The Truth About Immigration: Why Successful Societies Welcome Newcomers by Zeke Hernandez

Summary and takeaways from the book.

"In The Truth About Immigration, Wharton professor Zeke Hernandez draws from nearly 20 years of research to answer all the big questions about immigration.

He combines moving personal stories with rigorous research to offer an accessible, apolitical, and evidence-based look at how newcomers affect our local communities and our nation

ISBN: 978-1250288240
Published: June 4, 2024
Pages: 320
Available on: amazon

Migration is essential for prosperity of host nation and its native people.

The author explores migration and its advantages from the point of view of host nation and people.
"What if it was central to everything that makes for successful societies: jobs, investment, innovation, cultural vitality, national security?".

This is relevant in our world today where "rising nationalism, a global pandemic, chaos at the border" is making nations and people lockdown literally and metaphorically.

Grievances from immigration

People have understandable and legitimate grievances from immigration. It can lead to housing shortage, more traffic, congestion, longer lineups, more demands on public services.

"What people are really complaining about is the poor management of the state’s explosive population growth.

I'm convinced that a lot of grievances about immigration aren’t about immigrants. They appear to be. They even contain words accusing newcomers of creating all sorts of problems.

But they’re actually about how bad we are at building infrastructure in response to changing demographics.

Some states have done it right. "Montana has managed to pass a series of bills overturning restrictive zoning rules that had prevented efficient responses to rapid population growth."
Small and less intrusive government is the answer.

Most of the grievances from immigration are from failure to develop infrastructure to accommodate the growth which is good for the economy, nation, and the native population.

"Many times it's those in charge of regulating and building infrastructure who are out of control.

Instead of building a wall, build housing.

Manufactured narrative of fear

Legitimate grievances of the people are directed at the immigrants.

Oligarchs sponsor incorrect narrative that is not based on facts because of their own prejudice.

Author gives example where incorrect narrative against immigrants was started just for trouble making by people with nothing else to do.

"strong, asymmetric negative sentiment isn’t the result of some organic, natural process at the grassroots level. It’s a highly orchestrated movement, led by a tiny band of strongly opinionated and fabulously well-funded individuals."

George Monbiot has similar views: "The political sphere, so dull and grey a few years ago, is now populated by preposterous exhibitionists.

The killer clowns offer the oligarchs something else too: distraction and deflection. While the kleptocrats fleece us, we are urged to look elsewhere. We are mesmerised by buffoons, who encourage us to channel the anger that should be reserved for billionaires towards immigrants, women, Jews, Muslims, people of colour and other imaginary enemies and customary scapegoats

Directing blame to immigrants benefits oligarchs, corporations, government, and officials. They dont need to invest in growth or new services. They siphon off the money from growth without investing in their nation and community.

Suketu Mehta also has similar views in his book 'This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant's Manifesto':

"the resistance to immigration in the United States is not all about culture or race—at least not all the way down. It must be understood as well as an outgrowth of income inequality, which has been particularly grotesque recently...

The new robber barons have come to power, and intend to hold on to it, on the wings of xenophobia...

This concentration of wealth also leads to a concentration of political power and the redirection of outrage against inequality away from the elites and toward the migrants...

When the peasants come for the rich with pitchforks, the safest thing for the rich to do is to say, 'Don’t blame us, blame them - pointing to the newest, the weakest: the immigrants
Narrative of fear around immigrants benefit oligarchs, corporations, government, and officials who siphon off the money from growth without investing in their nation and community.

The narrative of fear is manufactured by oligarchs.

New narrative

"The dominant themes in anti-immigrant speeches focus on terms like 'crime' and 'threat,' while pro-immigrant speeches feature words like 'victims' and 'families'".

The pro-immigration narrative, "It tells people that immigration is good for immigrants, but it doesn’t tell them how much natives benefit from it as well".

"This book, in contrast, is all about how immigrants actually affect you and your community. And no matter how conservative or progressive your views tend to be, I'll bet the results will surprise you."

"We’re good at producing rigorous research, but we fall short when it comes to sharing it with the world. We often bury our most exciting discoveries in obscure journals and couch them in confusing jargon. Because we’re so specialized, we don’t bother to connect the dots".

Swamp or Lake

The author compares cultures that close themselves to immigrants to a swamp where nothing flows in. They stagnate.

The author compares cultures that open themselves to immigrants to a lake that is constantly rejuvenated and refreshed.

Similarities and differences

"Those who manipulate public opinion create fear of newcomers by telling us lies about their similarities and differences. They claim that immigrants compete economically with locals because of their similarities, such as wanting the same jobs as native workers. They also claim that foreigners fail to socially assimilate because of their differences, including their unassimilable cultures.

But you’ll see that it’s exactly the opposite!
"Newcomers bring enduring economic benefits because of their differences and integrate successfully to our communities because of their similarities".

About immigration

Cultural integration irrelevant: "The immigrants who most successfully assimilate are those who preserve rather than abandon their original culture—which in turn renews and strengthens our own national culture."

Immigration essential for National Security: "You're much safer with more rather than less immigration. The real national security and crime problems arise from keeping immigrants out." This is discussed more below.

Immigrants create jobs: "immigration-investment-jobs triangle is essential for our prosperity".

All immigrants good, not just highly skilled ones: "Many acknowledge that skilled immigrants contribute to 'highbrow' innovations via patents or tech start-ups. But in fact, they’re just as critical to 'lowbrow' innovations that affect the things you do and consume every day. You’ll see how both types of innovation are intertwined."

Immigrants good for public coffers: "short-term costs of welcoming newcomers are an investment that more than replenishes those coffers".

Psychological biases are artificially created: "Our difficulties welcoming newcomers are rooted in psychological biases that a small band of politically motivated groups manipulate."

Narratives around immigration based on fear: "I was continually struck by how much of our thinking about immigration—and the entire system we’ve set up to manage it—is based on fear."

"Decisions based on fear never work.

As you’ll see throughout the chapters, we have a clear historical precedent to prove that: the 1924 National Origins Act, which slammed the door on immigrants from most of the world for forty years based on the same fears we have today.

Our current immigration mess—exactly a hundred years later—is a direct legacy of that disastrous decision. We have compelling evidence that the 1924 law decimated America's capacity for innovation, investment, and job creation.

It also impoverished the nation’s cultural vitality, produced unintended national security risks, and led to many of the border problems that still plague us.

Keeping the brightest of the world out

Immigration policies of the west keep the brightest of the world out.

Author quotes study: "Foreign students themselves report three reasons: difficulties in getting a work visa, concerns with the sociopolitical environment, and a preference for studying in another country".

USA "educated millions upon millions of international students" and then lost them.

Author gives example of 5G mobile internet. It is about $100 billion market in 2024, and expected to grow at 30-40% annual growth rate to $300-400 billion market by 2030.

Most of the growth will be in Asia, Europe and Africa.

5G is useful for low latency applications like self-driving cars, robotics, drones.

Author writes about Turkish engineering Professor and inventor Erdal Arıkan who made several discoveries related to 5G. He was unable to stay in USA after studying in Caltech and MIT. He went back to work in Turkey. His patents related to 5G were bought by Huawei who incorporated them into their products.

Huawei leads in 5G mobile internet. They are likely to benefit the most from the $400 billion market and export to other countries.

USA missed out on this $400 billion opportunity and also on National Security implications of not owning crucial low-latency mobile network technology for wars of the future.

Immigration and National Security

USA missed out on not only a $400 billion opportunity but also on National Security implications of not owning crucial low-latency mobile network technology for wars of the future.

Author gives examples of AI as well. Similar logic applies to hypersonic missiles.
"The real national security and crime problems arise from keeping immigrants out".

Fixing immigration

From fear-mongering to factual optimism: The culture of fear-mongering around immigration should be replaced with factual optimism.

Words matter. "Words really can hurt you. Especially when those words are the law."

Remove immigration from purview of Department of Homeland Security: The most important and immediate change is to remove authority over immigration from Department of Homeland Security and similar departments. Immigration is primarily an economic and labor issue. It should be placed under it.

"Fear leads us to do things like place immigration under the Department of Homeland Security, which is like putting the police in charge of running our schools—classrooms and all—under the pretext that we must keep our children safe."

"I would vote for an entirely new Department of Immigration, or for joint oversight by the Departments of Commerce, Labor, and Agriculture".

"We need an entirely new system based on factual optimism rather than unfounded fear."

Engage deeply both ways: Address native people's legitimate concerns and show how they are due to big bloated government; government regulations; greed of oligarchs, corporations, and officials; and are amplified by oligarchs.

Highlight why it is essential to National Security, and how companies founded by immigrants create high paying jobs.

Talk about shared values, and how immigrants have same shared values.

Summary of 'The Truth About Immigration'

Legitimate grievances about immigration exist because more people create congestion and stress. This is due to under-investment in infrastructure and restrictive laws around housing specially California and left leaning states – the book compares Idaho, California to Montana.

Oligarchs sponsor factually incorrect narrative because of their own prejudice. Author gives example where trouble makers with nothing to do misled oligarchs.

Immigration restriction is a national security threat. Author gives example of 5G where USA lost 5G war to China because of Turkish Professor Erdal Arıkan who had to leave USA. His patents and inventions realted to 5G were bought by Huawei. This was a $400 billion loss as well as loss of ownership of critical technology for defense.

Immigrants contribute more even when they do not integrate. Integration not necessary for white natives to get benefit.

Immigration-Investment-jobs triangle creates high value jobs.

What can be done to fix immigration:

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