The United States is a nation of immigrants, a melting pot of the worlds people. The argument of immigration and whether it enhances or threatens life in the United States is ongoing. Having been through the immigration process, because my wife is a immigrant from Germany, has caused me to know immigration enhances life in the United States. Diversified cultures have strengthened our social fabric and have molded our national morals and social values. Thru the years every new immigrant brought with them the best ideas of their society and together with guts and hard work they turned a rugged wilderness into flourishing towns and cities creating opportunity for the next generation of immigrants. Our society was founded with the idea that each individual is important, honest labor brings rewards, and each individual is guaranteed the right to be free.
Peter Martin wrote "Towards Something American" in Harpers Magazine (July 1994), and asserted he is not sure we even have a American culture. Sure we do, American culture can not be defined in the traditional sense and has slowly evolved from the European culture of the initial immigrants to a vast vat of the world's cultures and traditions. We've adapted the best of the world's cultures and traditions to fit in with American society, molding our social values. Not that each American thinks and acts the same way, that makes Americans special. We have many ideas of what our culture should be. The Germans have October Fest, the Irish have Saint Patrick's day, and the Jew's have Hanukkah. In many instances it is based on our geographic location within the United States and the people who settled there. Other times there are pools of different cultures in each city. When we moved from Germany, my wife immigrated and I came home after 13 years overseas, it was perfectly natual to sweep the streets and sidewalk in front of our house. We also cleaned the windows every Saterday. Our neighbors thought we were crazy, but if everyone did this wouldn't our city be cleaner? The bottom line is we've managed to get along and recognize everyone has the right to practice their beliefs, patterns of human behavior, and rituals. That is American culture and has enhanced life in the United States.
Statistical analysis of the immigration controversy is muddled with numbers used by both sides to claim support for their position. The fact is the figures used by both sides have little meaning. Business Week published a list of graphs on 13 July, 1992 and I find the figures do not support eather side of the issue. Graph 2 indicates that between 1971 and 1991 the majority of legal immigrants came from Latin America (47.9%) and Asia (35.2%). The Asian immigrants were better educated than the Latin American immigrants. Graph 4 shows the Asian immigrants averaged 12-16 years of education compared to 8-12 years for the Latin Americans. Graph 3 indicates the United States has attracted many science and engineering students from abroad, but doesn't indicate how many stay after their education is completed. Until a study is concluded with all immigrants surveyed, nothing concrete can be analyzed from the charts given, except the majority of the American people feel uneasy about immigration.
How do immigrants help the economy? Americans are uneasy about immigrants and how they affect the economy. No one wants to loose their job to anybody much less a non-citizen. Julian L. Simon, Professor of business administration at the University of Maryland wrote for the Wall Street Journal , January 26, 1990 "Bring on the wretched refuse". His research concludes, "Immigrants do not cause native unemployment, even among low-paid minority groups". Immigrants create jobs by being consumers. The statistics indicate many immigrants are educated and possess similar job skills as natives. Mr. Simon writes, "Immigrants typically arrive when they are young and healthy. Hence new immigrant families use fewer welfare services than do average native families because immigrants do not receive expensive Social Security and other aid to the aged". This allows the immigrants to contribute more to the system then they use.
The immigration issue will not be solved in the near future. The debate will continue and both sides will argue tainted statistics that are bent to conform with their ideas. Since the United States is a nation of immigrants and the most powerful nation in the world, we've been doing something right. Can we deal with the immigration issue smarter, with more hard facts, and with less emotion? I say yes, but in the meantime lets not fix something that may not be broken.
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Last update: 11/24/99