Will Race Issues Destroy America?


Immigration and diversity represent both America’s greatest weapon and, increasingly, a lethal challenge to our democracy. The debate over the “dreamers” — the roughly 700,000 young people brought to the country illegally — has already caused one government shutdown and can lead to others.

The intensity of this issue has been exacerbated by “fake news” promulgated both from the nationalist right and the globalist “open borders” left. Neither view fits either reality or the long-term needs of the country.

Desperately needed is something all too lacking in our political discourse: common sense. Both the nationalist right’s alleged notion of maintaining “a white America” and the open borders notions on the left are fundamentally incompatible with any workable national future.

Nativist exaggerations

President Trump’s political ascendency has rested, in large part, on nativism, from the moment he announced his improbable run, with egregious slams at Mexican immigrants, and to his first, poorly considered attempt to restrict travel from Muslim countries. These views are based largely on half-truths that are common on the far-right: that immigrants are revenue-sucking parasites intent on transforming America into a hodgepodge of ethnic cantons.

In reality, immigrants vary tremendously, but some of their contributions to the economy are very real, with higher levels of labor participation than natives. Newcomers tend to be disproportionately more entrepreneurial than native born Americans — both on Main Street and Silicon Valley — at a time when our startup culture has weakened. There is some evidence that the undocumented commit more crimes than citizens but most research suggests overall newcomers commit less crime. Cities with high numbers of immigrants such as New York and Los Angeles are safer than those, like Detroit, New Orleans, Memphis and Baltimore which have relatively few.

Ironically many smaller cities, particularly in the Midwest and South, where opposition to immigration tends to be strongest, actually could use more immigrants. These are often communities that have a hard time holding onto their local pool of young talent. Earlier this month employers in Springfield, Missouri, a city with thriving blue collar sectors and growing STEM economy, repeatedly complained about labor shortages and spoke of efforts to recruit immigrants from places like the Philippines.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book is The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Photo: Elvert Barnes, via Flickr, using CC License.