by Bob Quasius
This myth has been around for a long time and often leads to bad immigration policy based on deeply flawed data. It’s worthwhile to look at today’s myths in a historical context, as the same cycle of anti-immigrant propaganda, public hysteria, and the enactment of bad policy repeats itself.
The Dillingham Commission reported in the early 20th century that “new” immigrants (i.e. those from Southern and Eastern Europe) were draining society, lowering wages, increasing crime rates, etc. A few years later in 1916, the book “The Passing of the Great Race; or, The racial basis of European history” was published by early modern progressive Madison Grant, which argued Europeans from Southern and Eastern Europe were inferior to “Nordics.” This book is one of the most infamous works on scientific racism, and Madison Grant played an active role in crafting anti-immigrant and anti-miscegenation legislation.
Grant was also a Vice-President of the Immigration Restriction League that led the drive to severely limit immigration, particularly from Southern and Easter Europe, leading to the 1921 Emergency Quota Law and Immigration Act of 1924, including the National Origins Act, and Asian Exclusion Act, which extended prohibitions against immigration from China and India to all Asians. Within several years of these acts, illegal immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe totaled several million, who then were “inspected” (given amnesty) and naturalized. None of the dire consequences warned by the Dillingham Commission ever materialized, but the now familiar claims that ‘today’s’ immigrants are different than our parents and grandparents is a cycle.
The Immigration Restriction League, which was at the forefront of imposing severe restrictions on non-desirable immigration was heavily funded by the Pioneer Fund, which funds “scientific study of heredity and human differences”, in other words race and ethnicity. The Pioneer Fund also heavily funded the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, the flagship of a network of organizations founded by eugenicist John Tanton, such as the Center for Immigration Studies, U.S. English, Pro English, and NumbersUSA.
Tanton, like his ideological grandfather Madison Grant, is a conservationist, a big believer in the long discredited psuedo-science known as eugenics, and a progressive who believes government should be heavily involved in population control through abortion, immigration restriction, etc. Progressives are ‘spot on’ about Tanton’s bigotry, but they usually fail to mention that Tanton is a progressive, not a conservative, as shown by his resume emphasizing environmental and conservation causes, as well as leadership positions in Planned Parenthood and Zero Population Growth, hardly conservative causes.
Part of Tanton’s messaging resonates with many conservatives, the part calling for strict enforcement of immigration laws. However, few conservatives are calling for drastic reductions in legal immigration, or a ten year timeout on all immigration. ‘Personal responsibility’ and the ‘rule of law’ are core conservative values, which is why immigration enforcement has resonated with conservatives so much in recent years.
Tanton first sought to co-opt Planned Parenthood and Sierra Club with his immigration reduction agenda, before turning to co-opting conservatives, because Tanton ideologically is a progressive in the tradition of Madison Grant. The Tanton network is an unholy alliance of population control progressives and white nationalists. As with Tanton’s ideological grandfather, Madison Grant, the weapons in Tanton’s arsenal include propaganda against immigrants based largely on jazzed up statistics, constant repetition of age-old myths about immigrants, fear mongering, and outright lies.
Alex Nowrasteh of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute debunked much of FAIR’s recent propaganda in a recent Huffington Post op-ed. FAIR’s statistics are deeply flawed, and never include contributions from immigrants and their U.S. born children. This excerpt says it all:
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a stridently anti-immigration organization that wants to substantially decrease legal and unauthorized immigration to the United States. It frequently makes inaccurate claims about immigrants. Its most egregious economic claim is that unauthorized immigrants cost American state, local, and federal governments about $113 billion a year. This is pure bunk that I take to task here.
FAIR’s evidence is detailed in its report, “The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers” by Jack Martin and Eric A. Ruark. Quite frankly, it is one of the most amateurish and error filled reports I’ve ever read. It ignores the fiscal benefits of unauthorized immigration and uses dubious numbers and poor methodology to reach its conclusions.
Every human activity has both costs and benefits. People constantly weigh costs and benefits. If a given action’s benefits outweigh its costs, that action is worth taking – but you have to analyze both the costs and benefits first before you can come to that conclusion. The FAIR report counts the costs alone.
FAIR estimates that it costs states and the federal governments $52 billion a year to educate unauthorized immigrants and their American-born children. FAIR doesn’t compare that figure with the increase in income that people experience after earning a high school degree or GED, about $7,208 over non-high school graduates. That’s $7,208 more of taxable income. On top of that, between half and three-fourths of all undocumented immigrants file tax returns. The tax revenue gained from increasing education must be compared against the increased cost of public education when determining the net fiscal costs.
FAIR doesn’t consider this because it stops counting the tax payments of the children of unauthorized immigrants by the time they graduate high school. Most children cost the government before the age of 18 because of our insanely expensive and ineffective public education system, so if you stop counting the costs and benefits of students by the time they reach 18, you’ll reach the conclusion that children are always a fiscal loss for the government. If FAIR’s reasoning were applied to the rest of society, it would never make fiscal sense to have children, and the quicker we stopped the better for the government’s fiscal balance.
Full Article here.
Now, the next time you hear lawmakers quote statistics in justifying laws to crack down on illegal immigration, check the source of their statistics, as most of the time you’ll find the source is an organization founded or nurtured by John Tanton.