(May 14)  One need not be xenophobic to be concerned that the foreign-born population in the United States is at its highest level in history, as is the rate of increase in the past two years.

The concern isn’t that any particular origin of foreigners is problematic. The worry is that even open, freedom-based nations such as the U.S. need to maintain a common culture to avoid balkanization. At some point, a rush of immigrants overwhelms a nation’s capacity to absorb so many people unfamiliar with the nation’s mores and laws, both through formal processes and through the slower but more organic acculturation driven by a natural desire of immigrants to “fit in.”

As my colleague Conn Carroll noted on Monday, Pew Research reports that “of 24 countries surveyed, adults in the U.S. felt the least connection to their fellow citizens.” As my colleague Tim Carney has written in several books, today’s atomized American culture has led to more pervasive unhappiness and to the breakdown of institutions that, in turn, support not just community but also the economy.

 

Meanwhile, Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto has made a career of showing that even in many countries with magnificent supplies of natural resources, extreme poverty reigns if the nation lacks a firm commitment to the rule of law and a commitment to property rights, applied with transparency and fairness.

There is a direct, logical connection from the concerns of Carroll, Carney, and De Soto to the anxiety about high foreign-born populations in the U.S. today. Again, it takes quite a while to understand a new culture and sometimes even longer to understand a new land’s thicket of laws and regulations, and the customs pertaining thereto. This is true even for educated immigrants and for those who take the ultimate step of navigating an oft-complicated and lengthy process to become U.S. citizens. If there are too many foreign-born residents, societal systems start breaking down even if most individual immigrants are eager to assimilate.

And if this is true even of legal immigrants and visitors, it is exponentially true for illegal migrants. People whose first act on entering the country involves breaking the country’s laws are hardly likely to acclimate or acculturate readily, much less become net contributors, not burdens, to the commonwealth….. [The full column is at this link.]