Buckley v. De Pena

Buckley v. De Pena


Authors from Part 7 of our policies series respond. (Previously: F.H. Buckley, "What If Americans Mattered?"; Kristie De Peña, "Higher Walls Alone Won't Fix Immigration.")


Response to Kristie De Peña

By F.H. Buckley 

What is entirely absent from Ms. De Peña’s essay is the recognition that the touchstone of our immigration policy should be the welfare of native-born Americans. She recognizes that with a Canadian-style points system, “our economy and culture [would] benefit greatly from making high-skilled immigration much easier.” But then she rules that out, since this would fail to recognize “the importance of the economically and culturally symbiotic relationship between the United States and Mexico.”

So let me get it straight. The welfare of Americans is trumped by cultural sensitivities? I’m left to wonder just what theory of ethics that came from. And what do we tell Americans whose jobs are lost to this? Go suck it up? Her essay, alas, represents the Washington think tank-world at its least attractive, with a morally obtuse proposal from on high that is indifferent to the preferences and welfare of those miserable worms, the American voters.

She argues that American agriculture would collapse without Mexican labor, including especially undocumented aliens. Had she spent more time examining the Canadian economy, she’d have realized that it’s as much an agricultural nation as the U.S., and that it somehow makes do with what she calls a “restrictionist” policy (one that in fact admits far more immigrants than the U.S., on a per capita basis).

As for her suggestions that ICE hire more translators, I have a counter-offer. Fire nearly all translators and insist on English-language proficiency for all, save refugees and asylees. You know, like Canada does (French or English).

Had Ms. De Peña paid more attention to Canada, she would have seen a well-functioning private refugee sponsorship program already in place. And had she paid more attention to the welfare of Americans, she might find have found her message of “openness, compassion, and philanthropy” an easier sell — for Americans, at any rate.

As the old folk song asks: Which side are you on?

(For the opposing view, see Kristie De Peña, "Higher Walls Alone Won't Fix Immigration.")


Response to F.H. Buckley

By Kristie De Peña

Embracing the interdependent labor markets of the United States and Mexico is indispensable to pragmatic immigration reform. Like many immigration-reform critics before him, F.H. Buckley cites the fallout from neglecting the problem — the undocumented population in America — but fails to propose fixes that address it. 

Contrary to Mr. Buckley’s assertions, will power has absolutely nothing to do with the cross-border difference between our immigration policies and those of Canada, and has everything to do with the demographics and geography of the United States.

Moreover, Mr. Buckley’s interpretation of the resettlement (or lack thereof) of Syrian Christians in the United States is misleading, as the number of Christian refugees resettled in the United States is proportional to the number of Christians registered as refugees by the United Nations.

Rejecting these realities and embracing nationalism is the mainstay of failed Republican principles and should have no place in the next administration’s immigration-reform policy.

Mr. Buckley is right that the American system’s emphasis on family reunification creates a certain path dependency in legal admissions. In effect, our door is open wider to people from countries that have already sent a lot of people here. Mr. Buckley would like us to be choosier, so that immigrants don’t bring down the average level of skill and education.

It’s true that we should admit many more STEM workers, foreign graduates of America’s fine universities, and nonnative entrepreneurs. But this falls badly short of a coherent immigration policy for the United States, which is not Canada, after all. The extent of the de facto economic union of Mexico and the United States seems to have eluded Mr. Buckley. He has said nothing about how the vital flow of people over our southern border can be made legal, regular, and safe.

But this problem is the better part of American immigration policy, and it is not best approached by making it harder for Mexicans to score visas. Mr. Buckley’s proposal to pursue a thoroughly Canadian immigration policy may make sense one day — when it’s as easy for Mexicans to live and work legally in the United States as it is for Poles in Germany today.

(For the opposing view, see F.H. Buckley, "What If Americans Mattered?")

F.H. Buckley is a law professor at George Mason University and the author of The Way Back: Restoring the Promise of America (Encounter Books, 2016). 

Kristie De Peña is Immigration Policy Counsel at the Niskanen Center. 

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