THE ECONOMICS OF IMMIGRATION
Xenophobic attitudes are becoming increasingly commonplace. They are at odds with so many things most of us would claim to value: patriotism, human dignity, unbiasedness, to name a few. It’s an unfortunate way to look out on the world.
But there’s more. Burlington, VT based freelance author Adam Bluestein wrote this well-reasoned piece for Inc. magazine back in 2015. He make a strong case for increasing portals for immigration (e.g. increasing the H-1B visa caps).
He shares some helpful examples of how immigrants have become the engine for business creation in our nation. And he also peppers in some helpful stats:
From 1996 to 2011, the business startup rate of immigrants increased by more than 50 percent, while the native-born startup rate declined by 10 percent, to a 30-year low. Immigrants today are more than twice as likely to start a business as native-born citizens.
Despite accounting for only about 13 percent of the population, immigrants now start more than a quarter of new businesses in this country.
Xenophobia is bad for our national economic well-being.
I’m not always certain why such attitudes retain their power. They have haunted us throughout our nation’s history. “Remember when people thought the _______ were gonna ruin our way of life?” We think this so odd, and yet it cannot seem to be shaken.
I work extensively with first and second generation Americans on the college campus; the sheer tenacity it takes to uproot and rebuild one’s life in a foreign land guided only by the abstraction of “opportunity” couldn’t be a more American ideal. I find their stories endlessly fascinating, inspiring and hope-inducing.
Immigration laws and regulations are understandable and needed. But would that they weren’t laced through with such self-inflicting fear-based impulses.
Carbonite CEO Mohamad Ali wrote an OpEd for this week’s Harvard Business Review in this same vein. He shares the story of how his family arrived in the US after fleeing from Guyana in 1981 (which was when he first witnessed an escalator).
Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. Intel founder Andy Grove was a refugee from communist Hungary. Apple cofounder Steve Jobs is the son of Abdulfattah Jandali, an immigrant from Syria. Today, the trend continues. A recent study of billion-dollar startups found more than half were founded by immigrants. Our next generation of great companies, too, will depend on immigrants — as will the American economy as a whole.
In recent months, I’ve thought back many times to my own path to U.S. citizenship. Three decades after I looked up from the bottom of that escalator, I am contributing to the economy and creating jobs in a meaningful way. The American Dream is still alive, and it is core to innovation and competitiveness. But we must protect it.
Both articles are worth a read. The first is long. The second is short. For some clarity on the H-IB visa, here’s this.
So if xenophobia chafes against our purported values, and also our national interests (that is to say it is unpatriotic), what lies beneath such attitudes and behaviors?
ECONOMIC OR CULTURAL ANXIETY?
After the latest general election, it became widely accepted that economic anxieties were what explained Trump’s appeal among the white working class (the sub-segment which most decisively accounted for his victory).
And yet, as the ever perceptive Emma Green wrote in last week’s Atlantic, new evidence is showing that these voters’ anxieties were actually more culturally animated.
She sites the following,
Controlling for other demographic variables, three factors stood out as strong independent predictors of how white working-class people would vote. The first was anxiety about cultural change. Sixty-eight percent of white working-class voters said the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence. And nearly half agreed with the statement, “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.”
And I think this is largely right (at least among this subset of voters, and also others). It is a jarring thing to feel like a stranger in one’s native land; so much so, that one can scarcely help one’s self from opposing those forces that are bringing this sensation about.
But, as with all fears, the real discord lurks beneath, and demands to be confronted. White America is reluctantly coming to terms with the deterioration of their American normativeness. It is unsettling, because the cultural habitat has always been of our own unknowing construction.
As with all fears, they tend to be fairly irrational. Oftentimes, we fear those things which stand to enhance us. Discomfort might be a sort of crucible.
Read Green’s short article. Or just watch this little summary video. Either way, let’s not let the fearful waters of the world around us fill our vessels to sinking. However that water got in there, it’s time to start bailing it out.
THE NEW COLOSSUS
I hate to admit that I’ve never read the entirety of Emma Lazarus‘ poem “The New Colossus” (you know the one, it’s lines appear on the plaque welcoming visitors to The Statue of Liberty).
But I’ll leave it for you here to read and enjoy!
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,With conquering limbs astride from land to land;Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall standA mighty woman with a torch, whose flameIs the imprisoned lightning, and her nameMother of Exiles. From her beacon-handGlows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes commandThe air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries sheWith silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
A guy draws a cartoon of himself, and invites the internet to be his bud. The rest?