The Great Immigration Panic

The Times is so right about this.

A nation of immigrants is holding another nation of immigrants in
bondage, exploiting its labor while ignoring its suffering, condemning
its lawlessness while sealing off a path to living lawfully. The
evidence is all around that something pragmatic and welcoming at the
American core has been eclipsed, or is slipping away.


Comments (Archived):

  1. stone

    Economic pressures, transition to a service economy, and two-worker homes have conspired to put severe pressure on average families. My guess is that the correlation is contained within this pool of data. Americans act defensively when they feel under siege. Sensible immigration policy needs to be enacted. I’ve had too many problems with the visa system but that’s a different problem.

  2. jackson

    Hey now! We stole this land fair and square!

    1. davemc500hats

      exactly. and OUR geo coordinates at birth are just SO much BETTER than all of THEIR geo-coordinates at birth. i mean, we all EARNED the right to be born here, didn’t we?seriously: who do they think they are, trying to break the LAWS that we made, after stealing & murdering our way to the top hundreds of years ago?[try talking to people about rule of law when their children need to eat, and/or they live under the influence of corruption]

  3. TimWalker

    I’m with you, Fred. One painful aspect of this is how a relatively small slice of the electorate has blown this up into a huge issue that supposedly must imply demagogic responses. Given the positive impact of immigrants on the U.S. economy, the *entire* electorate ought to be calling for some sort of sensible approach to reforms in immigration laws and practices.

  4. Jack The Crude

    …Yeah, I hate America! This country is awful!….blah blah blah, yawn.I would expect anything different from the times. The times is actually the one out of touch with America. If placed on the ballot, Americans would never give amnesty to illegals.By everyone else’s logic, breaking the law doesn’t seem to mean anything. Yet, if there are others out there who want the actual laws enforced they are called racists.There is no “sealing off a path to living lawfully.” These people can go back to their country and secure a visa through processes that are legal…then work their way toward citizenship. People crossing the border who we know nothing about is a matter of national security, but I guess it will take a terrorist attack by one of these people for the times to get the picture…but then they will just blame the Bush administration for it.Why is this so predictable?

    1. davemc500hats

      rather than taking such a black-and-white approach, why not work towards making more creative & productive ways to gain citizenship?at the very least, if want to limit immigration (not sure that’s the right approach, but…), it would make sense for us to drop immigration limits for people who have achieved a higher standard of education.there are plenty of people willing to come to this country who already have a college degree, or even graduate & PhD degrees in areas of study where we would benefit from a greater talent pool.on the other hand, we certainly aren’t overflowing with legal immigrants who want to perform low-end service jobs for minimum wages… why can’t we find more creative ways to make that labor force legal, since we already employ 5-10M people who are “illegally” working in this country and providing services that you & i take advantage of every day.

      1. Jack The Crude

        Dave, it is illegal to cross the border in this country w/o notifying federal authorities and following protocol for visa and/or citizenship. This is as black and white as breaking the speed limit.It is an incredible assumption to say that w/o illegals there will be no one to fill minimum wage jobs.This nuanced approach that you are trying to come up with is the same ideal that paralyzes our government. We have laws, why not enforce them?Also, the equivocation that we are a country of immigrants is overly simplistic. The year is 2008, slavery is outlawed, there are no native americans in the northwest territory, and we are prosecuting the war on terror. This isn’t to incite fear! The reality of the situation is people can use our open borders to hurt us. If we do not do something and this loophole is exploited, the Bush Admin will be blamed just as they are for every other catastrophe. The same reasoning shot down the Dubai ports deal, why not here?

        1. fredwilson

          You’ve clearly articulated the panic that is rampant in our country right now.And it is illegal to cross the border without the proper paperwork.But should it be?That’s a larger question.Fred

        2. davemc500hats

          please stop twisting my words — i didn’t say “w/o illegals there will be no one…”.”we have laws, why not enforce them”… come on. the laws suck, and if enforced would result in the incarceration / deportation of ~10 million people, not to mention you probably wouldn’t get laundry service, nanny care, restaurant dishes etc etc.i never made the “equivocation” that we are a country of immigrants. i made the statement that to ascribe deviant behavior to wide-spread breaking of unenforceable laws is both dysfunctional as well as stupid.and per your notion of breaking the speed limit, what is more dangerous? 1) having a dumb law that >50% of the community breaks regularly, which encourages devaluation of other intelligent laws / disrespect for our police force? 2) the incremental increase in accidents due to driving 5-10 mph faster?i would propose to you that the MUCH GREATER DANGER to our society is a devaluation of reasonable & appropriate laws (and lawmakers / law enforcers) due to some misplaced sense of enforcement (and budgetary insanity) around enforcing stupid’re right, the law is worth protecting… but only when the law is respectful of its citizens as well.when the law is stupid, unenforceable, or treats massive # of people as criminals, then it is the LAW itself which is likely wrong, and incites unrest / uprising (see Boston Tea Party, Women’s Suffrage, Abolishment of Slavery, etc)

          1. Andy Freeman

            > mention you probably wouldn’t get laundry service, nanny care, restaurant dishes etc etc.Sure you would – you’d just pay more. The fact that “cheap nannies for VCs” doesn’t sound as good doesn’t change the fact that that’s what you’re asking for.We have lots of unemployed folk. Why should we keep them unemployed by importing low-skilled people.I think that the US should make it easier to get more high-skilled immigrants, but that’s a different issue than hard-laborers and household help.

          2. davemc500hats

            so at least we agree on the high-skill “we have lots of unemployed folk..”, um not really. probably <5% overall, and tho it’s higher among lower economic ladder folks, those folks lives are still arguably positively-impacted by [most] immigration economics overall.but anyway, i’m happy we can find some middle ground here somewhere. at least that’s a start.

  5. mikenolan99

    Is there an easier way to incite fear and gain power than pointing at immigrants and saying “it’s their fault – be afraid!?”I was recently in South Africa, where fear of immigrants has turned bloody. No different are we – those who point to our south and cry “be afraid.”Every bad leader you can think of has pounded their fists and said the same to gain and entrench power.Last election, the Democrats took the bait – snapping at an issue that stole attention away from the real issues – war, the economy, oil and health care. There was no way to win this argument in the face of a fearful mob looking to blame someone else for our woes.

  6. andyswan

    To be fair, it looks as though the Times is equating legal immigrants with illegal immigrants.It has been my experience that people who follow the rules tend to have animosity towards those who do not, and typically do not want those who took shortcuts to be offered the same reward that they received. This is natural, not hypocritical.Honestly, I have no idea where I fall on the issue of illegal immigration. On one hand, I think that laws should be enforced to maintain credibility/security…..on the other hand, I see people that I have immense respect for….hard-working, sharp-elbowed people without a hint of the soft entitlement attitudes of many “legal” Americans. Tough one.

  7. MartinEdic

    Saw a movie called The Visitor that deals with the heartlessness of this situation and walked out seriously worried about the degradation of respect for humans who are no different than us. No one in this country, excepting the Natives, is not descended from an immigrant, a fact a lot of people are conveniently ignoring.

    1. andyswan

      Also note that the “natives” immigrated here as well, they just didn’t have anyone to take it from. Also note that the “natives” that were here at the time of colonization had conquered the land, and defended it, via war from other tribes just as the colonists eventually did to them (as well as through shrewd negotiation and treaties). I’m not saying anything is right or wrong, etc….. just pointing out that all of the “this land was stolen from peace-loving nomads” is ludicrous given the extremely violent history of almost every human group to lay foot on Western soil.

      1. davemc500hats

        agreed. not a useful way to frame the discussion.but given the history, neither is “rule of law”, at least as the law now stands.

      2. MartinEdic

        I’d say ‘every human group to lay foot on any soil’…

        1. andyswan

          Lol :). Perfect

    2. fredwilson

      Great movieEveryone should see it

      1. MartinEdic

        Yes, the movie was very well done and never got hysterical or overwrought-just a small story about the affect of this issue on a few people.

  8. RacerRick

    Past immigrants always have screwed over the current immigrants.That’s american history.

    1. andyswan

      Correction: Human History

      1. mikenolan99

        I blame my Irish Great Grandfather. How dare he leave his country to build our railroads.

  9. Tony Alva

    Crock….If the system of legal immigration is onerous (I’m certain it is), than we need to fix it right away. NEVER should illegal activity be rewarded, it should be punished. That includes the asshats who hire them. The whole idea of granting citizenship to those that snuck in makes a mockery of our constitution as does letting businesses that take advantage of those who hirie and profit from them.It has nothing to do with zenophobia, it’s a question of law.

    1. davemc500hats

      “then we need to fix it right away”… um yeah, we’ll get right on that. oh wait, what about the last 5 years of immigration efforts on both sides of the aisle?”NEVER should illegal activity be rewarded”… right. and several hundred years of slavery & homesteading on other people’s lands is ok?look, we’re not changing the past, and the future is hard enough. but saying that we need to “fix it right away” and “don’t reward illegals” is overly simplistic.if a few people break laws, perhaps they are bad actors who should be punished.but when MILLIONS of people break laws, and other MILLIONS of people employ them, it’s no longer a functional issue to address that way.and btw, it’s a question of “xenophobia”, not zenophobia.

      1. Tony Alva

        If millions break the law they should not be rewarded. If millions are hiring them, they need to be punished. Really quite simple. See andyswans comment above re: the asinine and irrelevant premise of slavery and homesteading to the issue at hand.Appreciate your spelling correction. No, really…

        1. davemc500hats

          ok, tell you what: i’ll stop correcting your spelling, and you take care of the “punishing millions of people” part.really quite simple, my – if you EVER drive faster than 55mph, you are the world’s biggest hypocrite. if not, then more power to you, and stay the fuck out of the left-hand lane (kidding, i keed ;).

  10. Don Jones

    Fred, have you lived where a large influx of immigrants has essentially overwhelmed the area? I have.Now, I’ve got nothing but sympathy for Mexicans or others who want to come to America to live a better life. I would try to do the same if I was in their shoes. And yes we do receive benefits of them being here, but the costs are equally large, and in fact may be larger than the benefits.Immigration has to be done in an orderly manner, according to the laws of our country, and no one should get a free pass. Being an American citizen is a privilege, not a right. If an immigrant broke the law to get here, how do we as a society want to respond to that? “Here, you broke our laws getting here, so I guess that means we should make you citizens FASTER than everyone else!” It makes no sense. All we’re asking is that the laws be enforced. In 1986, the Reagan Administration said, “Yes, we’ll start enforcing the laws after Amnesty.” It didn’t happen, and here we are again, with millions more in the country wanting amnesty. It needs to stop.The NY Times editors are completely wrong on this issue. I don’t know what the solution is with the existing group – I suppose it will involve some form of amnesty. But we need to enforce our own laws and protect the literal sovereignty of our country, otherwise our most basic “rule of law” assumptions will be eroded.

    1. Tony Alva

      “…have you lived where a large influx of immigrants has essentially overwhelmed the area?”I have and the impact forced us to leave a neighborhood we loved. The gang activity, graffiti, overcrowded suburban worker hostels, ESL impact on the schools, etc… Nope, nobody wants to talk about these things that come along with the failed current policies, they rather call you names.It’s strange how fast the pull back has been too. Here in Atlanta, the new housing market has gone stagnant and the wake that is being left by the illegal immigrant population leaving is visible for all to see.I am as adamant about enforcing our rule of law with employers as much as I am with the border crossers. I’m astounded at the fact that that plant in the upper Midwest which was raided last week has not resulted in several arrests of company principles. It’s just a tremendous injustice…

      1. fredwilson

        I like it when we get diversity in our neighborhood.The hookers who work our street corner at night is a good mix with the expensive restaurants. It keeps it all real.I would never want to live in an all white gated communityFred

        1. davemc500hats

          preach on, preacher…diversity++

    2. fredwilson

      I know people who broken the law getting here and I have actively aided their efforts to stay here legallyI don’t agree with your point of viewIts not how they got here that matters. Its what they do once they are here that matters

      1. GL

        “Its not how they got here that matters. Its what they do once they are here that matters”.Bingo. I agree 100%.

        1. Tony_Alva

          It’s funny how you immediately assume my neighborhood wasn’t diverse before illegal immigrants moved into the hostels and all the ill effects that came with began to permeate. Ask your brothers what it was like, they visited a few times. It simply exposes the fallacy and delusion of your perspective on this issue. I’ll chalk it up to living in NYC most of your adult life. I was actively involved in my local/neighborhood gov’t and can assure you Anglos were the minority in our neighborhood from day one, and harmony prevailed for years. As much as you want to force this issue into that corner, this has absolutely nothing to do with diversity. If you were watching your investment sink as fast as many of us were, you’d assuredly be singing a tune (remember, for most of us, our home is our largest investment). If you didn’t have the means to send your kids to private school and the one they’d be attending was as substandard as the one my kid was going to have to go to, you’d have a sign in the yard and moving van on its way post haste. Unlike many others, I stuck around a tried to make it work. Participated as much as any citizen can (neighborhood watch, Police citizen associate, Atlanta Clean & Beautiful, HOA, etc…), but it was futile. We LOVED our house and did NOT want to move. We built it, worked hard on it and everything about it had our mark on it.“The hookers who work our street corner at night is a good mix with the expensive restaurants. It keeps it all real.”You have the ability that most of don’t have to pick up and move just about anywhere your heart desires. This is not the case for the rest of us. If all that prostitution were to proliferate to the point where all those fancy restaurants were to close and the violence and crime were to affect, not only your property values, but also your personal safety and your quality of life you’d be gone in a NYC VC minute, don’t even trip and tell me different.How they get here DOES matter since it‘s the foundation of future attitudes and behavior. As I’ve said, I firmly believe that the process of LEGAL immigration should be efficient enough to meet the current demands, but my family and many others have seen and experienced what happens when there is no control. You haven’t and would rather pretend there’s a xenophobic (spelled correctly) subtext to it all.

          1. fredwilson

            i think you read more into my comment than was there. i was not making any judgment about where you lived, i was just saying that not everyone feels that way. i have graffiti on my house, i have garbage in my street, i have hookers on my street corner. it’s ok with me.but it’s the latter point that i really disagree with you on. some of the best people i know have come to the US illegally. it is not a measure of their character. it’s a measure of their determination to get a better life for themselves and their family.

  11. Steven Kane

    This makes me deeply ashamed.All four of my grandparents were immigrants.My wife and her parents were/are all immigrants.Everyone in the USA except for some Native Americans are immigrants.We have a moral and ethical obligation to “open arms and opportunities to huddled masses yearning to be free.And heck, as a practical, economic matter, our population will shrink — just like the Russia and western european countries are now shrinking — without a healthy constant influx of immigrants. We need their entrepreneurial DNA (only enterprising people pick up and move to new lands with uncertain futures!) and we need their willingness to work and their ambition and respect and love for the American way of life and dream.We need to have orderly processes and appropriate barriers — e.g. english language and citizenry tests and waiting periods and the like — but no quotas.

  12. JEiden

    I am not against immigration. But what do you say to the Nigerian who is waiting 7 years to get in, or the Al;banian who is waiting 10 years, or the Ethiopian who is waiting 8 years. What do you say to those who are following the rules? Shouldn’t they be first in line before others who cross into our border illegally and demand citizenship? Isn’t this country about fairness and equality? Why are the people following the rules being punished? They should be rewarded first.

  13. chuckboycejr

    As a wealthy American with an Irish surname who has set foot in the ruins of the dirt floor cottage in the North West of Ireland where his grandfather was raised – this anti immigrant sentiment in the US sickens me.

    1. fredwilson

      Me too

  14. Ginger Makela Riker

    I feel like this story keeps repeating itself again and again. I guess it’s time to go back and reread Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and then support the artist who’s writing our generation’s version of The Jungle.

  15. GL

    There are many is society that need to come down from the mountain ranges of Oklahoma and Nebraska and really see life from seal level. They are worried about illegal immigrants taking over this country? Please. For the most part it’s these people that allow us to enjoy strawberries for $4 a basket instead of $20 basket. If there is a group you want to point a finger at for all the frustrations look no further than the current Administration. We need to wake up as a country and see that rules made on the playground are now shared by many outside the US – We’ve got bigger issues such as; The world currency is soon becoming the Euro, Latin American nations have their own regional bank getting rid of the World Bank and IMF, China is the next world super power……. times are changing and people outside the USA are waking up. We have bigger issues.This all goes back to Plato’s allegory of the cave.

  16. John Pasmore

    CNN should be embarrased as much as The Times (and this blog) should be applauded. Good to see the on-going SEO, social media, VC return on capital conversation paused to reflect on what it is we’re working for…to create a community, the one that happens when you step out the front door…separate and distinct from the one which requires electricity…

  17. Nate

    While watching “Download: The true story of the internet (which Fred was briefly in)” a while back I was struck by the fact that a good 50% of the founders and VCs were immigrants or the children of immigrants. No immigrants = no Grove, Khosla, Page, Brin, Yang, and a bunch of other people.Sure, there’s a difference between educated and uneducated immigrants, but we make it so hard to live and work here that educated, law abiding would-be immigrants stay home while the uneducated with nothing to lose make it in illegally. Then they’re forced into a labor black market.Make it easy and legal to live and work here (and pay taxes). Make it easy to come and go. Many immigrants don’t want to be Americans, they just want to work here, and go home in the off season. Why not let them?What if the shoe was on the other foot? What if say, Canada had all the good jobs? Wouldn’t you want to be able to work in Canada while remaining a US citizen?It won’t matter soon anyway. Thanks to the internet jobs, data, and capital will flow no matter what stupid governments say about their borders.

  18. S.t

    The End Of England?By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Monday, June 02, 2008 4:20 PM PT…

  19. New WestLiving

    Xenophobia eh?

  20. John McGrath

    A great editorial, revealing a shameful truth. We need need immigration laws, but they should be humane and pragmatic, not cover for witch hunts. We’re making a mockery of the Statue of Liberty; Breckinridge Long would be proud.Fred, this thread highlights something you’ve talked a lot about: the comments on this editorial are spread all over, all the more so because we (full disclosure: I’m a developer at the Times, though these opinions are my own) are only slowly increasing the number of stories that can be commented on. Even when comments are more widespread, people will continue to talk about the news all over the place. It would be nice to have better tools for aggregating discussions that are on the same topic, but different sites.

  21. jackson

    I appreciate Tony’s position. Indeed I witnessed it. He bought property, and it turned to crap at the hand of criminals and the school where he was going to send his daughter went down the crapper as well, he was forced to sell his home and move a lot further away from his employment base.BUT…..Those things should have been, and could have been addressed by law enforcement and the Board of Ed.The problem Tony faces isn’t really an immigrant problem, it’s a social problem. We spend tax money improperly.We have a border with a country that is economically challenged, and it, in turn, is a corridor through which even more economically challenged people pour into our country. That will not change until those countries are on par with us socially and economically.You’ll never stop the influx without addressing the reason why it happens. In the meantime I suggest voting for people who want to increase funding for education and law enforcement instead of those who wish to drop bombs on distant populations.

    1. fredwilson

      I can’t wait until the rest of the world is as developed as the US.It will be a better world

  22. jackson

    I don’t see Tony’s issues as immigration problems, they are law enforcement and education problems. What Tony needed, before he moved, was better local government and better allocation of tax dollars to improve law enforcement and education.You can’t stem the tide. Alaric will always sack Rome before he’s convinced to go home.

  23. pamslim

    How wonderful to see what I have been feeling put so simply and eloquently.I totally agree.And living in Arizona and being married to a Navajo man, I almost choke on my cereal every morning with all the stories of how the “illegals” are ruining our lives. As a favorite tee-shirt of my in laws says “Who is the Illegal Immigrant?” Somehow, the process of stealing land and genocide doesn’t really fit with my definition of “legal.”I could go on, but won’t. Bottom line: we are all human, and all connected. The sooner we realize that and treat each other with love, the better off we will be.Thanks for sharing your opinions. I am impressed.

  24. fredwilson

    nobody is god like. not obama. and certainly not me.the hookers are not dangerous in the least. i know them, i am nice to them. they are working, just a different kind of work than the people who hang out on this blog do