William F. Buckley
The disagreements on immigration policy issue from several concerns, one of which has been insufficiently highlighted but is aptly treated by essayist David Frum in the current issue of National Review.

What is it that we worry about? Is there room for a supplementary 20 million or 40 million people here? The answer is yes. But of course one means by that, yes, there is room for such an influx, provided it pays its own way. Are the current immigrants doing so? No answer to that question is absolutely reliable. There are many illegals who are working here and paying taxes, which taxes support the welfare system and the schools; there may well be many who are not.

But public-minded Americans go further, asking whether the immigrants' income will rise proportionately over coming years. Here Frum narrows his focus to Mexican immigrants.

In order to integrate successfully, it is necessary to tap into sources of learning and communication. While 82 percent of immigrants who come in from Europe think that all immigrants should be expected to learn English, only a bare majority of Mexican immigrants put equivalent emphasis on the challenge. This leads to derivative points. While 67 percent of non-Mexican immigrants think that public school classes should be taught exclusively in English, only 51 percent of Mexicans think this..

Whether the correlation holds that those who study in English do better than those who do not, it is so that only 54 percent of Hispanic students graduate with their high school classes, this to be compared to 80 percent of their non-Hispanic classmates.

Now the bearing of education on future income has for many years been accepted, but what is happening now is that the difference has increased. For years, a college graduate was earning about double what was earned by a high school graduate. That disparity is growing, and by now is not far from three times.

"In 1970," Frum writes, "only 25.7 percent of immigrants who had lived in the U.S. for 10 to 20 years were poor, compared with 35.1 percent of natives. By 2000, 41.4 percent of long-settled immigrants were poor, compared with 28.8 percent of natives."

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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