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September 17th, 2012 12:43 pm
The Right Kind of Immigration
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In the half-dozen or so years since immigration reform has once again become a major issue, we’ve too often fallen into a false dichotomy between being restrictionist to the point of halting legal immigration on the one hand or throwing open the floodgates to all comers — legal or otherwise — on the other.

Lost in that oversimplification, however, are prudential considerations about what kind of immigrants we should be welcoming. If we’re looking to encourage traditional American virtues, Asian immigrants provide a hopeful example. From Joel Kotkin, writing at the New Geography:

Asia has become the nation’s largest source of newcomers, accounting for some 36% of all immigrants in 2010. Asian immigrants and their U.S.-born descendants tend to be better educated: half of all Asians over 25 have a college degree, almost twice the national average. They earn higher incomes, and, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, are more likely to abide by “traditional” values, with a stronger commitment to family, parenting and marriage than other Americans, and a greater emphasis on education.

“Most Asian immigrants bring with them a healthy respect and aspiration for the American way of life, so I don’t think any immigration alarmists need to be anxious,” notes Thomas Tseng, founding principal at New American Dimensions, a Los Angeles-based marketing firm. “With a large influx of them, you will get a lot of their kids in the school system who are told that getting an education is the surest way for them to succeed in life, a great deal of entrepreneurial energy and new businesses in a region, and most certainly the local restaurant scene will improve.”

Culinary considerations aside, Kotkin and Tseng make an important point. Indeed, why would we consider for a moment admitting immigrants who don’t have a “a healthy respect and aspiration for the American way of life.”?

My point is not to cheerlead for racial preferences that advantage Asian immigrants. In fact, the very idea is reprehensible. The beauty of American citizenship is that it is predicated on principles which are held to be equally accessible to all.

But as our liberal friends so often forget, access is distinct from entitlement. American citizenship should be earned and a dedication to the country’s animating principles — hard work, education, civic and familial virtue — is as good a place as any to start.

We need not say that American needs more Asian immigrants. We may simply say that America needs more immigrants — of any background — who share their values.

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