Our immigration mess is like a three-legged stool. Fixing one leg is no better than doing nothing. We need immigration reform that addresses all three parts of this vexing problem: increased border security; a plan to deal with the illegal aliens already here (the vast majority of whom are hard-working, tax-paying and otherwise law-abiding members of our communities); and more flexible and realistic legal immigration policies that allow us to admit more permanent residents and guest workers as our labor needs require.
I know this approach drives the anti-immigrant crowd crazy -- but they are a small though noisy fraction of the public concerned with immigration. Unfortunately, these voices are driving the current debate, especially on conservative talk radio and cable news shows. I wonder how many conservatives who embrace the anti-immigrant message know that their fellow travelers' roots are in the pro-abortion, population-control movement.
Dr. John Tanton, who was the brainchild behind many of the most prominent restrictionist groups, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Center for Immigration Studies and Numbers USA, is a past president of Zero Population Growth. These groups often cite demographer Leon Bouvier's work to support their arguments. In his book "How Many Americans?: Population, Immigration and the Environment," Bouvier and co-author Lindsey Grant advocated reducing the American population to 150 million by the end of this century -- that's almost half the current population. Although they're guarded in suggesting any draconian measures to achieve this goal, averring that "Deliberate reductions in life expectancy to reduce population are, of course, out of the question," their prescriptions are nonetheless chilling.
"To begin with," they say, "it would be pointless to assume that American women will altruistically decide to have but one child for the good of the society." So they favor government policies that will achieve that end. "All proposed legislation, regardless of specific intent, should be evaluated as to its possible impact on fertility," they argue. And, of course, they support additional government-funded research for more effective contraceptives and better access to abortion. The book was written during the Clinton years, which accounts for this gem: "[T]here is hope that with the end of the Reagan-Bush era, a more enlightened executive will see the advantages of at least limiting, if not stopping, population growth."
Make no mistake, these folks are after immigrants now, but they want into the bedrooms of American citizens next. Unlike some racist elements in the anti-immigrant movement (they exist, as I can attest from the racist diatribes I receive every time I write on this issue), these people object to virtually all immigrants, but dislike Hispanic immigrants more because they have higher fertility rates.
Back when my great-grandparents immigrated to this country from Ireland in the mid-19th century (my father's family had already been in New Mexico for more than 300 years), all you needed to become an American was the price of a steerage ticket on a trans-Atlantic ship, a strong back and no communicable diseases.
We weren't all that welcoming to the Irish, Italians, Poles, Germans and others who immigrated in large numbers through the first quarter of the last century, but they eventually fit in and did well here. The evidence suggests Hispanics are doing the same thing, learning English, finishing school, opening their own businesses and intermarrying with other Americans at a faster rate than previous ethnics did.
It took Italian immigrants 60 years after their peak immigration to catch up with other Americans in education attainment. Already, 80 percent of second-generation Latinos finish high school, and nearly half of those 25-44 years old have attended college. Second-generation Latino college grads earn more than non-Hispanic whites.
Even among the immigrants themselves, 45 percent own their own homes. And like the grandchildren of immigrants from all countries, the vast majority of third-generation Latinos speak only one language: English.
These facts ought to be the focus of the immigration debate, not the hysteria driving too many congressional Republicans into the arms of population-control radicals.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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