Time for a Moratorium

By Jack Terrazas
Volume 6, Number 4 (Summer 1996)
Issue theme: "The battle for official English"

Much time and energy have been spent on the immigration debate. How about letting common sense guide our immigration policy for all?

Item Po Wong, director of the Chinese Newcomers Service Center in San Francisco, indicated in 1993 that of the 11,000 new Chinese immigrants who were looking for work through his agency, only 2 percent were successfully placed. He has also said "I don't think our community is equipped to welcome this large a number ... It's very depressing to see so many people come here looking for work."

Think of America as comparable to a family with 10 children, including Paul who is blind, Mary, who has learning disabilities, and Peter, who has severe emotional problems. Would it be wise and responsible for such a family to adopt their neighbors' children, even if they were beautiful and talented?

If the parents adopted their neighbors' children or have more of their own, fewer of their limited resources would be left, particularly for the three children with disabilities. Although the new additions did not cause Paul, Mary and Peter's problems, their presence would make it much more difficult financially for the family to afford expensive specialists. A significant portion of the family's income would have to be spent on food, day care, health care and other expenses for the new members of the family.

Is the situation in the United States so different? We now have 263 million residents, versus 60 million, when the Statute of Liberty was erected. We have $5 trillion in national debt and 39 million Americans live below the poverty line. Today's high-tech economy requires fewer and fewer workers. Millions of our workers are unemployed, millions are underemployed, and we also have countless discouraged workers in addition to those who have never found work.

"A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in March showed that the majority of Americans favor a five-year moratorium on all immigration."

Is it wise for the U.S. to continue to absorb about 12 million immigrants a year? Immigration is not the sole cause of America's problems, but continued mass immi-gration, legal and illegal, makes existing educa-tional, budgetary, social and economic problems much more difficult to solve. Our immigration policy is also a disin-centive for developing nations to provide for their own citizens.

Proponents of mass immigration argue that the current percentage of immigrants in the U.S. today is much lower than around the turn of the century. Therefore, according to them, the U.S. should continue to maintain high levels of immi-gration. Those advocates fail to understand that America is similar to a family which once was very affluent and had only one child. Under those circumstances, the family could well afford to adopt four children, even though this would mean a 400 percent increase in family size.

Unfortunately, the parents have been laid off from work, are heavily in debt and now have 10 children, some of whom have not been fed three meals a day. Would it be wise to adopt one more child, even if this only meant a 10 percent increase in family size?

Many existing legal immigrants and citizens in this country are feeling the effects of mass immigration as our schools, labor markets and freeways are overflowing. A Roper Poll released this past February showed that 78 percent of blacks and 52 percent of Hispanics want annual immigration to be less than 300,000 a year. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in March showed that the majority of Americans favor a five-year moratorium on all immigration.

Reducing legal immigration only requires an act of Congress signed into law by the president at no cost to taxpayers. Illegal immigration can be significantly curbed by taking away the job and benefit magnets in the United States through employer sanctions and tamper-proof documents to verify immigration status. Our national leaders should practice democracy and exercise some common sense by immediately enacting a five-year moratorium on legal immi-gration with an all-inclusive ceiling of 100,000 a year. Such a moratorium would allow us to address existing problems and to develop a long-term, sustainable immigration policy. □