Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Immigration man

On November 12, 1954, Ellis Island shut its doors, after processing more than 12,000,000 immigrants since opening its doors in 1892. It is estimated that more than 40% of all Americans living today can trace their roots through Ellis Island (named after a New Jersey merchant named Samuel Ellis, who owned the island in the 1770’s).

The first person admitted through the gates was a 15 year old Irish girl named Annie Moore. The last person admitted, in November 1954, was a Norwegian merchant seaman.

After its closure, Ellis Island was used as a deportation center for illegal immigrants, a hospital for wounded WWII soldiers, and a Coast guard training center. Starting in 1984, the location went through an extensive (and expensive) renovation, and it reopened in 1990 as the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

Prior to the opening of Ellis Island, immigration had been handled by the individual states. In New York, Castle Clinton (on the lower tip of Manhattan Island) operated from 1820 to 1920. From 1892 on (when Ellis Island was opened) Castle Clinton continued to admit immigrants, but they were the first and second class passengers on ocean liners. The “steerage” passengers were admitted through Ellis Island.

In addition to the immigrants admitted by the State of New York, the ports of New Orleans, Mobile, Savannah, Charleston, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Galveston also had immigration admitting stations.

In order to provide a more consistent approach to the influx of humanity from other countries, the Federal Government established Ellis Island processing center, and Annie Moore went through its doors on January 2, 1892.

Americans have long been conflicted about immigrants, even though ALL OF US (with only minor exception) are either immigrants from other countries, or descended from someone who was (my grandparents came from Ireland). The exception to the rule, of course, are the folks who were here prior to 1607, when the first permanent settlement of Europeans was established on May 14, 1607.

English, by the way, wasn’t the native language of North America, and it isn’t the official language today (because we don’t have one). If you have the patience to count them all, you’ll find that there were 296 different languages spoken in what is now the United States. If you add on the area north of the present Canadian border, the number balloons to approximately 1000. Eight of the Native American languages are still spoken today, with Navajo being the most commonly spoken. The United States Marine Corps found the Navajo language to be very beneficial during WWII, when the Corps used
400 North American Navajo Marines to thoroughly confuse the Japanese in the Pacific Theater.

Before the largely Christian Europeans took over the country, the Native Americans had their OWN set of 10 Commandments:

When the Statue of Liberty (a gift from France) was erected in New York Harbor, its welcoming plaque seemed to apply to everybody, but it got lost in translation on its journey to the West Coast. The Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law on May 8, 1882, and would remain in effect until December 17, 1943. The message eventually faded in New York Harbor also, after Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, which greatly reduced the number of newcomers admitted into the country.

There has been a LOT of discussion lately about various flat tax proposals (all of which would exacerbate the income inequality in America) and “the need to curb illegal immigrants”, ignoring the fact that we actually NEED illegal immigrants (it has a lot to do with your grocery bill). There’s has also been TOO MUCH EMPHASIS on the national debt,but that’s a topic for a different time, since you’ll have to brush up on your Japanese to understand why.


Before you get your dander up too much, though, it’s instructive to examine the problems that are ACTUALLY the things that we, as a country, need to address.

In his latest book, “That Used To Us”, “the most trusted man in America” spells out the the strategies that helped America become the largest economy in the world. He called them “The Five Pillars Of Prosperity”. They are as follows:

1) Providing public education to more and more Americans.

2) Building and modernizing our infrastructure.

3) “Keeping America’s doors open to immigration open so that we are constantly adding both the low-skilled but high-aspiring immigrants who keep American society energized, as well as the best minds in the world to enrich our universities, start new companies, and engineer new breakthroughs from medicine to manufacturing.” The same idea was also offered by the authors of "The Millionaire Next Door", who said, " .. this is why America needs a constant flow of immigrants with the courage and tenacity of .. the first generation immigrants ... ".

4) Government research for basic research and development.

5) The implementation of necessary regulations on private economic activity.

Due to the iron grip that special interest groups have had on this country, making progress on ANY of them is going to be difficult for the next year or two. Surprisingly, a lot of people in America have never heard of the Kochbrothers - and that’s exactly how they like it.

The problems that each area is facing are as follows:

1) Education -

Earlier this year, the school board of Providence, Rhode Island FIRED all 1926 of its teachers. Although it’s reasonable to assume that adjustments will need to be made to some of the benefits enjoyed by teachers (especially the defined benefit retirement programs) it’s UNREASONABLE to demonize America’s teachers at a time that they are needed most.

Arguably, the main reason for the increase in prosperity in America in the 1950’s and the 1960’s was the G.I. Bill, which allowed returning veterans to get a college education. Currently, there is a proposal to help former members of the military find work in a sluggish economy. Although the measure would require Congressional approval, the current administration has vowed to proceed unilaterally if approval is not received in Congress. (Even former Presidents have weighed in on the need to improve our educational system, “in the midst of a sour economy”.)

The timing of the proposal highlights another important issue: if the Super Committee can’t come to agreement on how to increase revenue for the Government by November 23, there will be an automatic REDUCTION of $454 billion in defense spending.

2) Infrastructure

The American Society of Civil Engineers two years ago gave a grade of “D” to the nation’s infrastructure. One example of WHY they did that can be viewed at the video below:

London Bridge is falling down

In spite of a strong need to improve our infrastructure, as well as a need to create jobs, some members of Congress recently voted to kill a bill to improve both situations because it involved a tiny tax increase on a tiny percentage of the American population (folks with annual income in excess of $1,000,000).

3) Immigration

In 1980, there were 73,000,000 people in the world with college or post-college degrees. By the year 2000, that number had increased to 173,000,000, but the number of H-1B visas that our country needs to issue to capture that talent has not increased proportionally. In fact, the trend has gone in the opposite direction.

The peak year for H-1B visas was the year 2000, when 195,000 visas were issued. Since that time, the number allowed has been decreased, and the current allotment is set at 85,000.

The United States actually issues three different types of visas for temporary workers. The H-1B visa covers workers in specialty occupations (such as computers) and is limited to 85,000 annually. The H-2A visa applies to temporary farm workers, and has no annual cap. The H-2B visa covers seasonal non-agricultural workers, and is limited to 66,000 per year. Despite the caps, the United States issued 135,991 H-1B visas in 2012. We also issued 65,345 H-2A visas, and 50,009 H-2B visas.

On the other end of the spectrum, there was a rumor circulating recently that the annual cost of illegal immigrants was $338.3 billion. To quote the famous line from the old Avis commercials, this total is “not exactly’ correct. In fact, if you carefully research all the details related to this “fact”, you’ll discover it’s completely FALSE. There ARE some costs related to illegal immigrants, but they are nowhere near the total shown above.

The most accurate answer to the question is this:

The U.S. Custom and Border Protection Department, a division of the United States Department of Homeland Security, has 43,600 sworn federal agents, and an annual budget of $11.84 billion. That’s no small amount, but it’s definitely a lot smaller than $338 billion!

It is estimated that nearly 30% of the agricultural workers in America are illegal immigrants. Although agricultural workers are a small percentage of the total for illegal immigrants, it’s logical to assume that their removal would lead to higher food prices (which it would) but not as much as you might think, due to the fact that only 7% of the cost of an agricultural item is due to labor costs.

In total, though, the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico has declined dramatically in the last 20 years, largely due to improved economic and educational opportunities in Mexico.

In recent months, there have been discussions of using alligators and electric fences , and suspending 36 environmental laws, in order to “stem the flow of illegal immigrants”. In reality, though, the solution is much simpler: improve living conditions in Mexico.

4) Government support for research and development

Federal funding for basic research and development began falling for the first time in 2005, after 25 years of growth, and has diminished since that time.

5) Necessary regulations on private economic activity

When Lehman Brothers filed bankruptcy on September 15, 2008, it was the largest financial bankruptcy filing in the history of the United States. The bankruptcy filing exposed some shady lending practices that cost investors millions of dollars. Although it had been assumed, fairly recently, that the financial services industry could police itself, Lehman’s failure exposed the idea for what it was = wishful thinking. In response, Congress passed a bill in May of 2010 that imposed further controls on an industry that needed them.

There’s also been some recent discussion about weakening environmental laws in order to create jobs, which simply isn’t a good idea.

In order to operate efficiently, businesses thrive if they face as few economic hurdles as possible, but it’s not smart to allow them to do whatever they want, because unbridled capitalism hurts ALL of us.

In 1972, Graham Nash (who was a British citizen at the time) and David Crosby recorded a song titled “Immigration Man”. When the sheet for the song was released, Nash chose a picture of earth from space because "when you look at a photograph of the earth you don't see any borders. That realization is where our hope as a planet lies."

Nash himself became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1978.

it’s a small world after all

Throughout the planet, there are differences in political outlook, race, creed, color, and national origin. When viewed from 200 miles up, though, we’re simply 7 billion people sharing a spectacularly beautiful blue orb floating in the vastness of space.

To quote a well known conservative talk show host, “ that’s the way things ought to be”.

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