Americans are proud of the role immigration has played in their past but
seem to fear its role in the present. The Atlantic's Jack Beatty convenes
a panel of experts on immigration and asks if this fear is justified.
Host: Jack Beatty
Senior editor, The Atlantic Monthly
George J. Borjas
David M. Kennedy
On the economics of immigration: Is it a mistaken impression that California gets
more from even its illegal immigrants than they in turn cost the state in welfare
and schools? Aren't illegals the main prop of the California agricultural
economy? And if there were not illegals available to do the work, wouldn't the
growers have to raise wages to attract legals and perhaps even native-born
workers, and wouldn't that raise prices on the fruit and produce we consume? In
a real sense, if the above is so, aren't illegal migrant workers the American
consumer's best friend? Aren't low prices a considerable benefit of
California Governor Pete Wilson wants to practice ethnic cleansing in the California public schools. Does he have a rendezvous with infamy? Isn't he apt in history's perspective to be compared with Earl Warren, who so zealously rooted Japanese-Americans out of California in the early years of the Second World War? Is what Wilson is doing anything more than the demagogic incitement of Anglo resentment?
Writing at the time of the old immigration, the sociologist Florian Zanicki defined America as "the euthanasia of memories," meaning by that haunting phrase that in the great melting pot ancestral identities were dissolved. But surely the major institution of assimilation -- the public schools -- has lost its former assimilative confidence if not its assimilative mission as well. Was Zanicki right? Are the new immigrants following in the wistful footsteps of the old -- killing off their memories? Or are they holding on to them longer or more tenaciously?
-- Jack Beatty
Introduction and opening questions by Jack Beatty
Round One -- Posted November 6, 1996
Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.