Popular opposition to immigration ignored by U. S. legislators
The numbers are unequivocal. For a decade polls have consistently recorded a wide discrepancy between the attitude of ordinary Americans toward immigration and the attitude of those who govern them. And the gap has been growing. In 2002 a poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations found that 60% of the public thought current immigration levels to be a "critical threat to the vital interests of the United States," as compared to only 14% of the country's leadership. This 46% gap compared to a 37% gap revealed by a 1998 poll. 70% felt that reducing illegal immigration should be a "very important" foreign policy goal compared to only 22% of the political elite1.
Polling done by TM, inc. in October 2006 confirmed these results. While the U.S. Senate passed a bill (S2611) supporting a large increase in legal immigration, 68% of voters thought the number of immigrants, legal or illegal, was too high, 34 times the number who said it was too "low". 71% said that low paying jobs could easily be filled if employers paid American workers decent wages rather than import low-skill labour. And 62% agreed with a statement that Canadian viewers of CBC immigration sob stories have frequently observed, "The media coverage of illegal immigrants is mostly devoted to human interest stories like how illegals risk their lives (to get here), rather than the costs they create and the Americans, particularly low-wage American workers, who may be harmed by their being here."
The polling company Inc./Woman Trend in October of 2006 found 66% in agreement that the population increase caused by the present level of immigration would negatively impact the environment. A Zogbylcis poll of April 2006 revealed that 67% of Americans wanted less immigration to promote the assimilation of those who were already here. A poll conducted a month earlier by the same company found that 60% wanted their congressional representative to support more restrictive immigration policies.
What is interesting about sampling public opinion about immigration is that no apparent or substantial fault lines appear between ethnic groupings. Now it is understandable that African-Americans, given their socio-economic standing, feel the direct brunt of illegal Hispanic labour competition , and would therefore take a severe position on the issue. In fact, 59% of black Californian voters favour imposing stiff penalties on employers who hire illegal aliens, (Field Poll, April 2006), and 66% of them favour building a border wall along major sections of the U.S./Mexico line.
Opposition to immigration embraced by non-European communities
But it would surprise some to learn, especially those like most American liberals, who are ignorant of Caesar Chavez's long standing fight against immigration, that 76% of Hispanics said in a December 2007 poll done by Arizona State University-Southwest that illegal immigration is a serious problem. Or that 53% of Latinos would change the 14th amendment so a child born to an illegal immigrant in America could not automatically become an American unless the other parent was a citizen. Or that 56% of Latinos favour increasing the number of border patrol agents by a third. Unfortunately, as former Mexican government advisor Fredo Arras-King observed, "American Latinos who criticize mass immigration tend not to organize, as they are especially targeted by pro-immigration Latino leaders."
Causes of disparity between attitudes of US citizens and their political leadership
The question that these poll results beg is why? Why the cleavage between leaders and led? The anti-immigration sentiment of America's middle and working class is easily accounted for. According to Centre for Immigration Studies data, in the decade preceding 2003, immigration increased the supply of people without a high school education by 21% and the supply of other workers by 4%. Rudimentary economic theory suggests that the more poorly skilled workers there are, the less money they'll make---a fact confirmed by the National Research Council in their findings that about half the drop in real wages for high school drop-outs from 1980 to 1994 was due to immigration. A report by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Centre found that Americans and established immigrants suffer an 11% wage drop when they work alongside new Hispanic immigrants. Harvard Professor Dr. George Borgias has accumulated similar data and has made the shocking assertion that American workers lose an incredible $152 billion per year in wages from immigration.
Immigration provides a ready-made source of cheap labour, by growing the labour pool it weakens the bargaining power of American-born workers and reduces the clout of their unions, if they still have them2. Medical benefits not borne by the employer are subsidized by the taxpayers who also pick up the educational costs of their children. Writer Rich Lowry made the best assessment: "No wonder corporate America loves our open borders: they serve as a kind of rolling reverse minimum wage law." And no wonder the late African-American liberal Congressman Barbara Jordan called for cutting back immigration in the 1990s. She was defending her constituency of low-income black workers, the first casualty of the corporate welfare program of high-level immigration, marketed by the left as "multicultural enrichment". Cultural diversity is the fig leaf of naked corporate exploitation.
So blue-collar attitudes to immigration are easily explained, ordinary people are simply following their class interests. And class interests can explain the open borders position taken up by America's opinion leaders and decision makers too. They are much more affluent and educated than the people they lead and attempt to influence, and feel no threat from the illegal immigrants they hire as nannies and gardeners or tip at fine restaurants. One thing is central to the understanding of the immigration divide in the United States, and that is to divest oneself of the almost universal and persistent belief that somehow the Democrats are white knights who represent the working class, the poor and the environment, while the Republicans are the incarnation of power, privilege and plutocracy. To assist you in this task you should be apprised of the following.
A TM Inc poll of 2006 disclosed that those most apt to be satisfied with the current level of immigration which is killing American working class living standards were 25-34 year old liberal college graduates and professionals who identified with the Democratic Party. The same poll found though that it was 35-44 year old conservative Republicans who favoured large-scale round-ups of illegal immigrants. That profiles the supporters of the pro and anti-immigration positions, but the current party leadership positions could best be ascertained by the fact that as of the end of January 2008, all Republican contenders rejected the legalization of "undocumented" immigrants now in the U. S., while the Democrats continue to support it.
Corporate donations flow toward pro-immigration candidates ...
The true alignment of the Democratic Party with corporate interests can be vividly illustrated by a look at campaign financing. McCain, Clinton and Obama are, to put it bluntly, Wall Street candidates. The big banks, the financial firms, corporate law firms and private equity firms pay the pipers. But, according the Centre for Responsive Politics (CRP) (www.opensecrets.org), the Democrats are the clear favourite. Hillary Clinton took in $106.1 million and Barack Obama $102.1 million for all of 2007. McCain received susbstantially less at $41,102,178. Hillary Clinton received $1.3 million from private equity firms, while Obama received $1 million. McCain finished a distant fourth at $ 395,000. Wall Street promotes the candidates who serve its interests and the Democrats have delivered for them since their November 2006 victory.
Democratic leaders buried a proposal to tax the massive incomes of hedge fund operators at normal tax rates, allowing billionaires to claim most of their income as capital gains taxed at a far lower rate. Clinton and Obama have also refused action on the subprime meltdown that would have threatened big financial interests. Corporate law firms gave Clinton over $11 million and Obama over $ 9 million. McCain only got just over two and a half million dollars, the most for Republican candidates. As of February 22, 2008, bagmen have raised over $138 million for Obama, over $134 million for Clinton, and over $53 million for McCain.
Most interesting is the disposition of "Silicon" money. Between 1998 and 2006 almost $83 million in political contributions in the form of individuals donations, PAC contributions, and soft money were made by 40 technology companies. Amounting on average to just $295,708 per company per year of lobbying, it was money well spent. The concession Bill Gates wanted, the H-1B Visa program that allows cheap technology workers into the country, reaped profits a hundred times that investment. But Microsoft wanted to be more certain the fix was in. Over that that seven year period they gave $5,7888,286, with half of Congress on its payroll it would seem. AT+T donated $3,504,773, Apple $3,620,823, and Vericon $4,237,8843. Data for the 2008 campaign showed Obama at $981,459 and Clinton $954,325 as the leading recipients of "computer-internet" donations, with McCain getting a third of their take. To put all of this in perspective, Hillary Clinton, the great white hope of progressive liberalism, received only 11% of her PAC money from labour, but 56% from business. It would be difficult to imagine that the AFL-CIO could match the donation dollars put up by Wall bankers and law firms.
The most revealing fact to be gleaned from presidential campaign donation statistics is one found when donation records are subjected to sector analysis. If one studies 12 business or professional sectors of American society from Agribusiness to Construction to Health to Labour etc., there is one sector that is clearly salient---the "financial-real estate" sector. It has contributed over $73 million to various campaigns, $25 million more than any other sector.
Real estate interests (including mortgage brokers, homebuilders and property developers) gave $4.8 million to Clinton, $2.7 million to Obama and $1.9 million to McCain. The conventional interpretation of their motive is that they want access to the winner when an expected crackdown over predatory lending and a troubled housing finance system reaches the top of the legislative agenda. But there is an alternative, or at least supplementary explanation. One that has been advanced by Australian population sociologist Sheila Newman. The land tenure system that characterizes Anglo-American societies encourages speculation, and much money is to be made simply by population growth. Newman has written extensively to demonstrate that real estate developers are key players in lobbying for mass immigration. US campaign donation records seem to vindicate her hypothesis, as does the fact that a nation like France is close to achieving population stability because the real estate development industry cannot exist as an agent for growth, given that land cannot consistently be reduced to a speculative commodity largely because of the way tenure is arranged4.
... whilst anti-immigration contenders miss out
What then became of the candidates who challenged the corporate open borders agenda? Their campaigns died from lack of funds. Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado is a case in point. Wall Street likes pro-immigration candidates for obvious reasons and so they will reward those who sing their tune. Tancredo insisted on singing an objectionable note, like a three year moratorium on immigration. So he paid the price and collected just $6 million dollars or less than 6% of what Clinton received by year's end and was forced to end his campaign. Clinton at that time was Wall Street's anointed one, someone who, in the words of Numbers USA, "consistently pressed for U. S. population growth, immigration and foreign labour importation." But of course such an agenda of unabashed greed needs always to be camoflauged with a politician's candy floss, the spin is what they are purchased for. So Clinton obliged her corporate donors by saying that "we should always be open to legal immigration-it reforms, it makes us better." Well, it certainly makes a few of us richer Hillary, doesn't it, like your donors and supporters, the most well-heeled of either party!
Corporate America gets what it has paid for from open-border legislators
An examination of Clinton's voting record should confirm that big business is getting what it paid for. Clinton was co-sponsor of Bill S-2109 to help employees import cheap high tech workers while the big law firms who give to her campaign are counseling them how to use the legal system to avoid hiring qualified U.S. workers. Her support of Senate bill 2109 helped expedite the processing of the infamous H-1B visas that depress wages and displace workers. She supported an amnesty of illegal agricultural workers (S bill 1340) and another one of a similar nature (S. bill 2137) that would have brought an amnesty to another 860,000 workers not counting family. Clinton's support of Kennedy's bill S 2381 would have meant amnesty to almost all illegal aliens. Her numerous attempts to sponsor "shamnesty" bills is reflective of a comment she made to a man who said that his wife was an illegal immigrant. "No woman is illegal", Clinton replied.
If Hillary's record is atrocious, it is doubtful if Obama's is any better. His positions seem almost indistinguishable from Clinton's, the difference being more one of emphasis than policy. He supports employer verification of employee identity to deter the hiring of illegals, she doesn't. She favours lower legal immigration intakes, he doesn't. Obama's main focus is the human rights and economic needs---of those knocking at America's door wanting to come in and those already in, legally or illegally. On the Senate floor he stated on May 23, 2007 that "Where we can re-unite families, we should. Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with skills our economy needs, we should." This was an ominous declaration. Since the law was changed in 1965 to create the so-called family re-unification system, "chain migration"---where an immigrant sponsors several others who in turn sponsors several more---has caused the numbers under this category to spiral out of control. In 36 years the number of immediate relatives admitted was over 13 times higher than it was when the law was first enacted to almost one-half million per year.
An Obama policy statement maintains support for "improvements in our visa programs, including the H-1B programs, to attract some of the world's most talented people to America." But H-1B visa holders are not paid as much as Americans, and even Microsoft admits that salaries have not kept pace with inflation. That would do much to explain a so-called labour shortage in the field. As for Obama's goal of attracting the best and the brightest, the vast majority of H-1B holders make in the $60,000 range (Intel's median salary is $65,000), but top talents in the industry capture more than $100,000. And ironically the great majority of awards for innovation have fallen to Americans, indicating that the industry is not shackled by a domestic cognitive deficit that needs relief by a massive injection of foreign Einsteins. The quest for the best and brightest of overseas talent is a smokescreen for the tech corporations' prime motive, the hunt not for the brightest minds but those that come at the cheapest price. And the H-1B program doesn't even require employers to give hiring priority to qualified American citizens, and they have an arsenal of legal measures to reject those who apply. If one is given to wonder why a U.S. Congress would expand the H-1B program in 2000 when their employers, the American taxpayers, most of whom are workers, were not its obvious beneficiaries, Utah Senator Bob Bennett's comment would be informational: "There were, in fact, a whole lot (of Congressmen) against it, but because they are tapping the high-tech community for campaign contributions, they don't want to admit that in public."
John McCain, the only Republican contender left standing, were it not for his title as waterboy for Iraq, could run for the Democrats. He got the ball rolling in 1986 when he signed the 1986 amnesty for illegals and thereby gave the green light for aspiring border-crossers who knew that American law could be violated with impunity and trespass retroactively forgiven. He ran his nomination race on a full-throttle amnesty platform until he found religion earlier this year and back-pedaled. He has voted for S-1639 to double legal immigration, to continue chain migration and the ridiculous annual jackpot lottery of 50,000 applicants from third world nations called "Diversity Immigration". McCain's problem is that he is a dark horse and Wall Street, while hedging its bets, likes to back winners. So his take of their money is but one-third of Obama's and Clinton's.
Ron Paul is a footnote, like Tancredo. His $32 million was not enough and he is the only one who doesn't know its all over, apparently. Paul's anti-immigration stance has not been as comprehensive or as strident as Tancredo's, but firm nonetheless, as reflected in his statement that a nation without secure borders is no nation at all. But Paul is a walking/talking contradiction. While he favours the the usual gamut of measures to protect American workers from the competition of the illegal invasion---border security, employee verification, no amnesty, no welfare for illegals, no alien birthright citizenship etc.---he is also a libertarian in the Friedman tradition. Leaving the working class alone to fend for itself against an unregulated free market is like trusting a ravenous beast to mind your children. With closed borders and free markets Ron Paul offers American workers a goblet of hemlock mixed with green tea for good health. Paul thus falls between two stools. He's no good for Wall Street and he's no good for Main Street either. A curious fellow.
Failure of immigration opponents to address its causes
The most disappointing feature of the American immigration dialogue is its one-dimensional nature. Two critical elements are virtually absent from the arguments presented by both open and closed borders advocates. One is that both sides talk about what attracts Mexican labour to America, and therefore the measures for turning them away. But no one talks about the conditions in Mexico that drove people to take desperate risks to get to the United States and who is responsible for those conditions. When is America going to look in the mirror and admit that the larcenous NAFTA agreement and rapacious rampage of multinational corporations undercut a viable Mexican economy and the basis for a decent life for so many Mexicans? When are American politicians and opinion-makers going to acknowledge that much of American prosperity is built on the backs of those people and others like them in the hemisphere and the world? All the measures proposed by the anti-immigrationist forces are necessary, but by no means sufficient to defend the borders. America cannot play King Canute and hold back a tide of billions. It must reduce the tide by ensuring that the billions do not want to leave home. Scrap the trade agreements, the IMF, SAPs (Structural Adjustment Policies) and offer restitution to rebuild economies that have been pillaged5.
Carrying capacity of U. S. overlooked in debate
Aside from NAFTA, there is another crucial phrase missing from US immigration discussions. Carrying capacity. Each year the United States adds the equivalent of another Chicago. During the Bush administration it has grown by 21 million people. Immigrants, their children and grandchildren will account for 82% of all population growth in the years leading up to 2050, when the country will reach a staggering 438 million if this growth rate is not slowed. Some worry about assimilation, since the share of non-Hispanic whites will fall from 67 to 47%. Obviously the labour market is the focus of most, who would share Samuel Gompers's conviction that "immigration is fundamentally a labour issue." But full employment and economic prosperity in a culturally or linguistically cohesive America would be a pyrrhic accomplishment if such a nation were to rest on a collapsing ecosystem. Can America sustain half its current population when critical resource shortages appear or biodiversity services are compromised ? The works of analysts like David Pimental, Dale Pfeiffer and Richard Heinberg do not inform any Congressional debate about how many people the country should admit. Clearly a Population Plan is overdue.
The American people have spoken on immigration but the political elite will not listen because they are paid by their corporate benefactors not to listen. It is sad to see the world's greatest democratic experiment come to such grief. The Founding Fathers devised a system that they embedded in a constitution with mechanisms to counter-act the natural instinct of the political class to usurp power and exercise it as a permanent elite dominating pauperized subjects on the old European model. They counted on a "vigilant and manly spirit" that animates the American people to breath life and vigour into the constitution. But alas, the Founding Fathers couldn't possibly foresee the power and the scale of Wall Street money.
In America today, anything's for sale, even democracy. I hear a Senator earmarked for the White House can be had, for, oh, around 134-138 million. Sound right?
1. See www.worldviews.org/detailreports/usreport/html/ch535.html, www.cis.org/articles/2002/back1402.html.
2. See Tim Murray's article "Is it reactionary to oppose Immigration?" of 16 Dec 2007 at webdiary.com.au/cms/?q=node/2240, candobetter.org/node/284l.
3. See chart of political contributions from hi-tech companies at www.news.com/2009-1028-6050978.html.
4. Refer to Sheila Newman's 2002 Master's year thesis "The Growth Lobby and its Absence : The Relationship between the Property Development and Housing Industries and Immigration Policy in Australia and France (PDF - 2.6MB) downloadable from candobetter.org/sheila.
5. Refer, also to Tim Murray's article "Closing our borders can't mean turning our backs" of 25 October 2007 at candobetter.org/node/228.