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Tuesday, August 29, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mass Immigration Hurts America

DEMOCRATS and Republicans have repeatedly promised to reduce our budget deficits, strengthen our economy, and put our unemployed and welfare recipients back to work. Yet, how can we possibly effectively achieve those goals without first seriously curbing immigration, which adds over one million people each year to this country who need jobs, education, welfare, health care and many other services that we cannot even provide to millions of native-born Americans.

As a naturalized citizen of Chinese ancestry with extensive experience preparing family and employment-based immigrant petitions, I am very sad that many politicians of both parties in Washington, D.C., still show no will to drastically reduce legal immigration. This is despite the fact that even prominent advocates of large-scale immigration, such as Chinese-American Professor Paul Ong of UCLA, the Urban Institute, and Antonia Hernandez, the president of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, now admit the adverse impact of immigration, especially on U.S. minorities.

Our national policy-makers must bear in mind that today's global economy requires fewer and fewer workers because of automation and advances in high-tech. It requires highly skilled workers to prosper. Our public schools are overflowing. We don't even have the resources to provide an adequate education to existing American and legal immigrant children. Yet, in fiscal year 1993 alone, this country admitted about 315,000 legal immigrants under the age of 20, without counting illegal aliens and foreign students.

Many Democrats and Republicans favor imposing work requirements on our welfare recipients. Yet, how can our unskilled workers and welfare recipients find jobs if this country does not stop the continuous influx of hundreds of thousands of legal and illegal low-skilled immigrant job-seekers who enter the U.S. every year?

Immigration advocates argue that immigrants create jobs. However, very few native workers are hired by immigrant employers. Also, those low-paying jobs usually generate insufficient tax dollars to cover the costs of providing services to the families of the employers and their employees.

Proponents of large-scale immigration often claim that the nation's computer industry depends on immigration for its technical edge. This is not true, according to Professor Norman Matloff of the UC-Davis Department of Computer Science, who points out that virtually all of the major technological advances in the field have been made by U.S. natives. Instead, industry employers have hired foreign nationals mainly out of a desire for a cheap, compliant workforce.

Mass-immigration advocates often point to the numbers of immigrants in our graduate schools to support their claim that immigration continues to be vital to the U.S. economy. They must be unaware of the fact that the United States already has an oversupply of Ph.D.s in virtually all fields.

Our current immigration policy also has a devastating impact on American professionals. Every year, in addition to over 70,000 immigrant visas set aside for professionals, we also allow at least 65,000 foreign-born professionals to come to the U.S. to work up to six years, to compete with our unemployed professionals. In 1993, according to Softpac in Austin, Texas, there were 79,000 American engineers who were out of work. This did not include computer engineers who were unemployed or underemployed. Yet, in the same year, at least 54,000 foreign-born non-computer engineers were admitted as legal immigrants or on extended working visas.

Alarmed by a 400-percent increase in welfare use from 1982 to 1992 by elderly legal immigrants, Congress has proposed curbing aid to legal immigrants. Those proposals are a good step, but not enough to seriously control the fiscal impact because once legal immigrants are naturalized, they would have access to all benefits. More importantly, aid to legal immigrants is not limited to welfare, medicaid, low-income housing and food stamps. Our government is required to provide public education, K-12, to legal and illegal immigrants, in addition to many other services such as fire, police, emergency and court services. Studies showing immigration as economic assets do not compute he cost of all services provided to immigrants. Also, U.S.-born children of immigrants are left out in their fiscal analysis of immigration.

Many conservative pro-business politicians support large-scale immigration because it depresses wages. They overlook the costs of providing various services to immigrants and their descendants, a burden unduly borne by their supporters, U.S. taxpayers. Liberal politicians must also understand that mass immigration impacts U.S. minorities the most, the very people they claim to protect. The more resources we devote to newcomers, the less we'll have left for our existing children and those who aspire to a better life.

Because of the scarcity of jobs, mass immigration essentially means more demand on our infrastructure and therefore on our government budgets. The United States, with a national debt approaching $4.8 trillion, must save its limited resources to invest in its children, and train/retrain its unemployed workers, and assure opportunity for all American citizens seeking to fulfill the American dream.

Immigration is certainly not the sole cause of all America's problems. However, mass immigration makes many of our existing problems much more difficult to solve. The United Sates needs a five-year moratorium on immigration, with an all-inclusive ceiling of 100,000 a year, to effectively address existing budgetary, social and economic problems. We need such a time-out to develop a long-term, responsible immigration policy that would reflect our economic realities and resource availability and would be in the best interest of our nation as a whole.

Yeh Ling-Ling, of Orinda, Calif., is a representative of Carrying Capacity Network, based in Washington, D.C. This article originally appeared in the journal, National Minority Politics.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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