Prejudice makes bad policy: my response to Wim de Vriend

In his final installment of a four-part anti-immigration series, Wim de Vriend meets Webster’s description of prejudice: “an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.” He devoted his sprawling prose to a handful of sexually violent anecdotes involving immigrants without even the slightest attempt to present evidence these outlying instances are representative of American immigrants.

As the Alt-Right is forced to extrapolate from an unusual event in Germany two years ago, it merely highlights the fact that immigrants generally don’t harm us. Appeals to emotionally charged stories about things that nearly never happen are how needless government regulations get enacted.

Public policy should be based on evidence, not cherry-picked stories of the bizarre. That evidence has long been very clear. Immigrants commit crime at a significantly lower rate than the rest of us.

A typical Arab in the United States does not rape women. He’s an engineer at Intel, a finance manager at Nike, or mans a food cart selling falafels. The west side of Portland flows with the very kind of people de Vriend paints as monsters. There aren’t many gang rapes in Beaverton, Oregon, but there’s a whole lot of prosperity along Highway 26 thanks to the hard work of that sunset corridor’s many immigrants. Getting rid of that flow of human productivity will not lower our crime rates, but it will lower our standard of living.

It’s ridiculous that de Vriend keeps referring to Japan as some kind of an anti-immigration success story. Japan’s economy has been devastated for lacking the labor growth and dynamism that we have enjoyed over the past generation. Despite the punctuating dips of the occasional recession, the United States has been living in the wealthiest moment in its history in recent decades, continuing to break new world records in affluence this year. Japan peaked in 1990.

Our future is so bright, de Vriend’s pessimism is just detached from the fundamental reality of a googled world. He says the “chances of seeing another industrial revolution demanding millions of new, unskilled workers seem quite slim.” Yet we have revolutionary technologies building abundance all around us. That affluence will afford more human services. We will have to cook for ourselves less, and the need to mow our own laws out of economic necessity will continue to decline.

Who are we? America is an open society with no ethnic identity.  We are forged by a common Lockean Liberal ethos that is more powerful than the few among us, like de Vriend, who sometimes arbitrarily reject it. Indeed, it’s ironic that he, himself an immigrant, would question the fitness of other people to nest into America’s culture, when the blood-and-soil nationalism of the old-world that he has brought with him to our country is more alien to America’s founding than the rest of today’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of A Brief History of Political Cultural Change.