Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Immigrants and mutts

As the descendant of illegal immigrants – people who came to this country and displaced Native Americans who were then the rightful owners – I am pro-immigration and suspect that being anti-immigration would be hypocritical.

Immigration confers benefits on the citizens of the immigrant's new nation. Immigrants, compared to longer-time residents, are more industrious, start more businesses, and earn more degrees. Immigrants tend to self-select based on characteristics that result in those achievements, enriching a nation's gene pool.

Instead of the 5% of first generation immigrants living in the U.S. in the 1950s, 13% -perhaps soon 15% - of the population are first generation immigrants. Unlike eighteenth century immigration, which was largely from Europe, immigrants now come from Asia and the Americas. Consequently, demographics are shifting.

The current wave of U.S. immigrants is expediting changes in the nation's racial and ethnic composition. Hispanics, expected to comprise 30% of the population by 2050, will reach that mark sooner if the immigration reform bill that the Senate passed last week becomes law.

Intermarriage of people of different races, ethnicities, and religions is increasingly common. In the metaphor of New York Times columnist David Brooks, the U.S. is becoming a nation of mutts, i.e., people who have multiple racial, ethnic, and religious heritages (A Nation of Mutts, June 27, 2013). Mutts generally make wonderful pets and, I'm willing to bet, wonderful citizens.

With Brooks, I think the changes are exciting and positive. Fresh blood provides not only fresh economic impetus and a more youthful population (good for aging baby boomers like me who live in a nation that constructed its social safety net on the premise that it would have a sizable number of working adults), but also for moving beyond old racial stereotypes and prejudices.

Greedy bigots who wish to preserve what they believe they have earned (or have the irritatingly arrogant ignorance to believe that God gave to them) ironically oppose immigration. America's best hope is encouraging immigration.

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