New Amnesty Argument to Voters: Migrants’ Kids Do Better than Your Kids
Americans should welcome many more migrants because the migrants’ children will be more successful than the Americans’ children, says the advocates for a new pro-migration, pro-amnesty political campaign.
“No matter which country their parents came from, children of immigrants are more likely than the children of the U.S.-born to surpass their parents’ incomes when they are adults,” two economic historians say in a June 1 article for Time.com.
Foreign children have greater economic success because arriving migrants tend to arrive in the U.S. coastal cities where U.S. investors create new jobs and economic opportunities, said Leah Boustan at Princeton and Ran Abramitzky at Stanford. The two economic historians have authored a new book, “Streets of Gold: America’s Untold Story of Immigrant Success,” which is now being heavily promoted by pro-migration lobbies.
Americans lose out because they are less likely to leave the civic wealth of their communities, they write:
Many of the children of U.S.-born parents grow up in areas where their families settled long before, so economic mobility for them is often coupled with the costs of leaving home … In other words, U.S.-born families are more rooted in place, while immigrant families are more footloose—and this willingness to move toward opportunity seems to make all the difference.
“Their desire to give more people in other countries the opportunity to live in the United States may be laudable, but they seem to have an appalling lack of concern for their fellow Americans,” said Steven Camarota, the research director at the Center for Immigration Studies.SUBSCRIBE
They “consistently understate the fact that immigration crowds out other Americans from moving to these high-employment, high-wage growth cities,” noted Jason Richwine, a Harvard Ph.D. who now works at the Center for Immigration Studies.
In prior studies from 2017 to 2021, the two authors admitted that Congress’s decision to block migration from 1924 to the 1970s was a huge benefit for many Americans. The cut-off allowed poor Americans to quit their dangerous coal mining jobs for factory jobs, and to migrate from the southern cotton economy to jobs in California and the North, and it also forced farmers to mechanize many jobs once performed by manual labor.
But Congress restarted immigration in 1965 and then doubled the inflow in 1990, and it effectively replaced American migrants with international migrants. “By most measures, internal migration in the United States is at a 30-year low,” said a 2011 academic study, titled “Internal Migration in the United States.”
The inflow of immigrant labor also reduces pressure on investors to move their job-creating investments outside the coastal, high-growth cities, Richwine added. “They don’t have to worry about finding the labor in America … where there are a lot of people looking for work.”
That migration-caused diversion of wealth-creating investment is increasingly being recognized by Midwest politicians, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), and Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN).
The two authors’ message is being pushed out via a variety of favorable book reviews, soft-touch interviews, and friendly media mentions — plus education curricula — because they are the faces of a new elite-backed campaign to extract more valuable consumers, workers, and renters from poor countries.
The claim that migrants do better than Americans is a key pitch in the campaign. “Just as in the past, immigrants often double their income — or more — by moving to the U.S. from their home country,” Boustan said at a June 7 presentation at the investor-funded American Enterprise Institute, adding:
Children of immigrants that grow up close to the bottom of the income distributionc– so, think about the 25th percentile, for example — are more likely to reach the middle class that children of similar [income] U.S-born households.
Source: Leah Boustany, Ran Abamitzky in “Street of Gold.”
The internationalist-minded authors laud the immigration of skilled immigrants — but also minimize any obligation to curb the inflow of unskilled migrants who compete with millions of low-income Americans, despite historically low wages and work participation rates. Instead, they favor the inflow of more unskilled foreign workers to substitute for the rising number of discarded Americans who can do the blue-collar jobs.
Boustan said on June 7:
Well, one thing is clear to us: Our immigration system does not need to pre-select immigrants based on their wealth or their level of Education. We do not need to move to a Canadian-style point system. Rather, if we’re willing to plan with the future in mind and take a long view, we can continue to accept immigrants from poor countries who can do any of the jobs that need [to be done in] agriculture and in services, with the confidence of the American economy will allow their children to thrive.
That claim is very different from her 2021 paper, where she argued to fellow academics there is a “growing consensus that … immigrants can be readily replaced with [wage-boosting] mechanization or automation.”
Her new 2022 book is also a turnaround from her coverage of black migration in an unpublicized 2017 book that was formally endorsed by the association of university economists, the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The two authors say little about how migration policy can be reformed to boost productivity by American white-collar, blue-collar, or agriculture workers. That disregard complements their corporate allies’ eagerness to grow the U.S. consumer economy by extracting more workers, more consumers, and more renters from poor countries.
In many campaign events, Boustany and Abramitzky seem unconcerned with the expanding economic disaster facing many millions of alienated, sidelined, ordinary Americans. For example, in their Time.com article, they wrote:
In April 2020, the New York Times ran a special feature called “I Am the Portrait of Downward Mobility.” “It used to be a given that each American generation would do better than the last,” the piece began, “but social mobility has been slowing over time.”
In paging through the profiles, we couldn’t help noticing one group of Americans who defies this trend: the children of immigrants …
In contrast, the New York Times article made the effort to describe Americans who are losing out after the federal government doubled immigration rates in 1990 — and created a multi-decade bubble of cheap labor — at the request of investors and progressives
“My financial situation is vastly worse than that of my parents, who were 40 when I was born,” Lauren Bruce, of Madison, Wis., told the New York Times. “They always owned houses and had new cars, never worried about seeing a doctor, benefited from solid pensions and preached that college was the secret to their success … There was a ladder. I’m not sure that ladder exists any more.”
“My parents, a mechanic and a waitress in rural Alabama, were able to purchase a home and land and save money for the future,” said Melissa Haddock, an administrator in Florence, Ala. “I live week to week and rent.”
“Since the late 1990s, mortality rates for middle-aged (45–55), White non-Hispanic (WNH) Americans began to rise while rates declined for all other demographic and age groups,” according to a 2021 study at the National Library of Medicine. “Research suggests these causes of death (i.e., suicide, poisoning, alcohol-related liver disease) are driving the overall mortality rate for middle-aged WNHs and have been described as “deaths of despair” in the literature,” said the study.
“If we’re making immigration policy from the perspective of what is best for Americans, we have to want a system where employers are incentivized — and also politicians are incentivized — to get low-skilled Americans back to work,” Richwine responded. The policy should also encourage troubled Americans to “get their social problems straightened out to the best extent that we can, to make them productive people,” he said.
But if employers and legislators can import immigrants to solve their problems, they need not care about troubled Americans, Richwine added:
We want all Americans to have some kind of important role in our society and in our economy so that we have to care about them. It’s nice to be able to say we care just out of the goodness of our heart, but the reality is that when low-skilled Americans become important cogs, then we’re going to naturally care a lot more about the fact that maybe they’re too dependent on welfare or maybe they need to kick that drug habit … There’s no incentive right now to do those things as long as there’s this steady flow of foreign labor.
At the June 7 AEI event, Breitbart News asked Boustan if she would favor some form of compensation for the Americans who will be harmed by future migration into high-opportunity cities. She ignored the conclusions of her 2017 book and dodged the question, saying:
There isn’t really a lot of strong evidence that immigrants who are coming into the U.S. today are displacing U.S. workers … I don’t think there’s strong evidence that immigrants are taking jobs or lowering wages for U.S. foreign workers, even lower-skilled U.S. foreign workers, some of whom are black.
Stan Veuger, the AEI manager who organized the event, dismissed the question of compensation for the government’s migration policy:
I don’t think the way we usually run things is that if there is a public policy change or some development in the economy, that the federal government goes out and hands out checks to everyone who may or may not have had last out. I don’t think that’s how democratic capitalism typically works, but I understand the impulse. It’s obviously how other countries have organized themselves, especially until 1989 [when the Berlin Wall was removed].
Under current laws, the federal government compensates people injured by mandated vaccinations, it provides retraining funds to people who lose jobs via free trade, and it compensates people who lose property when government builds roads. Those programs reflect the long-standing view that citizenship is built on a set of reciprocal benefits and obligations between the government and the citizens.
The view is deemed obsolete by the many progressive and business groups who want to treat Americans as replaceable economic cogs, rather than as Americans with moral and legal rights.
Investors Ally With Progressives
Boustan’s book is the spearhead of a PR campaign to break what she said is a political logjam. “Immigration has been stuck in a holding pattern,” she lamented on June 7:
There was a real holding out of hope that the Senate and the House would pass a pathway to citizenship in exchange for more intensive efforts on the border. And that did not pass in 2013, and that’s the last that we’ve heard of an attempt at comprehensive immigration reform.
But that political impasse between elites and populists can be broken by the political alliance of globalist-minded Wall Street investors and her anti-nationalist progressive sector, according to Boustan:
Here I am at AEI, and I’ve heard from many conservatives saying “America works! Anyone can make it here! That’s the message of your research.” But I’ve also heard from many progressives who saw in our research a hopeful message that a diverse set of immigrant groups can contribute to our society.
The same pro-migration, cheap labor, workforce replacement campaign is backed by many state-level business leaders and local gentry elites in GOP-leaning heartland states.
“We need immigrants,” claimed Robert Leonard, a radio host in Iowa. “Every rural manufacturing leader I have spoken with, regardless of party affiliation … know immigrants can help solve their labor problems,” said Leonard, who lives near a factory that is selling robot cow-milking machines to the dairy farmers who complain about labor shortages.
Like many other comfortable liberals, Boustan uses one crude term — “conservatives” — to hide the Politics 101 distinctions between business interests and mainstream public concerns.
Boustan’s ambitious campaign would combine the globalist, state business, and internationalist loobies to deliver more diverse migrants into the cities, jobs, and communities that would otherwise be filled by more influential and better-paid Americans and their children:
Politicians have shifted the conversation on immigration. In fact, such a shift took place in a single generation right after World War Two, with efforts by President [Harry] Truman and then Presidents [John] Kennedy and [Lyndon] Johnson to redefine America as “A Nation of Immigrants.” I take that sentiment for granted, that phrase “A Nation of Immigrants.” It was an idea that was offered here in Washington and then spread to the public and led to the border being reopened in 1965.
So we believe that a politician who takes this message seriously will succeed– a politician who is strong and emphasizing America as a nation of immigrants, rather than [being] defensive about this supposed perpetual crisis at the border.
And here’s the message: “That immigrants contribute to our economy through science, innovation and vital services, that the children of immigrants from nearly every poor country can move up to the middle class, that immigrants are just as keen to become Americans now as they were in the past, and that America is a country that embraces diversity and lets in new ideas.”
A positive and optimistic message about immigration is broadly popular, and might even be a political winner if it is embraced proudly. We believe that we can reclaim the legacy of America’s “Streets of Gold.”
In her AEI event, Boustan did not acknowledge that President Donald Trump offered Americans an optimistic message about migration fights to win the White House in 2016. Trump’s America-first policy deflated the post-1990 cheap-labor bubble and raised employment and wages for many working-class Americans — even though it was partially blocked by pro-business groups in D.C. and allied appointees in his administration.
Since at least 1990, the D.C. establishment has extracted tens of millions of migrants and visa workers from poor countries to serve as legal or illegal workers, temporary workers, consumers, and renters for various U.S. investors and CEOs.
This economic strategy of Extraction Migration has no stopping point. It is brutal to ordinary Americans because it cuts their career opportunities, shrinks their salaries and wages, raises their housing costs, and has shoved at least ten million American men out of the labor force.
Extraction migration also distorts the economy and curbs Americans’ productivity, partly because it allows employers to use stoop labor instead of machines. Migration also reduces voters’ political clout, undermines employees’ workplace rights, and widens the regional wealth gaps between the Democrats’ big coastal states and the Republicans’ heartland and southern states.
An economy built on extraction migration also alienates young people and radicalizes Americans’ democratic, equality-promoting civic culture because it allows wealthy elites to ignore despairing Americans at the bottom of society.
The extraction migration economic policy is hidden behind a wide variety of noble-sounding excuses and explanations. For example, progressives claim that the U.S. is a “Nation of Immigrants,” that Americans have a duty to accept foreign refugees, and that the state must renew itself by replacing populations.
But the colonialism-like economic strategy also kills many migrants, exploits poor people, and splits foreign families as it extracts human-resource wealth from the poor home countries. The migration policy also minimizes shareholder pressure on companies to build up complementary trade with poor countries.
The economic policy is backed by progressives who wish to transform the U.S. from a society governed by European-origin civic culture into a progressive-directed empire of competitive, resentful identity groups. “We’re trying to become the first multiracial, multi-ethnic superpower in the world,” Rep. Rohit Khanna (D-CA) told the New York Times on March 21. “It will be an extraordinary achievement … we will ultimately triumph,” he boasted.
Not surprisingly, the wealth-shifting extraction migration policy is very unpopular, according to a wide variety of polls. These polls show deep and broad public opposition to labor migration and the inflow of foreign contract workers into careers sought by young U.S. graduates.