Us and them
By Scott Sumner
There’s been a lot of recent debate about illegal immigration. Caroline Baum points out that President Trump’s opposition goes far beyond “rapists and murderers”:
Designating immigrants as “murderers” and “rapists” flies in the face of data that show that undocumented immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated than their native-born counterparts. And legal immigrants are even less likely offenders than their illegal counterparts.
Before you insist that Trump is protesting illegal immigration, consider that his administration has tried to clamp down on all forms of legal immigration, starting in week one with a travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries and moving on to the issuance of fewer visas, limits on the number of refugees and asylum-seekers, an end to DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and even an effort to deny immigrant entrepreneurs the opportunity to establish a business in the U.S.
Baum focuses on the role of entrepreneurial immigrants:
It’s no secret — except, perhaps, to the Trump administration — that immigrants tend to be more entrepreneurial than native-born Americans. . . . Immigrants are twice as likely to start a business as native-born Americans, for example. Forty-three percent of the 2017 Fortune 500 companies were founded or co-founded by a first- or second-generation immigrant, according to the Center for American Entrepreneurship.
I’d say it’s not even a secret to the Trump administration. The President seems to have been influenced by Steve Bannon, who has suggested that the highly successful Asian-Americans in Silicon Valley are having a negative effect on America “culture”. (Here I’m tempted to look for connections between Bannon and Harvard University, but I’ll leave that up to my readers.)
Baum points out that President Obama tried to act on this issue, when it became clear that Congress was gridlocked, but that nothing came of his efforts:
Yet the U.S. remains “one of only a few industrialized democracies that does not have a designated visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs” who want to establish a business in the U.S., the CAE’s Dearie said.
Introduced a handful of times in Congress, most recently in September 2017, the Startup Act has never been able to gather critical mass. The act would have opened the door to foreign-born entrepreneurs with advanced degrees in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math), a verifiable business plan and private funding source to establish a business and remain in the U.S. as long as the business was creating a specified number of non-family jobs. . . .
As a work-around to congressional stonewalling on a startup visa, President Barack Obama used his pen (executive action) to craft the International Entrepreneur Rule to encourage immigrant entrepreneurship. While not as effective as a legislative solution, the rule would have granted qualified foreign entrepreneurs temporary residence for five years to build a business operation.
Trump put a hold on the rule before it could go into effect in July 2017 and last month moved to rescind it.
When I speak with people on the other side of the immigration debate, they often start with nationalistic arguments. But when pressed on the issue it soon becomes clear this is about more than nationalism. Most of the anti-immigration people I speak with do not regard the Asian culture in Silicon Valley as being inferior to the black culture of Detroit, or the Native America culture of South Dakota, or the Hispanic culture of El Paso. When they speak of “American culture” they have something much more specific in mind than people who live in America. In their view, subcultures that study less hard than this very specific culture are lazy. Subcultures that study harder than this very specific culture are viewed as robotic, lacking in personality.
I have recently been stuck by the passion with which many immigration restrictionists discuss the situation in Germany. Viewed objectively, the recent immigration into Germany seems like a net gain for the world. The gains to the immigrants almost certainly outweigh any possible losses to Germany. The other side will then tell me that I’m missing the point, that I need to think in nationalistic terms, not bloodless cosmopolitan utilitarian terms. In that case, however, why would American nationalists (including President Trump) be so upset about the situation in Germany? After all, neither the local Germans nor the immigrant Syrians are members of our “tribe”. Neither of these groups are Americans. We even fought two wars against Germany.
Unless . . . perhaps this isn’t about nationalism at all. Perhaps this is about some other unspoken issue, which makes many people feel that the Germans of Cologne are “us”, whereas both the blacks of Detroit and the Asians of Silicon Valley are “them”.