Should US immigration policy be changed? (1980) | ARCHIVES

Should US immigration policy be changed? (1980) | ARCHIVES

Announcer: From the nation’s capital, the
American Enterprise Institute for public policy research presents, “Public Policy Forums,”
a series of programs featuring the nation’s top authorities presenting their different
views on the vital issues which confront us. Today’s topic, “Should US Immigration Policy
Be Changed?” Peter: Is there a limit to how many immigrants
this country can absorb without affecting American jobs, the economy and spending on
federal services? If immigration is to be restricted, where do we draw the line? Who
won’t be allowed in? Should we spend a fortune and stop illegal immigrants or just admit
we can’t stop them and grant amnesty? Welcome to another Public Policy Forum presented by
AEI, the American Enterprise Institute, a non-profit, nonpartisan research and education
organization. Taking part in today’s panel are Harrison
Schmitt who was a Republican senator from New Mexico. Senator Schmitt is a co-sponsor
of a bill to grant temporary visas to migrant Mexican workers. He is a member of the Senate
Appropriations Committee and the Senate Small Business Committee. Lawrence Fuchs is Chairman of the American
studies department at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Dr. Fuchs is on leave from
that position serving as Director of the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy.
He is a recognized expert on ethnic and religious factors in American life. J. F. Otero is International Vice President
of the Brotherhood of Railway Airline and Steamship Clerks. Mr. Otero who came to this
country from Cuba at the age of 20 once served as the International of Transport Workers
Unions’ director for Latin America. Michael Novak who is a resident scholar at
AEI is the author of a syndicated newspaper column which often analyzes problems of ethnics
in U.S. society. He is the author of the book, “The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics.” John Charles Daly will moderate the discussion.
Mr. Daly has served as a top news executive, analyst and correspondent for CBS and ABC,
and is a former head of the Voice of America. Now, here is Mr. Daly. John: This Public Policy Forum part of a series
presented by the American Enterprise Institute is concerned with a major social problem brought
anew to confrontation by the catechisms in Southeast Asia, the tides of immigration crisscrossing
the Mexican-American border, the upheavals in the Caribbean in the ’60s and the ’70s,
and the tragic immigrations from Cuba and Haiti in the early months of the ’80s. Our
subject, “Should U.S. Immigration Policy Be Changed?” Our nation’s record on welcoming the tired,
the poor, the huddled message yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of the teeming
shore, the homeless, the tempest-tossed is spotty, but it is still very proud. It was
a century after the Declaration of Independence in 1875 that the U.S. first restricted immigrants,
barring convicts and prostitutes. In 1881, 1908 and 1917, the Congress acted against
Chinese, Japanese and Asian Indians in that order. In 1921, quotas were established based
on national origin, a system locked in by the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 and transparently
biased to keep a lid on immigration and to give overwhelming priority to those of Anglo-Saxon
and Nordic origins. Several bills watered down the McCarran-Walter
Act during the ’50s and the early ’60s. And in the end after long and biting debate, the
savage dislocation and a horde of displaced persons following upon World War II brought
basic reforms in 1965. To replace quotas and Asian exclusion, preference based on unification
of families and occupational skills with protection of the job market for Americans became the
benchmarks. The new legislation also placed ceilings of 170,000 for the Eastern hemisphere
with a maximum of 20,000 per country against an overall ceiling of 120,000 a year for the
Western hemisphere, 17,000 places were reserved for refugees. Signing that new legislation in 1965 at the
base of the Statue of Liberty, President Lyndon Johnson said, “It repairs a deep and painful
flaw in the fabric of American Justice. The days of unlimited immigration are past, but
those who come will come because of what they are, not because of the land from which they
sprung.” The reforms began in 1965, were virtually
completed in 1978. Legislation combined the two hemisphere ceilings into a single worldwide
total of 290 and established a uniform preference system. The ’70s, however, produced new and
agonizing problems that a patchwork of parole power and special legislation did little to
solve. Under the hammer blows of that turbulent decade, it became clear that reserving 17,000
places for refugees was unrealistic. In the past quarter of a century in fact,
attorney generals alone have used that officers’ discretion and its powers, its parole power
to admit more than a million refugees from Hungary, Cuba, the Soviet Union and other
countries, and the Refugee Act of 1980 gives the president complete discretion on the admission
of political exiles. And so, in the fall of 1978, a Select Commission
on Immigration and Refugee Policy was established by the Congress. To begin, gentlemen, I would
pose the same question to each of you in turn. What would constitute a humane and proper
policy for immigration into the United States? As Executive Director of the Hesburgh Commission
examining present policy, will you start, Dr. Fuchs? Lawrence: Well, I supposed a humane policy
would be one that would add to some of humanity of decency in the world and in this country
particularly. We, in the United States of America, are responsible for 40% of the world’s
GNP, yet, I don’t suppose it’s realistic that we could take in over a short period of time
40% of the world’s population. Knowing that there have to be some limits and that the
number of places available are going to be smaller than what the demand is, the question
becomes, “How do we determine how to allocate those scarce visas to the United States?” I supposed we can think of a humane policy
as one which meets our goals if we have confidence in this country and I do. I believe that if
the fundamental values of the nation, the fundamental goals of this country is set forth
in our great documents, in our historic utterances by Jefferson and Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt
and others. If they are to be fulfilled and met through an immigration policy, we ought
to look carefully at goals which manifest our national interest. That means, something
of a shift away from the kind of hodgepodge development that we’ve had in the past to
a clear articulation of national interest goals and I think that’s the course that the
commission has set for itself. I’ll say more about that later I’m sure. John: All right, Senator Schmitt? Harrison: John, I think, first of all, more
and more, and more importantly we have begun to separate political immigration from economic
migration, a very important distinction of any new humane or workable policy must have.
In political immigration, I hope that whatever we develop and the Commission recommends,
and the Congress eventually modifies as its wisdom will recognize that political immigration
has been the basis of a great deal of what this country is, and that we should not do
anything that eliminates that rejuvenation process in our own country, in our own heritage. In the case of economic migration, particularly
that from Mexico and maybe other parts of Latin America, again, I think we have to recognize
it is largely a true migration and that most such individuals who come to this country
for economic betterment are temporary in their migration, and desire to remain Mexicans or
other nationalities and not become Americans. And as long as our policies will recognize
those two things that it’s a political immigration and an economic migration and in the latter
case develop a temporary worker visa program or someway in which that can happen legally,
I think we will have a humane and workable policy. John: Dr. Novak? Michael: I do think though picking up on these
remarks that we’re likely to see in the future an increase in the number of those who seek
to come to countries like the United States and we better be ready for that. My reason
for saying that is that there is among human beings everywhere, a hunger for freedom and
freedom is in short supply in the world. And it seems to me, looking at the future, that
the number of societies which will permit liberty, economic liberty as well as political
liberty is likely to shrink. And in that case, we can expect more and more persons over the
years to migrate towards this few centers of freedom which will remain. Now, by freedom here, I want to be clear about
the fact that, I mean, not just the seeking of opportunity by which one might better oneself,
that’s very important, of course. But there’s also I think, other things being equal, a
sheer satisfaction and living in the sort of society which allows you to keep what you
earn, to spend it as you will and all those other sorts of freedoms which we come to have.
Some population specialists have suggested that two-thirds of all the people who’ve ever
lived are alive now. If that’s not the right figure, it’s something very close to that.
That, too, I think suggest that we’re going to have a very special problem in the United
States down the road. Given our past history with the question, I would say that in order
to have a humane policy, we should err on the side of generosity. John: Mr. Otero? Joaquin: Mr. Daly, I support a policy for
the United States that is consistent with our nation’s traditions of humane and compassionate
people. As an immigrant myself, and very proud American Citizen, I sincerely hope and I will
work for that America will remain the land of the free and the home of the brave, and
that we will continue to remain a nation of immigrants. I believe that an immigration
policy that is humane should foster family reunification above all. It should also provide
a haven for those who seek refuge on political persecution, and that is a policy that takes
into consideration the interests and the needs of American workers. Also, I sincerely hope
that any type of a policy that is develop takes into consideration the questions of
dealing fairly and equitably with the problem of both legal and illegal immigration into
the country. John: Well, as you’ve noted, the immigration
issue is now really two issues. What to do about the admission of legal immigrations,
in the future? What to do about so-called, “Illegals,” here in uncertain numbers of millions
and still coming? So, let’s look at the legal issue first. The Hesburgh Commission’s goal
in Father Hesburgh’s words, Doctor, is to design a policy that will be generous, humane,
non-racist, rational and workable. Does present policy fail in these areas substantiality? Lawrence: Well, it’s not workable. It’s out
of control and there’s a very strong sense running in the public opinion right now that
it is out of control. That has to do partly with the illegal immigration. The law is not
enforceable and you have substantial number of persons who enter without inspection, without
documents, and live in an underground economy to some extent and become an underclass to
some degree. And they are exploited not only at the work place in some cases at the margin,
but also are preyed upon by criminals. In some cases, they don’t report their health
problems and they don’t even send children to school in some cases which is a very bad
thing for the United States of America. So, it’s not working in that respect. It’s
not working in another respect. The backlogs that we have accrued over a period of time
are really quite enormous and, in fact, it’s gotten at the point where we now having fifth
preference, the preference for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, such explosive growth
that it can double every year. It did double between ’78 and ’79 from 230,000 to over half
a million. Those just who have been awarded visa numbers but can’t get in to the country
because the backlogs are so great. So, it’s not clear that it’s workable. It’s
not necessarily humane or equitable either because you have a rigid system, a rigidity
in the immigration law in which a person who is a spouse, a wife or a husband, or a small
child of a resident alien has to wait sometimes three, four, five or more years depending
upon what country they happen to be petitioning from. Whereas, a specialty cook might get
in from another country just like that because of our country’s ceiling system which is a
rigid system. It puts the same country ceiling on a small country like Lichtenstein as we
have on a large country such as India. So, it’s not workable. It’s not equitable,
and Father Hesburgh has these other qualities, generosity. It all depends what you mean by
generosity. Now, if you take, let’s say, the decade 1900 to 1910, at that time, that decade
we averaged about 900,000 immigrants a year. We averaged about 400,000 a year in the decade
of the 1970s. That constitutes less than 20% of our present population growth at a time
when we’re growing at less than 1% a year. Now, it depends whether you’re looking at
the donut or the whole if you want to call or characterize that as generous, well, compared
to most countries in the world it’s quite generous. Compared to the decade 1900 to 1910,
the United States of America, it’s not particularly generous. So, there it is. Now, on the issue of humanity
and what I think the Commission have fairly well-decided at this point is that there are
three clear immigration goals. One is, as Commissioner Otero said a moment ago, one
is the reunification of families, but we need to clarify what we mean by the reunification
of families and make the system work so that when we say we favor the immediate access
to this country of the wives, the husbands, and the small children of persons who are
here, that other people can’t leap ahead of them. We also, clearly, in the Commission accept
that view that the United States will remain, as Mr. Otero said, a refuge for persons who
have a well-founded fear of persecution in the countries that they’re leaving. The question
here is, “How can you deal with expellees such as we have seen from Cuba?” Now, they
don’t necessarily qualify under the definition of a refugee. One wants to be generous, but
one wants to be equitable. One wants to have a law that’s enforceable, and then there’s
a third goal that the Commission is seemed determine to meet, and that is to provide
opportunity for persons who seek freedom and who seek opportunity of an economic kind. And here, Senator Schmitt, I think you’ve
got an interesting distinction between the political immigrant and economic migrant.
A fact of the matter is it’s not such a clear distinction historically although the distinction
may be more clear in recent years. Harrison: It’s more clear now, I believe in,
but you’re correct historically. But in terms of our relationships with Mexico, the distinction
has maintained fairly sharp way through the decades and through the year. Lawrence: Well, one thing the Commission has
under active consideration right now is whether or not the opportunity for economic well-being
that so many people seek in the world and many come to the United States to seek it,
whether or not that is not better provided by having them enter into the legal migration
stream in a third category which meets U.S. goals for economic and cultural development
rather than on a temporary worker or a guest worker basis. Harrison: Well, but you mentioned earlier
that the process was out of control. It’s certainly I think, for all intents and purposes
is out of control in the political immigration area, but the economy of the marketplace is
controlling the migration of the now, what we call, “Illegals,” “the migrant.” Of course,
I’m from New Mexico which sees a great deal of the flow, not all of the workers, but a
great deal of the flow, and there’s no question that these people are moving in response to
the job market in this country. A small percentage of them are in fact competing with U.S. workers,
but the recent research by both in Mexico and in this country indicate very strongly
that that level of competition is not nearly as high as been pictured by many. That most
of the workers are moving across the border for the basic spring, summer, fall season
to take those kinds of jobs that are characteristic to those seasons that Americans just aren’t
seeking. And it looks as if the number like 85%, plus or minus 5% are those kinds of people. Lawrence: It’s always dangerous to argue with
a United State senator, but… Harrison: That’s never. Lawrence: The research is so imperfect that
what we find in this business, Senator, is that one can use research findings on either
side of the argument. Many commissioners take the view that the United States should look
in to the possibilities of a guest worker program which would be quite different than
the old bracero program, but other commissioners take the view, and each one of them can marshal
their economists and their research findings, although, generally speaking, your statement,
if I understood it correctly, that the idea of severe economic competition or severe and
widespread displacement has not been proven is correct, neither has opposite of that been
proven. Harrison: It appears to be the most well-grounded
academic research both in Mexico and here tends to support strongly the position that
I have stated. There clearly has not been documentation that there is strong economic
competition of this migrant. For one thing, most of them are incapable in terms of skill
levels of competing with American labor. Not to mention the fact that American labor doesn’t
have to fall below the safety net that we put beneath them. Michael: Senator, is the proposal you make
that the bill you have to do this sort of thing, is that pretty much designed for Mexico
then perhaps we should think of Mexico here for special sense? Harrison: It is very specifically designed
for Mexico for a number of reasons. It’s conceivable that modified, it can become a model for other
efforts. That Mexican problem is clearly one that has certain unique characteristic. So,
2,000-mile common border for one thing and the impossibility with any reasonable cost
of policing that border, of stopping the flow, and the inhuman nature of the attempts to
stop it that at least so far have resulted in many case. John: What do you propose to do? Harrison: Basically, propose to recognize
that the vast majority of these migrants are coming north in response to an economic crisis
in their own lives. They come and stay only for the period of six to eight months that
our normal working seasons for the semi-skilled, unskilled worker in this country and that
they then return to Mexico, and the evidence I find very persuasive that this is in fact
happening. The numbers are somewhere on the order of a million and a half, plus or minus
500,000. That sounds like an awfully big plus or minus, but that one of the reasons we don’t
know the level of the problem is because it’s illegal and you can’t really get your arms
around it and find out how big it is. We would add one proviso in recognition of this significant
but still small percentage of workers that compete with the American labor in the skilled
areas, that if under certain guidelines, it can be demonstrated that at a particular work
site, that American labor is available and willing to work, then that side can be declared
off limits to the visa holder. John: Mr. Otero? Joaquin: First of all, I’d like to say that
I am one of those commissioners on the Select Commission on Immigration on Refugee Policy
who has made up his mind regarding the question of any attempt by any description to institute
another bracero program in the United States. We are going to oppose with everything that
we have, I’m talking about organized labor, any such program, a bracero program by any
other name remains bracero program. Harrison: Well, if I could interrupt, it does
not. John: Would you describe a bracero program
for our audience? Joaquin: Well, a bracero program was something
that was instituted in this country during the war days and brought about the importations
of 400,000 foreign nationals to do primarily work in the agricultural fields of the Untied
State. It was discontinued in 1964 and there has not been a similar program since although
we have something call H2 program which is something under more control, but what I want
to say is that you have issued a series of statement, Senator, that I wish you could
furnish the Commission in terms of your research, the question that it doesn’t affect American
workers. It does affect American workers when you have a large pool of people in this country
who are exploitable. There are in this nation today by all estimates,
approximately 6 to 8 million people unemployed. They don’t go back. They remain here because
they have no place to go back, like you say, escaping from a tragedy of real economic difficulty
at home and they come to the United States looking for the job opportunities. And from
this particular human tragedy, many American employers benefit by using these people in
tremendously low levels of employment and at the greatest exploitation possible. All I wish is that you could do is go with
me to New York City or to Los Angeles, California and I’ll find you these people working in
sweat shops like the likes have not seen in this country since the 1920s. They’re not
working in the fields anymore. This 6 to 8 million people are competing across the spectrum
of American skills today. They are in railroads. They are in the hotel industry. They’re in
restaurants. They are in the garment industry. They’re everywhere and in very low numbers
in the agricultural field. Harrison: Well, the facts just don’t support
those kind of statement. There clearly are illegal migrants from Mexico in the kind of
jobs that you described. I’ll not argue that, but the vast majority of them by modern research
are in the agricultural area and in small businesses that otherwise would not be employing
anybody. And the basic problem no longer is one of, “Can I get, as an employer, get a
low-wage skilled person?” The problem is, “Can I get anybody to do that job?” Now, that’s why we build into this proposed
legislation a way of protecting the skilled labor of America. The unskilled, semi-skilled
workers are finding jobs that are not being taken by Americans and I think we have to
recognize that fact. I think we also have to recognize that as long as they’re illegal,
the exploitation that you decry, and I do also, is going to continue. The only time
that exploitations going to cease is when they have a legal status that they’re not
afraid of coming forward and saying, “I’m being exploited.” Lawrence: Why not go all the way and give
them a green card, and give them…? Joaquin: Senator, this is what I am advocating. Harrison: Because they don’t want a green
card. Lawrence: Why not? What’s the…? Harrison: They want to move back and forth
across their border. They’re Mexicans. Lawrence: Well, a green card doesn’t keep
you from… Harrison: Do you mean the H2 card? I’m sorry. Lawrence: No, resident alien, an immigrant.
Most immigrants would come to United States historically really come to look around and
even with some groups, of course, the return migration, the repatriation was really very
significant. Historically, about 30% of the people who immigrated to the United States
went back to where they came from. Some groups Italian, Southern Italians, the rate was even
much higher. Harrison: And that appears to be about 90%
in the case of the Mexican moving across the border. Lawrence: Well, not from the… Harrison: All the evidence, it’s anybody’s
place in front of anybody says that’s the number. There’s has been not any contradict
the evidence unless that… Joaquin: Senator, I’m not going to debate
you here today on issues that you have your view point and I have my view point, and the
facts do not warrant that 90% of them go back. The fact of the matter remains that at a time
when we have more than 10 million Americans unemployed in this country, we have got to
adopt the policy which is consistent with the interest of American citizens at the same
time remaining our borders open. Now… Harrison: I couldn’t agree with you more. Joaquin: Let me finish my point. Harrison: That’s exactly the policy that we’re
proposing. Joaquin: Let me finish my point. The question
is, I understand what you’re trying to do, but I’m also trying to explain to you that
there is a reality which makes it almost impossible for the American worker to have a bargaining
power when he’s confronted with this large influx of low-wage exploitable people and
the reason is very simple. Take the state of Virginia, for example, where the tobacco
growers get together and in a monopoly type of a situation, they set the rate for picking
tobacco at $3.10 an hour. And since they are the only ones that set the rate, the labor
department is unable to say there should be any other rate. So, an American worker that
wants to pick tobacco has to pick it for $3.10. He has no bargaining power with that employer.
So, consequently, even if he lives far away from the point where the picking is going
to be done, and he says, “Well, I need another 40 cents to pay for the high cost of gas or
whatever, I will do it for $3.50.” The labor department cannot certify that wage. Harrison: So you see, that’s exactly what
we’re trying to protect against in this bill. Joaquin: Well, okay, fine. Harrison: Where there is willing American
labor then the work site would be off limits. That you have no such of means right now to
declare that work site off limits. Joaquin: Yes, we have. The problem is that
we have to change the immigration laws to provide for a genuine availability test of
American workers. As it is today, that doesn’t exist. And naturally, a grower or an employer
prefers to bring a group of people who are not wise about their rights in the United
States and it makes it impossible for them to compete. Harrison: But that’s what we’re trying to
change, Mr. Otero. That’s exactly what we’re trying to change. We’re trying to change the
situation under which these workers are exploited. There’s no question about it and also protect
the American worker in those situations exactly like you described. Joaquin: I don’t disagree with you. Harrison: Where they’re under this unfair
competition. Joaquin: I don’t disagree with what you’re
trying to do. What I’m trying to tell you that there are first things that come first.
What we ought to do first in this country is to have amnesty across the board for all
the people who are illegally in this country. Allow them to regularize their status. Harrison: What does that mean? What does amnesty
mean? Does it mean five years we’re going to defer any deportation? Joaquin: It depends. I am against total, any
type of mass deportation. I think this country cannot tolerate mass deportation. Now, whether
we say one year or two years, or three years, that’s a question for the Commission to decide
and making a recommendation to Congress and then it’d be up to you the legislation to
decide. Harrison: Well, of course, my opinion is… John: Well, let me bring a point in here if
I may. Don’t we need some hard numbers on how many illegals there are? You hear everything
from a few million to 12 million to make any recent judgment on policy and how we’re going
to get them. Harrison: You can’t until you legalize it. Lawrence: The problem is, Mr. Daly, and for
the audience too, is that if you could count them, you could deport them. You can’t count
them with the kind of accuracy position that we would like. There have been a great many
ingenious studies which have tried to account them. They all depend on heroic assumptions.
The methodologies can be quite ingenious. Now, in the Census Bureau Review for the Select
Commission of all of the best of these studies, the most credible ones, it was determined
by the three authors of that review, of that analysis, that at any one time in the year
1979, there was no fewer than 3.5 million and no more than 6 million and that’s really
what it amounts too. Harrison: And that lower estimate jives, speaking
of only of the Mexican situation with the estimates of 1 to 2 million Mexicans, but
that again is a heroic assumption that you know the percent. Lawrence: Senator, the other finding is that
probably no more than half of the undocumented aliens in this country now are Mexican nationals. Harrison: Dr. Cornelius and others would say
60%. Michael: So I’d like to broaden it beyond
Mexico for us…? John: Yeah. Actually, I wish you would because
I think we mustn’t freeze in on one geographic variant. Michael: First of all, as a theologian I find
I don’t have to worry too much about numbers, you know, three persons in God, seven sacraments,
few basic little numbers and make life a lot easier for me. But it does seem to me that
irrespective of our special historical relationship with Mexico and the Mexican people, a naughty
but I think a soluble problem, one soluble with good will and intelligence. It seems
to be we’re going to be facing this tide of refugees coming, en masse, suddenly from different
parts of the world and we’re going to have to gear up as a society in a way we haven’t
for a long time, to think of ourselves again as a society of immigrants, suddenly besieged
and we’re going to have to, I think, mobilize our private sector, the churches, the universities,
business communities, the unions and so forth to be ready to receive such migrants. I’m
almost certain that the ’80s are going to see one wave after another coming from God
knows where, but Africa, Asia, Latin America. The world is so turbulent as one can see in
prediction that that we’re just going to have to gear ourselves up to be ready on a crash
basis to receive as needs to be. Harrison: John, I think Dr. Novak is entirely
correct on this and I would add only that at the same time we gear ourselves for that
influx, which is going to come at unpredicted times, we must also do those things after
in the rest of the world through a coherent foreign policy that perpetuates two things.
One, freedom and two, the economic developed of these countries that begin to reduce those
push factors that exist out that cause such migration. Michael: And they go together. Harrison: It doesn’t mean the migration or
immigration is going to disappear. It means that we have to be doing both things and they’re
both imminently justifiable morally. Joaquin: Mr. Daly. John: Yes, Mr. Otero? Joaquin: I like to say that I don’t disagree
with your bill in its entirety. What I am saying is that we need to attack the problem
at hand in a combined effort. First of all, we need to do various things to attack the
problem not just one single thing like providing additional job opportunities for people and
to make sure that they’re not illegal in the country. We need to give amnesty in this nation.
We need to curve the flow of illegal immigration into this country. And for that, we need to
put the problem in this proper perspective and that is people come here because of the
push factor and the pull factor, meaning that people don’t have a job at home, they come
here looking for a job. We need to have sanctions on employers who
knowingly hire illegal aliens. There should be criminal sanctions with injunctive relief.
We should also have greater enforcement at the border. We should have enforcement of
existing statues such as child labor laws, Fair Labor Standards Act. We need to provide
economic assistance to other nations such as Mexico and other countries in Latin America
to help them develop their own economies. We need to develop a number of other areas
to curve this problem and to bring it to manageable proportions. We will never be able to stop
illegal immigration into the United States. That is an impossibility if we are to remain
a nation that is a democratic bastion throughout the world. We cannot conceivably mobilize
the army or the air force, or any other service to seal the border. That is impossible, but
we can, if we put our minds to it, bring about enough measures to be able to remain a nation
that admits people legally. Yes, I’m in favor of increasing the number of people who enter
the United State legally. Legal controlled migration. Yes, more refugees,
but also taken into consideration that there are 14 million political refugees today in
the world and that it would seem impossible that America could take them all at the same
time. This is something that should be internationalized. Other nations of the world that share the
same responsibility with us. Australia, Western Europe and so on, should also be participating
in accepting the refugees, but in doing all this, we must always keep in mind that we
have a responsibility to our own people especially at a time when our economic situation is not
the best, when we have large number of people unemployed and the prospects for unemployment
continue to grow higher. Those are the issues that should be taken into consideration in
developing the humane policy that you were talking about. John: Well, let’s come to grips with one area
that you raised. Representative Peter Rodino, in the early ’70s, proposed making it a crime
for employers to hire illegals knowingly. The House reacted favorably. is my memory
of it. The Senate did not. The Senate actively opposed the idea. Then in 1977, President
Carter renewed the Rodino plan and coupled it with amnesty for illegals here before 1970,
and a temporary status for those who arrive after that until 1977. The Congress has not
been enthusiastic, although the President has renewed this proposal. So, what do you
think of the plan, gentlemen? Harrison: John, I would just have to say that
the reason I got involved in this, other than the interest that New Mexico has, I mean,
very close to the border and culturally alive with Mexico, was the universal condemnation
that the President’s renewal of these proposals we’re seeing. Sanctions and it was condemnation
by Hispanic community not just by everybody else, all of whom I think have a great deal
of common sense, but it was primarily by the Hispanic committee. Sanction means discrimination.
Every employer is going to have to be concerned about, “Is that person who’s approaching him
for a job, an illegal alien or is it a New Mexican that happens to look a little bit
like a Mexican?” Like, sometimes I do after a little bit in the sun and enforcement at
the border is an impossibility unless you’re willing to put billions of dollars into that
2,000 miles. I’d like to take all of you along, just walk along portions of the New Mexico
border. You just can’t do it. It’s an impossible task. And amnesty, I think there ought to
be a clearer set of criteria by which permanent residence would be granted for those people
in this country, but the amnesty proposed by the President, some vague five-year plan
was again, deservedly, universally criticized. John: Dr. Fuchs? Lawrence: What I hear many of the commissioners
asking is whether or not there isn’t a way to meet your objectives. I understand your
objectives to be as follows, to accommodate the desire of many employers in this country,
to find hardworking persons who will do an honest day’s labor so that they can meet their
goals in their establishment. To accommodate the desire of the great many people not just
from Mexico, but from many countries in South America and Central America, and other parts
of the world to come to the United States to improve their lot economically, with the
notion that they’re not necessarily going to plant roots in the United States, not necessarily
going to raise their families in the United States. And it seems to me what the commissioners
are trying to do right now is to recognize that when you do have a large scale temporary
worker program, it isn’t necessarily going to be enforceable that there will be leakage
out of that system, that human beings stay here because they fall in love, they get married,
they have children or they find that they really do like the place after all. And that
in the nature of human activity, people don’t really have that kind of a mindset, “I am
going back,” or, “I am going to stay.” That’s not the way most of our ancestors thought
about it when they came. What there is, is a kind of a concern that the whole thrust
of our history has been away from indentured servants, away from bonded labor, away from
slavery toward treating every individual who works in the United States as a potential
citizen and having the potential for all of the entitlements, and all of the rights protected
by the constitution and/or resident aliens will have that. So, that’s some of the thinking.
The fear that in the nature of the case no matter how well-designed a temporary worker
program might not meet the highest standards which American sets for the protection of… Harrison: I think one of the problems that
we’re having is we still remember the word, “Bracero,” which was a program that everybody
would like to forget. It was a program that required a contract to exist between the worker
and the employer. That’s what is often forgotten in the descriptions of the bracero program
and what we’re saying is, “No, let’s do everything that you have just described, but except we’re
going to put a limit on the time that they can spend here.” Temporary worker visa for
them, but otherwise, the ropes are off and all U.S. laws apply to the protection of these
workers, to their salary levels, to everything else and the benefits that they raised on.
That is the difference. The leakage will occur. John: Before we get to the question and answer
session, Mr. Otero raised a point which I think it would be useful if we could define
further or delineate on. Mr. Otero knows we should have the help of other nations in this
resolution of this immigration problem, the refugee problem being a large part of it because
it’s going to be with us as far as we can see into the future. So, what kind of help
can we expect or should we expect, for instance, from the United Nations or any other international
body in this immigration crisis? Dr. Fuchs, do you want to start? Lawrence: Should and help are two different…
should we expect and what kind will we get are two different things because I think we
should expect a great deal from many potentially large receiving countries, but we have received
very little. I’m not sure how effective our efforts in this line have been, but what we
have now, a very thin week international structures to deal with an international problem. International
problem of migration is one of the great world issues, one of the great planetary issues
of our time. We don’t have planetary structures to deal with it if you take the question of
refugee migration and sudden refugee migration particularly. We’ve followed up on the great Cambodian crisis
with a marvelously dramatic episode, Vice President Mondale went and made a wonderful
speech, talked about the turning away of the Jews in the 1930s and so on. And we were able
to extract some cooperation from other receiving countries. With respect to this recent Cuban
episode, our efforts on the diplomatic side to the extent that we made them, don’t seem
to have borne much fruit. So, when you say, “What kind should we expect?” We should expect
a great deal. This Commission has on the study now ways in which we might be able to build
regional, that is on international scale, structures which could help to plan for and
deal with emergency refugee flows when they took place on a regional basis. They don’t
exist right now and that’s really the answer to the question. Joaquin: Well, I think the United States should
take the initiative to promote some sort of a conference on a worldwide basis to develop
ways and means for the handling of these type of crisis such as we are witnessing today.
There’s no reason why the nations of the free world that have a concern that they are with
us in military alliances, economic alliances and so forth, should not get together and
develop a statute internationally to try to work together in resettling these refugees
all over the world. And to me, if the United States should be taking that initiative because
everybody in the world wants to come to this country and I think we should be proud of
that that we remain a nation. That people don’t want to go to Russia or Red China. They
want to come here. Michael: John? John: Yes, Dr. Novak? Michael: Could I raise one thing? One point
we have to remember here is, where are these people coming from? One of the great causes
of these migrations we’re talking about is totalitarianism. Andso as long as we let totalitarianism
multiply, which it has done in Cambodia and Cuba, and other places as well, that is where
the red tide of refugees is coming from and will come from. And until the free world nations
are willing to face that problem, there’s going to be a greater shortage of liberty
and more people coming in. Harrison: Amen. Amen. John: Well, I think we have opened this general
subject up very broadly. I think there’s one quick question that I might pose. I have read
and heard charges that in the differential treatment of the Cubans coming out of Cuba
now and the Asians who are coming into Florida, we have a racist policy. Dr. Fuchs? Lawrence: Under the new law, the UN protocol
has been accepted in the definition of refugee and that’s anybody who was a well-founded
fear of persecution should they return in their homeland. The problem with the Asians
may be several folds, apart from their racist factor which I have no personal knowledge
of it all. There is the fact of, one, people who flee from persecution in Haiti to the
extent that there is real persecution and there’s no question or there is some, or fleeing
from a family despotism, not an ideological despotism and not fleeing religious persecution.
It’s not a question, such as Soviet Jews where, you know, in the Soviet Union today if you’re
Jewish, your kids are not going to have as good a chance to go to schools or fulfill
certain occupations. So, you have endemic, systemic persecution, but in the Haitians,
it’s a family. If you go along with the family, you’re okay if you don’t. So that’s one problem. The second problem is the State Department
some time back, when we had the old law, did send a team down to Haiti and looked the situation
over and said that substantially what you have is people who live in terrible economic
conditions, but that you don’t have widespread political persecution. So, because of the
legacy of that report and because of the legacy of the law and the old definition, and perhaps
because they are black, and I don’t know that that’s a case, but this is some of the thinking
perhaps that’s gone into the reluctance of our government to move into a definition of
refugee status for the Haitian, even to grant work authorizations to those who are petitioning
for asylum. But the fact of the matter is that more recently, the Cubans who have come
to the United States, also are largely seeking opportunity as the Haitians are. Some have
a well-founded fear of persecution, particularly now that they have left the place, just as
some of the Haitians have a well-founded fear of persecution now that they left Haiti, but
most human beings. It’s, again, the human situation. Why do you
leave? Why do the Irish leave Ireland? You know, they were starving. But did they like
the political system? Did they have reason to fear that system? Sure, they did and that
it’s a mixture of motives and it’s very hard to decide. Now, refugee policy and the last
analysis anywhere in the world is going to be a function of foreign politics as well
as domestic politics, as well as some generalized standard of equity which we have tried to
embody in the law, but we can’t accept all 14 million so we make decisions on an ad hoc
basis. Michael: One problem you come to in the case
of Haiti is the jump from defining a refugee is someone who flees from totalitarianism
to defining it as someone who flees from authoritarianism. Now that covers virtually the whole world
except a dozen or 20 nations at most, and that’s an enormous jump. Now, the difference
between a totalitarian and an authoritarian regime is a considerable one, because the
one is able to cover a whole totality of human life. The other can be cruel and repressive
for that anything like the synchronization of controls. That’s, I think, a step we’re
going to have to face. [Crosstalk 00:47:30] John: Well, we go to the question and answer
right after Mr. Otero. Joaquin: Just this point here. You know, the
technicality that is applied to the Haitian refugees doesn’t convince me in any way because
Haiti has one of the most repressive, one of the most brutal dictatorships that this
earth has ever known. In Haiti, Papa Doc when he becomes your enemy and you do something
against him, not only does he kill you, but he kills everybody who’s a member of your
family. They eradicate your roots in Haiti. You know, Batista in Cuba used to kill a lot
of people and Marcos Perez Jimenez, and Castro still killing people and imprisoning people. So, for anybody to say that the Haitians are
merely economic refugees, they ought to have their head examined because, in reality, they
don’t know what’s happening in Haiti. There is as much political persecution in Haiti
as there is in Cuba or as there is in Guatemala or any other country that has a dictatorship. John: I think what we need to find here is
the definition problem is a very difficult one we’ll have to wor. Now, it’s time for
question and answer session. Yes, sir. You, sir. Please, sir. Roger: My name is Roger Conner and I’m the
Executive Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. It’s better known as FAIR.
I’ve noted that each of the panelist has in tern advocated an increase in immigration
of one kind or another. So my question is this, in 1977 the distinguish Roper Polling
organization found that 75% of the American people believe that a level of immigration
of 400,000 per year is excessive. And today, legal immigration is running at greater than
600,000 per year. So, my question to each of the panelist, and I regret that all the
panelists agree on this score and you don’t have a dissenting view, but I’d ask each of
the panelist, why is it they believe that the American people are wrong on this score? Harrison: Well, as an elective representative
of those people, let me say that I don’t know what the number is and you may not have been
listening carefully. In my opening remarks, I said, I think we have to come to some decisions,
some goals, some limits, if you will, that are consistent with the traditional role that
political immigration is played in our country. I don’t know what those limits are. I don’t
know whether they’re 400,000 or a million, or 200,000, or what. I just think that it
is almost impossible with our tradition, I kind of think it is impossible, with our tradition
to completely close our doors to political immigration. On the other hand, with respect to the economic
migration, I think you’ll find that the surveys are very different at least in the areas that
are most significantly affected by economic migration. So, such as that for Mexico. The
idea of temporary worker visa programs has a fair amount of support and I think we have
to continue to draw this distinction. There is a very valid distinction between the two. Lawrence: I think the most important distinction,
Mr. Conner, is one between legal immigration and on one hand, and illegal immigration and
sudden refugee emergencies or flows particularly when there are expellees on the other. What
we found at our public hearings and what we’re finding in the effort to fine tune the analysis
of public opinion is there is growing anxiety, even outrage, over an immigration policy that
is out of control and that means that the hostility is directed against illegal immigration.
And also to some considerable and growing extent against the acceptance of large numbers
of refugees who impact very suddenly in a particular locality so that we have found
that the…and the polls never ask these questions and don’t make the distinction really. We
have found that with respect to the family reunification goal of immigration, with respect
to the goal of immigration to provide opportunity for persons who seek opportunity and who would
make a contribution to the United States that when you make those distinctions, there isn’t
the outrage and hostility. Most people still seem to feel strongly that this is a country
whose strength, to a very large degree, comes from valid immigration, legal immigration,
but they are very angry about illegal immigration and about sudden impact from refugees, particularly
when they’re expellees as in the case of recent Cuban migrations. John: Dr. Novak? Michael: Public opinion isn’t always right
and it isn’t always to be followed because public opinion itself changes. It changes
on the economic climate is different. It changes when leaders figure out a rational and intelligent
policy and seek to persuade people to follow it. A lot would depend with public opinion
in how you ask the question. If you ask that whether they would like to turn people back
in the sea, whether by their choice of limiting from 400,000 to 200,000 let’s say, they would
like to condemn such persons to lives in prison or whatever else. I think the American people
might very well suggest that there are some other things they would rather see yield than
that. And in any case, that’s the function of leadership, to determine what is a rational
policy and then to try to persuade people democratically, that it is indeed a rational
policy which they would support. John: Mr. Otero? Joaquin: Mr. Conner, your figure of 400,000
is inaccurate, 600,000 is more in reality. When you consider the number of legal immigrants
coming into the United States through the regular route, plus the number of refugees
from Cambodia and so on, you got over 600,000 people. And I am very cognizant of the so-called
backlash that is being effected today throughout the country and particularly among my own
membership in the labor unions. But I want to say to you that my advocacy for a larger
number of legal migrants is subordinated toward doing something about the legal immigration
in the United States. So, as far as I am concerned, the two things go hand in hand. We first control
or try to control illegal immigration and then worry about the numbers for legal migrants
into the United States. John: Next question please? Yes, sir. Roy: My name is Roy Morgan. I’m the Executive
Director of Zero Population Growth. Given that the U.S. population is about to 5% of
the world’s population and given that we consume about 35% of the world’s non-renewable resources,
it seems to make sense that U.S. immigration policy should be a part of a national U.S.
population policy. Would you comment on that please? John: Who’d like to start that one? Why don’t
you start it? All right, please, Dr. Novak. Michael: I’ll start thereabout. Well, first
of all, there are something tricky about those figures that I like to call attention to.
Many of the things we now call resources, non-renewable resources at that, were not
known to be resources 50 years ago, some of them are 100 years ago for others, but that’s
a very important data. The same population of the United States that you were speaking
of because of its liberty, because of its inventiveness, because of the character of
the people who come here is also the source of the discovery of a quite considerably larger
share than 35% of those resources. And so, I think overall, and my own view would be
that our preoccupation with the Zero Population Growth alone in the United States is not the
only way to go about setting a policy either for population or for immigration. Lawrence: On this question of linking immigration
policy to population policy and resource use policy, we’ve heard from as many people arguing
that they’re worried about a shortfall in population in this country as they are worrying
on the other side. The argument is that given our present fertility rate of 1.8 that we
will have a serious shortage of persons in the working age population relative to those
who are over 65 or over 70, or who are more dependent on those in the workforce. This
applies of course obviously the social security options. Harrison: God help us if we don’t change that,
Social Security System. Lawrence: But it also applies with respect
to general levels of productivity and very great concern about what American economic
vitality will be in 1990 and by the year 2000. John: This concludes another Public Policy
Forum presented by the American Enterprise Institute for public policy research. On behalf
of AEI, our hearty thanks to the distinguished and expert panelists, Dr. Michael Novak, Dr.
Lawrence Fuchs, Senator Harrison Schmitt, and Mr. J. F. Otero, and our thanks also to
our guests and experts in the audience for their participation. Peter: This public policy forum on U.S. immigration
policy has brought to you the views of four experts in the field. It was presented by
AEI, the American Enterprise Institute. It is the aim of AEI to clarify issues of the
day by presenting many view points in the hope that by so doing, those who wish to learn
about the decision-making process will benefit from such a free exchange of informed and
enlightened opinion. I’m Peter Hackes in Washington. Announcer: This Public Policy Forum series
is created and supplied to this station as a public service by the American Enterprise
Institute, Washington, D.C. AEI is a non-profit, nonpartisan, publicly-supported research and
education organization. For a transcript of this program, send $3.75
to the American Enterprise Institute, 1150 17th Street, Northwest Washington, D.C., 20036.

Danny Hutson

5 thoughts on “Should US immigration policy be changed? (1980) | ARCHIVES

  1. Granting any kind of DACA AMNESTY or AMNESTY for millions of illegal aliens only Encourages more illegal alien immigration.
    In FACT when Obama did the DACA in 2012 90,000 illegal alien kids rushed in our country in the next 3 years 2012,2013 and 2014

  2. Yes. additional restrictions need to be added so that we (U.S) are only importing skills sets that benefit the U.S.

  3. Wow. Nearly 40 years ago and such similar arguments to today. Amazing. Hope that debates in the future can be as civil as this so that we can continue to move the U.S. forward. Great historical context.

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