Immigration. The Economic and the Cultural

Photo by Spencer Davis on

Tough subject.
We are a nation of immigrants and should remain so, but there’s a lot of anger stirring on the subject.
Are we overpopulated? No.
Is there room for more people? Absolutely.
Who wants to keep the door open to new entrants? Business.
Who doesn’t want to? Those who perceive themselves as being left behind, feeling the newcomers are taking something from them, something they deserve because they were here before.
Business is clear in their position. Jobs are going unfilled. New talent is needed, from manual skills, caregivers, farm labor to physicists, engineers, scientists, technologists, mathematicians. Business wants them all, without unnecessary delays.
Their argument – we will move forward faster, create more wealth, stay ahead in the ruthless competition for advantage. They have a point.
The other side, the side who feels they’re being left behind – the cultural side – also has a point.
‘Why are we still behind, why are we not catching up?’
Some of the left behind may have the capacity to move up while others may not. Or they may not have the motivation. But did they have the opportunities? If they haven’t, why not?
If we’re going to start solving the immigration problem, we must listen to their side too.
Theirs is a more complex side than that of business because it exposes deep weaknesses in our system of government.
If in a given town, a business chooses to pull up and move elsewhere, that is their choice. Some of their workers will go with them but some won’t. Some will say, ‘Okay, that industry was the only game in town, so now I have to get going and move to another town, so I can make a living and feed my family. Others may not have such initiative or have yet to find it.
Sound government has a responsibility to the left behind. A responsibility to provide the necessary training for them to enlarge their capacities to work in a changing environment. That task must be done on such scale that it includes most of the affected.
When that is done then there will be less room for resentment.
I was in Germany in September of 2021, and in one of the cab drives I took I spoke to the driver. He was an immigrant from East Asia. ‘How was he adapting to life in Germany?’ I asked.
He loved it. He liked his cab driving because he could pick the hours he worked. His children were going to school. Life was good. Then there was this cousin of his, who after being laid off from his previous job during the pandemic, found out that the government was offering training programs in IT. The cousin jumped at the opportunity. A year later or so the man was making nearly 4 times the salary he had been earning before.
Not all the left behind will have the spunk the cousin had, but many will. If the opportunities are offered.
But to not have opportunities for advancement while seeing that our borders are overwhelmed and in perpetual chaos, is to inflame whatever resentments exist.
Thus the importance of dealing squarely with the immigration issue.
The perception of an orderly transition to coming into this country must be restored.
Right now the impression is that cheating is rampant. People overstay their visas. Others are allowed to stay in the country while their cases are processed but then they don’t show up for their hearings. Meanwhile, they use government services that the left behind finds intolerable.
‘Why not us?’ they ask.
Some politicians have made careers exploiting the resentments of the left behind without offering solutions. But demonizing the immigrant is not acceptable.
Building a wall is not either. Separating parents from children abhorrent.
Reason and compassion must prevail.
So we have to act. Otherwise the perception of lawlessness at our borders undermines our trust in government.
The task of solving this problem is urgent.
It will require compromises and bipartisan support but it should not be delayed.
Otherwise the problem will fester and deepen divisions we cannot afford.
The more we convey to the world our capacity to solve problems, the more we can inspire others to do the same and deter our enemies from challenging us.
Yesterday I listened to a 50 minute taped presentation sponsored by the US Chamber of commerce. It was held last year, during the pandemic.
Two US representatives, one democratic, the other republican, spoke on their views. They both agreed on the importance of tackling the problem. I heard them say that the last change to the law occurred in 1986, while Reagan was president.
I heard about legalizing those who’ve been here for years without papers yet making a contribution, all of which is important. Heard also of the importance of not demonizing the immigrant. But didn’t hear a single word about acknowledging and addressing the mounting resentment of the left behind or how to channel it.
It must be done.
It’s a cultural issue.

Immigration and American Political Discord

Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Immigration is at the core of our political antagonism but we’re not confronting the issue in a way that aims to resolve the matter.

There are several key themes to which we have not fully applied our ingenuity and thus linger partly unresolved. These themes are inequality, racism and immigration. Address those in a comprehensive manner and we will move up to be at the vanguard of nations.

Hard to believe, isn’t, that we are not there now.

And it is not for lack of talent, but for lack of leadership willing to commit to the task.

It has been hard for the white majority in this country, to accept that immigration has become essential for the nation to move forward. Hard for the white majority of this country to recognize that they cannot – cannot – move forward this country without immigrants.

Self serving politicians will tell you that they can make America great without the input of immigrants.

But it cannot be done.

Demography speaks loudly.

Without immigrants we would not have the numbers of people or the depth of talent to combine into the productive capacity required to move the nation forward.

Immigrants from all over the world have come to our shores and begun to make their contributions. We need to keep those doors open.

Their children, those born here – the second generation immigrants – soak up all that is part of being an American. And they do so eagerly, competing with all they have to be the best they can be because it is in their nature to do so. Like their parents, they know, deep in their hearts, what it is to get a second chance.

Immigrants are grateful to this land. And once here they connect with the essence of what is being an American.

And that essence is the right to be free.

And with being free you have the right to bow to no one.

But immigrants will say ‘thank you’ to whomever, no matter what their color, if those people have put effort into adding value to this great land that has opened the doors for them. To those, gratitude is owed. Always.

The not bowing to anyone is a fundamental American right.

Have you ever seen in the Olympic games when the delegations of every country parade and come in front of the grandstands where the big wigs sit? Have you seen how nearly all countries tip their flag in deference to them?

Well, the American delegation does not.

And that same spirit is embodied in those who become American. We do not bow. We don’t do that.

It has been hard for a section of the white majority in this country to accept that our land is changing. And change will continue for it is inevitable.

Nature, in its infinite wisdom, spreads its gifts widely, across all ethnic groups of this earth.

By keeping our borders open, in compliance with our laws, we allow all kinds of talent to come to this land and because of it we have the richness that we have.

The new immigrants challenge us all, challenge us to be the best we can be. They bring new energies, new ways of doing things, fresh perspectives.

Today, a good number of major corporations are headed by first or second generation immigrants. Microsoft, Google, Adobe, Tesla are in that category.

Lamentably, there are politicians in our midst who stir up animosity against the new arrivals. Instead of helping the native, who has fallen behind, to better understand the importance of immigration, they stir up antiimmigrant sentiment because it is easy to do so.

‘Look, they’re different than you, what are they doing here? They are taking what is yours.’

Rather than to help them understand the many reasons why they’re so angry.

‘Look – the responsible leader could say as they address the resentful American – your life’s task, like it is for all of us, is to be the best you can be, but the immigrant coming in may be more creative, more daring, more imaginative than you are. So why get angry at them when they may be making contributions to your land?’

‘I was here before,’ may be an American’s reply.

But is that enough? Think about it.

The nation, your country, owes it to you, to have opportunities to develop. And you may have had such opportunities and not taken advantage of them, or maybe you didn’t have the opportunities, in which case you have grounds to complain and demand you’re given such chances.

But the nation cannot wait. The nation’s productive capacity has to keep pace with the rest of the world for otherwise we fall behind. Any reforms required have to be made as we continue to move forward, and as of this time, part of the precious energy helping propel us forward comes from the immigrant engine.

Someone with antiimmigrant views may ask, ‘look at the Chinese, look at how fast they’ve risen, and they don’t have any immigrants. Why can’t we do the same?’

First – the Chinese, at 1.4 billion people – roughly three times our population, have a vaster genetic pool than we do. Thus, greater variety of talents. But they, too, have had migrations from neighboring countries over the centuries.

Second – the Chinese are enjoying the benefits of a significant transfer of knowledge from the West, since emerging from their isolation during the leadership of Deng Xiaoping.  

This new strength of the Chinese, who now have become a formidable rival to the West, should be reason enough for America to further open its doors to immigrants the world over.

To erect barriers to immigration at this juncture, would be to deny ourselves the huge possibilities of enriching our genetic pool.

What is required of American leaders at this time, is a commitment to confront the nativist sentiment. Confront to enlighten. This moment calls for leaders willing to engage and willing to work through whatever the resistances, so truth is accepted.

If we have such leaders, then we will move further on our path to bridge our differences.

If not, we will lose valuable time and set the stage for making mistakes that will dim the nation’s possibilities.

Oscar valdes.