'Killing the American Dream' does not start a 'reasonable discussion' on U.S. immigration

Pilar Marrero forcefully makes the case of open-border advocates, but undermines her case for dialogue.


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In 1987, one of Pilar Marrero's first assignments as a journalist focused on the 1986 Immigration and Control Act. This statute was intended to amnesty 3 million illegal immigrants while preventing future illegal immigration. As she notes, only the first objective was met. Illegal immigration persisted and proliferated over the intervening decades.

With an eye on the past, Ms. Marrero discusses the benefits of illegal immigration in "Killing the American Dream." She finds it fills jobs Americans won't do and it lowers the price for consumer goods. She considers enforcement efforts against illegal immigration to be not only counterproductive, but futile, because willing (and desperate) employees will always beat an inexorable path to willing (and cost-cutting) employers.


"Killing the American Dream: How Anti-Immigration Extremists are Destroying the Nation"
By Pilar Marrero
Palgrave Macmillan ($27).

While identifying ineffective strategies in the nation's struggle with illegal immigration, the author mentions the so-called "Section 287(g)" collaborations between local and federal law enforcement, California's and Arizona's propositions denying public benefits to illegal immigrants, President Bill Clinton's enforcement efforts, post-9/11 laws, President Obama's deportations, local enforcement strategies as in Hazleton, Pa., Alabama's recent statutes, and the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's immigration laws.

Ms. Marrero, an editor and reporter for the Spanish-language daily La Opinion, finds immigration to be an "extremely controversial topic" and the system is "dysfunctional." She laments that "since the mid-1990s, it has been impossible to have a reasonable discussion on the issue." The "highly volatile, complex issue" offers "few rewards to any politicians who decide to address it as comprehensively and honestly as it merits." She expresses hope for the nation to someday engage in a "detailed analysis."

"Killing the American Dream," however, offers no criteria by which a national policy might determine the optimum level of immigration in light of jobs, the environment, resources or the means to provide public assistance.

On a planet experiencing a daily net population gain of 331,000 (births minus deaths, essentially another Pittsburgh daily), the need to foster a "detailed analysis" on the optimum level of immigration is destined to rise in prominence. The author seems content to allow this national policy to be determined by prevailing migration patterns. She discredits any attempt to address the level of immigration as hateful. To this extent, the book seemingly undermines the author's aspiration for a "reasonable discussion."

The national policy in establishing a non-discriminatory, sustainable level of immigration will be enhanced by dignified communications and mutual respect. Not everyone at the table is filled with hate.

The author offers no insight why, for example, 47 percent of Hispanics supported Arizona's Prop 200 (denying public benefits to illegal immigrants) in CNN's exit poll. She fails to explain why, during Clinton's administration, the Barbara Jordan Immigration Commission called for an end to illegal immigration and for substantially reduced levels of legal immigration. She offers no insight on why an April 2012 poll by Dallas-based Pulse Opinion Research revealed only 10 percent of U.S. voters approve the current rate of population growth which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, will double U.S. population from 313 million (as of April) to more than 600 million by the end of the century.

She makes no attempt to explain why recent immigrants, minorities, underprivileged and others would have concerns over the nation's anticipated 40 percent population increase in less than 40 years. Is there too little congestion? Too much unfilled landfill space? Are jobs too plentiful? Wages too high? Is water in the parched South too abundant?

Access to credible projections and worrisome trends often outpaces our ability to responsibly process the information. The human act of data gathering and prediction is not always a common enterprise. This book becomes a case study on how these variables can nurture a bias.

The aspiration to convene "a reasonable discussion" might begin by formulating a criteria for the level of immigration in a nation which, as the author observes, "continues to welcome more legal immigrants than any other country in the world." Imputing detestable motives to anyone weighing into the conversation will not advance "a reasonable discussion."

"Killing the American Dream" capably lays out the claims of open border advocates. If, however, you seek substantive information on ethical criteria in formulating a long-range, sustainable immigration policy, you may have to keep looking beyond the four corners of this book.

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John F. Rohe is the author of "Mary Lou and John Tanton: A Journey into American Conservation," a biography of the founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Vice president of philanthropy at the Colcom Foundation, he lives Downtown. The views expressed here are his own.


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