Teitelbaum, Michael S.
September 1980
Foreign Affairs;Fall1980, Vol. 59 Issue 1, p21
The article emphasizes the need for a humane and sustainable policy regarding immigration and refugees in the U.S. In 1978, the last year for which official statistics are available, over 600,000 legal immigrants and refugees were admitted for permanent residence in the U.S. In addition to the legal flow, the U.S. is currently experiencing a large illegal or undocumented influx. The 1965 reforms of the Immigration and Nationality Act did away at last with the blatantly racist nature of the quotas developed during the 1920s. Enforcement of U.S. law regarding those entering legally on temporary visas is equally lax, both at ports of entry and internally. There is also considerable evidence that both the issuance and use of student visas have been subject to widespread abuse. The question in 1980 is whether the contribution of large-scale immigration to the U.S. labor force continues to be as important and productive as in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, or whether in changed economic and technological conditions it no longer contributes substantially to the economy. As to the future, projections of the balance of demand and supply of labor are clouded in uncertainty. There is, finally, the issue of political power and the political shifts that result from immigration patterns. In the long run, genuine economic and social development in the Third World is a sine qua non for moderating the rapid expansion of pressures for international movement by immigrants and refugees. An obvious political risk of inaction is the stimulation of an uncontrollable backlash that would go well beyond the issues of policy incoherence and lax enforcement, and would threaten the basic openness of American society to access by immigrants and refugees.


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