There is now a growing realization that immigration and refugee issues may prove to be among the most important and troubling world problems of the next decade. The recent large flows of refugees or expellees from Indochina, Afghanistan and Cuba, all typically treated as short-term crises, instead may be harbingers of long-term trends of profound proportions. The same may be said for the accelerating trend of international migration, both legal and illegal.

Control over entry by non-citizens is generally considered one of the two or three universal attributes of national sovereignty; no government has ever explicitly abrogated this sovereign right, although on occasion a state has asserted the right of its citizens to enter another. Hence it is evident that problems of international migration, which are already large and of increasing magnitude, go to the heart of our collective definition of modern nation-states and of relations among them.

Immigration and refugee policy is of special and rapidly growing political importance in the United States. The debate is an increasingly unpleasant one, with anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments apparently strong and growing. The most recent national poll on the subject of refugees showed only 19 percent supporting President Carter's decision to double the admission of Indochinese refugees to 168,000 each year, while 46 percent actually wanted a reduction from the previous level of 84,000 per year. In a later poll, 91 percent of the sample supported "an all-out effort to stop the illegal entry into the United States of 11/2 million foreigners who don't have entry visas" and 80 percent wanted to "reduce the quotas of the number of legal immigrants who can enter the U.S. each year."1 In 1977, the Carter Administration made a set of limited proposals that promptly dropped out of sight in the Congress. Now a national commission chaired by Theodore Hesburgh and including strong congressional representation is scheduled to come up with a new analysis and recommendations in early 1981. The problems can hardly fail to be faced in some fashion early in the next Administration.

The many critics of current U.S. immigration policies cannot be simply dismissed as xenophobic restrictionists. Even unthreatened and non-xenophobic people with progressive and humanitarian instincts differ greatly, sometimes vituperatively, in their perceptions of and prescriptions for American immigration policy. In large part this is because the debate is a contest of "right" versus "right." Excluding the kooks on the fringes, all sides advocate human rights and justice; none supports persecution and injustice. The disagreement is about which basic rights have precedence over which other basic rights; consensus in such a setting is, unsurprisingly, elusive.


Extensive international migration is far from peculiar to our time, but in two important aspects the modern epoch is unique. The first is the enhanced importance of the nation-state in the twentieth century; throughout most of human history, national boundaries (where they existed) were far more permeable to the temporary ebb and flow or permanent movement of peoples than they are today.

The second is the rapid increase in the size of human populations, which has magnified greatly the potential for mass movements across borders, and led to the exhaustion of relatively open spaces for new occupation. In the post-World War II period the rapid rise of population in the developing countries has greatly outstripped the rates of increase that prevailed in Europe during its most rapid period of growth and migration (chiefly to America).2

A further new factor is the revolution in international communication and transportation. Modern communications have brought the relative attractiveness of life in the developed world to the attention of quite remote populations in the developing world, and the speed and availability of international travel have sharply reduced the barriers to international movement. The same modern communications have brought vividly before the world's conscience the suffering of refugees on the high seas or in hastily erected encampments, suffering of which most of us would have been unaware in the past.

In addition to these broad historical trends, there is general agreement that the world of the 1980s is a less stable place, both in political and in economic terms, than it has been for much of the postwar period. Domestic or international conflicts may produce real or only pyrrhic victors, but they always produce refugees. Increasing strife, coupled with populations that are today more than twice as large as those of 1950, portends burgeoning numbers of refugees seeking asylum in the coming decades.

The United States is a nation of immigrants, and most of us look with pride upon the invigoration and pluralism that immigrants continue to provide. We have not fully lived up to the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, but the concept of a melting pot of many national origins, however lumpy we know it to be in practice, is still an American ideal. Today, however, the U.S. situation is unique both in world terms and in terms of our own history, by reason of five central facts-and one near-certain projection-that are not always widely grasped:

1) This country is by far the world's largest receiver of refugees and immigrants for permanent settlement; indeed it accepts on the order of twice as many as the rest of the world combined.

2) Immigration and refugee flows to the United States in the late 1970s were at or near the highest levels ever experienced, including the period before immigration was first broadly restricted in the 1920s.

3) There is much dispute as to the numbers of illegal immigrants in the United States, but no responsible group believes there are fewer than several million, and the consensus range is from four to six million as of the mid-1970s. Of these, about 50-60 percent are thought to be from Mexico, with many other countries providing the rest.

4) While immigration reforms since 1965 have had the laudable intent of eliminating discrimination and promoting diversity among immigrants, the reality has turned out differently. The actual working of the law and the sharp increase in illegal entry have produced an unprecedented concentration among a single linguistic group-Spanish-speakers.

5) There is every indication that the pressures of unemployment, poverty and political instability in much of the developing world will increase greatly in the 1980s and 1990s, and despite conspicuous possible exceptions will tend toward an even greater concentration of immigrants in the groups already dominating current flows.

6) Enforcement of American immigration law by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is remarkably poor; under present circumstances the chances are very low of even detecting, much less apprehending, violators who show a little persistence.

Each of these points warrants brief elaboration, to be followed by discussion of how and why they are at once accepted and perceived quite differently (even emotionally) from different perspectives. The concluding discussion concerns the policy implications of both the facts themselves and the political realities of divergent perspectives.


The United States is by far the world's largest receiver of refugees and immigrants for permanent settlement. In 1978, the last year for which official statistics are available, over 600,000 legal immigrants and refugees were admitted for permanent residence in the United States.3 (The 1980 figure seems certain to rise to 700-800,000 or even higher under current policies.) The 1978 total represents not only the largest number accepted by any nation in the world in that year, but perhaps twice as many as were received by all other countries combined.4

In addition to the legal flow, the United States is currently experiencing a large "illegal" or "undocumented" influx.5 As with all clandestine processes, it is almost impossible to obtain accurate data on such migration. While there are extreme claims on both sides, most observers would agree that the annual inflow of illegal migrants is considerably larger than that of legal migrants and refugees, that the return flow is also considerably larger, and that the net inflow (i.e., those remaining after return migrants are subtracted) is perhaps roughly equal to the net legal flow.

Thus, a statistically conservative conclusion would be that in the past several years the United States has been receiving a net inflow, legal and illegal, amounting to at least one million persons per year-a minimum of 600,000 legal in-migrants, less perhaps 100,000 legal out-migrants, plus a comparable net flow of illegal migrants. The 1980 figures no doubt will be larger still.

Net immigration on this scale is at or near the highest levels ever experienced in American history. In the 1901-10 decade, the previous peak, legal immigration averaged 880,000 annually, and there was little known illegal entry. With a present U.S. population more than double what it was then, the current inflow represents a considerably smaller numerical ratio. On the other hand, the current record-low fertility of the U.S. population (lower even than in the depression years of the 1930s) means that international migration is accounting for a greater share of total population increase than ever before. If the above estimate of total annual net immigration is near the mark, it represents at least 40-50 percent of annual U.S. population change.

Estimates of the number of "undocumented" or "illegal" migrants presently in the United States range from as low as 2 million to as high as 12 million, with most responsible observers coalescing on a range of 4-6 million as of the mid-1970s, probably with substantial increases since then.6 The absence of firm evidence has made this subject a popular one for demagogues. Some have tended to exaggerate the numbers radically and speak of a "silent invasion"; others have sought to downplay the magnitude, claiming that it is insignificant in size and impact. But the consensus estimate of 4-6 million as of five years ago is, by any measure, very large and important.

The concentration of the modest enforcement efforts of the Immigration and Naturalization Service along the Mexican border has given rise to a popular impression that almost all illegal migrants are Mexicans. Most objective observers believe that the Mexican percentage is closer to 50-60 percent, with the other 40-50 percent coming from the Caribbean, Central and South America, Asia and Europe. Mexico is by far the largest single source country, but the problem is wider.

American immigration flows have come to be dominated to an unprecedented degree by immigrants speaking a single foreign language-Spanish-contrary to the intention of recent immigration reforms to encourage all forms of diversity and pluralism. The 1965 reforms of the Immigration and Nationality Act did away at last with the blatantly racist nature of the quotas developed during the 1920s. Under the 1965 and 1976 reforms, each individual nation now has an equal ceiling of 20,000 potential immigrants per year, which however does not include those who are eligible for admission because of immediate family ties to U.S. citizens. Under these laws the national diversity of immigration to the United States has increased dramatically in the past decade.

Linguistic diversity is another matter. The 1965 Act also provided for a regional ceiling of 120,000 immigrants from the whole Western Hemisphere, and for a ceiling of 170,000 from all other areas together. In practice, however, the family ties provision has meant that the number of legal immigrants from Hemisphere Spanish-speaking countries has steadily grown and has itself usually exceeded the regional ceiling substantially.7 More important, the recent heavy influx of illegal migrants has been heavily concentrated, as we have just noted, among Spanish-speakers. The INS reports that, in the period 1968-77, approximately 35 percent of all legal immigrants to the United States were Spanish-speaking. If one adds to this figure plausible estimates of Spanish-speaking illegal immigrants, it becomes clear that over the past decade perhaps 50 percent or more of legal and illegal immigrants to the United States have been from a single foreign-language group.8

Such linguistic concentration is quite unprecedented in the long history of U.S. immigration. While there were substantial concentrations of a particular language group in past decades (e.g., 28 percent German-speaking in 1881-90 and 23 percent Italian-speaking in 1901-10), previous immigration flows generally were characterized by a broad diversity of linguistic groups ranging from Chinese to Polish to Spanish to Swedish. Furthermore, those concentrations that did occur proved to be short-lived.

The pressures for international migration can be expected to increase greatly over the coming decades. Moreover the trend in U.S. immigration flows is almost certain to be toward even greater concentration among already predominant groups. According to the International Labour Organization, the developing world will have to generate between 600 and 700 million new jobs in the next 20 years merely to absorb the rapid growth in its labor force and keep its unemployment rate from increasing. This number of new jobs is more than presently exist in the whole of the industrialized world taken together.9

Even more to the point are the high rates of population increase in prospect for almost all the developing countries that in recent years have been primary sources of migrants to the United States.10 With the exceptions of Jamaica and Cuba, all of these nations can expect population growth ranging from a third to nearly 90 percent over the next 20 years. While measures to limit population growth could have an increasing impact on longer-term population trends in these countries, the great bulk of these 20-year increases are foreordained by births that have already taken place.11

In rough terms one may assess the prospects for emigration pressures in four groupings of countries that have been leading sources of legal immigrants in recent years:

The first group, developed or near-developed countries with low rates of population increase-e.g., Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Greece-seem unlikely to experience great continuing emigration pressures, barring political or economic upheavals.

In the second group of countries, large developing nations from areas other than Latin America, India deserves special mention. Although India has no long history of large-scale out-migration here (as it has to the U.K.), the numbers in recent years have been substantial and a "critical mass" may be emerging that could lead to increased flows, especially from family ties. India's population is projected to increase by 45 percent, or 300 million, over the next two decades. Depending on its economic and political fortunes, it may or may not produce heavy pressures for immigration to the United States. India is officially English-speaking, albeit with multiple regional languages.

The third group consists of a number of smaller Asian developing countries with close historical ties to the United States and with varying levels of political instability-e.g., South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Most already have more or less well-established patterns of out-migration to the United States, with the Philippines and South Korea routinely oversubscribing available visas. Threats of international hostilities, civil war or internal convulsions face many of these countries more or less vividly. If such developments were to occur, strong pressures would arise for admission of large numbers of refugees, as in the recent cases of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. English is a relatively popular second language in most of these countries.

It is the fourth group about which one can state with assurance that all indicators favor the rapid escalation of pressures for out-migration to the United States. This group consists of the relatively contiguous countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, including Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Jamaica. Most are predominantly Spanish-speaking (with obvious exceptions in Haiti, Jamaica and many small Caribbean islands), with generally little prevalence of English as a second language. Most of the countries in this group have long-established patterns of substantial out-migration to the United States; their rapid population growth and the high proportion of young people (typically 45 percent or more under age 15, as compared to 22 percent in the United States) portend daunting rates of labor force growth. As a study prepared at the Inter-American Development Bank puts the problem:

Stated briefly and in comparative terms, the United States in its best year since the Second World War (1977) created four million jobs; but Latin America, with one-fifth to one-sixth the economic base (GDP) must from now to the end of the century annually create four million jobs, just in order not to fall behind in its present high rate of unemployment. Does anyone truly believe they can do this?12

Mexico, for example, is hard put at present to provide jobs and sustenance for its 68 million people, even with millions having emigrated already to the United States. Yet Mexico is projected to add more than 60 million to its population in the next two decades. Over the near future, 700,000 new jobs per year will have to be created if already high unemployment rates are not to rise, yet even optimistic official forecasts predict only about 350,000 new jobs per year.13 Colombia, often considered one of the success stories of Latin America in attempts to lower rapid population growth, will nonetheless increase by over 15 million from its present 27 million by the year 2000. Unless there is great success in generating jobs for these additional millions, the already large pressures for illegal migration of Colombians to Venezuela and to the United States can be expected to increase accordingly.

Enforcement of American immigration law is remarkably lax by any standard of assessment. The open land borders of the United States have received far less enforcement attention than would be considered normal policing effort in any town or city. Although the INS concentrates the bulk of its small Border Patrol forces along the Mexico-U.S. border, during an eight-hour period there are on average only 350 border patrolmen assigned to this 2,000-mile unfortified perimeter-less than the normal force of police assigned to guard the U.S. Capitol and its office buildings, comprising in total 103 acres.

The entire fleet of INS aircraft used to survey the lengthy borders and coastlines of the world's leading producer of aircraft consists of three leased helicopters (one of which was downed and destroyed recently by smugglers or illegal aliens) and 28 Piper Cubs and Cessnas. The U.S.-Canadian border, thought to be an important entry point for illegal aliens from the Caribbean and Asia, is punctuated with many small road crossings where the only official presence is represented by a road sign requesting border crossers to kindly report to the nearest INS office.

Enforcement of U.S. law regarding those entering legally on temporary visas is equally lax, both at ports of entry and internally. Of the more than eight million persons entering the United States on such visas in 1977, the archaic INS administrative system was unable to account for the departure of 15 percent, or over 1,200,000; no one knows how many of these stayed on illegally. Despite abundant evidence of widespread visa abuse by nationals from Caribbean countries (especially from the Dominican Republic), the State Department continues to issue "shopping passes" (known as annotated visas) that allow applicants unable to qualify for tourist or business visas to enter Puerto Rico only, for purposes of "furthering the inter-island economy." Yet once a person holding an annotated visa enters Puerto Rico, there is no effective mechanism in place to determine if he/she ever departs the island, or to bar a domestic flight from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland.

There is also considerable evidence that both the issuance and use of student visas have been subject to widespread abuse. Most Americans, even members of Congress, would be surprised to learn that profit-making technical training schools (e.g., for beauticians and auto mechanics) have been authorized by the INS to issue the Form I-20 that generally results in the immediate issuance of a student visa. Even the respectable non-profit education sector has seen the emergence of unscrupulous foreign student recruiters and a black market in visa forms, especially as small and financially strapped colleges have a harder time finding domestic students willing and able to pay high tuition fees.14

While in most countries it is a violation of law for employers to hire persons without legal visas or working papers, in U.S. law the so-called Texas Proviso specifically exempts employers from the legal proscriptions on harboring illegal aliens.15 This bizarre provision, adopted in 1952 apparently at the behest of Texas agricultural interests, injects an obvious asymmetry into law; a person without proper papers is not permitted to obtain employment in the United States, but it is quite legal for his employer to employ him.

In addition, the substantial internal controls on resident non-citizens in most developed countries (e.g., compulsory annual police registration in Great Britain, and such registration coupled with identity papers in France and West Germany) do not exist in the United States.16 Finally, the investigative staff of the INS, responsible for detecting, apprehending and processing several million undocumented migrants, numbers only about 1,000 persons nationwide.

In summary, the 2,000-mile Mexico-U.S. border and the 4,000-mile Canada-U.S. border are essentially porous, and the administration of visas for tourists, students, "shoppers," and other temporary visitors is such that anyone able to enter on such a visa can stay on permanently and obtain employment if so desired.


Although a high level of emotionalism is characteristic of all sides of U.S. debates on immigration, most advocates would probably accept as factually correct the six propositions stated above. The differences center in part on other social and economic issues, but inextricably intertwined with these are deep underlying issues of political principle and political power, as well as the interests of special groups.

Ideologies, both coherent and incoherent, have long loomed large in American immigration policy. When the historic policy of openness was abandoned in the late nineteenth century, the first targets were Chinese; in 1870 their naturalization was forbidden, and a series of later measures culminated in the total exclusion of working-class Chinese. Then, in the 1920s, the first comprehensive immigration laws adopted by the Congress were blatantly and self-consciously racist, products of the political stirrings and pseudoscientific excesses of Know-Nothings, Eugenicists, and Social Darwinists. Two examples suffice: the laws essentially excluded all Asians (even in the 1950s the annual quota for Chinese immigrants was 105 and for Japanese 185;17) the quotas were deliberately designed to favor immigrants from Northern and Western Europe and to limit severely the number of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, many of whom were Catholic or Jewish and deemed to be of "inferior racial stock." The 1952 McCarran-Walter reforms retained many of these features, added restrictions of a more political (anti-communist) nature, and shifted emphasis heavily toward reunification of families and toward the highly skilled.

The reforms adopted in 1965 represented a substantial victory over the discriminatory principles of the 1952 Act. The exclusionary treatment of Asians was eliminated entirely. Principles of fairness and pluralism in immigration policy were affirmed by allocation of an equal ceiling of 20,000 per year for each nation, whether or not it had been the source of substantial numbers of immigrants in the past.18 In 1980 the Refugee Act eliminated the narrowly anti-communist tone of the McCarran-Walter definition of refugees and applied equal criteria to refugees from all forms of repression and discrimination.

Overall, then, the intention of legislative reform over the past 15 years has tended ideologically toward nondiscriminatory immigration policies favoring a plural mix of immigrants and refugees from diverse ethnic, political, national and racial groups. In recent years, various groups have pushed the case further, contending that a "right to immigrate" should be accepted as a part of individual human rights, seeking to redefine the term refugee to include "economic refugees" escaping poverty, or urging a vision of a new world order of open borders. Other arguments have turned on whether the United States should have a conscious policy as to its eventual overall population size, and if so the bearing of immigration on such a policy. That the United States should remain a plural society hospitable to immigrants from all nations is today seldom explicitly questioned; we have come a long way, both in principle and in practice, from the dark days of the 1920s. But it would be misleading to pretend that the prejudices of earlier times are totally dead, and they too are sometimes expressed in ideological terms.

Beyond (and often behind) such deep-seated arguments of principle or ideology are real differences of perceived political or economic advantage and cost among different advocates and interest groups. Some employers see large-scale immigration (and especially continued illegal immigration) as providing an opportunity to increase their profits by "disciplining" the work force as to wages, hours, conditions and productivity. Most labor leaders, not surprisingly, see the same phenomenon as undercutting the hard-won gains and future prospects of domestic workers. While some ethnic and religious leaders see large flows of immigrants of their own group as adding to their political influence and economic power, others of the same groups see such flows as threatening the achievements and social advancement of already resident members. Some leaders of other ethnic groups see such large-scale flows as threats to the status and welfare of those they seek to represent, while others see the new arrivals as potential political allies. Those who favor slowing the rate of growth of the population or of the labor force see accelerating immigration as frustrating that goal; those who favor continued or accelerated population or labor-force growth see immigration as compensating for the present low levels of U.S. fertility.

Since the available evidence on the consequences of current immigration is weak, each advocacy group is able to find some form of nominally "scientific" corroboration for its own posture-provided too often by advocate-scholars whose research findings seem determined by personal ideological commitments. In such a setting, it is difficult indeed for the interested and concerned observer to distinguish truth from misrepresentation, and to assess the merits of alternative policy approaches. The remainder of this article therefore seeks to review available evidence on the costs and benefits of large-scale immigration as objectively as possible, with full attention paid to the limits and ambiguities of our knowledge, and to suggest at least the outlines of alternative policy approaches.


We begin by emphasizing that today's heated debate is concerned solely with large-scale immigration and refugee flows, of the magnitudes that have been experienced in the United States during the past several years, i.e., numbers on the order of a million or more legal and illegal immigrants and refugees per year, or nearly half of total population growth. Similar disputes do not arise regarding moderate levels of legal immigration such as those of the 1950s, which averaged about 250,000 per year and 10 percent of population growth, or those of the 1960s, which averaged about 330,000 per year and just over 15 percent of population growth. To the author's knowledge, no responsible group opposes continued immigration at such levels, which are moderate by U.S. historical standards, although admittedly very high by comparison with most other countries.

Historically, a primary motivation for a policy permitting or encouraging large-scale immigration into the United States has been the need for labor in a burgeoning continental nation with a rapidly expanding economy. For the immigrants, a prominent attraction of the United States (in addition to political and religious freedom) was the easy availability of jobs providing high remuneration by the standards of the sending countries.19

The question in 1980 is whether the contribution of large-scale immigration to the U.S. labor force continues to be as important and productive as in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, or whether in changed economic and technological conditions it no longer contributes substantially to the economy. A related question is whether large-scale immigration benefits some groups but has high costs for others, and if so how to balance these interests.

There can be little doubt that the millions of guest workers who migrated to some Western and Northern European countries in the 1950s and 1960s were an important factor in the economic miracle experienced by those countries in that period. In the face of a shortage of labor to staff the rapidly expanding economic structure, primarily in the Federal Republic of Germany, France and Switzerland, many governments chose to import temporary workers from labor-surplus countries such as Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Algeria, with the view that these workers would stay for only a year or two and then return to their home countries with accumulated savings and know-how that would make them more productive there. In the meantime, the intention was to encourage automation and higher productivity in the sectors employing such foreign labor so that it would not be required in the future.

As is well known, this "temporary" migration grew to be far more permanent than intended; at the present time, there are five million guest-workers and seven million dependents in Western and Northern Europe,20 in spite of an almost universal policy shift in 1973 seeking to avoid recourse to foreign labor and to encourage return migration by those already present. The underlying reason for this policy shift in Western Europe was the increasing social costs of the guest-worker program that became visible in the late 1960s and early 1970s, although the proximate explanation given was fear of recession after the 1973 oil embargo and quadrupling of oil prices. There were also domestic political backlashes (including racial or ethnic antagonisms in France, Germany, and the Netherlands, and a national anti-immigration referendum in Switzerland that failed only narrowly). In short, as social and political costs grew while economic growth declined and unemployment increased, the short-term economic justification that underlay European immigration policy waned. Although a large proportion of the temporary workers remain (having in some cases resisted strong pressures for repatriation), their employment is increasingly in clearly defined areas and the trend is toward reduction rather than increase.

Similar economic forces led to sharp downward revisions in immigration quotas at about the same time in most other Western countries receiving large numbers of immigrants, e.g., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The only exception to this pattern in the Western world has been that of the United States, in which the number of legal immigrants has actually increased substantially over the 1970s, as apparently has the number of illegal or undocumented immigrants.

A major question for future U.S. policy therefore arises: What are the impacts of current and prospective patterns of immigration on the U.S. labor market and economic system? Opinions on this subject range widely among labor economists and other experts. The predominant view is that while continuation of a significant flow of immigrants with scarce skills can represent an important contribution by filling gaps in the American labor force, there is no longer economic justification for large numbers of relatively unskilled and ill-educated immigrant workers and their dependents. In this view, the U.S. economy is now a highly advanced one in which relatively high or specialized levels of education and work skills are virtual necessities for productive employment. While jobs can be found by unskilled workers willing to accept low pay and poor conditions of employment (a maid in El Paso is said to earn $30-$40 per week, with no limits on hours worked and no social security or other benefits), a large pool of such workers contributes little to productivity. Indeed, in this view the fact that most illegal aliens are employed in low-skill occupations represents a self-fulfilling prophecy: the large number of compliant workers generates market demand for such labor by retarding the upgrading of wage and working conditions that would make the same jobs attractive to Americans and encourage investment in labor-saving technologies.

As to the future, projections of the balance of demand and supply of labor are clouded in uncertainty. It seems clear that the fertility decline in the United States since the 1960s will mean a tapering off of the rate of growth of indigenous young labor force entrants in the coming decades: specifically, the labor force is projected to still be growing by about 1.2 million per year in the mid-1980s, down from the recent annual increase of 1.5 million. However, if labor force participation of women continues to increase more rapidly than previously anticipated, as has been the case over the past decade, and if political and economic forces lead to a gradual increase in the average age of retirement, as seems likely, the native-born labor force of the United States may well expand more rapidly than projected.

On the other side of the supply-demand equation, there is consensus that it is quite impossible to predict the demand for labor in the U.S. economy beyond the next few years. Fundamentally this is true because no one is able to predict the future of the American economy as a whole, with uncertainties about energy, inflation and capital formation looming large. Moreover, the demand for labor is itself closely related to the supply. For example, if unskilled labor were to become relatively scarce, then its price would rise in relative terms, thereby encouraging mechanization of tasks otherwise performed by unskilled laborers, and also stimulating labor force participation by potential workers who under previous wage conditions found little work incentive as compared to other sources of support available to them.21

Under these circumstances of simultaneous uncertainty about both supply and demand, it appears to be beyond the realm of our capacity to predict accurately the tightness or looseness of U.S. labor markets very far into the future. Undaunted, some have tried nonetheless, and on the basis of their results have argued that much-expanded immigration is a necessity for future American economic growth.22 Such efforts notwithstanding, there is no supportable evidence that U.S. labor markets require large-scale immigration now or in the coming decades, although periodic and objective reassessments must be made as conditions change.

A different view-essentially a different philosophical stance-is taken by a minority of labor economists and other commentators, who hold that there exists a "dual economy" in modern industrial societies, which requires a substantial and growing number of low-paid and unskilled workers in the "secondary labor market." In this view, these jobs will continue to be necessary but so undesirable that they cannot attract enough members of the domestic labor force, no matter what their wages and conditions, and unskilled labor from abroad must therefore be imported to fill them.23 Hence they see large-scale immigration of unskilled workers as a structural requirement of industrialized capitalist states.

A subsidiary issue is whether immigrants contribute to the productivity of the U.S. economy because they are more hard-working and energetic than are citizens of the United States. The legal immigrants in the 1950s and early 1960s were relatively well educated and highly skilled, and appear to have done well as measured by income, eventually surpassing the average income levels of members of the domestic population with equal educational attainment; the one exceptional group that did not do well economically was immigrants from Mexico, who were predominantly unskilled.24 Unfortunately, there is no comparable evidence on the considerably different legal immigration flows of the late 1960s and the 1970s, as these must await data from the 1980 Census. Furthermore, legal immigration over the 1970s, as already noted, has been substantially augmented by illegal or undocumented immigration of perhaps the same order of magnitude. Since this latter flow appears to be largely unskilled and poorly educated, it would appear that immigration in the 1970s was increasingly concentrated in the groups least likely to do well.

To summarize, it is apparent that immigration can contribute substantially to economic welfare under conditions of rapid economic growth and low unemployment, as in the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. Such benefits are far less likely to have occurred under the conditions that have prevailed in the United States since the early 1970s: low economic growth and high unemployment, especially among those with the lowest educational and skill levels. The predominant expert view, therefore, is that large-scale immigration of low-skill workers cannot be expected to contribute to overall economic well-being over the foreseeable future, though there is economic evidence favoring continued openness to persons with needed skills. (A few examples are technicians, nurses, computer programmers, and successful small business entrepreneurs. Note that such skills do not imply an "elitist" admissions policy based on levels of education alone; while literacy and numeracy do seem important to an individual's economic success in the advanced U.S. economy, there is actually a current surplus of Ph.D.'s and other highly educated professionals.) What is needed from an economic standpoint is a moderate flow that emphasizes individuals in fairly clear job categories.

As indicated above, a related economic question is whether large-scale immigration, whatever might be its contribution to aggregate economic performance, may contribute differentially to the economic well-being of different social groups. Here there seems to be a general consensus among economists that to the extent that there are beneficiaries of immigration, they are the immigrants themselves and the employers and middle-class consumers who tend to benefit from cheap labor in the industrial, agricultural, service and domestic sectors. The possible losers appear to be the lower-income groups of the U.S. population-relatively disadvantaged citizens and recent immigrants who are affected by a growing population of energetic and sometimes even desperate foreign workers willing to work under wage and working conditions that to domestic workers are unattractive but for the immigrants far exceed anything they have experienced.25

Despite emotional claims to the contrary, there is general agreement that only moderate direct displacement of labor occurs through one-on-one competition between citizen and immigrant for a particular job, since most citizens are unwilling even to apply for jobs with poor wages and working conditions. However, it is also generally agreed that large-scale inflows of unskilled and compliant labor tend to depress (or to retard improvement of) the wage and benefit conditions of the jobs that are the only ones available to many domestic labor force entrants, especially minorities, youth, women and recent immigrants.26 Hence the pattern is predominantly one of indirect effects, through relative distortion downward as wages and working conditions in affected markets do not change while those in other jobs continue to improve.27


There has been much discussion regarding the use by immigrants, legal and illegal, of expensive social services, with consequent effects upon the budgetary problems of federal, state and local governments. Here there have been especially extreme claims on both sides. Those seeking to minimize the impact of migrants claim that there is little or no utilization of such services, especially by illegal immigrants who are said to be fearful of applying for benefits. Those who seek to maximize the perceived impacts of immigration in these sectors appeal to the widespread dismay among the American public regarding the rapid growth of governmental spending, and of welfare, health and education spending in particular, and seek to blame these expansions very largely on immigrants.

A calmer statement of what we know would look something like this. Immigrants, legal and illegal, do make use of social and educational services at levels varying from high to low. Legal immigrants (and especially refugees) initially make substantial use of many such services, though most appear to become productive labor force participants within several years of arrival.28 With regard to illegal immigrants, the available evidence (admittedly from record systems not designed to record legal status) suggests that publicly financed health services (especially emergency, obstetric and pediatric services) are widely employed; educational (especially remedial and bilingual) services used substantially; unemployment insurance used but not disproportionately; welfare less so; and social security retirement benefits very little. At the same time, immigrants both legal and illegal do pay taxes to support such services, though in the case of the low-paid workers who apparently predominate among illegal immigrants, such taxes are of course very low.29

Each of these social service sectors is clouded in controversy and litigation. The County of Los Angeles has sued the federal government for $87.9 million in unreimbursed medical expenses incurred by illegal immigrants there. There is presently a highly publicized judicial battle in the state of Texas regarding the obligation of local and state governments to provide free education to illegal immigrant children. (The Federal District Court in Houston ruled recently that such services must be provided; the case surely will be appealed.) Welfare fraud by illegal immigrants was considered such a problem in New York City that it now requires welfare applicants claiming to be Puerto Rican but with inadequate documentation to obtain certification from the government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. While some argue that recent immigrant workers are subsidizing the social security retirement system because they have payments withheld but draw little in retirement benefits, others note that this is apparently due primarily to the youthful nature of the immigrant population, and that in the future lower paid immigrants who retire in the United States are likely to become net beneficiaries of the Social Security system.30

To summarize the state of knowledge regarding social service costs, immigrants both legal and illegal cannot be blamed for the rapid increase in governmental expenditure on such services, but their impact also cannot be dismissed as trivial. Use of such benefits by immigrants range from high to low, depending upon the benefit examined and the characteristics of the immigrant population.

Marginal or incremental costs may be quite high in some areas of health care, remedial education and bilingual education, and in overall educational expenditures in areas with rapidly growing enrollments (e.g., Texas, California), while simultaneously quite low in long-term medical care and in school districts with declining enrollments and hence surplus capacity (e.g., New York City). In all discussions of this set of issues, due attention must be paid to the average age and income of immigrants insofar as these affect their present and future demands on health services, social security, and other age- and income-related services.


The controversies about large-scale immigration and refugee flows extend well beyond economic cost/benefit calculations to weighty issues concerning the distribution of political power and the size, composition and coherence of the American populace. One such controversy surrounded by uncharted political and jurisprudential shoals is that currently under review by the federal courts-whether persons present illegally in the United States are constitutionally entitled to full congressional representation and, ultimately, even to the vote. This extraordinary issue was joined in the buildup to the 1980 Census, when the Census Bureau decided to make intensive efforts to enumerate undocumented aliens. This stimulated a law suit (by an advocacy group, several members of Congress, and several states) seeking to enjoin the Census Bureau from including persons illegally present in the United States in congressional reapportionment calculations, on the ground that citizens and legal residents of states with few illegal residents would lose congressional seats to which they were entitled. In its defense brief, the Justice Department argued not only that illegal aliens are constitutionally entitled to be counted for purposes of receiving full representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, but also that "nothing in the Constitution forbids a state from permitting even illegal aliens from voting for Representatives."31 The case is presently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The demographic implications of immigration have been exaggerated in opposing ways, with assertions by some that the U.S. population can never cease growing unless illegal immigration is stopped and legal immigration is severely curtailed, and others arguing that current immigration flows represent a miniscule percentage of the U.S. population and are relatively lower than in preceding periods this century.32

In this area one is closer to ascertainable fact and reliable projection. If total net immigration into the United States, legal and illegal, is over one million per year at the present time (it surely will be much higher in 1980, as indicated above), then immigration today is contributing at least 40-50 percent of population increase. In addition to this crude estimate, one must add the indirect future effects of the immigrants' fertility behavior, which is likely to be somewhat higher than that of the domestic population since a high percentage of U.S. immigrants are now coming from high-fertility countries. If U.S. fertility rates stay at current low levels, then the proportionate contribution of immigration to total population increase will rise rapidly, although the size of the total increase itself could be declining.33 Authoritative demographic analyses34 have shown that substantial net immigration-400,000 per year, or about the level of legal immigration in the early 1970s-is consistent with an eventual stabilizing of the U.S. population well into the next century, if domestic fertility averages slightly below two children per woman.35

A further demographic fact is that the Hispanic population is the most rapidly growing subgroup of the U.S. population, due to the unintended predominance of Spanish-speaking immigrants described earlier, coupled with higher than average fertility among some Hispanic groups. Many politically active members of this growing minority group (which is normally defined so as to include many Spanish-speaking U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico) are outspoken in describing their common language as a symbol of cultural pride and a force for ethnic unity and power, and therefore have pressed strongly for bilingual educational, legal, police, fire and other governmental services.36

These trends in turn have engendered growing concern about increasing bilingualism and political polarization along linguistic lines. Expressions of such fears have included references to the unhappy histories of countries such as Belgium and Canada, where linguistic divisions have led to persistent political problems and demands for linguistic separatism. In response to these concerns, supporters of Spanish bilingual services assert that they will in no way lead to a polarization along linguistic lines, and that the analogy to Canada and Belgium is quite misleading. They point to the large numbers of school dropouts among Hispanic teenagers, and argue that only through bilingual education programs can these children be provided with an adequate educational experience. There is a sometimes bitter dispute between those proponents who see intensive bilingual programs as contributing to a "transition" to English primacy within a few years and those who support "maintenance" of Spanish as a coequal language throughout the educational experience, but both groups state that English competence is one of the goals of such programs.

There is, finally, the issue of political power and the political shifts that result from immigration patterns. Among ethnic groups, the primary advocates of large-scale legal or illegal immigration have tended to be the most politically active. This is particularly true among Chicanos or Mexican-Americans. Although this group as a whole appears to be sharply divided over the issue of continued illegal immigration from Mexico, some Chicano political leaders strongly oppose any measures to reduce such immigration. A minority of radical leaders openly refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the U.S.-Mexico border, arguing that the Southwest and California were "stolen" from Mexico in 1848; others favor continued illegal flows in the expectation of enhanced Chicano political power-a position not strongly welcomed by leaders of other ethnic groups. Still others oppose restraint more in terms of the spinoff impacts they believe policing measures would have on the domestic Mexican-American population, which they assert would be discriminated against and harassed by efforts to control illegal migration.

That present and future immigration trends and policies have important implications for political coherence and for ethnic and race relations in the United States cannot be sensibly doubted. Furthermore, there is clear risk that growing opposition to immigration and refugee flows that are widely perceived to be excessively large, insufficiently plural, and heavily illegal may overwhelm existing domestic support for a truly humane and generous set of policies.


The requirements of a humanitarian immigration and refugee policy go well beyond domestic concerns, and should be a central component of the nation's foreign policy. For example, it is clear that most of the world's 13-16 million officially designated refugees are likely to remain for a long while in the countries of first asylum. The burden of providing sustenance and decent living conditions for refugees cannot fall solely upon those often very poor countries. Hence the world community, and especially the United States, given its traditional concern for refugees, must contribute most generously to multilateral efforts to relieve the immediate suffering of refugees in first-asylum countries. Moreover, strenuous efforts are needed to assist those millions of refugees to become self-sustaining contributors to development in first-asylum countries, rather than drains on their already struggling economies and fragile social and political structures.

In addition, these refugee flows often have serious political implications. The presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Eritrean refugees in the Sudan, Ethiopian refugees in Somalia, and Cambodian refugees in Thailand is a major source of heightened international and domestic tensions in these regions. And the recent examples of Vietnam and Cuba have demonstrated how forced mass expulsions can be used as a direct weapon in foreign policy, and how thorny the resulting foreign policy problems can become. Some of these cases may call for concerted pressures on the countries responsible, so that the refugees can return to their home countries. But for the great mass of refugees fleeing as a result of military or political conflict, there is no escape from the need for sustained multilateral assistance efforts.

At least as serious, in the coming decades, is the problem of those voluntarily seeking to migrate in order to escape intolerable living conditions. In the long run, genuine economic and social development in the Third World is a sine qua non for moderating the rapid expansion of pressures for international movement by immigrants and refugees. Recent and prospective trends are not encouraging. Continued price escalation for oil and manufactured goods, the growing pressures for protectionist trade practices by developed countries, and the tendency to reduce bilateral and multilateral foreign assistance in real terms may compound the array of dismal prospects already facing developing country leaders. The recent report of the Brandt Commission has highlighted the gravity of these and other problems, and the need for increased efforts by all parties to meet them.

On the other hand, assertions by some that development assistance, and not more effective immigration laws and policies, is the only answer to problems of illegal immigration to the United States require us to note that development is a long-term process which is in no way sufficient to deal with the problems of immigration in the 1980s, or even in the 1990s. And the preference of many developing countries for capital-intensive development producing little employment is evidence that much depends upon their own internal decisions. Iran is a vivid example, and it is evident that Mexico has encountered serious difficulties in using its oil wealth for the kind of investment that will provide decent jobs for its people.37

But even if the process of economic development moves much more rapidly than it has in the past, the sheer pressure of population growth in the developing countries is bound to generate demands for greater freedom of migration than now exists in most of the world. At the level of foreign policy rhetoric, the following comment of the late President of Algeria and leader of the Group of 77, Mr. Boumédienne, reflects one view of the future in memorable if somewhat provocative words:

No quantity of atomic bombs could stem the tide of billions . . . who will someday leave the poor southern part of the world to erupt into the relatively accessible spaces of the rich northern hemisphere looking for survival.38

President Lopez Portillo of Mexico characteristically puts the case in far more measured terms. "It is not a crime to look for work," he has stated repeatedly regarding undocumented Mexican migration to the United States, "and I refuse to consider it as such."39

Such statements may seem extreme to U.S. citizens and others in the developed nations. But they highlight the potential depth of feeling in developing nations. Reconciling national sovereignty with current international realities and with a world order of enhanced international cooperation and fairness does require a less exclusively nationalistic perspective on immigration and refugee matters than has been the rule in many countries for much of this century, especially among those industrialized countries that have long bridled at granting permanent residence to immigrants and refugees. (Japan, for example, has settled a total of 276 Indochinese refugees, as compared to the 373,747 settled by the United States.) Such movement toward enhanced openness would reduce or at least distribute more evenly the burden now heavily borne by the United States and a few other countries.

But in the case of the United States itself the case for continued openness can be carried to extremes. There are those who argue that U.S. action to enforce its immigration laws would be an unfriendly act directed against Mexico and other neighboring states from which there are now large flows of illegal immigrants. If the United States were to close its borders completely and refuse to admit any immigrants from its neighbors-which no group in this country proposes-then indeed there might be a reasonable claim that the United States was acting at variance with what it has urged other nations to do, and certainly the political reaction would be serious. But to enforce immigration laws in an equitable manner, under an overall framework that will surely remain the most generous to be found anywhere in the Western Hemisphere (or the world), can hardly be construed as an unfriendly act.

The possible linkage between continued large-scale immigration from Mexico and that country's oil and gas exports to the United States raises more difficult questions. Such a linkage has in fact been expressed or strongly implied in statements by Mexican leaders.40

Yet on a closer analysis it seems likely that Mexico will determine its overall level of oil exports in terms of basic calculations of how much revenue it can use to good effect. Oil is a fungible product, available in a worldwide market, and if Mexico should decide for political reasons to curtail sharply its oil sales to the United States, the result would surely be greater availability of oil in other parts of the world market. As for price, while Mexico is not a formal member of OPEC, on past performance its price policies will closely follow those of OPEC in any event.

In the case of natural gas, pipeline shipments to the United States entail far lower transportation costs than liquefaction and supercooled tanker shipping of natural gas to other markets. Moreover, much of Mexico's natural gas is produced as an inevitable part of oil production, and would be wasted if it were not exported or consumed domestically.

There is every foreign policy reason for the U.S. government, including the Congress, to be sensitive to Mexican concerns, which include trade restraints as well as oil and gas issues and the level of immigration to the United States. But for the United States to refrain from reasonable measures concerning immigration because of its current need for imported oil and natural gas is both questionable in principle and probably exaggerates the actual extent of Mexican leverage. Overall U.S. dependence on imported oil is a heavy burden on our foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere; so long as that dependence remains high, the need for Mexican oil and gas cannot be left out of account in any revision of U.S. immigration policy. To allow it to foreclose sensible changes in policy, however, would surely strike most U.S. citizens as intolerable.

Finally, there are those who contend that any U.S. restraint on immigration from neighboring Latin American countries would remove the political safety valve of out-migration for the young and dispossessed, thereby encouraging Castro-type or right-wing revolutions. But surely this argument cuts both ways. Such flows may be viewed as assisting these countries in coping with their political and economic problems, or in the alternative as allowing their elites to export dissension and thereby resist democratic political pressures for overdue reforms. Hence, equally plausible cases can be made that continuation of illegal immigration either reduces or increases the chances of unfriendly revolution in Mexico and other sending countries. Given the demonstrated difficulty of predicting revolutions, it would seem judicious to consign this argument to the "neutral" or "don't know" category.


The choices available to U.S. policymakers are diverse and complex; each set of choices involves a different array of international and domestic implications, and each is characterized by a set of distinctive differences of opinion and political constraints.

The first obvious policy choice, and the one with the fewest immediate political constraints, is to do nothing. The present incoherence of policy has its political attractions, since it leaves difficult value choices inexplicit, allows the most committed interest groups to pursue their interests unimpeded, and yet avoids explicit endorsement of their aims which might offend the majority of the electorate. A policy of inaction would allow employers seeking compliant labor to continue to import migrant workers easily, other countries to continue to export their surplus populations to the United States, interested ethnic activists to continue to strive to maximize their numbers through immigration, and civil liberties advocates to continue to assure themselves that new policies would not threaten civil liberties.

The risks are those common to all such strategies of inaction, that the negative consequences will increase and become harder to control, and that the political risks will increase in proportion. An obvious political risk of inaction is the stimulation of an uncontrollable backlash that would go well beyond the issues of policy incoherence and lax enforcement, and would threaten the basic openness of American society to access by immigrants and refugees. Such nativist, even racist, reactions have been common in the history of the United States, and have also occurred recently in otherwise liberal countries such as Great Britain and Switzerland. (These include racially motivated changes in immigration laws promulgated by both Labour and Conservative governments in Britain since 1968, and a nationwide referendum in Switzerland that failed narrowly but would have had the effect of expelling many foreign workers.)

The second broad option is effective enforcement of existing law. While it might seem surprising at first glance that this would face vocal opposition, this is the case and has much to do with the present lax enforcement situation. Under existing law, it is unlawful to enter the United States without permission, to overstay the terms of temporary visas, or to obtain employment under such visas unless authorization to work has also been granted. Hence enforcement of existing law would require effective policing of entry points, adequate follow-up of legal visitors to assure that they depart promptly, and sufficient enforcement of employment prohibitions to make it reasonably difficult to violate them.

It is certain that effective policing of U.S. borders would be criticized by the government and press of Mexico and possibly several other sending countries, by some ethnic activists, by prospective employers of illegal aliens, and by some religious and civil liberties groups. In the past, even the replacement of a collapsed 30-year-old border fence in El Paso has been characterized by domestic and Mexican critics as the building of a "Tortilla Curtain," with ready parallels to the Berlin Wall and exaggerated claims as to the dangers it would pose to law violators. Many advocates go so far as to assert that effective enforcement is impossible without the adoption of police-state tactics.

Former Commissioner of the INS Leonel Castillo, a Chicano politician not generally considered a strong advocate of enhanced enforcement efforts, was not of this view. In 1978 congressional testimony, the following illuminating colloquy occurred between the Commissioner and Chairman James H. Scheuer (D-NY):41

MR. SCHEUER. Can we regulate illegal entry into this country by means that are reasonably appropriate and acceptable to us? I don't think the American public would like to see a 20-foot high Berlin wall erected on that 1,950 mile border with submachineguns and police guards and sirens and watch towers. Can we do it with means and technology that are not obnoxious to us?

MR. CASTILLO. I believe so. I don't believe that it would be that technologically difficult or technically difficult to severely or dramatically curtail the number of persons entering the United States without documents.

MR. SCHEUER. You believe that can be done?

MR. CASTILLO. I'm convinced it can be done. I was not of this opinion before I got this job, but having looked at it a little bit more, we know, for example, that more than 50 percent of the entries that are made into the United States without documents are made at or near three locations: San Diego, Calif., El Paso, Tex., and Yuma, Ariz.

If we simply increased our resources at those three locations we'd have an enormous impact just in three places, a total of less than 40, 50 miles, and if we did that there would be, of course, some spillover to other parts of the country. . . .

Except that it's much harder for people to make the decision to cross along the inhospitable parts of the border. To go from one urban area in Tijuana, Mexico, to an urban area in San Diego involves a short jog or sprint or move. But to cross a 100-mile desert takes a lot more, plus it's easier for us to see them by flying over. Enforcement's a lot easier.

A third option is a thoroughgoing revision of present law and practice regarding immigration and refugee policy. Such was the intent of congressional action in 1978 establishing the commission now chaired by Father Hesburgh of the University of Notre Dame. Entitled the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, it was charged under Public Law 95-412 with the evaluation of all existing laws, policies and procedures governing the admission of immigrants and refugees and the preparation of legislative and administrative recommendations to the President and Congress. The Commission, due to report in early 1981, has a distinguished membership consisting of four members each of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, including Chairmen Rodino and Kennedy, four Cabinet officers (Justice, State, Labor, and Health and Human Services), and four public members including its Chairman. A commission of this high quality and political influence ordinarily could be expected to carry considerable weight. Unfortunately, the Select Commission has been plagued from its inception with serious staff problems that are now widely known, and it will require strong efforts by the Commissioners themselves to build internal consensus and external support for the Select Commission's recommendations when they are put forward.

Ultimately, any reforms will depend upon the Congress, which historically has exercised its prerogatives strongly in the immigration and refugee field.42 The congressional process will, in turn, depend upon a complex and virtually unpredictable confluence of domestic and international political considerations, economic circumstances, and the increasingly Byzantine internal politics of the Congress itself and of its various committees. Despite such uncertainties, the broad outlines of alternative reforms are reasonably clear, and much can be gained by stepping back from the ongoing fray for a dispassionate assessment of the trade-offs that must be made among conflicting values and interests.

In analytical terms, a humane and realistic immigration policy for the United States (or for any other country) must meet several basic requirements that are constant, and include decisions (explicit or implicit) regarding certain variable factors that fit within the constants. The constant basic requirements may be separated analytically into three overarching principles:

1) The policy must be an expression of dominant national interests and humanitarian values, representing a broad political consensus rather than the views of special interests, and recognizing that the concepts of borders and citizenship are central to national sovereignty.

2) The policy must protect the basic civil liberties and human rights both of citizens and of the immigrants and refugees legally admitted.

3) The de jure policy must be enforceable in practice in the real world; if it is not, it will be a different policy de facto.

Within these broad baseline requirements, policy determination requires a set of balanced choices, including: overall numbers to be admitted; the proportion of these who may be political refugees as opposed to normal immigrants (and how these loosely used categories can be tightly defined); the degree to which labor migrants may be temporary or permanent; the level of immigration law violation that is deemed tolerable; the composition of overall immigrant flows as to skill level, national origins, ethnic/religious/linguistic group, and kinship ties to citizens as distinct from "new seed" immigrants; and the relative weights that should be given to foreign and domestic concerns in determining immigration policy.

While it would be relatively easy to attain agreement that the above principles and choices are central, their application and the trade-offs inevitably required are another matter. Full agreement surely is impossible given the high level of special interest group advocacy in this field. What could be hoped for is a broad-based consensus that anticipates continued sniping from the fringes, and which might look something like the following:

1) With regard to basic principles, U.S. policy on immigration and refugees should sustain the long-standing American value of openness to immigrants and refugees from diverse sources, and should enhance the trends of the past 15 years away from discriminatory criteria for admission. This means that xenophobic and neo-isolationist tendencies should be rejected and the traditional values of openness and hospitality affirmed. It does not mean that immigration or refugee flows should be unlimited, or indeed that they should continue at the near-record levels of the legal and illegal immigration over the last few years. As we have seen, the United States is now receiving the bulk of the world's refugees and immigrants, and immigration at such levels is having substantial impacts in U.S. labor markets, is coming to dominate U.S. population change, and is stimulating large and growing opposition to immigration itself. Under such circumstances, attempts to sustain immigration levels or expand them even further may threaten the basic value of openness. Ironically, in this sense the well-intentioned advocates of "open borders" or unlimited refugee admissions may actually represent the most serious of the various threats to a truly open and humane U.S. policy on immigration and refugees.

2) The protection of basic civil liberties in the formulation and implementation of an immigration policy will require careful and balanced attention. To date the leading proponents of civil liberties have failed to approach the subject comprehensively, but instead have reacted piecemeal to perceived abuses arising out of current or proposed laws or practices, without offering effective approaches as alternatives to those they oppose.43 Unless civil libertarians do provide constructive alternatives, they may unintentionally reinforce the proponents of unlimited legal and illegal immigration in encouraging a backlash against the very rights and liberties they seek to defend.

Awareness of this problem is growing among leaders of some civil liberties groups, and hence in the future we can hope for a reasoned set of proposals that preserve and protect the most basic of civil liberties, while enabling the nation to exercise its sovereign right to enforce its immigration laws effectively. Such proposals, when carefully considered, are likely to recognize that a sincere respect for civil liberties does not require, for example, that all civil and constitutional rights of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants be granted immediately to persons clearly present in violation of law. Surely illegal immigrants are entitled to all basic human rights, e.g., the right to humane treatment while in custody, the right of habeas corpus, and so on. Yet, realistically, if every technical aspect of legal due process, including the right of appeal right up to the Supreme Court, is to be guaranteed persons observed walking across an open border or landing in a small boat on an unpatrolled beach, enforceable immigration laws cannot exist in a practical sense. Furthermore, support for such an absolutist position implies an elemental unfairness-the full panoply of legal rights are to be granted to persons willing to violate the law, but similar rights of appeal are not given to others who respect the law and apply for legal entry, but have not yet entered the country.

A careful analysis of civil liberties concerns is also likely to lay to rest opposition to some form of effective sanctions against employers who systematically and repeatedly employ persons who are violating U.S. immigration law, since the jobs made available by these individuals and firms are apparently the primary "pull" factor encouraging illegal immigration. In effect such an approach would represent a simple repeal of the atavistic "Texas Proviso" described earlier.

To protect U.S. citizens and legal resident aliens of Hispanic origin, such sanctions will require enhanced enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and regulations, and the use of a forgery-proof identification procedure to be required of all job applicants equally. There are a number of alternative identification approaches worthy of consideration; one example is a modest bolstering of the present practice that requires a job applicant to give his/her social security number, by requiring in addition simply the physical presentation of a revised social security card that is not easily counterfeited. The uses of such a document would have to be carefully circumscribed by strong legal prohibitions on its use in sectors other than employment, to prevent its evolution into a universal "identity card"-a matter of justifiable concern to those committed to limiting governmental intrusion into private aspects of American life.

The matter of amnesty for persons already in violation of U.S. law is often raised in discussions of reforming immigration law and enforcement practice. Any proposal for amnesty is bound to be controversial, since it in effect rewards with permanent residence (and eventually with citizenship) those who have violated U.S. immigration law in the past, while giving no comparable rewards to those who abided by these laws. For humane reasons, however, some form of limited amnesty must eventually be granted to persons who have lived many years of their lives illegally in the United States and have established deep personal and familial roots in this country.

It seems unwise, nonetheless, to link amnesty for illegal residents closely to present discussions of policy reform. For those presently intending to stay only temporarily, such discussions of amnesty represent a significant incentive to change their minds. Reduced availability of employment through repeal of the Texas Proviso presumably would encourage others to return home voluntarily. Finally, premature talk of amnesty acts as a powerful magnet for accelerated flows of new illegal aliens, seeking to enter before enforcement is made effective, a process which will take several years at least.

Proposals for limited and carefully screened amnesty will become more sensible once the dust has settled: when effective law enforcement measures are in effect, when employer sanctions are in force, and when undocumented workers desiring to earn a nest egg and then return to their homelands have been given reasonable time to do so.

3) The principle that immigration policy must be enforceable as a practical matter requires a realistic view of the problems faced by all law enforcement, and of the particular realities favoring immigration law violation, and must be infused with basic American abhorrence of police-state tactics. The goal of immigration policy must not be to eliminate illegal immigration entirely (to "seal" the borders and ports of entry), but instead to bring the present pervasive violation of immigration laws within reasonable bounds, and to assure the bulk of prospective offenders that they are likely to fail. If the incentives to law violation are rendered low and the risks high, the rate of such violations must surely decline. At the present time, the balance is the reverse: incentives are high for both the illegal migrant and his/her employer, and the risks are low for the migrant and nil for the employer.

The realities of present and prospective enforcement efforts are disheartening.44 The Immigration and Naturalization Service and its associated Border Patrol have long been both the whipping boys and the laughing stocks of the executive branch. It is notorious that they are-simultaneously-underfunded, mismanaged, undermanned, inadequately supplied, riven by internal dissension, and politically manipulated, yet they are also routinely pilloried for failures to fulfill assigned missions under such impossible circumstances.

At a minimum, the standards applied to other law enforcement agencies should be applicable to the Border Patrol. The recommendations of former INS Commissioner Castillo seem eminently reasonable, one might even say elementary: to concentrate adequate personnel, barriers and equipment along the border points and coastlines known to account for the bulk of illegal entries. There is no need for a "Berlin Wall" or a fortified border. What is needed is a law enforcement effort that would be demanded as minimal in any town or city in this or any other country.

More than a few small helicopters and Piper Cubs, a few hundred personnel, and essentially no physical barrier would seem to be in order for regulating 6,000 miles of frequently penetrated border, plus the long coastlines of Florida, Puerto Rico and other areas known to be entry points. More than a thousand investigators would seem to be needed to provide even minimal chances of apprehension of millions of illegal residents. More than an archaic non-automated record system would seem to be in order to keep track and assure the prompt and lawful departure of eight million tourists and others admitted annually for temporary visits.

Such minimal enforcement efforts would be consistent with practices in every other country, including the major source countries of illegal immigrants, and with all the basic values of our nation. Money would be required, but only relatively modest sums are involved. The entire INS budget for fiscal year 1980, including all its routine processing activities (e.g., naturalization of legal immigrants) was only $337 million. The budget of the entire U.S. Border Patrol is only about $77 million-less than that of the police department of the City of Baltimore alone ($95 million) and less than half that of Philadelphia ($221 million).45

4) As to the various decisions requiring trade-offs among competing goals and values, the following appear attractive to this author:

First, it is clear that advocacy of unlimited immigration into the United States cannot be taken seriously in a world in which three billion people are very poor and their numbers increasing rapidly. At the same time, the present numbers of legal immigrants and refugees-290,000 immigrants under ceilings, unlimited immigration of immediate family, 50,000 "normal flow" of refugees, undefined numbers of "emergency" refugees-are wholly arbitrary, numbers picked out of a hat, so to speak, during the course of congressional consideration, and expanded by the accretion of various legislative amendments and judicial and administrative decisions since 1952.

In the abstract, no single number is "correct"; much depends upon the social, economic and demographic circumstances of the nation at any given time. In a period characterized by low levels of racial and ethnic tensions, high economic growth, apparent shortages of labor, and substantial natural increase of the domestic population, an increased number of immigrants and refugees can be beneficial and cause no serious dislocations or antagonisms. On the other hand, during times of high social tensions, a slack economy, high unemployment, and low or negative natural increase of the domestic population, the economic benefits of large-scale immigration are absent and the maintenance of domestic tranquillity and of support for continuing openness to immigrants and refugees requires the reduction of their numbers.46

Whatever the overall number of immigrants and refugees that is set for a given period, it should encompass all forms of immigration and refugee flows. Hence if a particular refugee emergency seizes the attention and sympathy of the nation, increased admissions as a result of such circumstances would have to be balanced by decreased admissions in other categories. This would require that explicit trade-offs be made, that the notion of limits be acknowledged, that the demands of a particular set of special-interest advocates not be treated in isolation from the demands of others. In short, it would represent a form of discipline such as the Congress imposes upon itself in the formulation of its Budget Committees and Budget Resolution process, based on the recognition that its past willingness to increase expenditures in one area without trading off some other expenditures was a prescription for irresponsible fiscal policy.

In an ideal world, it might be possible to devise a flexible system that would adjust immigration numbers to changing national and international circumstances in a responsive and objective manner. Yet realistically this seems quite impossible in the political system of the United States today. The prerogatives of the Congress in immigration matters, coupled with the pressures on its time and its acknowledged responsiveness to special interest groups, necessarily restricts it to the role of setting broad policy outlines for some other entity to implement in a flexible manner. At the same time, postwar experience in the executive branch and with semi-autonomous commissions has seen the capture of key regulatory bodies by the most interested of special interest groups (albeit with some notable reversals of this trend in recent years), which in the case of immigration matters might be even more divisive than the present disarray of policy.

Hence a system of what might be termed "periodic flexibility" seems preferable. Firm numerical limits for all immigration and refugee admissions would be set, with strictly circumscribed latitude for emergency admissions beyond these limits, e.g., through a requirement of affirmative support by both houses of Congress before such admissions could be allowed.47 These limits could be subject to a "sunset" clause that would require periodic legislative resetting based upon economic, social, political and demographic conditions that may have changed. Given the slow-changing nature of most of these conditions, a ten-year cycle like that for congressional reapportionment might not be overly rigid, although a shorter cycle might be preferred.

Various proposals for a new, large temporary-worker program have been promoted as a means of regularizing the current flow of illegal immigrants, providing low-cost seasonal labor for employers, and offering a quid pro quo to Mexico for accepting effective enforcement of American immigration law. The pros and cons of such proposals go well beyond the scope of this article, as the plans differ greatly in size and form. At a minimum, any consideration of such proposals must be informed by the extensive European experience with guest worker programs over the past 30 years, discussed above. This includes recognition that such programs have optimal impacts when unemployment rates are very low; that unanticipated social and political problems can be generated and must be taken into account in assessing costs and benefits; and that temporary migration often proves to be more permanent than temporary.

5) In the long term, it will be important to ensure that no single national, ethnic, religious, racial or linguistic group comes permanently to dominate American immigration-in short, we shall have to find fair-minded ways to assure the true diversity among immigrants to the United States that has been the intention, if not the effect, of much of the legal reform realized over the past two decades.48 In this sense, the large flows of refugees from Indochina in recent years have been salutary; they have enriched the cultural diversity of the United States, while maintaining its leadership as a haven for those facing political persecution.


The factors affecting immigration flows are normally visualized as a confluence of "push" factors in the sending country, "pull" factors in the receiving country, and "barriers" between them that take a legal, geographical or economic form. A comprehensive effort to regularize and control immigration to the United States must consider all three types of factors. The "push" factors are increasingly the poverty and political instability of the developing world-problems that can be confronted only through foreign policy initiatives, development assistance, and trade and economic policies affecting the developing world. The "pull" factors are said by most illegal immigrants to be primarily economic-the ready availability of relatively attractive jobs. The reduction of this primary "pull" factor requires the elimination of the Texas Proviso, with proper safeguards to protect civil rights and liberties. Finally, the "barrier" factors, which overall have been declining due to cheaper and easier transportation and improved communication, can only be regulated through more effective enforcement of legal provisions. Approaches to all three factors are eminently the province of policymakers.

Part of the confusion that characterizes the ongoing debate is due to the fact that immigration and refugee policy is one of those few subjects in which the liberal-conservative continuum is utterly meaningless. Some conservatives have favored unrestrained immigration to cheapen labor and reduce the power of unions, while others have opposed it on xenophobic or racist grounds. It is easy to identify liberals who have supported unlimited immigration in the spirit of humanitarian concern for the poor of the world, and others who have opposed it in the spirit of humanitarian concern for the poor of the United States. The array of political forces favoring continued large-scale illegal immigration include such unlikely bedfellows as agribusiness and industrial interests seeking cheap and compliant labor, religious leaders promoting global egalitarianism, ethnic activists seeking supporters, liberal unions recruiting new members, and idealists desiring a world without borders. Opponents of illegal immigration include many members of disadvantaged minority groups, liberal labor unions, and racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Such bizarre coalitions defy all normal political logic, and help explain why so many prefer to avoid the issues entirely-no matter what position one adopts, one is agreeing with the views of highly unattractive new allies, while antagonizing old or potential allies in other important causes. Willingness to deal sensibly with immigration issues is further diminished by the ready use of unfair accusations of "prejudice" or "racism" against those urging that immigration flows be regularized and brought under more rational control.

Yet it is clear that there is an overwhelming national consensus favoring effective efforts to curtail widespread abuses of immigration law and, one would hope, a continuing (if declining) openness to controlled legal flows of immigrants and refugees. Hence the prospects for a sensible set of trade-offs are not as implausible as the loose rhetoric of advocates make them sound.

In the long term, the only humane and sustainable policy regarding immigration and refugees must be one that accurately reflects American national interest and humanitarian values, protects the civil liberties and rights of citizens and immigrants alike, and recognizes the importance of trade and foreign assistance policies for developing countries. Such a policy can continue to admit very substantial numbers of legal immigrants and refugees and to be firmly nondiscriminatory and pluralistic in its orientation. And a comprehensive approach designed to bring large-scale illegal or undocumented immigration under reasonable control would go far toward promoting several desirable goals at once: assuring that immigration policy does not unfairly burden disadvantaged Americans; reestablishing the plural mix of immigrants and refugees of which most Americans are justifiably proud; and reversing the widespread belief that American immigration policy is out of control. By so doing, it would represent the single most important contribution toward a rebirth of America's historical commitment to a liberal immigration policy.

In the coming year the task will fall to the next President and Congress to formulate legislation that will embody such an immigration policy, and to find the will to enforce it. Ignoring the uncompromising extremism of the fringes, such reforms can be forged and implemented with no damage to the basic values of American life.

1 Roper Poll, September 1979 and June 1980.

2 At its peak growth during the latter part of the nineteenth century, the population of Europe was doubling every 70 years or so, as compared, for example, to doubling times of only 20-25 years for Mexico and Central America today. The total outflow from Europe between 1840 and 1930 numbered at least 52 million, or 17 percent of the estimated 1850 population of about 310 million.

3 This figure excludes those entering the U.S. under a small legal temporary-worker program. In continental Western Europe, by contrast, the overwhelming bulk of legal entry in recent decades has been under such temporary-worker ("Gastarbeiter") programs; in very few cases are such entrants expected to become citizens. In the United States, of course, it is assumed that the great bulk of those admitted for permanent residence eventually will become U.S. citizens.

4 A minor caveat is in order for the specific year 1978; in that year the People's Republic of China, not ordinarily a country of immigration, admitted an unknown number of Vietnamese nationals of Chinese origin on a one-time basis.

5 A word on nomenclature is in order here. Persons present in the United States in violation of immigration laws are described by a variety of terms, including illegal aliens, undocumented workers, and illegal immigrants or migrants. None of these several terms is entirely appropriate. The term "illegal" is offensive to some who believe it attributes blame to the victim. The term "undocumented" is offensive to others, who consider it a euphemism. The term "alien" has other-worldly connotations to some. The term "immigrant" assumes permanence of settlement that may not occur, and the term "migrant" has a connotation of non-permanence that may not be true. These various imperfect terms are used interchangeably in this article, with no offensive connotations intended.

6 The New York Times (January 16, 1980, p. A1) quotes unnamed "authorities in the State Department" as estimating that as of 1980 "the number of illegal aliens in the United States is at least 10 million, and these ranks are swelling at a rate of about two million a year." The 4-6 million range as of the mid-1970s has been accepted as reasonable by such responsible sources as former INS Commissioner Leonel Castillo, the Select Committee on Population of the U.S. House of Representatives, and senior demographers at the Bureau of the Census.

7 The unpredictable, and sometimes large, numbers of Cuban refugees admitted under special arrangements in particular years make it difficult to choose a "normal" year. But in 1977, for example, the total of legal immigrants from the Western Hemisphere was about 223,000, of whom perhaps 30,000 (from Canada, Jamaica, Haiti and Brazil) were non-Spanish-speaking. Mexico, the largest single source country, was responsible that year for 44,079 legal immigrants, of whom more than half came under the family ties provision. (For unrelated and probably temporary reasons, the 1978 figures, the latest available, for Mexico were even higher-see footnote 10.) By comparison, all of the countries of Africa, taken together, sent an average of only about 7,000 legal immigrants per year to the United States during the past decade.

8 One of the reviewers of this article, Dr. Charles Keely of the Population Council, has reminded me that there is also a very high concentration of his fellow Catholics among current immigrants and refugees from Latin America and Asia, and suggests that this pattern, if continued, will engender important social dynamics within the Church and its hierarchy in the coming decades.

9 International Labour Organization, Labour Force Estimates and Projections, 1950-2000, Second Edition, Volume V, (Geneva: 1977), Table 6.

10 In Latin America and the Caribbean, prominent source countries include Mexico (92,367), Cuba (29,754), the Dominican Republic (19,458), Jamaica (19,265), and Colombia (8,272*). In Asia, they include the Philippines (37,276), South Korea (29,288), Taiwan (21,315), and India (20,753). Finally, among developed countries are the United Kingdom (14,245), Canada (12,688*), Portugal (9,657*), Greece (7,838*), and Italy (7,510*). The numbers in parentheses are the latest tabulations of legal immigrants by country of origin available from the INS, which is so tardy in its reporting that these are 1978 figures (1977 when asterisked). In addition, there were in 1978 88,543 Vietnamese refugees whose status was adjusted to immigrants.

11 Examples of projected 20-year population increases are 89 percent for Mexico; 64 percent for the Philippines; 58 percent for both Colombia and the Dominican Republic; 45 percent for India; 34 percent for Taiwan and South Korea; and 27 percent for both Jamaica and Cuba. In contrast, the comparable figures for developed countries are: Canada, 21 percent (including substantial immigration); Portugal, 17 percent; Greece, 10 percent; Italy, 7 percent; and the United Kingdom, 1 percent. All figures are rounded and based on data from the United Nations and the World Bank, as compiled in Population Reference Bureau, 1980 World Population Data Sheet, Washington, 1980.

12 "Urbanizing Latin America," paper presented by Robert W. Fox of the Inter-American Development Bank at the Global Conference on the Future, Toronto, Canada, July 21, 1980. The International Labour Organization projects labor force growth for Latin America of between 86 million and 95 million over the 20-year period 1980-2000. Op. cit. footnote 9, Vol. 3, Table 6.

13 Peter H. Smith, Mexico: the Quest for a U.S. Policy, New York: The Foreign Policy Association, 1980, p. 25.

14 The New York Times of January 15, 1980 reported that these recruiters charge fees of up to 15 percent of first-year tuition payments, and that blank I-20 forms signed by U.S. college officials were on sale for $700 to $1500 on the black market in Iran. The president of as respectable an institution as Bennington College admitted to the Times that his college issued such blank presigned forms, which he "supposed it wasn't the moral thing to do."

15 The Texas Proviso makes interesting reading: Any person who "willfully or knowingly conceals, harbors, or shields from detection or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, in any place . . . any alien . . . not duly admitted . . . shall be guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $2,000 or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or both, for each alien in respect to whom any violation of this subsection occurs: Provided, however, that for the purposes of this section, employment (including the usual and normal practices incident to employment) shall not be deemed to constitute harboring" (Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 274(a), emphasis added.)

16 Present U.S. law does require address notification by all aliens via completion of a postcard to be sent to the INS each January. While many aliens comply with this requirement, many do not, and there is no effort at enforcement.

17 Presidential Proclamation 2980 of June 30, 1952, implementing Sections 201(b) and 202 of the McCarran-Walter Act.

18 Initially countries in the Western Hemisphere were not subject to this 20,000 per country provision; this was changed by amendment in 1976.

19 During the high unemployment years of the 1930s, legal immigration averaged only 53,000 per year-the lowest level by far of any decade after the 1820s.

20 OECD, SOPEMI, 1980.

22 See, for example, Clark Reynolds, "Labor Market Projections for the United States and Mexico and Their Relevance to Current Migration Controversies," paper presented to the American Assembly on Mexican-U.S. Relations, 1979.

23 A prominent example of this perspective may be found in Wayne Cornelius, Mexican and Caribbean Migration to the United States (Ms., University of California at San Diego, 1979). See also Michael J. Piore, Birds of Passage, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

24 Barry Chiswick, "The Economic Progress of Immigrants: Some Apparently Universal Patterns," in William Fellner (ed.), Contemporary Economic Problems, 1979, Washington: American Enterprise Institute, 1979.

25 For example, the average hourly wage in the United States is currently five to ten times that of Mexico, and the prospects for employment in Mexico are far poorer than in the United States. From the point of view of an unskilled Mexican, U.S. job and wage prospects, even at or below legal minimum wage levels, are highly attractive. From the point of view of a poor minority group member in the United States, such wages yield a living standard not substantially higher even than the modest levels provided by income transfer benefits, "underground-economy" activities or family support.

26 A further issue of unknown significance but considerable concern to disadvantaged groups in the United States is the extent to which affirmative action programs are benefiting the many immigrants who fit their criteria rather than the indigenous U.S. minorities and women who were their intended beneficiaries.

27 For a discussion of these effects, see Greenwood and Wachter, op. cit., footnote 21.

28 The Immigration and Nationality Act provides that legal immigrants may be deported if they become a "public charge" within five years of arrival due to a medical or other condition preexisting their arrival. Furthermore, sponsors of legal immigrants (usually family members) are often required to complete a notarized "Affidavit of Support" swearing to their ability and willingness to provide economic support for the prospective immigrant they are sponsoring. However, several court and administrative rulings have neutralized these provisions, providing that the "public charge" provision cannot be applied to government support that does not require repayment, i.e., to virtually all welfare and public-subsidy benefits, and that "Affidavits of Support" are not legally binding documents. A recent amendment to the Social Security Act introduced by Senators Percy and Cranston would require that the sponsor's income and assets be counted in considering a newly arrived alien's application for Supplemental Security Income (S.S.I.), a quasi-welfare benefit for which only low-income persons who are over 65, disabled, or blind are eligible.

29 Advocates of continued illegal immigration have been impressed by data from David S. North and Marion F. Houstoun, The Characteristics and Role of Illegal Aliens in the U.S. Labor Market: An Exploratory Study, U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, 1976, showing that 73.2 percent of apprehended illegal aliens report having had income taxes withheld from their pay. It is worth noting, however, that the relatively low wages paid most illegal immigrants mean that any income taxes withheld are small. For example, a single person earning the minimum wage would pay less than $500 a year in federal income tax; if the person is married, with one child, the tax would be $4 a year. Such a worker would of course pay modest Social Security contributions and local taxes as well.

30 Social security retirement benefits are deliberately redistributive, with higher relative payments going to lower paid workers. Hence to the extent legal and illegal immigrants are concentrated among the lower paid, eventual social security payments will be redistributive in their favor. This fact renders implausible arguments by some that social security deficits can be eliminated by increasing immigration flows of young, unskilled workers.

31 Department of Justice Memorandum submitted in Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) et al. v. Klutznick et al, unreported, Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, Case No. 79-3269, February 26, 1980, p. 10.

32 See. for example, the paper by staff members of the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy entitled "Immigration: How Many?," p. 2 and the same Commission's Newsletter, No. 4 (Feb., 1980), p. 8.

33 The "proportion of population growth" calculation can be misleading if growth is near zero, since even a small number of net immigrants would then account for nearly 100 percent of population growth. However, under the assumptions specified here, U.S. population growth would not approach zero until the middle of the next century.

35 Note that the above fertility assumptions are qualified by "if." Some reputable demographers expect a continuation of recent record-low fertility (e.g., Charles F. Westoff, "Marriage and Fertility in the Developed Countries," Scientific American, 239 (6), December 1978), while others anticipate a new baby boom (e.g., Richard A. Easterlin, Birth and Fortune, New York: Basic Books, 1980).

36 The bilingual debate is usually discussed in terms of a multiplicity of first languages other than English, but in fact bilingual services are provided overwhelmingly to Spanish-speaking residents of the United States. For example, while federally supported bilingual education is provided in fully 72 languages, 70-75 percent of the students participating are Spanish-speaking. See National Center for Education Statistics, Bulletin 78B-5, August 22, 1978.

37 A Mexican government official is quoted as stating recently that "twelve million rural Mexicans were undernourished, fourteen million lacked drinking water, half earned less than 435 U.S. dollars a year, and 44 percent of those who had work could only find it for three months in the year." A study by the Mexican National Bank of Rural Credit suggested that "of the seven and a quarter million campesinos of working age some five million were unemployed or underemployed." The Mexican national unemployment rate is estimated at 35 percent, with an income distribution that leaves 50 percent of the population with less than 17 percent of national income. See Peter Cleaves, Michael Redclift and Nanneke Redclift, "Mexican Development: Problems of an Oil-Rich Neighbor," (Ms., The Ford Foundation, Mexico City, 1980).

38 Cited in Otis L. Graham, Jr., "Illegal Immigration and the New Reform Movement," Immigration paper II, Federation for American Immigration Reform, Washington, D.C., February 1980, p. 11.

39 Smith, op. cit., footnote 13, p. 26.

40 The apparent currency of such arguments in some State Department circles is suggested by a devastating Herblock cartoon in The Washington Post (December 15, 1978) showing four foreign policy experts in a situation room before a map of the Mexico-U.S. border, with one exclaiming in a flash of insight, "What if we asked each illegal alien to roll a barrel of oil in with him?"

41 U.S. House of Representatives, Hearings before the Select Committee on Population, "Immigration to the United States," No. 5, Washington: GPO, 1978, p. 139.

42 The 1952 McCarran-Walter Act was passed by Congress over President Truman's veto-the only postwar case of a Democratic Congress overriding a Democratic President until the rejection of President Carter's "oil conservation tax" in June 1980. Conversely, President Carter's 1977 initiative on illegal immigration sank without a trace in Congress.

43 The policies of the American Civil Liberties Union are instructive: ACLU opposition is expressed toward sanctions against employers hiring aliens unlawfully in the United States (Board Policy No. 327); use of a social security card or any other governmentally issued document as a condition of employment (ibid); deportation of any minors illegally in the United States (No. 329); raids on workplaces suspected of employing illegal aliens (Ramos v. Anderson suit in Texas); and so on.

44 Some INS limitations have an Alice in Wonderland quality. Two examples: first, INS investigators who receive reliable but confidential information from informants about places of work or residence harboring large numbers of illegal aliens are prohibited by Justice Department directives from inspecting these premises. Second, due to budget problems, Border Patrol stations in Texas suffered a 60-70 percent cut in their gasoline allocations for at least one month of 1980, leading to a ration of 4-6 gallons per (gas-guzzling) patrol vehicle for each eight-hour shift in one important border sector.

45 International City Management Association, Municipal Yearbook 1980, Washington, 1979, p. 120.

46 In this respect, recent policies of the U.S. government-both permitting dramatically increased refugee flows and curtailing law enforcement against illegal immigration during a period of severe economic stresses-must be adjudged to be lacking in prudence by long-sighted supporters of continued openness in immigration policy.

47 Since 1952, as former Attorney General Griffin Bell has noted, the present "parole" authority of the Attorney General has frequently been exercised in circumstances not envisaged by the Congress. The problem has recently been highlighted by the widely criticized handling of the so-called freedom flotilla from Cuba.

48 To this end, the immigration policies of Canada and other leading countries of immigration would appear to be worthy of our careful examination. The Canadian policy includes a "point system" that scores applicants for immigration simultaneously according to various criteria, including family ties to Canadian citizens, competence in one of the nations's two official languages, occupation, education, etc., instead of the far cruder preference system of current U.S. law.



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  • Michael S. Teitelbaum is Program Officer at the Ford Foundation. He was Staff Director of the Select Committee on Population, U.S. House of Representatives, from 1977 to 1979, and previously on the faculties of Oxford University and Princeton University. This article reflects the personal opinions of the author and not those of the Ford Foundation.
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