Value Added

by Ron K. Unz


The evidence shows that the immigration of the last thirty years has been a large net benefit for America, as well as an important source of strength for political parties espousing conservative principles.
          Anyone walking the streets of our major cities sees that the majority of the shops are owned and operated by immigrant entrepreneurs—Korean grocery stores, Indian newsstands, Chinese restaurants. Most of these shops simply would not exist without immigrant families willing to put in long hours of poorly paid labor to maintain and expand them, in the process improving our cities. In Los Angeles, the vast majority of hotel and restaurant workers are hard- working Hispanic immigrants, most of them here illegally, and anyone who believes that these unpleasant jobs would otherwise be filled by natives (either black or white) is living in a fantasy world.
          The same principle applies to nearly all the traditional lower-rung working-class jobs in Southern California, including the nannies and gardeners whose widespread employment occasionally embarrasses the Zoë Bairds of this world (even as it facilitates their careers). The only means of making a job as restaurant busboy even remotely attractive to a native American would be to raise the wage to $10 or $12 per hour, at which point the job would cease to exist.
          Since most newcomers tend to be on the lower end of the wage scale, and since many have children in the public schools, they do tend to cost local government more in services than they pay in sales and income taxes. (The same could probably be said for most members of the working class with young children.) This is the basis of California Governor Pete Wilson's lawsuit over the “costs” to California of illegal immigration. Yet the real culprit is our outrageously inefficient public-school system. Furthermore, because of their age profile, even working-class immigrants generally pay much more in federal taxes (primarily Social Security withholding) than they receive in federal benefits. So we might equally say that immigrants are helping us balance the federal budget.
          Immigrants are crucial not just to industries that rely on cheap, low-skilled labor. Silicon Valley, which is home to my own software company, depends on immigrant professionals to maintain its technological edge. A third of all the engineers and chip designers here are foreign born, and if they left, America's computer industry would probably go with them. In fact, many of the most important technology companies of the 1980s, in California and elsewhere, were created by immigrants, including Sun Microsystems, AST, ALR, Applied Materials, Everex, and Gupta. Borland International, a software company worth hundreds of millions of dollars, was founded by Philippe Kahn, an illegal immigrant. These immigrant companies have generated hundreds of thousands of good jobs in California for native Americans and have provided billions of dollars in tax revenues. Without a continuing influx of immigrants, America's tremendous and growing dominance in sunrise industries would rapidly be lost....
          While several of the most parasitic sectors of American society—politicians, government bureaucrats, lawyers—are almost entirely filled with native Americans, each year one-third to one-half of the student winners of the Westinghouse Science Talent Search (America's most prestigious high-school science competition) come from immigrant families, often quite impoverished. Many of America's elite universities have student bodies that are 20 per cent Asian, with immigrants often accounting for half or more of the science and engineering students.

Ron K. Unz, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, received more than a third of the vote in his 1994 Republican primary challenge to California Governor Pete Wilson. This is an excerpt from an article by the same title that appeared in the November 7,1994, issue of National Review©1994 by National Review, Inc., 150 East 35th Street, New York, NY 10016. Reprinted by permission.

Chapter 17
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