Atlantic Monthly article calls for reduced immigration

David Frum, a senior editor of the Atlantic, writes correctly that immigration’s “most important effects are social and cultural, not economic.” He does not cite any social or cultural reasons in favor of immigration. He associates and implies there is a causal relationship between increased immigration in Europe and the U.S. in the past 40 years with societal breakdown, and even with economic inequality. But immigration’s rise worldwide is just one aspect of globalization. Reducing immigration rates will only partly correct for globalization’s effects.

He believes that by lowering immigration (meaning the reduction in permanent visa awards) we can “more quickly and successfully absorb the people who come here.”

He is right that absorption of immigrants into the country’s civic culture is key. He is somewhat careless and too summary in identifying where and why the absorption is not going well. It has gone well in major urban areas which have been absorbing immigrants for over a century. It is probably going well with college educated immigrants, who make up an ever larger share of recent immigrants.

It has not gone well for inland and especially non-urban areas where the immigrant share of the population went from, say, 1% to 5%. It is not going well with persons with very little formal education (mainly from Latin America).

Dailing down immigration is a deceptively simple solution. It would be a good thing for those wedded to inclusion of immigrants (such as I) to address the absorption issue accurately and to offer sensible policy changes. That will counter the Trump administration’s alarms of panic, which go pretty much unrebutted.

He ends the article this way:

The years of slow immigration, 1915 to 1975, were also years in which the United States became a more cohesive nation: the years of the civil-rights revolution, the building of a mass middle class, the construction of a national social-insurance system, the projection of U.S. power in two world wars. As immigration has accelerated, the country seems to have splintered apart.

Many Americans feel that the country is falling short of its promises of equal opportunity and equal respect. Levels of immigration that are too high only enhance the difficulty of living up to those promises. Reducing immigration, and selecting immigrants more carefully, will enable the country to more quickly and successfully absorb the people who come here, and to ensure equality of opportunity to both the newly arrived and the long-settled—to restore to Americans the feeling of belonging to one united nation, responsible for the care and flourishing of all its people.

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