Why Not a Merit-Based Immigration System?

Article subtitle: 
Reihan Salam's latest book makes the case for an overhaul along Trumpian lines.
Article author: 
Scott McConnell
Article publisher: 
American Conservative
Article date: 
27 September 2018
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

It’s hard to imagine a more needed contribution to America’s immigration debate than Reihan Salam’s civil, sober, and penetrating Melting Pot or Civil War? At a moment when the major dueling discourses revolve around lurid depictions of immigrant crime by one side, and appeals to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty and accusations of racism by the other, Salam’s data-driven argument about the future consequences of today’s immigration choices could not be more timely....

Salam’s case is that America’s legal immigration system needs be reformed on lines roughly similar to what the Trump administration now and others before it have long advocated: changing the rules to place a greater emphasis on the economic skills of immigrants while deemphasizing the role played by family “reunification” would ensure both that new immigrants are an economic plus to the economy and, more importantly, that they are more likely to integrate into the American cultural mainstream. This would put the U.S. more in line with the generally politically popular systems in place in Canada and Australia. The proposal is tempered, or balanced, by measures to shore up the condition of the American working poor and an amnesty giving long-term resident illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, as well as ambitious measures to enhance economic development in the Third World.
But the meat of Melting Pot or Civil War? is not in the proposal but in the getting to it—a route which passes through numerous nuggets gleaned from contemporary research and a depressing if persuasive analysis of the consequences if America stays on its present course.
First of all, Salam reminds us, an alarming number of recent immigrants and their families are poor. ...
As Salam makes clear, successful immigrants tend to come from relatively rich and urbanized societies. ...
While much of Salam’s analysis is a deep dive into statistics of intergenerational poverty, educational outcomes, and the growing achievement gap, he doesn’t shy from the ominous implications of the racialization of the immigration debate. ...
...there are two competing processes going on—amalgamation, in which more educated immigrant families are joining the middle-class mainstream, intermarrying with whites and with one another, and racialization, in which a new immigrant group finds itself ghettoized and cut out of the mainstream....