The differences between the two sides over what immigration diversity means for America could not be stated more clearly than in the following quotes in a November 21 column in Politico by former Democratic Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, on the one hand, and statements by Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa on the other (also as quoted in Politico).
First, Governor Granholm:
"In order to keep America competitive - in order to remain 'exceptional' - we must leverage the key strand in our national DNA: our global diversity. Our major national competitors are mostly homogeneous. Our diversity is our competitive advantage. Our blend of people and cultures and talents and perspectives can make us the strongest, the smartest, the most advanced nation on Earth - if we have the right immigration policies." (Emphasis in the original)
And from Representative King:
"The argument that diversity is our strength has never been backed up by logic...It's unity is where our strength is. Our Founding Fathers understood that. Modern-day multiculturalists are defying that." (Quoted in Politico, August 2)
Back to Governor Granholm:
"If you walk into the most innovative companies in the world, those in Silicon Valley, you will see that the workers, the engineers, the designers, and the thought leaders come from everywhere on the planet. That's their competitive advantage. Instead of a homogeneous design team pumping out bland products, their diverse people with the dynamism of different perspectives and experiences make products that are that much richer, more interesting and more thoughtfully crafted, which means that they have a greater likelihood of global success." (Emphasis in the original)
And, now again, from Representative King:
"You want a good bird dog? You want one that's going to be aggressive? Pick the one that's friskiest - not the one that's over there sleeping in the corner...You get the pick of the litter and you got yourself a pretty good bird dog. Well, we've got the pick of every donor civilization on the planet. We've got the vigor from the planet to come to America." (Quoted in Politico, May 22)
A couple of thoughts about the above comments: First, it could be argued that Governor Granholm, stirring as her praise of diversity appears at first glance, is actually selling immigrants short by focusing only on economic value of diversity, i.e. allegedly leading to America's competitive advantage through more innovative products. No doubt there is a lot of truth to this idea.
But suppose it could not be shown to be true that there is a correlation between diversity of population and either product quality or economic advantage in the global marketplace. Aren't Toyota's and other Japanese cars innovative, well made and competitive too? Weren't Sony and Panasonic products for so many decades? What about Hyundai cars, Samsung phones and many other innovative, highly competitive South Korean products? How diverse is the work force in Japan or South Korea?
Would there no longer be any reason to promote diversity in America, even if (hypothetically) there were no demonstrable economic advantage? Some immigration supporters have a tendency to put too much of their argument in strictly economic terms, as if cultural, social and human rights issues had nothing to do with the subject. This is conceding a large part of the immigration argument to the other side before the debate has even begun.
In addition, while Jennifer Granholm's statement may offer less solid support for immigration diversity than meets the eye, Steve King's comment is even more offensive and hostile to immigration diversity than it appears to be on the surface. The main criticism of his statement in the media is that he is comparing immigrants to dogs. This criticism is accurate and King's statement is horrible enough for that reason alone.
But King's comment is even worse than that. It is not just that he compares immigrants to dogs in general, but that he would only accept the "pick of the litter" for America, which has "the pick of every donor civilization on the planet". In other words, not all "dogs" are equal, and, ergo, neither are all immigrant "donor civilizations".
Any guesses about which "donor civilization" King has in mind when he talks about the "pick of the litter"? Hint: King is the sponsor of a bill to make English the official language of America so that this country will be "unified". For him, Latin American, Asian, Middle Eastern and African "donor civilizations" do not appear to be the "pick of the litter". The clear implication is that they are the ones that are "over there sleeping in the corner".
Which attitude toward immigration diversity will have the most influence in the expected upcoming CIR discussions? Will it be the view that welcomes diversity as one of America's greatest strengths (and not only for economic reasons), or will it be the attitude that only European immigrants are the "pick of the litter"?
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years