Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 38me0181 (posted Nov. 18, 2000)"
November 18, 2000
Letters to the Editor
The American Enterprise
1150 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
To The Editor:
The articles published in the on-line edition of your December issue about immigration serve to inflame, rather than enlighten, the public discourse. We are shocked and dismayed that the American Enterprise Institute chose to publish anti-immigrant views that are factually inaccurate and out of touch with the political mainstream.
Leading economic and political leaders including Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, President Clinton and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) acknowledge immigrants have contributed to the most-sustained economic boom in American history. They also are helping to improve our educational system. But those facts unfortunately were absent from your December issue.
For example, the authors who vented their spleen against immigrants (particularly those from Mexico) did not note that during the past 29 years the United States has admitted approximately 15 million immigrants. Over that same period, our unemployment rate has been cut almost in half. Many leading economists say that immigrants are helping to sustain a high-growth, low-inflation economy. Further, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that half of new jobs in the future will require less than a high school diploma. In addition, several demographic economists have testified before Congress that there is a severe shortage of low-skill or essential workers that likely will continue for the next 20 years. Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan has told Congress that these worker shortages have "serious implications" for our economy, and that unless a solution is found to the shortages, it could "bring[ing] our growing prosperity to an end." Increased immigration is a solution to our worker shortages, according to Chairman Greenspan.
Another fact left unmentioned is that low-skill immigrants create small businesses and jobs. The Small Business Administration reports that between 1987 and 1997, the number of immigrant entrepreneurs increased by 56.5% among Asians and 30.1% among Hispanics. Over the same period, the SBA reports that the number of Hispanic-owned businesses increased by 232% and Asian-owned firms by 180%. Combined, these companies employed more than 3.3 million people and generated more than $375 billion in revenue during 1997 alone.
The authors also ignore a correlation between immigration and recent student improvements on standardized tests. The decade of the 1990s saw the highest-ever rise in scores on a leading college placement exam. Contrast that to the 1960s and 1970s, the decades immigration critics call the "golden age" of immigration, when college entrance test scores fell by 2.3 points. During the 1990s, student scores on national tests in math, science, and reading also have increased. Interestingly, recent winners of the National Spelling Bee and the National Geography Bee were immigrants.
One must ask why the authors chose to ignore these facts and present a rabidly anti-immigrant picture. A hint can be found in the introduction to your December issue, which thanks the Center for Immigration Studies. CIS, as it is known, began as an off-shoot of the notorious anti-immigrant group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The first CIS director worked for the Federation.
A few facts about the Federation will reveal their anti-immigrant bias. John Tanton, the Federations founder, has said that unless U.S. borders are sealed our country will be overrun with people "defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs." Tanton resigned from the board of U.S. English after a 1986 memorandum about immigration in California was released to the press. In that memo, Tanton mused: "Will Latin American migrants bring with them the tradition of the mordida (bribe), the lack of involvement in public affairs?"
Those very same ideas, albeit more subtly phrased, recur in many of the articles published in your December issue.
We expect more from the American Enterprise Institute than giving anti-immigrant groups a place to express their outrageous and out-of-touch views. We expect rational, objective discussions of national issues. Perhaps you soon will return to that tradition.
Margaret A. Catillaz