Thursday, April 15, 2010

Give Us Your Poor, Your Tired, Your Huddled Masses...

And have $17,728 in the bank account, minimum. And pre-pay the tuition if you're going to one of our schools.

The U.S. is full of myth making about its immigration flows; this is pretty standard on the right and left. But it is almost impossible for someone from the slums of Manila or Rio to get here, because we don't have an open door policy like we did for Europe for a hundred plus years.

We have an extremely restrictive immigration policy that favors people with certain job skills, or family connections. This ultimately means money.

Of course we are not seeing the very wealthy from the rest of the world, they have no reason to leave their homes. But we are rarely seeing the very poor, i.e. the vast majority. The average yearly salary in the Philippines for instance, is $1000. Good luck studying in the U.S. (and coming up with that $17,000 +) if you live in a squatter's area.

Mostly, legal immigration to the U.S. is made up of what could be called the frustrated professional and middle classes of the developing world. This is important because Americans shape their views of other countries, both in terms of politics and culture, by the immigrants they meet in the U.S., particularly in university settings. But it's pretty clear we're seeing a 'selected sample'. The working classes of the developing world are invisible to the vast majority of Americans.

The one caveat to this is, of course, immigration from Mexico and Central America, which is diffferent by reason of proximity and an open border.

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