From Mr William W. Chip.

Sir, Your endorsement of an “overhaul” of US immigration law manages in two columns to advance nearly every fallacy that stands behind the most ill-conceived immigration legislation in my country’s history (“US immigration policy reform”, editorial April 2).

You say that the annual inflow of illegal immigrants from Mexico has dropped “to zero” since the 2007 recession, making it the “ideal time” to redress the status of “the 11m undocumented Hispanics”. For the record, fewer than 8m of the undocumented population is Hispanic and fewer than 6m are Mexican. Moreover, the “zero” to which you refer is the net inflow of illegal Mexican migrants during 2005-10, as calculated by the Pew Hispanic Center. During the Great Recession of 2007-09, the gross inflow of more than 200,000 per annum was offset by an equivalent gross outflow. However, if the “gang of eight” senators succeed in granting permanent residence to every undocumented Mexican, the gross outflow will drop nearly to zero, and the gross inflow will become the net inflow.

You say that granting 11m undocumented aliens a “pathway to citizenship” would “put a floor under the low-wage portions of the US economy”. Yet the US economy, in the face of low-wage competition from China and other emerging economies, has for decades experienced a net loss of high-wage jobs in the production of internationally traded goods and services. Sectors of the US economy that depend on non-tradable services, such as construction, cleaning and food service, are relatively immune from such competition, yet most undocumented aliens work in those very sectors. How do the “low-wage” portions of the US economy benefit by having to compete with millions of foreign workers at home as well as abroad?

You say that “the GOP must make peace with the Hispanic vote for its own electoral survival”. Yet, a peer-reviewed report in the latest edition of Social Sciences Quarterly “found no evidence that incumbent Republicans could increase their share of the Latino vote by embracing less restrictive immigration policies”, but that “doing so may cost them votes among non-Hispanic whites”. It is obvious from this side of the Atlantic, if not from yours, that the Republican party establishment, financially beholden to business interests, has always favoured mass immigration as a covert means of suppressing wages. The party’s showing among Latino voters in 2012 (only four points lower than 2008) is nothing more than the establishment’s excuse (“the Hispanics made us do it”) to the party’s socially conservative base for their eager acquiescence in President Barack Obama's immigration agenda.

Finally, you express “concern” that the “gang of eight” bill may not include “automatic visas” for foreign students graduating in science and engineering. Why so, given that the number of US graduates in science, technology, medicine and engineering, as forecast by the US Department of Education, will greatly exceed the number of new jobs in those fields, as forecast by the US Department of Labor? Your editorial enthusiasm for importing foreign college graduates is an ironic contrast to the front-page report in the same edition on recent shifts in the US jobs market that “plunge the American middle-class deeper into crisis”.

In 1990 the US Congress appointed a bipartisan Commission on Immigration Reform, which engaged the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the costs and benefits of large-scale immigration. In 1997 the commission reported that legal immigration should be reduced from more than 900,000 per annum to 550,000, that the US had no need for a new guest worker programme, and that granting a mass amnesty to illegal aliens would create more problems than it would solve. Is it reasonable for the American people to cast aside these recommendations, which proceeded from years of expert analysis and public hearings, in favour of virtually opposite recommendations cobbled together in a matter of weeks by eight politicians working behind closed doors with a swarm of immigration lobbyists?

William W. Chip, Member, Board of Directors, Center for Immigration Studies, Washington, DC, US

Get alerts on Letter when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article