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.



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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Government Regulation, immigration | 3 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    I think Eric and Wim De Friend are representing the extremes, the former too loose and the latter too draconian. It’s true we have wealth building in the face of immigration, but we also have poverty related to such. Here is yet another ancedotal plea – Victor Davis Hanson, Senior Fellow for Stanford Univeristy’s Hoover Institute, talks of the California experience of having two states: one with the rich robber barons of Silicon Valley embracing open borders while living in their gated communities separated from the other economy one of middle class flight and failing government infrastructure. Give this you tube video a watch and listen. The immigration issue he addresses about half way through:

    I am looking into the literature concerning the impact of immigration on wages, and note the CATO institute list several economic studies suggesting between a negative .4% on wages from immigration to almost no impact.

    Previously, Eric, was willing to compromise by letting immigration increase by 3% per year or so, possibly from a base of 1 million. This seems reasonable to me. We are seeing wages begin to tick up in the last several months after being almost dormant for nearly a decade. President’s Trump jaw boning against immigration anecdotally looks to have slowed immigration (immigration data is not that good I don’t believe to form real definitive logical conclusions). Inflation remains dormant as we are in a global economy where labor competes globally, and there is still amble labor indirectly through imported goods and services. But I would imagine at some point especially if the Federal Reserve continues with easy money policies, we will need net in-migration to supply those goods and services not easily substituted by offshoring the jobs through imported goods and services. Trump’s deregulation, particularly energy sector, is helping also to keep inflation subdued.

    Finally, we have here a battle between the intuitive and the logical, and most often it is the intuitive that wins in politics (just as Wim de Vriend uses with his ancedotes about rape incidences in Germany). Loose immigration I would say risks political back lash where by contrast that which is more orderly gives more respect to such political risk. There’s pure economic theory and then there is economic and political reality.

    • Granola girl

      I agree Bob. I would like to see an up to date government statistic than his 2007 opinion piece. I for one believe in the immigration system as long as a person can pay his own way, does it LEGALLY, and respects our language and culture.

  • Oregon Engineer

    At issue is “open borders” even the research paper linked by Eric is about selective /controlled migration “Rather,
    the process
    of migration selects individuals
    who either have lower criminal propensities or are more responsive to
    deterrent effects than the average native.
    Immigrants who were already in the country reduced their relative
    institutionalization probability over the decades; and the newly arrived
    immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s seem to be particularly unlikely to be
    involved in criminal activity, consistent with increasingly positive
    selection along this dimension.” emphasis added. The issue of the European problems are primarily due to either open acceptance of all refugees from the middle east or very relaxed immigration. We primarily do not have open borders with the exception of the illegal crossing of the US border from the south or north. It is harder for a US citizen to cross from Canada or Mexico to the US than it is to cross illegally from Mexico or Canada to the US. Anecdotally I have talked to eastern European/Russian immigrants who have been sponsored into the US. Their community helps them to get established with the expectation that they in turn contribute to sponsoring someone, not always family but usually hard working individuals wanting the opportunities offered in the US. I have no problem with inviting people to immigrate to the US. Note invitation not trespassing.

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