarkable; the chances
of that happening are virtually zero. Any bill so far proposed to "reform"
immigration would not even come close. That is simply because immigration-people
movements-per se are not the problem. To be sure, managing the day in/day
out movements of people to and through countries is a traditional task,
but specifically in the US case, the customary tasks are being overpowered
- Businesses, working in several countries and making sometimes
minute to minute decisions, know a great deal more about their needs and
how to meet them than can be either summed up in legislation or managed
by customs and immigration systems. Especially rules that are designed
(as in HR 4437) either to limit and cap the people flow or pre-determine
the recipients of access will serve more to interfere with business and
other professional movements than to facilitate them.
- Four types of cases stand out
- One concerns national security matters, a second centers
on public health, a third focuses on managing the sheer numbers of people
who enter the country, and a fourth deals with people who enter the country
without permission or who overstay their permission. All of these need
to be managed in ways that do not unduly interfere with the normal commerce
of nations and the legitimate travel choices of citizens as well as visitors.
- Where people movements are concerned, national security
is a matter of risk analysis and threat assessment. Both are intelligence/information
dependant, and in broad terms that presents a needle in the haystack problem.
Immigration reform is unlikely to improve the quality of vigilance required
- Public health poses a separate but in many respects a
similar challenge. International cooperation on identification and containment
of specific health risks appears generally more important than border controls.
- Managing the normal and legal human flow itself cannot
be done in any abstract or arbitrary way. American society is simply too
interactive with other societies as well as too intricately dependent on
them for presets to be effective.
- Tinkering with the rules for legal movements are unlikely
to affect materially the enormous pressures that drive people illegally
in our direction. Long term improvements at the bottom of the human condition
are the only means to mitigate this flow.
- We end up with our problem:
- What can we do about 12 million illegal aliens? But the
number did not simply spring upon us overnight. The facts are (a) that
it has occurred over a period of many years, (b) that in many instances
it involves the reuniting of families, (c) that most have jobs and send
money to families in their home countries, bolstering their home economies,
(d) that many of them, in short, are contributing to the health of the
American economy while, to be sure, (e) exerting some drag on it, and (f)
that we have defacto acquiesced in their presence here by not willfully
throwing them out.
- In consequence, the problem we face is humanitarian,
writ large, one that involves, as noted earlier, one out of every 25 people
in the country. It requires special legislation, not immigration reform.
In truth, no new set of immigration rules for dealing with future entries
will solve the problem for people who are already here; most of them have
been here for a long time.
- In the meantime, the tasks of defining roles and identifying
candidates for a multitude of jobs that American and US-based foreign enterprises
want to bring into the country are being well managed in boardrooms and
offices all over corporate America. A point system now being considered
by Congress for qualifying those candidates is widely considered useless
as well as counter-productive. It would take the identification of skill
needs and selection of most appropriate candidates away from employers.
- The people who have been and will go on being neglected-maybe
even abused--under any proposal now on the congressional agenda are mostly
at the bottom of the human condition. That is where our 12 million illegal
immigrants began their search for a new life. Meanwhile, the invitation
on the Statue of Liberty continues to say: "Give us your tired your
poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free." Somehow "Give
us your trained elites, your educated classes yearning to be rich"
does not quite cut it.
- The writer is the author of the recently published work,
A World Less Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist
on rense.com. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US
Department of State whose immediate pre-retirement positions were as Chairman
of the Department of International Studies of the National War College
and as Deputy Director of the State Office of Counter-Terrorism and Emergency
Planning. He will welcome comment at <mailto:email@example.com>firstname.lastname@example.org.
Addendum from Terry Arnold
- From: Terry Eberhardt
- Sent: Thursday, May 31, 2007 3:56 PM
- To: Terry Arnold
- Subject: Re: immigration on Rense
- Thanks for the reply!
- I think my point is that the Mexicans are destroying
our country. It has already happened here in LA. We have a reconkista
mayor who is totally pro illegal. In school he was a member of Men ca and
pro La Raze. These are not melting pot groups. They are not kidding about
Aztlan. They call it the reconquering of CA, AZ, Texas and others
- There is too much talk of the "good" these
people do while totally ignoring all the bad. They ave nearly 6 kids per
household. Our school are flooded with them. My better half teaches at
Gary High School in Pomona. It has 2400 students. 1200 are "English
learners" meaning they speak little or mostly no English. The drop
out rate is over 50 percent. What good are non English no graduate workers??
- They marry each other and have 6 kids.
- Its insane to legalize this and to continue into the
future like this. The boarder must be closed. We spend 500 billion on
the military every year! We give Israel 4 billion a year...every year.
No one can really say we can't afford to spend the money to deport these
crooks and defend our border.
- You may be from humble beginnings but the tone of the
Rense article is 'Poor immigrants, they just want to work hard.' This
is the elitist view and it's wrong. They are here to steal and bring their
way of life, and we are just "Gringo." We are also the minority
- From: Terry Arnold
- Sent: Thursday, May 31, 2007
- To: Terry Eberhardt
- Subject: Immigration on Rense
- I know the situation in California pretty well, having
studied at Stanford, San Jose and Berkeley, and close friends in both San
Diego (where I spent Navy time) and Santa Barbara tell me things are at
least as bad as you report. That region may well be the worst case, so
I am not out of touch either with what you report or the deep concerns
many people have about it. People I know try to dismiss the problems by
saying there are no easy answers, and that is right as far as it goes.
- The starting problem is that just trying to send the
illegals back home, wherever that is, is unlikely to work. The second
problem is there simply is no immigration strategy that will stop the flow
all by itself. Packing the people up in boxcars and shipping them back
across the border sounds like a ready (possibly even satisfying) answer,
but Americans in general will end up not going along with it.
- After several years of neglect the problem is really
quite impacted. The next problem is that all the good answers, especially
those differentiated on the merits of cases, are likely to take a long
time. In the meantime, the global pressures I talk about in my article
are grinding away. Much of the outside world is growing rapidly economically,
but a lot of it is not.
- As long as we are wealthy, living well, and have any
room at all, therefore, the outside pressures will drive people toward
us. I was serious when I said (in the article) we could not build a wall
big enough to stop this flow. Where potential immigrants are concerned,
we, the United States, represent the world's most attractive safe haven.
We simply do not have the power to shut off that appreciation, and I truly
doubt that we have the moral authority to shut off the flow. The only
question becomes to what extent we can, or want to regulate it.
- Economic growth in the rest of the world may well do
much more for this problem than we can do for ourselves. That our own
growth here is weak (for the present only I hope) only adds to our inability
to deal with the situation in the short run. In the long run the great
majority of the illegals will be absorbed if they stay. But the problems
of poverty-and our attractive lifestyle-will still drive people toward
us. That is a realistic view, and I did not invent it; the human condition
- Knowing where you are standing and watching this problem,
I will appreciate any thoughts you can add. The task is to develop workable
solutions, and few, if any, of the solutions we develop are likely to please
- Thanks for your comments.
- Terry Arnold