When academics cross the line into advocacy they risk violating their own oft-stated goal of illuminating current controversies, such as immigration. “Immigrant children are more likely than ever before in the history of our country to end up at Harvard University,” NYU professor Marcelo Suarez-Orozco told Lucy Hood of the Carnegie Reporter. “They are also more likely than ever before to come under the supervision of the criminal justice system.”
What Dr. Suarez-Orozco does not mention is that he is talking about two sets of immigrants. The Ivy Leaguers cross oceans, the criminals rivers—specifically the Rio Grande.
“Each decade since [the 1970s], the educational attainment of immigrants has improved,” Hood writes. “Asian and European immigrant adults are more likely than native-born Americans to have a college education.”
“But the educational attainment of Americans has also improved, and large numbers of recent immigrants have not completed high school, leading to a persistent gap in both education and wages between the native-born and the foreign-born.”
Hood cites a study of the 1.2 million immigrants in the Washington, D. C. metro area that gives a more detailed breakdown of these recent arrivals. The Urban Institute found that whether immigrants contribute to society or not varies with their legal status and country of origin.
“It found a direct correlation between income, tax payments and four key factors—citizenship, legal status, English-speaking ability and education,” Hood relates. “The report further noted that citizens pay more than non-citizens, documented residents pay more than the undocumented, immigrants with high school diplomas and college degrees pay more than those who do not finish high school, and those who speak English pay more than those who do not.”
“At the high end, immigrants from India, the Middle East and Europe pay more taxes on average than U. S.-born residents.” Guess who is on the other end of the scale.
“At the low end are immigrants from Mexico, Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa, with households headed by undocumented immigrants paying the least,” according to Hood. “We’ve created a criminal class of people,” University of Houston law professor Michael A. Olivas claims.
Actually, researchers at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania found
that “13 percent of all African Americans aged 18–19 were first- or second-
generation immigrants, according to the March 1999 Current Population
“Among black freshmen entering 28 selective colleges and universities that same year, 27 percent were first- or second-generation immigrants, according to data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF). In other words, the representation of immigrant-origin blacks at selective institutions of higher education was roughly double their share in the population.
“Although first- and second-generation Asians and Latinos were also heavily represented in the NLSF data, their respective shares of 97 percent and 73 percent among freshmen in 1999 closely matched their proportions in the population of 18–19-year-old Asians and Latinos, which stood at 91 percent and 66 percent, respectively, in the March 1999 CPS.”
As to the nature vs. nurture debate over the character of criminals who are in violation of more than just U. S. Immigration law, the federal agency charged with enforcing such statutes has some interesting information. “With the recent proliferation and growth of violent gangs in the United States, all ICE field offices conducted threat assessments to identify gangs within their areas of responsibility and the associated criminal activity,” according to the U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. “The results of the assessment showed that most major metropolitan areas were experiencing a surge in gang activity.”
“Additionally, the survey showed that membership of these violent transnational gangs was comprised largely of foreign-born nationals. The ICE threat assessment found that the “Mara Salvatrucha” gang (MS-13) is among the largest and most violent of street gangs in the U.S.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.