Immigration Economics

By Robert Reuschlein,

Adjusting for military spending explains industrialized countries’ differences in manufacturing productivity growth rates. Population growth explains most other differences between the manufacturing productivity and economic growth. But there remains a 3% growth rate differential in favor of America. Where does that come from? I’m convinced that comes from a “brain drain” from all over the world to America, the beacon of hope for most of the world. In terms of empire, this is the modern equivalent of the expression “all roads lead to Rome”.

We are a nation of immigrants and we labor under the illusion of “huddled masses yearning to breath free” and “give me your tired, your poor, your wretched refuse from your teeming shores,” as is written on the Statue of Liberty in New York. Our history has been dominated by refugees from Europe who didn’t fit in over there, so they came to America to find a new life. Today we are in one of the great immigration periods in American history like the 1880’s or 1920’s. First generation immigrants were 3% of the population in 1970, 7% in 1990, 9% in 1996 and 11% in the 2000 census. The media has us believing racist stereotypes of poor Mexicans illegally crossing our Southern border to seek economic opportunity in America, at the expense of “regular” Americans. “Regular” being a code word for “white”.

Most immigrants are hard working and productive. Some are illegal but most are legal: about a fourth are poor and from South of the border. But the other three fourths decidedly are not. Overall, surveys show that immigrants make two and a half times as much as the American average. They are often well educated and trained, often engineers and doctors, or from wealthy families overseas. They contribute greatly to the American economy, not at all the drain on the economy most Americans assume thanks to the sensationalism of the media. I question our immigration policies not because of their existence but because of the class bias they often reflect. Our foreign policy has a similar class bias. Foreign policy favors the rich and powerful militarists and capitalists of Third World nations at the expense of progressive middle and working class people. Reformers, schoolteachers, union organizers, and health care workers are often targeted for torture or “disappearance” by soldiers trained in our School of the Americas. “Disappearance” is the polite word for murder of those opposed to multinational corporate schemes.

The strict nature of Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) applications process shows a similar kind of bias, where once the Beatles John Lennon was threatened with deportation probably at least in part because of the lyrics in his songs, like “Imagine”. Thanks to the McCarran Act our country can block the visas of foreign speakers with leftist political messages that are uncomfortable for our corporate and foreign policy elites.

So when we import these elites from around the world there is a class bias that rewards conservative businessmen at the expense of middle and working class moderates and reformers. How many "School of Americas" graduates and their friends are let in despite horrible human rights abuses? Who knows? But certainly their opponents are often screened out by the Cold War INS machinery. Has this process contributed to the conservative bias of the modern American Empire State and affected our elections? Possibly, although the military industrial complex and multinational corporations would still have to take most of the blame.