Why Is Economist Thomas Sowell Relying On Anti-Immigrant Arguments?

Thomas Sowell, a conservative economist and syndicated columnist from the Hoover Institution, is outraged. Actually, that's an understatement. Sowell is seething, judging from his latest column lashing out at Newt Gingrich and the Republican presidential candidate's comments stressing a “humane” immigration policy. But in a diatribe laden with falsehoods that mimics the tone most often employed by scores of anti-immigrant nativists, Sowell relies on agitprop from that same lobby to broadcast a flawed economic argument against immigration.

Sowell begins by taking a swipe at Gingrich, slapping down his characterization of a “humane” immigration policy. He then reminds Americans that the supposed “purpose” of “American immigration laws and policies is not to be either humane or inhumane to illegal immigrants.” It is “to serve the national interest of this country.”

He explains:

There is no inherent right to come live in the United States, in disregard of whether the American people want you here. Nor does the passage of time confer any such right retroactively.

But Sowell's argument of “no inherent right” for immigration is taken verbatim from the anti-immigrant movement. He writes:

The more doctrinaire libertarians see the benefits of free international trade in goods, and extend the same reasoning to free international movement of people. But goods do not bring a culture with them. Nor do they give birth to other goods to perpetuate that culture.

Why do people want to come to America in the first place? Because America offers them something that their native countries do not. This country has a culture which has produced a higher standard of living and a freer life than in many other countries.

When you import people, you import cultures, including cultures that have been far less successful in providing decent lives and decent livelihoods. The American people have a right to decide for themselves whether they want unlimited imports of cultures from other countries.

At one time, immigrants came to America to become Americans. Today, the apostles of multiculturalism and grievance-mongering have done their best to keep foreigners foreign and, if possible, feeling aggrieved. Our own schools and colleges teach grievances.

As an economist, it's surprising that Sowell would invoke the argument that immigrants hurt the economy, seeing that study after study continues to prove that immigrants' economic impact is overwhelmingly positive.

An example: Marshall Fitz, American Progress director of Immigration Policy, and senior fellow John Halpin recently noted that immigrants “founded 1 in 4 public companies between 1990 and 2005, like Intel, Yahoo, and Google.” They also noted that foreign nationals in the United States “were inventors or co-inventors of 25 percent of all patents filed in U.S. in 2006.”

Sowell also goes after the Wall Street Journal for its editorial calling the idea of mass deportation of undocumented immigrants “psychotic,” writing:

The usually sober and thoughtful Wall Street Journal, on issues other than immigration, outdoes Newt Gingrich's claim that it would not be “humane” to deport illegal immigrants who have been living here a long time. A Wall Street Journal editorial says that it would be “psychotic” to do so.

“No one honestly believes the government should or will mount a nationwide manhunt to deport millions of people,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Incidentally, whether they believe it or not, three 2012 Republican presidential candidates have called for deportation: Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Rep. Michele Bachmann. Not only that, but some Fox News personalities seem to favor it as well.

Sowell laments Gingrich's position, arguing “that illegal immigrants who have committed crime after crime are free to stay here and commit more crimes, including murder.” He continues:

You don't have to launch a “manhunt” when a known criminal is also a known illegal alien. What many local policies have done has been to virtually put illegal aliens in a witness protection program.

Of course, none of that is true. In fact, the new federal immigration policy prioritizes the deportation of criminals and those who pose a security threat. There is no “witness protection program” for undocumented immigrants, since those cases that are postponed can be reopened “at any given time.” But Sowell, who has a habit of dispensing with the truth to advance the conservative narrative du jour, concludes: “If Democrats win Congress and the White House in 2012, amnesty is virtually certain, along with other disasters.”