Americans systematically overestimate the percentage of the population who are legal immigrants. The average native-born American’s perceived share of legal immigrants was 36.1 percent of the population, almost 4 times the true 10 percent figure. One of the purposes of PragerU videos is to inform viewers about facts that are ignored by liberals. This video was a wonderful opportunity to state the actual percentage of the population that is foreign-born, something that would have been a great service. It’s a shame that Michelle Malkin—who is famously known for her defense of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II—neglected to do so.
Instead, Malkin’s video is poorly framed, rife with errors and half-truths, leaves out a lot of relevant information, and comes to an anti-legal immigration conclusion that is unsupported by the evidence presented in the rest of the video. I have previously published a detailed, point-by-point analysis of Malkin’s claims. Here I’ll mention just a few points—please see my previous analysis for more detail, including relevant citations and data.
Malkin states that the US maintains “the most generous immigration policies in the world.” There are two problems with this statement: the first is factual, and the second is framing around the word “generous.”
The US does not allow more legal immigrants to enter annually in comparison to other countries. When we calculate each country’s annual immigrant inflows as a percentage of the native population, the US is only the 20th most “generous” of all developed countries. It is true, admittedly, that the US lets in a greater absolute number of immigrants per year than any other country. But that is not the most relevant basis for comparison – the US has a very large population.
Second, using the word “generous” implies that allowing legal immigration is an act of charity and that Americans incur a net-cost from such openness. On the contrary, the economic evidence is clear that Americans benefit considerably from immigration via higher wages, lower government deficits, more innovation, their greater entrepreneurship, housing prices, and higher returns to capital. In what sense is it generous or charitable on the part of Americans to allow an immigrant to come here voluntarily and to work for an American employer? Not only do both the employer and the immigrant gain; the consumers, investors, and economy do as well.
Several other statements by Malkin are misleading or erroneous:
- Contra Malkin, there is much research showing that immigrants are in fact assimilating at a rapid clip. Of migration from Spanish-speaking nations, for example, economist Jacob Vigdor states that “Basic indicators of assimilation, from naturalization to English ability, are if anything stronger now than they were a century ago.”
- Malkin gives the impression that it is easy to immigrate to the United States, but that is a myth rooted in mainstream American perceptions of our history, not an accurate reflection of current law and policy.
- An immigrant who applies for a Diversity visa must have a high school education, its equivalent, or two years of qualifying work experience as defined under provisions of U.S. law. It is simply inaccurate to state that they “don’t need a high school education, job skills, – or pretty much anything.”
- Despite Malkin’s claim, immigration policy has nothing to do with US sovereignty. The government has the power to regulate immigration.
Although Malkin does not define what the “American Dream” is, it is certainly not diminishing. Americans are getting richer, achieving more, and leading the world in numerous endeavors while immigration is increasing.
Alex Nowrasteh is the director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.
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