Greg Ip is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal…at least for now. On June 29, Ip violated one of the most basic tenets of his employer’s editorial policy: He penned a rational and thoughtful opinion piece about immigration.
Rather than treating opponents of unchecked immigration as a bunch of racist, xenophobic yahoos who aren’t intelligent enough to understand what’s in their own best interest, Ip actually acknowledges that their concerns are legitimate.
For starters, Ip concedes that in an era of globalization there is an important qualitative difference between the free movement of goods and capital, and the free movement of people wishing to settle in other countries. “Foreign-born people affect the makeup of society in a way that a foreign-made car or a foreign-owned factory doesn’t,” he writes. Referencing last week’s Brexit, Ip postulates that, “Britons would have no doubt stayed in the EU’s single market for goods, services and capital if they could opt out of the single market in labor.”
Contrary to how the elites in the financial centers in New York or London might view the world, people outside these hubs view it differently. Nations are not merely economies. Economies are important, but there are many other things that people value as much or more. These include culture, language, a sense of identity, and a sense of control over one’s own destiny – concepts that may be entirely alien to the global elite, but which are important and legitimate concerns to most everyone else.
From there, Ip offers up the truly radical notion that immigration policies – be they Britain’s or America’s – must serve the interests of their citizens. Governments must control “the number and composition of immigrants so citizens believe immigration policy is in the country’s best interests, not the immigrants’.”
Even more importantly, Ip dismisses the frequent characterization of those who oppose open borders as racists and xenophobes. Throughout the Western world, he notes, opposition to mass immigration has less to do with the immigrants’ race or national origin, but with their likelihood to make positive contributions and assimilate into the host society. “Race is a factor, but not a dominant one, whereas culture and assimilation matter a lot. The researchers find that people care more about the language immigrants speak than their skin color or national origin.”
Moving forward, Ip suggests a shift to a merit-based immigration policy that emulates the point system used by Australia and Canada. (Regrettably, he also supports amnesty for current illegal aliens. But, he does write for the Wall Street Journal after all.)
To be sure, there are still many differences between Ip’s and the Journal’s views on immigration reform and those of FAIR. But the fact that one of the Journal’s columnists is willing to acknowledge and respectfully discuss the concerns of those on the other side is an important step in the right direction. That is, if Ip still has his job tomorrow.