Cullum: In the next session we're going to be looking at this “New Order” that Carol has just described which such expertise, dazzling expertise. We are going to be asking: “Can It Work?” We have panelists today who have spent a lot of time pondering this question.
I'm going to begin by interviewing Jim Hollifield, who is here to my right. Jim Hollifield runs the Tower Center at SMU, and he has transformed the Tower Center into a vital forum for the discussion of foreign relations in this part of the world. I think when you take the World Affairs Council of Dallas-Fort Worth, chaired by Pat Patterson, one of our new members, and the Tower Center, there is always something compelling going on in this area.
Jim Hollifield is also a professor of political science at SMU. He teaches European History and he, too, is an expert in immigration. He gives papers on immigration all over the world. I frequently receive emails from him from Turkey or France or New York, and he flew back from New York last night especially to be here this morning. And Jim, I appreciate that very much.
Harry Joe is an attorney with Jenkins and Gilchrist which is one of the most respected law firms in Dallas. He specializes in immigration law, and he can be quite inventive in his advice. Last year I traveled to Taipei and I interviewed a very impressive trade minister, and shortly after I returned home, I received an email from that trade minister saying that he had a son living in Seattle who was desperate to stay in this country. He had studied computer science on various campuses and run out the string on his student visa, he had worked at high tech companies and played out the string on his worker visa, and he didn't know where to turn. Well, Harry had two pieces of advice. First, marry an American citizen; that would solve everything.
Well, I got in touch with the young man and I suggested this. He said he had already thought about that, but he had been unable to find a candidate that would work, that would say “yes”. So I went on to Harry's second piece of advice which was move to Canada. Canada has far more advantageous migration laws and if he could establish himself in Canada, and from that base move back to the United States, he could do so on far more favorable terms. I bring this up just to show you how very creative Harry can be, and also how very generous. He was giving his time away in this instance and it was very kind of him.
Carole Wilson is a political scientist at the University of Texas at Dallas, and her expertise is in the politics and elections of the European Union and Mexico. Carole has at least two books from the presidential election in Mexico this year. You all remember it was held in July, and finally settled in September when Felipe Calderon was named president, having won by half a percentage point, and sworn in yesterday in a melee that looked like something from Gilbert and Sullivan. The ceremony lasted four minutes, which was all he could stay safely in the chamber. And of course, his opponent, Lopez Obrador, has been demonstrating on the streets for months; he swore himself in on November 20 in a mock alternative ceremony.
I want to add that Carole, Harry, Jim and I did a program on immigration for the Dallas Committee on Foreign Relations summer before last, and it's very good to have the gang together again.
I'm very pleased that we're joined this morning by Jack Hunt. If you read Jack Hunt's resume, you will see that he is the quintessential Texan. He's involved in agriculture, land rights, grazing rights, water rights; he is the Texan of our imagination. And what's more, he went to Harvard. Jack Hunt runs the King Ranch, and in the past year he has developed a second career: debating the president's proposed guest worker program with Dallas Congressman Pete Sessions all across the state. The congressman does not favor this program, opposes it; Jack Hunt favors it. And we'll be hearing more about that. I certainly want to thank Barney Young for persuading Jack to be with us today. That was a great help, Barney.
Jim, let's start with you. At the symposium that you put on, that the Tower Center put on with the Federal Reserve Bank in October, Barry Chiswick, of the University of Illinois in Chicago, said: “The question is not why there is so much immigration, but why there is so little. Do you agree with that formulation?”
Hollifield: Yes, I do. If you look at the world migrant population today, the best estimate we have is a quarter of a billion people living outside of the country of their birth. Now, you may think that 250 million people is a lot of people, but when you compare it to the size of the world's population, you only have less than 3 percent of the people in the world today who live outside of their country of birth.
So the big question - and I agree with Professor Chiswick, a good friend of mine - is why more people don't move? The vast majority of people stay in the villages where they were born, but the fact of the matter is, we are seeing increasing movement, increasing numbers, and as my colleague, Caroline Brettell, pointed out earlier, we are now at historic highs in this country in terms of numbers; we haven't quite reached the percentages that we saw at the end of the 19th century.
I think Americans, in particular, are very well placed to feel the brunt of this world migration because we are a classic nation of immigrants or, as some have said, a nation of nations. This is something that has happened multiple times in our history, although we've only had four great waves of immigration. I think one of the things that makes this latest wave a bit more problematic is that it was a long time between the third and the fourth wave of immigration. So this is a relatively new experience for Americans. Most people don't remember or didn't experience the third wave of immigration.
I'm not surprised that the political pot is boiling in this country, and I would just add that Americans are profoundly ambivalent about immigration. They worry about it; they want it controlled; they want it reduced - if you believe opinion polls - but on the other hand, I was tempted to ask how many people in this room have Irish ancestry, how many of you in this room have German ancestry.
We know that Ben Franklin, for example, said that Germans will never make it; they cannot be Americans because they're medieval peasants, basically, and they don't know how to live in a free and democratic society. Well, guess what? Ben changed his mind about that because those Germans turned out to be constituents there in Pennsylvania; he shifted his thinking.
I would just conclude with one other anecdote about the Irish. Probably many of you in this room have Irish ancestry. I love to tell the story about an African-American young man who, like so many, fled the south in the 19th, early 20th century, and went to New York looking for fame and fortune. He'd heard stories about all the Irish people there, and he got to New York City and he wrote a letter back home and said, “I've met these Irish people, and guess what, they're white; they are white.”
Cullum: Harry Joe, we had a precipitous fall in foreign students in this country after September 11th. Students like Carol Brettell, who came to go to universities in the United States. It's beginning to pick up again. In the last twelve months, I understand we issued about 590,000 student and exchange visas. Nonetheless, the growth in foreign students in Japan, France and Germany exceeds the growth here in this country. Do you think we're doing all that we need to do to attract and keep the talent we need?
Joe: No, I do not. After 9-11, we saw a precipitous drop in overall immigration and specifically legal immigration to the United States. We became a nation inhospitable toward foreign students, toward foreigners in general, and obviously, the reason was pretty clear: our country had just been attacked by terrorists. But I want to point out what former INS Commissioner James Ziegler said, and that was these are immigrants; they were terrorists. And that's the distinction that a lot of people have failed to recognize.
Because we stopped giving visas, because we made it practically impossible for scientists and performing artists to meet their commitments due to visa delays, we became viewed as a country that really didn't want them here, and that was unfortunate for us because it gave an opportunity for other countries to open their doors and to tap into the tremendous brain power that foreign-born people can bring to this country.
We're now beginning to recognize the need to open ourselves up. We have a very antiquated visa system; we have unrealistic quotas for allowing temporary workers to become permanent residents. And like the example you pointed out, the very highly trained engineer who could not fit into our immigration system because our laws didn't allow it, he had to go elsewhere. Well, Canada gained from that. Other countries have benefitted from all the scientists that we have basically turned away because we have a non-responsive system.
Earlier Caroline Brettell mentioned the shortage of bilingual teachers. We have a tremendous need for bilingual teachers in our school systems here in this very county, in this very city. The H-1-B visa system, unfortunately, does not cut out or exempt bilingual teachers from the cap. As a result, numerous school districts, like Dallas and Irving, have a crying need for bilingual teachers and no access to them. They're desperately trying to hire bilingual teachers. The truth of the matter is the market is not there; there are not enough of these qualified workers.
An interesting figure: we have 37 million foreign-born residents in the United States; 30 percent of that number, 12 million, are unauthorized workers, they're illegal migrants. That's really the crucial problem we're confronting today.
You know why these people are here? I will tell you this: there is no physical fence or virtual fence or any other legal system that is strong enough to stop the basic human need and desire for economic improvement; finding a way to better themselves and to make life better for their family. That emotional need will overcome any physical obstacle you wish to put up.
We have an antiquated immigration system that has not enabled these 12 million workers, the predominant number of which are from Mexico and South America, do become legal. We are in the 21st century with a 19th century set of laws for these people. That's why we have 12 million undocumented, illegal workers. They have come to this country and are performing jobs that, quite frankly, my children and your children and your grandchildren simply will not do. They have established residences here; have developed lives here and have U.S.-born children.
The politics of demonizing these people will not be viewed favorably in the history of our country. When you have communities like Farmers Branch and Hazleton, Pennsylvania, enacting a set of laws that you can easily compare to those laws that existed in this country for the earliest part of the 19th century to the mid-1950s, the Jim Crow laws, the internment policies that we subjected our Japanese-American citizens to, the Chinese exclusion laws that were enacted in the 1880s, and the Nuremberg laws of the 1930s. Those are laws that human society is not proud to have on the books. When you look back and see what Farmers Branch has done, what Hazleton, Pennsylvania, has done and what many other cities could very well do, they are politically demonizing the politically disenfranchised, those who do not have a voice in government.
So we're facing a very serious issue. I think it is the most paramount immigration issue that our country faces today, and will continue to face as long as our political leaders are not willing to address it. There is a realistic, pragmatic approach that must be achieved and it is not realistic for politicians to believe or wish that the problem would just go away.
Cullum: We're going to hear from a couple of our political leaders, Senator Hutchison this morning, Senator Cornyn this afternoon. We'll let them have their say.
Carole, turning to you, I've heard you say, and I've heard your husband, Matthew Wilson, at SMU, say that evangelical churches, particularly in North Carolina and elsewhere, are doing a remarkable job of looking after immigrants; bringing them in, finding them jobs, finding them doctors, really helping them, and of course, encouraging them to vote in an evangelical way at election time. Tell us more about that.
Wilson: I went to school in North Carolina - my Ph.D. is from Chapel Hill - during the time that there was a massive change. Caroline Brettell's numbers show that during that period, primarily Hispanics were immigrating to North Carolina. From my experience, it appeared to be seasonal agricultural workers who moved from the South, from Georgia picking peaches, to North Carolina to pick tobacco on the farms or work on chicken farms, and eventually stayed there. So there was a major demographic shift in North Carolina during that period.
And one of the things in that area, and throughout the South and Georgia that we've seen, is that evangelical churches have done a very good job of attracting and providing services to immigrant communities. As Caroline Brettell noted, these new areas for immigrants, these new gateway cities, suburban and rural areas, lack a lot of the infrastructure to deal with immigrants. What we see is an increasing number of non-governmental organizations that provide some of these services for immigrants.
One of these organizations or groups is evangelical churches. First of all, they provide Spanish language services for a group of people who have historically strong religious values and strong ties to religious organizations, usually the Catholic Church, but given that the Catholic Church has not filled that void and doesn't have that many services in North Carolina or rural Georgia; evangelicals have been filling that role.
They provide services like childcare opportunities and negotiations between immigrants and landlords, and this has been a very interesting goal of these churches to provide and proselytize at the same time, to immigrants in these areas.
It will be interesting to see, if these immigrants are able to vote at some point, if this socialization has had an impact on them. I think we see the same thing here in the Dallas, Texas area where evangelical services have attracted a number of immigrants and provide a lot of these same structures.
Cullum: Jack Hunt, after the 1986 Reform Act was passed, a number of people living in Mexico, rural areas of Mexico, flocked to the United States to work on farms in this country, and then their numbers began to fall off a bit. Then NAFTA was enacted. The same thing happened; people flocked back and their numbers began to drift downward. And this fall I was reading - maybe some of the rest of you were - stories about farmers who couldn't get their crops harvested because they didn't have enough migrant workers. Have you had problems like this at the King Ranch? Have your friends or colleagues had this difficulty?
Hunt: Yes, there have been a lot of anecdotal and actual stories relating to that. A good example is the Florida orange crop. You all know we've had two severe hurricane seasons prior to this year. The crop was the lowest, I think, it's been since the freeze-damaged crops back in the 1970s. I think four to five million boxes of oranges were not harvested this year because we couldn't get labor to pick the oranges. Similar stories in California.
There's been a lot of coverage in the press about various farmers who haven't been able to pick their crops or harvest their crops, and particularly for the fresh and the fruit crops, timing is critical. You can't wait for some Homeland Security person to clear some guy in Mexico under the H-2-A program when your pears are rotting on the trees or the oranges are rotting. I think agriculture is facing what I would call a “perfect storm” on the labor situation.
Keep in mind that for each agriculture production job, there are about four to five jobs upstream to get that food to the consumers. Especially with fresh crops, if we don't deal with this problem effectively, we're going to be exporting the production of those crops overseas, and that has implications not only for our food supply, but also for the kind of society and land use we want to have in this country. So it's an enormous problem.
We have four ranches pretty close to the border. We have scores of people that die on our property every year trying to come into the United States. We have a very, very close relationship with the Border Patrol, and if you can get a Border Patrolman to talk when he's not on the record, he'll tell you that if they didn't have to deal with the people that are coming here to work, they could do a lot better job on border security than they're doing now. So we must have some effective guest worker programs for agriculture, or as I said, it's going to be a "perfect storm" shortly.
Cullum: Jim Hollifield, Phil Martin, who was at your symposium, proposed that the federal government charge a fee to employers of migrant workers - people like Jack Hunt - and that those funds be used to promote mechanization and job restructuring I guess he meant to reduce the need for migrant labor. What do you think of that idea?
Hollifield: Well, as much as I like and respect my colleague, Phil Martin, I think that would be a band-aid fix on this problem. There is a tremendous demand in this country for both skilled and unskilled labor.
Later on this afternoon, you're going to hear from the senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank, Pia Orrenius. When she comes, I hope you will ask her this question, because there are all these thorny issues about how much one kind of labor substitutes for another kind of labor. In other words, do unskilled immigrants compete directly with unskilled Americans? She can show you, chapter and verse, that that is, in fact, not the case. The number of unskilled, that is less than high-school educated, workers in this country has fallen precipitously; you don't have those kind of people, those kind of workers available at the bottom end of the labor market and immigrants come in to fill that void.
Now, immigrants do compete with other immigrants. Earlier somebody raised the question of why is it that immigrants who are here might want fewer immigrants coming. Well, that's a perfectly rational thing because those new immigrants are going to compete directly with the immigrants that are already here.
Can capital-intensive techniques, new technologies substitute for labor? That's a huge question. I think it can. It's a long and arduous process. We've seen some of this already in agriculture, but it's not something that's going to be an immediate fix. I'd like to hear what Mr. Hunt has to say about this, in particular.
I would like to very briefly, for the audience here, lay out what I consider the three models of immigration policy that we historically have seen in our country. I want to say to the two senators who are sitting in the back of the room that I, in particular, feel your pain politically on this issue. It was the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O'Neill, a great Irishman from Boston, Massachusetts, who said, and I quote, "Immigration is political death." He said, “If you get started down that path, you're going to make everybody angry and it's just not going to do anybody any good.”
He may be right about that, but it is an issue, as Harry Joe just pointed out, that we can't run and hide from. I mean, how many illegals are we going to have in this country? Is 15 million too many? How about 20 million; how about 30 million? I mean, sooner or later we're going to have to confront that issue. But let me just lay out these three models very quickly. I think you go back to the Colonial Period in our history; there are the three models that I would describe as follows.
First of all, the Massachusetts model which was the Puritan model. You can come here, but you better have the right kind of beliefs; the right kind of attitudes. You better look the right way and sound the right way. Even Roger Williams, if you remember, got into trouble with the Puritan fathers and they chased him off, and he went to Rhode Island and founded his own little colony. But that's one strand of thinking in our history which my colleague, and one of the great political scientists of the 20th century, Sam Huntington, is very worried about. He thinks that is what's happening to America, to American identity. Sam is the latest incarnation of the Puritan fathers' thinking: this is a WASP country; it was founded by WASPS and it should always be a WASP country. I don't know what my Chinese-American cowboy neighbor here would have to say about that.
The second model is one that's come back over and over again in our history and it's the Virginia model. I think the two senators, in particular, should think about this Virginia model which is equivalent to the guest worker model: we don't care who you are, what you look like, what you think, what you believe, but we need your labor and we want to get you here, get you working. And of course, in the darkest periods of our history, that meant bringing in slaves because they were the best form of labor since they didn't have any voice or any rights. We also had a lot of indentured servants, if you remember.
There is no such thing as a pure guest worker program, not in our age, simply because it rests on the fallacy of homo-economicus which is that people are pure economic units, that they're pure commodities. We know that's not the case. Immigrants are people and they're going to have to be ultimately treated like people. And to quote my friend, Phil Martin, “there's nothing more permanent than a temporary worker”. Once they get here, they are going to put down roots; they're going to marry; they're going to have kids; they're going to want to settle. We’ve got to leave a pathway. We can argue in a democratic society about where that path leads, but there's got to be a path to a green card and somewhere down the line to citizenship.
The third model comes from our friend, William Penn, the Quakers in Pennsylvania, and I'm happy to say I think this is the model where we more or less settled. We welcome you to come here; you don't have to believe all the things that we believe; we can tolerate lots of different views - this goes back to Caroline Brettell's presentation earlier - you can work and you can, to quote Abraham Lincoln, "Rise as high as your talents will take you." This is, after all, the American way; it's the American dream, but you do have to accept a certain core set of values that we have in this country, which are basic democratic and republican values in the old sense of republicanism , that you believe in representative democracy and you buy into the founding principles of our country and our republic. As long as you accept those values, you can believe what you want; you can practice the way you want, and you can work, find your way, find your opportunity, and pursue your dream.
I would plead that we try to go back to that Pennsylvania model.
Cullum: Harry Joe, there are those who say we need a national identity card. What do you think of that idea?
Joe: Thank you, Lee. I'm not opposed to having a national ID card. I would like to look at it more; how you achieve it, what are the obstacles to receiving it. It may be a piece of the chit that you have to give to reach a political resolution of this huge issue.
When the idea first came up in the early 1980s - actually, back in the late '70s when President Carter instituted the Select Commission on Immigration Reform – people didn’t buy the initial idea of employer sanctions. But you know, we have it; it's a very flawed system, but we have it.
Certainly now, post 9-11, the issue of national security is something we never would have believed back then. While I still believe that there are a lot of problems with a national ID card, I'm not totally convinced that you can say never. It may be a viable piece of the overall solution.
Cullum: Carole Wilson, Mexican workers in this country send home to their families in Mexico about $6.6 billion a year. Now, this is Mexico's second largest source of hard currency, after oil revenues, and I heard one Mexican official - now out of office after the election - say that what he, and I'm sure others, want most to see is integration between the two economies. Do you see anything like that ever happening? I don't know what he meant. Perhaps he meant the labor market.
Wilson: The idea of an integrated North America, something akin to the European Union. In 1930 if you had predicted a united Europe, everyone would have laughed and said that it was politically impossible. I'll repeat that mistake, potentially, and say no, it will never happen between the United States and Mexico.
NAFTA is certainly an effort at integrating markets between the two countries, but the idea of a unified labor market where we actually adhere to the capitalist notion of free movement of labor is largely impossible.
The remittances to Mexico from the United States are a tremendous source of Mexican financial security, and clearly, Mexico likes that. But I think Mexico has a vested interest in developing the Mexican economy, even if that eventually dries up, because there's much more to be gained from developing the Mexican economy in such a way that it keeps its workers, keeps its skilled workers who leave. It would keep the capital from Mexico in Mexico. Currently anyone who has any large amount of money in Mexico will invest in the United States, rather than in Mexico because it is a much more secure financial situation in the United States than in Mexico.
Although Mexico is clearly improving and stabilizing, if you've got a tremendous amount of money, you'd rather hide it from the Mexican government in the United States.
Mexico needs to put in considerable effort to stabilize its economy, to increase its collection of taxes, to maintain its workers. Now, the scary part from the United States' side; the Pew Charitable Trust did a survey last year, I believe, and one of the figures that came out of it was that more than 45% of Mexicans said that if they were able to, they would come to the United States. Now, that is a tremendous potential population movement. If we had an integrated system where people could easily migrate, the idea of 45% of the Mexican population coming to the United States would obviously overwhelm the United States.
What would have to happen, before we could see some sort of labor market integration, further financial and capital integration between the United States and Mexico, is that Mexico would have to solidify and stabilize its economy and raise its economic status in such a way that it would be financially in the United States' interests to do so. This is a similar trajectory of what we've seen in Europe - that is, as the European Union has expanded, it has expanded with very specific targets that the southern European countries, first of all, then the eastern European countries had to meet before being fully integrated into the European system.
Cullum: Jack Hunt, NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, is still controversial. From your perspective, what do you think its impact has been, both on Mexico and on the United States, after several years of experience with it?
Hunt: I have to think about specific commodities because NAFTA has different impacts on different commodities. King Ranch is a large sugar producer, there are some things about NAFTA that we don't like. But on the balance, I would say the other commodities we're involved in, which are grains and meat and so forth, I think it's worked pretty well. I don't have any statistics to cite, but I think Mexico is now our second largest trading partner and perhaps our largest beef customer, and of course, a lot of their cattle come over here.
Cullum: I believe it's Canada, Mexico, now China, then Japan.
Hunt: Yes. So obviously NAFTA has had a significant impact. It's hard for me to generalize because you've got to go to industry sector and to commodity sector, and different people have been affected differently. But overall, it has been a good outcome, compared to the fearful talk at the time.
Cullum: I think I'm mistaken. I think China has now supplanted Mexico and is now number two, and will probably be number one within five years.
Jim Hollifield, back to you. Speaking of China, a dean at the China University for Politics and Law said that in China today the primary concern is not so much poverty of material resources as it is poverty of rights and power. You said exactly the same thing last spring during the immigrant demonstrations here in the United States, that the primary issue is rights. Do you still think that's true?
Hollifield: Yes, I do. We are witnessing in the world today, or we have witnessed - I hope it will continue - a wide range of democratic transitions, and Mexico is a case in point. Mexico is our neighbor and Mexico has gone through an enormous amount of political and economic change over the past 20 or 30 years.
If I could just go back to NAFTA for a moment. I remember the famous statement by Ross Perot, the giant sucking sound that was going to occur if we had this agreement with Mexico. Well, we know that the agreement did not materialize I don't know if Ross is here in the audience; if so, I apologize.
Cullum: Oh, no, he would speak for himself if he were here.
Hollifield: I'm sure he would speak for himself.
Cullum: There would be no apology needed.
Hollifield: If he were here, he would definitely be up and ready to take me on. But the fact of the matter is, if you look at the Mexican economy at the time of NAFTA, it was slightly smaller than the economy of Ohio in terms of its output. Mexico is our neighbor; it is going through a tough time right now with its politics. If you think back to what Mexico was like 40 or 50 years ago when it was all just basically gringo bashing, I think Mexico is now undergoing a democratic revolution. And a wise commentator writing about NAFTA said, “Forget the economics; it's foreign policy.” Mexico is our neighbor and we need to work with the Mexicans.
I would slightly disagree with Carole Wilson in the sense that I do think there is at some point - I don't know if it will be in my lifetime - there will be a fully integrated North American market, even on the labor side, but we've got a long way to go before we get there.
But to go back to your question about rights, there are three things that drive people to leave their country; that drive their thinking about leaving. One of them is obviously economics. As Harry pointed out in his opening statement, people are looking for opportunity, and as long as we have the kind of differentials that we have in the world today and markets are allowed to function at a certain level, people are going to move; the basic push-pull dynamic is always going to be there. But that's only the necessary condition for people to move; it is not sufficient. There are two other sufficient conditions for that to happen.
One of those sufficient conditions is you've got to know where you're going and you've got to have some idea that there's going to be something or somebody when you get there. That's what the sociologists and the anthropologists tell us about the networks, the family networks, the kinship networks. If you look at the Mexican migrants here in Dallas, you know they're coming from specific places and villages in Mexico, they've got relatives here, and it's almost like a rite of passage, going north to seek your fortune when you're a young man. Those are the networks. So you've got to have the networks that connect the economies together and the sending place and the receiving place.
The third factor, however - and Lee, this goes to your question - really has to do with politics and with rights, in particular and the issue of status. People do make a decision about moving for political reasons. I was just at Columbia University yesterday, participating in a seminar, presenting some of my work, and one of the scholars there, Rodolfo de la Garza, who was many years at the University of Texas at Austin, has found that a lot of Mexicans, when they come here, think about how bad things are politically back in Mexico and how much their opportunities are limited there; how wide open it is here in terms of rights and the openness of this society. That's the third and sufficient condition. Americans have to be open; they have to be relatively open and welcoming for people to come here.
Now, we cannot throw open our borders. I think everyone in this room, hopefully, would agree with that. That would be a catastrophe. But we do have to find a system that manages this, that allows people to come here and work, that gives them an ultimate path so they can fully enjoy the rights that come with being a member of our society. It is very unhealthy for us, as a country, as a democracy, to have millions and millions of people who are living in the shadows just outside of the social contract.
So the question of rights is key, and I'm happy to say that we have been on a positive trend. Democracy has been spreading in Mexico. I know that they're having a setback right now; I know we're seeing some setbacks in Latin America, but we've got to keep the faith on this and keep pushing for an open society, open markets, and societies where rights of individuals are respected.
I would make one final plea with respect to where we're going politically in this country. I think we are stronger; we are healthier as a society when we are open, when we allow markets to operate within the constraints of our laws. And I would say that on the side of trade, free trade, it's very politically difficult to take the short term political heat to fight to keep our economy and our society open. The same is true with immigration. It's very hard politically to take the heat necessary to allow markets to operate within bounds that are acceptable to the American people.
Cullum: Harry Joe, I heard a German economist say that within five to ten years the average age in France, Germany, Italy will be 47, 48, 49, something in that vicinity, while the average age in the United States will be exactly as it is today, 35, which gives us an enormous advantage in the world of commerce. Would you say that some of that advantage is due to immigration?
Joe: Oh, I would definitely say so. Before 9-11, from the period of 1990 through well into the late 1990s, early 2000, we saw a huge influx of immigrants. I think we had something like 14.7 million new immigrants during that period of time. The majority of these were either family-sponsored immigrants which were primarily younger people; they were two-thirds, and the other third was predominantly employment-based. These were the new engineers; these were the young people who came to this country under exchange visitor programs and under student visas. They studied in this country and they chose to subsequently seek employment and seek permanent resident status in the United States, and they subsequently became U.S. citizens.
The United States has and will continue to be the country of choice for immigrants. I heard an immigration officer tell me one time, he said, “You know, Harry, it's funny, we have one-fourth of the world's population and the other three-fourths want to come here.” There's a lot of truth to that. I think it's very true. I think a lot of it was attributable to immigration, and if we get our house in order, that will continue to be the case.
Cullum: Carole Wilson, one observer said at Jim's conference that wages in Mexico are beginning to converge with wages in the United States. Is that the case, and if so, can we expect a decline in migration from Mexico?
Wilson: Yes, there is some wage conversion, I think, in some sectors of the economy. By and large, the wages in the United States are still much better, certainly for the average Mexican worker. I think there's good reason over the next few years to think that while immigration might not decline overall from Mexico, simply because even if things stabilize well in Mexico, Mexico will still have a number of immigrants from Central America who will be traveling through Mexico to the United States. We will still have, I think, a large number of immigrants.
But I think there are reasons in the Mexican economy, should it stabilize, that will keep people in Mexico. I think one heartening development over the past ten years has been the stabilization of mortgage rates in Mexico, of interest rates in Mexico. At one point ten years ago, or a little bit longer than ten years ago, mortgage rates were well above 30% for people with credit. Now, the idea of buying a home in Mexico with that type of interest rate, or owning property, is an absurdity.
If we think about Mexicans who want to have a home, who want to establish a home, it's much easier to do in the United States. You can go to the suburbs in Dallas and purchase relatively easily. For those men, for example, who come to the United States to work and eventually realize that they could keep sending their money home or they could save it and bring their family to the United States and can actually buy a home here at some point. That's an obvious thought process for these people.
With the stabilization of interest rates in Mexico gives people some hope of gaining a home. With the rising wages in Mexico, I think this establishes a much more conducive situation for at least a lower-middle class and middle class Mexican families and gives some hope to Mexico itself. I think this is a product of political stabilization across certainly the past 15 years in Mexico as a result of that.
Cullum: Jack Hunt, Ken Auletta has a story in the current issue of The New Yorker on Lou Dobbs. They had lunch. Lou Dobbs suggested the Four Seasons which is one of the most elegant restaurants; this man of the people suggested the Four Seasons. He arrived, driven in a Town Car, very expensively dressed, looking terrific - he's done well with his populism. I just wonder what you think of Lou Dobbs and his stand on immigration.
Hunt: Well, one of the things I've learned is not to get in arguments with people that buy ink by the barrel or have TV cameras at their beck and call. Obviously, I would disagree with much of what he would say.
One of the issues we see with migrant workers that we employ, either directly or indirectly, is that a lot of them currently want the ability to go back and forth. But because of the increased enforcement and the threats from Homeland Security and others, they aren't. Either they're afraid to back and forth or they're going underground.
I would also like to mention the fact that the people we employ earn well above the minimum wage. A vigorous orange picker can make $100 a day doing that work. It's hard, hard, tough work. I know people that work in the vegetable fields make $10 or $12 an hour. So it's not the labor price; it's the nature of the work; it requires young, vigorous people to do the work, and there probably aren't many folks in this room that would want to do that work, or even their grandchildren or children would want to do that work.
I think if we're going to have a domestic food system, and particularly in the higher value crops that aren't really subject to automation and mechanization - and there are a number of crops that just aren't - I think having a guest worker program is absolutely vital. We need some system that allows people to come over here and work for these seasonal crops, or they can rotate from crop to crop or they can get back and forth to Mexico or wherever they're from rather easily as part of an organized program. I don't think Lou Dobbs would agree with that at all, frankly.
Cullum: Probably not. Does anybody want to take up for Lou Dobbs?
Male Speaker: On this last issue, your statement that the laborers can make much above minimum wage, I think Lou Dobbs would say, and others have said, that if the minimum wage had kept pace with, say, CEO compensation, it would now be about $23 an hour. And so the freezing of the minimum wage throws that statement well off. I mean, if you have somebody working ten hours, they should be making $230. So that's kind of Dobbs's perspective on that.
Cullum: Lou Dobbs thanks you. Anybody else?
Make Speaker: I'd like to ask Dr. Wilson specifically a question. Your European and British bona fides haven't been utilized as much as I think we should. Those are societies, both in the EU and Britain, that are also dealing with the "other," and the question that I have for you is what can we learn from their approaches to their immigration and/or societies of people who haven't quite integrated into their society in comparison to our own policies? And I know that this is both a political and social question and I know that it's a big one, but I would appreciate any insights that you want to share with us about that.
Wilson: Sure. I'll make a few comments and then I'll hand it over to Jim who also does a good bit of research on immigration policy in Europe. Just a couple of things that I'd like to point out on that: Yes, this is a worldwide question. The issue of immigration in the United States is not unique in the sense that every major developed country in the world has an issue of immigration, and the European Union, Britain, France, Germany have had histories of dealing with immigration. I think we can take insights in each of these countries, aspects of what we would want to do and not to do.
In Britain's case, with the issue of recent terrorism, the question of developing what are essentially ghettos of immigrants, and the problem of isolation of immigrants rather than incorporation of immigrants and the result of not accepting these social values that Caroline Brettell talked about, that Jim Hollifield talked about, and the result of that being anti-British and anti-U.S. sentiment and the resulting potential for terrorism.
Germany has had a history of problems with Muslim immigrants in Turkey. The questions there include whether to extend full rights, economic rights and/or social rights to guest workers. Here is a guest worker program that turned to a permanent worker program, and generations of essentially disenfranchised, secondary citizens without educational opportunities, without the opportunities, created a permanent lower class in Germany that only now has to be dealt with.
France, likewise, has an issue of riots; we've seen burning cars in certain areas as a result of lower class immigrants. The question is whether this is a social or an economic problem, and I think it's both; combined with the questions of should Muslim schoolchildren be allowed to wear the Muslim garb. And these are social questions as well.
So the United States is not unique in dealing with this problem, and I think no country has got it perfectly right. The idea of European integration, allowing greater access and mobility of labor, of citizens will create new challenges for Europe as well. With the influx of eastern European immigrants into Western Europe, Britain is going to be a massive receiver, we've already seen, of Polish immigrants, of Lithuanians, and there are concerns about gypsies coming out of eastern Europe into Britain. There was a big series of articles in Britain about this.
Hollifield: I'll just add a few things to this. I spent many years of my life in Europe and studied Europe for almost 30 years. Caroline Brettell, sitting back there, also started as a scholar of Europe, looking at Portuguese migrants back in the days when the Portuguese were one of the largest groups migrating from southern Europe into northern Europe.
To address your point about the European comparison, as societies and economies grow and expand, we want our economies to grow as fast as they can; we want our pie to expand so that it can service a larger population. I think what we have to avoid is falling into what I call the Malthusian trap. Some of you may remember Parson Malthus back in the 18th century, I believe it was, who said there's no way Europe will be able to sustain a population of X; everybody will starve to death. Well, it turns out Parson Malthus was overly pessimistic about this.
What we saw after World War II in Europe was economies that were devastated and had to be rebuilt and reconstructed and when you have extraordinarily high rates of growth, you're going to need labor and you're going to need lots of it. The Europeans brought in millions and millions of workers. First of all, they were lucky, I guess, in the sense that they had a ready supply of culturally compatible Catholic workers coming from the south. They came from Italy; they came from Spain; they came from Portugal. Well, eventually, all those people would become citizens of the European Union which is what they are today. And to go back to Mr. Hunt's point, they don't have to worry so much about going and settling somewhere and being trapped in one place because they can move around relatively freely. So I think that's a page we should take out of the European book.
Unfortunately, there are two downsides to this for the Europeans in comparison with the United State - or three, if you want. Try to remember these three. Number one, the Europeans did not have in place the kind of expansive naturalization and citizenship regimes that we have in this country. Our citizenship is defined in the 14th Amendment which says that anybody born in this country is automatically a citizen of the United States, and that had absolutely nothing to do with immigration. Does anybody know why that was in the 14th Amendment?
Hollifield: It was there to make slaves, African-Americans, into immediate and automatic citizens. That is our basic citizenship law, and I would say that it is a very good law because you don't want to build up enormous populations of people who remain outside of the bounds of formal citizenship. If you look at the Turks in Germany, for example, this is a source of enormous problem in Germany. The French are much better about this; the British are better about it. Not all the Europeans practice this kind of very narrow approach to citizenship. But you have third generation people living in Germany who can't become citizens. It is just not sustainable in a democracy.
And again, I would urge you to question Pia Orrenius from the Dallas Fed about this. She's done some brilliant studies, looking at the economics of immigration in Europe and the United States. We do much better because our labor markets are more open; they're more flexible. They do not drive people out of the labor market because of the regulations and inflexibility that you have in those labor markets. Actually, as bad as it is, we do pretty darn well. I mean, we get these people in here and we get them a job.
Somebody once said in Germany the greatest fear or the greatest nightmare is getting a refugee who comes into Germany - and the Germans get lots of refugees - and they get into the labor market and they get a job. The Germans don't want them to work; they put them in camps and they give them welfare. In this country, it's the opposite. The fear would be to get somebody in here who's a refugee. You've got to get them to work; you've got to get them started on a path for integrating into society.
The third thing - and this is the really sad thing that we all have to keep in mind and be sensitive to - in the 1960s they had exhausted the supplies of culturally compatible workers coming from southern Europe. Where did they look? Well, they began to look to their former colonies and especially into the Muslim parts of Africa, North Africa, West Africa, and the Middle East. They got workers who were working in the bottom of the labor market; very uneducated, poor Muslims coming into these societies, and their societies did not do well over time with these people, and of course, now you've got a lot of alienation. You've got second generation Muslims living in Europe who are connecting with the terrorists back in Pakistan, back in South Asia or maybe in the Middle East or somewhere else.
So the Europeans have a problem in the sense that they've got a really tough, culturally incompatible group here. Don't get me wrong; the vast majority of Muslims in Europe are doing very well. They're integrating just fine, but there are some on the margins and they tend to be the more educated ones who are tempted by this terrorist path oddly enough.
In comparison, the United States has been lucky because the Muslins coming here are educated, tolerant, liberal-minded Muslims. Many of them have come here, the best and the brightest. So we're getting the cream of the crop, whereas the Europeans have gotten those at the bottom.
Cullum: Well, Jack Hunt, Carole Wilson, Harry Joe, Jim Hollifield, thank you. You've been voices of enlightenment. Thank you very much.